Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press
After the altercation that ended Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the narratives went out of control. What if George Hill made his free throw? What if Draymond Green's lane violation has been called? What happens if the arbitrators did not overturn LeBron James' accusation about Kevin Durant? What if JR Smith does not …
The list goes on, and it's fun to try to identify which move altered the history books forever. Actually, there are hundreds of bang-bang moments over the course of an NBA game that add up to influence the outcome.
Ultimately, fans are frustrated because the Cavs were not perfect. As unfair as it may be, you have to be perfect to beat the Warriors.
In Game 1, even more than Smith's mistake, that flaw was the Cavaliers' three-point shooting. As a team, Cleveland made the sixth highest three percentage points during the regular season ( 37.2 percent ). He must have caught the Rockets cold because in Game 1, LeBron Cavs went 7-of-30 from three-point land (and one of them was a Smith in OT trash time) for a miserable 23.3 percent from the depths.
With as many opportunities as they had to win, it felt like the Cavaliers needed to come out victorious. Leaving those extra points on the table hurts, and if they had only reached their playoff average of 33.5 percent they would have hit three more triples and could have avoided overtime and won that game.
But, this is a make or lose league. Sure, the Cavs got some rebounding offensive rebounds, but they also allowed a handful of headers. The calculation is never clean when a living and fluid thing unfolds. Ultimately, your shots must fall. So, instead of insisting on how the ball bounced, it's more interesting to investigate if the Cavaliers can expect an ascension to their average or if the suffocating Warriors defense is built to avoid the Cavs again.
Cavs Laying Bricks
Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press
Similar to the Rockets, the Cavs offensive revolves around a mbadive star. With the fencers spacing the floor around him, James can go face to face or plate a sniper if help arrives.
The defenses really have two options: throwing the armory at James and trying to slow him down (as much as possible), or let James grab his and turn off the shooters.
The Cavs had 20 "wide open" trebles (at least six feet of space between the shooter and the closest defender) and made just six of them. (By the way, two of those three come from James). That's 30 percent for all mathematicians, and that's not going to cut against the Warriors.
Of course, there were a handful of unfortunate rebounds, but guys like Jordan Clarkson, for example, did not seem ready for the big stage. He threw 0-of-3 long-range and did not look like he wanted to be there.
Smith made some more difficult shots than he needed, and Jeff Green could not keep up what he did. in Game 7 of the conference finals against Boston. Green made 1-of-6 from three in Game 1 of the Finals, although LeBron created open looks from nothing by reading the movements of the Warriors three moves ahead.
Kevin Love was 1-for-8 from the perimeter, and his first and only player came with two minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Kyle Korver only made three deep attempts and will need more minutes in Game 2. It is too dangerous and the Cavs must match. offensive firepower in this series if you want to give yourself a chance. His defense also stinks.
The Cavs had a good appearance purely out of the attention that LeBron attracts. With Golden State changing as often as it does, it's hard not to want to collapse on LeBron, but your superior reading and pbading skills should reject them in the future, if the Warrors continue to make these mistakes.
The Cavs also used some creative design to compensate for the use of a great traditional man. In this case, Tristan Thompson runs the baseline in the LeBron units, so when the first layer of defense comes from the paint to stop the ball, the weak side defender must choose between Thompson under the basket or a corner triple. Smart work here for the Cavs to open the court.
If Thompson can get to the other side of the defender to set up a hammer screen like he did on the last play, even better.
These are the types of shots the Cavs can keep doing and what they should do if they want to keep this series close.
Warriors & Defensive Game Plan
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The Warriors allowed a surprising number of open triples, but there is a good chance they were in their game plan. From the beginning of the game, they tried to limit James and let the role players overcome them. As James was getting what he wanted and no one else could buy a bucket, they threw more and more defenders on his way to stop him, an easy call with the fencers as cold as them.
Eight of those open glances occurred in the first half suggesting that Golden State began to lean toward James and leave the Cavs brick shooters.
Twelve more of those three The "points" came with a defender four or six feet away (they made two). Nine of those 12 arrived in the first half, further supporting this theory.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors allowed an average of 13 wide open of three points per game for the Rockets. Houston had 38.1 shots per game from beyond the arc of that series, which means that 34.1 percent of the triple triples of the Rockets were open, compared to 54 percent of the Cavs. In other words, the Warriors were much more reluctant to leave the Rockets shooters than the Cavs.
So after the game when Steve Kerr said : "We were lucky," he was not lying. The Warriors defense was mediocre. They can not expect the Cavs to lose so many open triples in Game 2, so they should be better at eliminating them. Sometimes, instead of sticking to the game plan, it seemed that the 10 eyes in defense watched LeBron as close as the fans around the world, amazed at what he was accomplishing. It's hard to blame them.
Golden State was lucky, however, that Draymond Green was there to clean up the mess. He has been on another level defensively in these playoffs, but Game 1 was beyond that.
When you see them in these videos, you can see that they are reading the plays before they materialize. He does tricks on James' drives to force a kick-out and still recovers in time to contest the shot.
Other times, he only does the work for his teammates because he sees what is happening and can get to the shooter faster.
Green's defense probably forced an extra foul or three, and that mattered in this game. But the Warriors created something of their own luck by calling the Cavs' bluff and testing their supporting cast to see if they could beat them.
As much as the Cavs have hopes that their shots will fall in Game 2, the Warriors need to be concerned about their defensive execution, because the way they defended themselves in Game 1 does not make you win a championship.
Stats via NBA.com. Follow Will on Twitter @wontgottlieb .