CLEVELAND — The Warriors may need a 2-Zero lead within the NBA Finals, however this sequence has not been determined but. If the Cavs declare Game Three, they’re proper again on this sequence.
But in a single key approach, the Warriors have already received this struggle:
Through two video games, it’s clear that the Cavs haven’t any defensive reply for Stephen Curry, who is doing an summary impression of LeBron James proper now.
And as long as Curry continues to play like that, the Warriors will management these Finals.
If that doesn’t make him essentially the most worthwhile participant on this sequence, then we clearly have totally different definitions of “value”.
Curry has saved his greatest basketball for final. At the second, like James, Curry is all-powerful on the courtroom — unlocking the total juggernaut potential of the Warriors’ offense and making the Cavs’ protection look each bit just like the workforce that completed second-to-last in defensive rating within the common season.
Curry is usually knocked for not being a prototypical, drive-and-kick level guard, however on this sequence, he has been one. He’s averaging 15 drives per sport on this NBA Finals — twice his regular-season charge — and making 75 % of his pictures contained in the restricted space this postseason, one proportion level decrease than LeBron’s clip.
Curry’s impossibility has at all times been about greater than Three-point capturing — it’s the truth that opposing defenses have to protect him from the half-court line all the best way to the rim. That’s his “gravity.”
And proper now, he’s Jupiter.
So how do you defend Curry when he’s taking part in like this?
“When you can finish that way, handle that way, and shoot from 40 [feet]… It makes it impossible,” Shaun Livingston stated Tuesday.
Still, the Cavs should attempt.
In the primary two video games, Cleveland switched every part on protection — a tactic that labored for the Rockets towards the Warriors within the Western Conference Finals — with one obtrusive and notable exception: they tried to forestall Kevin Love from switching onto Curry.
The closing play of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals this is not, and that is an enormous downside for Cleveland — maybe a series-defining downside. When Love has guarded Curry on this sequence (that’s occurred 9 occasions in two video games) the Warriors’ guard has not scored, however the Warriors, as a workforce, have averaged a gaudy 1.55 factors on these possessions.
With numbers like that, it’s apparent why the Cavs don’t need to make that change, however the Boolean nature of Cleveland’s defensive technique has solely exacerbated Cleveland’s lack of defensive self-discipline and allowed the Warriors to do some easy issues to attain in half-court units.
As such, heading into Game Three, the Cavs want to alter issues up.
The downside is that they’ve a number of options, however no viable options.
The Cavs might cease switching on protection — a change they made between Games 2 and three of the Eastern Conference Finals with optimistic outcomes — however that’s a harmful proposition on this sequence as a result of the Warriors’ offense was created to punish groups that play straight-up man-to-man protection. If the Cavaliers do go this route, they’ll get the succesful (however nonetheless overmatched) George Hill defending Curry extra usually, however they’ll even be establishing extra open pictures for Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, as Golden State would set pin-down display after pin-down display for these guys. It’d additionally possible pressure the Cavs to place James on Durant full-time, as they had been compelled to do in Game 2, which resulted in James having to sit down in a vital second-quarter stretch due to fatigue.
You’ll should forgive me if that doesn’t strike me as a sensible concept for Cleveland.
The Cavs might additionally cease taking part in Love, however then they’d be shedding their second-best offensive participant with out a viable various to make up his factors. LeBron can do quite a lot of issues, however he can’t beat the Warriors with out Love chipping 20 factors — the ahead is too vital to bench, even when he is a defensive legal responsibility.
Cleveland might additionally enhance the variety of two-man traps they throw Curry, however that will successfully give the Warriors a Four-on-Three benefit within the half courtroom, one thing that Draymond Green — who usually turns into the first ballhandler in Four-on-Three conditions — would love, as it might let him successfully run an odd-man transition set with out having to run 94 ft. Trapping Curry would possibly work as a change-up tactic, but when that’s the Cavs’ major gamelan, it’s going to lead to oodles of Golden State factors.
Cleveland might attempt to run Curry off the Three-point line (one thing the Rockets did nicely) and right into a crowded lane — in essence, run Curry right into a wall of humanity. This is what the Warriors are doing with James — there’s a defender on the level of assault urgent into James, but additionally Draymond Green and a second assist defender behind that, seeking to pressure the Cavs’ ahead to go the ball or pull up for a 10-to-15-foot shot.
This Three-on-1 technique that labored nicely for the Warriors in Game 2 as a result of the Cavs couldn’t make an open shot and James’ teammates weren’t even fast to launch the pictures on open appears, giving the Warriors’ time to rotate to them in some conditions.
Implementing Golden State’s Three-on-1 defensive technique may be the Cavs’ greatest wager in Game Three and past — exterior of going to a full-fledged zone protection. That stated, it might additionally make every sport a battle of James and Curry’s supporting casts, and that is definitely not a struggle the Cavs are going to win in 4 of the subsequent 5 video games.
In reality, identical to in final 12 months’s Finals, they’d in all probability be fortunate to get a singular win with that technique.
We’ll discover out which route the Cavs go in Game Three quickly sufficient, however whether or not this sequence goes 4 video games or seven, the Curry conundrum appears prefer it’s going to be these NBA Finals’ defining issue.
And that, in flip, makes Curry the sequence’ most vital participant.
I’m wondering in the event that they hand out awards for that.