The Cleveland Cavaliers are taking on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, and although they dropped a tight Game 1 on the road, winning Game 2 will make up for that loss very easily. The big task at hand, however, is doing it without Kyrie Irving, who suffered a season ending fractured kneecap in Game 1. We look at at the broader, big-picture type keys for the Cavs to win the 2015 NBA Championship, starting with number six:
6. Stop the Shooters
Stephen Curry has clearly been the driving force behind the Warriors playoff run, averaging nearly 30 points per game as well as dishing out 6.4 apg, and grabbing, 5 boards per game. Fueling Steph’s production is his ability to make space and knock down shots. Curry is shooting 46.1% from the field and 43.7% from downtown. He’s averaging nearly 10 field goals a game, half of which are 3s. If the Cavs can stop Steph, they can stop the Warriors. While Delly may not be quick enough to guard Steph, Coach Blatt may need to matchup Iman Shumpert on Curry to equalize his speed. Steve Kerr and the Warriors will also most likely take advantage of the Cavs rusty screen defense. If the defense sags off Curry or gets stuck behind a screen, Steph will make them pay.
Here’s Stephen Curry Shooting Chart:
And even if they stop Steph, they’ll still have to worry about Klay Thompson. While Thompson is coming off a concussion in game 5 against the Rockets, his shooting is still deadly. Throughout the playoffs, Thompson is averaging 19.7 ppg on 45.9% shooting and is shooting 42.5% from beyond the arc. While Thompson isn’t as good at creating space as Curry, he can knock down contested shots as well as play an inside game. While the Warrior’s dual threat offense could bring a lot of trouble to the Cavs defense, if the Delly, Iman, and J.R. Smith can hold their own against the “Splash Brothers”, they could give the Cavs the upper hand.
Here’s Klay Thompson Shooting Chart:
You can find the fifth key to the Cavs winning a championship on the next page!
5. Get Boards
The Cavs are undefeated in the postseason when outrebounding their opponents. In the Eastern Conference Finals alone, the Cavs averaged 52 rebounds per game, compared to the Hawks 37.5. Leading the charge is LeBron James, who is averaging 10.4 boards, followed closely by Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov with 9.9 and 7.4 RPG respectively. Overall the Cavs are averaging 46.9 rebounds per game, just ahead of the Warrior’s average of 46.2. The Big men are going to have a tough matchup against the likes of Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes, but if they continue to rebound like they did in the ECF, they will be able to handle the Warriors.
You can find the fourth key to the Cavs winning a championship on the next page!
4. LeBron Continues To Play His Game
LeBron has a total of 386 points in the playoffs, or an average of 27.6 per game. The next highest scorer is Kyrie Irving, with 224, or 18.7 per game, but he’s out for the remainder of the Finals. While a lot of Cavs are contributing to the points column, LeBron is taking over. When he’s been needed, he’s stepped up as a leader and delivered for the Cavs. He continues to say this is the best he’s been and is eager to bring home a championship to Cleveland. The King is averaging nearly a triple double with 27.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, and 8.3 apg. He’s leading the Cavs in every stat except for blocks, and if he continues to play the way he’s been, the Larry O’Brien Trophy should be making its way to Cleveland despite the harsh injuries that have hit the Cavs.
You can find the third key to the Cavs winning a championship on the next page!
3. Stay Out Of Foul Trouble
Speaking of giving away free points, the Cavs will also need to stay out of foul trouble. Luckily, they won’t be facing James Harden, who is one of the best in the league at drawing contact. On the other hand, they’ll be facing a team who shot 77% from the line in the regular season and hitting 14.8 free throws per game in the postseason. The Hawks averaged 21.5 free throw attempts against the Cavs in the ECF and came away with 66 points from the charity strike. If the Cavs can limit their fouls and any exrtra free points, they should be in good shape to win the Finals. On the other end, the Cavs need to draw some fouls. Klay Thompson got in early foul trouble against the Rockets in Game 5, and was limited to 22 minutes. The Cavs have been able to average 26 free throws per game, and are shooting 75.5% from the stripe. Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut are at the top of the list for personal fouls, both averaging 4 in the postseason. If the Cavs can push the Warriors into foul trouble early, they can get some free points and cause the Warriors to look to their bench.
You can find the second key to the Cavs winning a championship on the next page!
Kenny Honaker ·
2. Limit Turnovers
The Cavs averaged 11.75 turnovers per game against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. While this is below their postseason average of 12.3, the Cavs still need to see this number shrink. With the Warriors being as dangerous as they are, giving them any extra possessions can hurt the Cavs. The Warriors were first in the league this season in points off of turnovers, with 19.7. The Warriors also forced 15.5 turnovers per game and had the highest defensive efficiency rating in the regular season. During the playoffs, the Warriors are forcing 14.2 turnovers per game. The Cavs can’t afford to give away 20 senseless points against the Warriors and will need to limit their turnovers to win the series.
The Cavs also need to look to take advantage Golden State’s mistakes. The Warriors are averaging 15.3 turnovers per game in the postseason. The Cavs are only forcing 11.1 in the playoffs, and averaged 16 points off of turnovers during the regular season. If the Cavs can get their fast break offense going off of Warrior turnovers, they’ll be able to rack up some easy points and win the finals.
You can find the number one key to the Cavs winning a championship on the next page!
1. Bench Production
While David Blatt’s lineups have been changing throughout the postseason, he consistently usually plays 8. Delly went back to his bench role when Irving made his return in Game 1, but he’ll be starting the rest of the way with Kyrie out. Either way, the Cavs bench needs to continue to produce if the Cavs want a chance at winning the Finals. While LeBron has been playing extraordinarily well, he still needs some support. With J.R. Smith solidifying his 6th man role along with James Jones, Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, and maybe even Mike Miller or Kendrick Perkins, the Cavs bench should be able to give the starters some rest and support. Smith has been the headline of the bench during the postseason, knocking down some clutch 3s and averaging 13.5 ppg. Shumpert also adds 10.1 ppg, as well as being a defensive threat, averaging a steal and a block per game. It will be interesting to see how Coach Blatt utilizes Shump’s speed on defense. Another support from beyond the arc is James Jones, who is shooting 35.3% from beyond the arc during the postseason. The Cavs will have to go deeper into the bench rotation and keep it pretty diverse while having as many scoring threats as possible. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Thompson stayed in to round out the other guys and help make an impact against the Warriors, but he’ll need more than just two points in the next game.