Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue showed nearly the bare minimum amount of trust in J.R. Smith in the second half of Game 2. Lue also said Smith would still start Game 3.
Cleveland just appears short on options – and the problem runs far deeper than Smith.
LeBron James has been brilliant. Kevin Love is giving everything he has. Kyrie Irving has had moments despite overall underwhelming play.
The Cavaliers’ supporting cast has just come up empty in the NBA Finals, which the Warriors lead, 2-0.
Beyond its Big Three, Cleveland’s other players are shooting 29.9% from the field, including 21.4% on 3-pointers. Deron Williams (0-for-9 overall, 0-for-4 on 3-pointers), Smith (1-for-6, 1-for-4), Kyle Korver (2-for-7, 1-for-7), Iman Shumpert (3-for-12, 1-for-5) and Channing Frye (1-for-5, 0-for-1) have been particularly inept. (Whew, that’s a long list.)
Tristan Thompson is getting kept off the glass. He has eight rebounds in the series – half as many as Stephen Curry. (Credit Zaza Pachulia, whose sudden villainy overshadows a quietly impressive game, for boxing out so well.)
The Cavs’ role players haven’t collectively been up to snuff defensively. It’s not just that they haven’t blocked a single shot, they’re routinely getting beat. Admittedly, defense isn’t the calling card for many of them. But it’s still a glaring flaw – especially when their shots aren’t falling.
Maybe they’ll play better at home. Game 3 is in Cleveland tonight, and Game 4 will be there Friday.
But they’ve set a low baseline.
The Cavaliers’ supporting cast – players other than LeBron, Love and Irving – has combined for a cumulative Game Score (a rough measure of a players’ contributions) of just 35.6.
For perspective, Kevin Durant (67.3), Stephen Curry (52.2) and LeBron are each beating that individually. Love (35.2) comes close.
Of the 68 teams to play in the Finals since 1984, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go, the 2017 Cavs’ supporting cast (defined as all players beyond the team’s top three in Game Score) has the 11th-worst cumulative Game Score through two games.
Here’s every time a team’s supporting cast produced a cumulative Game Score below 40 in the first two games of a Finals. The team’s opponent is noted, as are its three leaders in Game Score.