With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of a fourth Finals defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James and David Blatt are faced with the gargantuan task of rallying the rest of the Wine and Gold troops for a colossal run that will show how far does going “all in” mean for the team. The Warriors hold a distinctive twice-to-beat edge against the Cavaliers and the good guys are expected to pull all strings to cement their place in NBA folklore. In order to accomplish that, the Cavs need to take it one game at a time and we identified five of the most important items on their to-do list.
5 – Bench Help
In Game Five, Golden State’s extra gear doomed the hopes of Cleveland. It’s obvious that the Cavaliers are in dire need of extra rest for their starters – especially LeBron James. The Warriors, on the other hand, are enjoying the luxury of having a healthy lineup allowing Steve Kerr to mix and match his players depending on the situation. The bench scoring comparison heavily favors the Golden State side of things, 25.0 to 16.8 not counting Matthew Dellavedova’s numbers as he only came off the bench in Game One, and it is not surprising at all. Cleveland doesn’t necessarily have to outscore Golden State in this category. All they need is for someone to provide a quality breather to LeBron James so that the best player in the game can do damage on both ends, without giving an inch due to fatigue, down the stretch.
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4 – Do The Dirty Work
Cleveland has proven that they can disrupt the Golden State attack when they get down and dirty. That doesn’t mean breaking legs and ankles but controlling the glass, getting active with their hands, and getting those 50/50 balls. Make the Warriors feel their presence in every play. These are not factors that show up in the stat sheet but they fill the gaps and are contagious both to the Cavaliers and the home crowd (only applies to Game Six in Cleveland though). It’s time perhaps for every Cavalier to have his own espresso machine in the dugout.
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3 – J.R. Smith’s Consistent Play
J.R. Smith is the Cavaliers’ only player outside of LeBron James who has the capacity to light it up in big ways. However, the mercurial shooting guard’s production has been, to be generous, sub-par in this final series. Smith is scoring only 10.0 points on an atrocious shooting from the field, 30.6%, and an even worse percentage on threes, 26.2%. He has no other choice but to elevate his play as it is virtually impossible for Cleveland to prevail with only LeBron James contributing (I’m saying “virtually” impossible so as to leave some room for a miraculous performance from King James). Amid all these, the good news for J.R. is that he still has one more chance to prove himself and push the Cavaliers to a Game Seven in Oakland.
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2 – Control The Pace
Cleveland and Golden State are simply the antithesis of one another that’s why it’s highly imperative for the Cavaliers to keep the game at their pace. There’s nothing more telling than the fact that in the two Cavalier wins, the Warriors were held to less than a hundred points. It’s really easier said than done with the firepower that Golden State has led by Stephen Curry but all it takes for the Cavaliers to succeed in this aspect is by staying disciplined. They must avoid getting entangled with what the opponent wants them to do and let the game become a grind out fest.
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1 – King James Down Low
Despite being in such a predicament, the Cavaliers still have the luxury of having the best player in basketball on their side. LeBron James recognizes it and there’s no one that Golden State can put in front of him for measure. Neither Draymond Green nor new Warrior-darling Andre Iguodala has what it takes to hold LeBron down. The area where he has had the most success is in the paint and his inside forays allow Cleveland higher percentage shots and also greater possibility of getting the offensive board in case of a miss because they will not engage themselves in a footrace against a better rested Golden State five for those long rebounds off three point heaves.