With a tough matchup against the Golden State Warriors coming up, Cavs Nation has some goals for the Cavaliers to reach to come out victorious over the league’s best team.
Here are four defensive goals for the Cavaliers in order to win the matchup against Golden State, starting with number four:
4. Get out to the shooters
Golden State moves the basketball unlike many teams nowadays. They have a very fluid offense that usually involves all five guys touching the basketball before a shot goes up. Their ball movement has resulted in them being the league leaders in Three-Point percentage at 39%. That being said, Cleveland will have the tough task of defending the perimeter and getting out to the shooters in not only Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but also Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Justin Holiday, and Andre Iguodala.
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3. Work the pick and roll and make Stephen Curry work defensively
Stephen Curry is easily the worst defender in the Warrior’s starting group. He is often put on the weaker opposing guard while Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes defend the perimeter. It’s partly the reason that J.R. Smith was able to go for 28 points last time these two played as Thompson defended Kyrie Irving. So whichever guard is being played by Stephen Curry needs to be aggressive and should be in line for a big night.
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2. Rebound the Ball
The Warriors rank 8th in rebounding, but Cleveland is a strong 14-4 in games where they grab more than 45 rebounds. Pair that up with the fact that statistically, Golden State is 5th worst in rebounds allowed to their opponents, and the Cavaliers should be incredibly active on the boards this game. Every player from the centers and power forwards all the way to the guards need to box out, rebound, and hold Golden State to just one possession. This game could very well come down to one or two loose rebounds and the team that comes up with them could have a distinct advantage.
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1. Keep Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson off the three-point line
Curry and Thompson love to shoot threes and with good reason. Both were finalists in the Three-Point Shooting Contest this past All-Star Weekend. On top of that, Curry averages 3.2 made three-pointers per game out of the eight he attempts. That has him shooting the three at a solid 40.4%, which is great for a guard who handles the ball as much as he does. Thompson averages 3.1 made three-pointers per game and attempts seven. That means he shoots the three-ball at a 43.9% clip, good for fourth in the NBA.
Cleveland needs to emphasize and maybe overemphasize the importance of running Curry and Thompson off the three-point line to try and create plays inside the arc. They are both very good at creating as well, but both shoot the three-ball so well, that at least one of them needs to be neutralized.
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Now that we’ve gone over the defensive goals the Cavs need to focus on, we shift our attention to the four important goals offensively for the Cavs, starting with number 4:
4. Shoot at least 45% from field
The stats show it all! The Cavaliers are 26-3 when shooting at least 45% from the field, and 10-19 when shooting below that 45% mark, so it will be key for Cleveland to move the ball around and get good looks at the basket. Look for LeBron to get his teammates involved early on and then take over in the later stages of the game.
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3. Shoot at least 40% from 3-point
Along with the 45% from the field, Cleveland needs to shoot at least 40% from the three-point line. In games where they’ve shot at least 40%, the Cavs have gone 15-2, with the two losses being early in the seson to Atlanta and Portland. In the 41 other games they shot under 40%, Cleveland has gone a near-even 21-20, which will not get it done against this tough Warriors team.
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2. Go to the basket and draw fouls
With a fully healthy squad (with the exception of Andy Varejao, of course), the Cavs need to attack the basket at will and force some of the Warriors’ players into foul trouble. Klay Thompson often takes risks defensively and is foul prone, while forward Draymond Green is 7th in the NBA in fouls per game at 3.4. When the Cavaliers shoot 25 or more free throws, they are 20-4 on the season. When they shoot less than 25 free throws, they are just 16-18, so one of the keys will be getting to the line.
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1. Get at least 20 assists
The Cavaliers are 27-10 when getting at least 20 assists and 9-20 when they get less than 20. In their last game against the Warriors, Cleveland had just 13 assists. LeBron did not play that game and it was hard for the other guys to generate those seven assists that he averages, so expect the assist totals to definitely increase Thursday night. All Cleveland has to do is move the ball from side to side and inside-out to open up some looks for the shooters and low post guys.