By Aaron Jackson
I’ll admit it. I fell into the Cavs’ trap. “They turn it on when they need to.” “There’s so much talent on this team.” “You can’t lose with LeBron.” These are all opinions I’ve heard and believed and against the Boston Celtics they weren’t wrong. But the Golden State Warriors are not even in the same stratosphere as the Celtics, that much has been made clear. The other thing that’s been made clear is my prediction of Warriors in 6 or 7 is going to be woefully inadequate if something doesn’t change in this NBA Finals. Since I’ve lost Tyronn Lue’s phone number, I think it’s best if I give him some helpful tips in this week’s Jackson 5. Here’s how the Cleveland Cavaliers can get back into this series.
- Use home court advantage to their benefit. It seems simple and obvious, but remember what happened against the Celtics? Fact is, the Cavs have played much better on the road in the playoffs than at home. At Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland split their games against Boston, with even the win being a close affair. On the road they blew them out by an average of 30 points per game. Whatever ailed them at home in their last series better be in the rear view mirror in games three and four.
- Get Tristan Thompson involved in the game. When our Sterling Pingree reads this he will roll his eyes, but he is one of the most important pieces to this team. You know what to expect with LeBron, Love and Irving, but when Thompson is playing All Star level basketball, this team is incredibly tough to beat. Against Boston he averaged 12 points and 7 boards a game, nothing spectacular until you realize he shot 74!!!!% from the floor while playing their team’s best defense. Against Golden State he’s averaging 4 points a game on 40% shooting with only 4 rebounds. Without his productivity and involvement the Cavs are going to be swept.
- SLOW THE GAME DOWN! They keep playing right into Golden State’s hands. They shoot the first open look they see and when the Warriors get the rebound they turn around with slumped shoulders and jog back to the other end of the court. Meanwhile Kevin Durant has already run ahead, passed to Steph Curry, who gives it back to Durant for an open three. Cleveland was successful against Golden State last year when they dragged out the pace of play and made the game more physical. Right now Cleveland is playing “up tempo Warriors’ style basketball”, and the Cavs just don’t have the shooting/team speed to compete on that level.
- Let Kyrie Irving lead from the point guard position. One of the other tactics Cleveland tried last year was putting the ball more into Kyrie Irving’s hands in the finals, and it worked. People forget Irving’s dominance last year late in games, but he was the reason that the Cavaliers won the finals. This year he just isn’t being engaged in the offense like he should be. Lue is using him as an off ball shooting guard, much like Klay Thompson is for the Warriors. Give him the ball and let him create, both for himself and for LeBron.
- Be aggressive in the passing lanes and stop turning the ball over. In shorter terms…win the turnover battle. In game one they combined 20 turnovers, including 8 from LeBron, with 0, yes 0, steals. That’s not going to win you many games. Game two saw them cut the turnovers back to 9, while forcing 15 steals, good overall numbers until you delve a little deeper. Cleveland recorded 10 of those 15 steals in the first half, when they played the game essentially to a dead even heat. In the third quarter, when the Warriors opened up a 14 point lead, they committed 2 turnovers and created 2 turnovers. It’s not enough to just play even against Golden State in the turnover battle. The Cavaliers need to force more than they give up if they want a chance to win.
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.