Sunday, June 14, 2015

Five Moves for the Cavs in Game Five

The Key
After the first clear victory of the series in Game Four, and no longer with home court advantage, things are looking fairly dire for the Cavs. LeBron James finally had a less than legendary performance, they are down a crazy number of starting players -- Anderson Varaejo, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving -- and the Warriors' depth and effectiveness in the small lineup is looking serious. So how can they win two of the next three, short of James using the extra day of rest before Game Five to go superhuman?

5) Hack Attack.

At first glance, the Warriors seem immune to the intentional fouling strategy. Only two guys who get minutes -- Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala -- shoot under 60% from the floor, and neither of those guys are so bad at it that it would give you empty trips. But with the Dubs doing so much from the three point line, and the Cavs' interest in a slow and grind tempo, it makes sense... particularly if Iguodala is having an effective game otherwise, or is having an impact on defense. Make him feel bad about something, or frustrate the Dubs in their desire to make it pretty. Particularly when you combine it with...

4) Perky Jerky.

Back-up C Kendrick Perkins is, frankly, a terrible basketball player. There's nothing that he can do on a court that comes as league average or better, and when you've got him on the floor, it's 4-on-5 on offense, with turnovers a given. But what he is great at is instigation, setting hard screens (see #2) and getting teams to lose their focus. Especially after Bogut's foul precipitated James' injury, I'm kind of amazed that Perk didn't get some burn for retribution. The Warriors haven't had that kind of adversity so far in this playoff, but historically, they haven't done well with it. (By the way, deep sub Brandon Haywood also has some Perk to his game, if you catch my drift.)

3) Press Curry, but only in the backcourt.

The Cavs have had some success in this series when they've made Stephen Curry look bad, and the way to do that is to work on his single greatest remaining weakness -- turnovers -- but to do so in a way that's most designed to sap his energies before crunch time. This is anything from easy, because you open yourself to fast and secondary break buckets, and it threatens to exacerbate the Cavs' lack of depth, but it can also create easy buckets for the Cavs, and make Curry passive. The Warriors are a lot less explosive when he's not feeling it.

2) Screen to post James.

I get why the Cavs are walking the ball up with James. It shortens the game, and puts the ball in his hands in a way that keeps the Warriors from denying him late in the clock. But the problem with this is that it's making him an inefficient high volume shooter, because the Cavs aren't hitting enough from the arc to prevent the possession from just ending with a long jumper, often in poor two range. If it's my club, I use my bigs to screen down low to try to get him the ball on the block, where the Dubs really don't have exceptional options at stopping him, especially if they are going small. James in the post, particularly if he gets to the line a couple of dozens times, could be just what the doctor ordered. This is going to require some out or character work from our last man on the list, though...

1) Do everything in your power to make J.R. Smith feel good about himself.

Outside of James, Smith is the only player on the Cavs who has the ability to carry a team offensively... and in this series, he's shooting under 30% from the floor, has committed a ton of back-breaking fouls, and hasn't made an impact on defense, either. At 6-6, he's got the size to feed James effectively against Warrior smalls, but he will need to be truly engaged to get to that point. In the minutes that James has been off the floor, he's been their primary option, and the Cavs have been bum-rushed.

Maybe this is just a matchup issue, but in the few times that he's connected from distance, Cleveland has made big runs, and could easily do so again. If it's my team, I spend the first few minutes double-screening to get him a clean look from distance, feed him on any break to get him feeling good about his prospects, and otherwise brainwash him into thinking that the series has re-started for hm. If you can get a +20-point game out of him, especially on the road, you've got a puncher's chance.

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