Tag: Golden State Warriors


Cavaliers counting on rest, better shooting to bounce back in Game 5


CLEVELAND — Steve Kerr made the first big, bold coaching move of the Finals changing his starting lineup to go small. He did it because he had to, his team was getting beat with what they normally had done.

Also, he did it because he could.

The onus now falls on coach David Blatt and the Cavaliers to make their counter moves — but don’t expect a big roster change.

Because he can’t. Not with a seven-man rotation.

“We don’t have many options as far as lineups we can go to, but we can make adjustments,” LeBron James said. “That’s what you do throughout a series.  We’ll get to the film and make the necessary adjustments coming into Game 5.  But as far as lineup changes, we don’t have many different lineup changes we can actually go to.”

If it’s not going to be a dramatic adjustment, what are the Cavaliers counting on for Game 5?

Rest. Better shooting.

With rest, there are two days off between games four and five, and that benefits the Cavaliers, who have a short bench. This is a team where key players like Matthew Dellavedova and LeBron are publicly dealing with cramps (and other guys doing the same, just not as publicly). LeBron was not getting to the rim late, settling for fade aways. Stephen Curry blew by a dead-legged Dellavedova all night.

Yes,” Blatt said when asked if fatigue was a factored into Game 4. “Tonight was the third game in five days, including the trip back from the West Coast, and it seemed to have an impact on us, yes.”

Maybe if the Cavs are rested there will be a little more spring in their legs. Which brings us to…

Shooting better. The Cavaliers shot 33 percent overall and were 4-of-27 from three in Game 4. But it wasn’t just about defense, they were missing looks they normally knock down — the Cavaliers were 6-of-29 on uncontested looks.

“Offensively we were terrible,” LeBron said. ” You can’t always bank on your offense.  Sometimes your offense just doesn’t show up, and there is no way we go 4-for-27 from the three-point line and expect to win. We outrebounded them still.  We had 16 offensive rebounds.  We had 20 second chance points.  But we just couldn’t get the long ball going tonight, and that definitely hurt  our offense hurt us just as bad as anything.”

“We didn’t make shots,” Blatt added. “And that put a little bit more pressure on (LeBron), too, because he was passing the ball, and the normal shots that we make in that situation, we didn’t.”

Often when you ask a coach in any playoff series what needs to be done following a loss and they will answer something along the lines of “effort” or “energy” rather than with strategy. Even when what they need is a strategy change.

For the Cavaliers it has to be energy and effort. Their roster isn’t changing for Game 5, Blatt has who he has. And if he really trusted guys like Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, you already would have seen a lot more of them.

Still, Blatt likes the Cavaliers chances.

“We’re in a three game series for the NBA Finals.  Six months ago I would have bought that,” Blatt said, referencing the Cavaliers challenging first half of the season. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, go back to work, continue to believe in ourselves, play the best basketball we can, and try to win this thing.”

The Warriors played slowly in Game 4 – why it looked otherwise

2015 NBA Finals - Game Four

Draymond Green brought up the above play – his quick inbound pass to set up an Andre Iguodala dunk – after the Warriors beat the Cavaliers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

“That’s the type of thing that we need,” Green said. “We needed to put them on their heels. This entire series, it’s been them as the enforcers, them as the aggressors and us on our heels. We needed to reverse that.”source: Getty Images

“That’s something we’ve been missing throughout this entire series, is it has not been at our pace.”

No, the series has not.

But neither was Game 4

Not at least by the technical definition of pace: possessions per 48 minutes. In fact, using NBA.com’s pace estimates, Game 4 was slower than Golden State’s Game 2 and Game 3 losses.

Here’s the pace of each Finals game. The horizontal black lines represent the NBA’s fastest-paced (notably the Warriors) and slowest-paced teams during the regular season.


And it wasn’t as if Golden State was up and down with pacing, scoring on plenty of short possessions and going long on other possessions. That can be a way for a team that plays slowly overall to still generate many transition baskets.

The Warriors scored just 11 fastbreak points in Game 4, well below their regular-season-leading 20.9 per game and their third-lowest output of the playoffs:


So why did the Warriors look faster when they actually played slower than the NBA’s slowest team?

Start with passing.

Passing isn’t always the answer. Stephen Curry isolated Matthew Dellavedova to much success, and Golden State definitely overpassed earlier in the series.

But the Warriors passed with purpose in Game 4.

For the first time all series, they had more uncontested shots (yellow) than contested shots (blue)


Good passes leading to open shots meant 24 assists – including six each by Curry and Green. That’s a series high for assists per 48 minutes (which levels the overtime games):


Crisp passing stretched Cleveland’s defense and led to open shots, which turned into made shots. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors posted their best offensive rating of the Finals.

Again, the horizontal black lines represent the highest- and lowest-scoring teams per possession during the regular season:


The Cavaliers have fought to slow the pace in this series, and in many ways, they succeeded in Game 4.

But the Warriors revealed something more important, an ability to duplicate aspects of their preferred up-tempo attack in the halfcourt. The whole idea of playing fast is to generate good, open shots. Passing can accomplish the same thing.

Golden State just negated Cleveland’s biggest strength so far in the Finals – dictating pace. That should be a scary thought for the Cavs and a comforting one for the Warriors.

Andre Iguodala making strong Finals MVP case


CLEVELAND — All season long, Andre Iguodala has sacrificed. He’s seen his minutes cut and his starting job taken away. It was all in preparation for this exact moment. Warriors coach Steve Kerr wanted to increase Harrison Barnes’ confidence and give the second unit a first option. It was a lot to ask of Iguodala, who has been a starter most of his career.

“Part of it was, the bringing off the bench part was to help Harrison and put Harrison in a better role and also to solidify our second unit, which Andre did,” said Kerr. “We tried all season long to give Andre rest. We gave him four or five games off at key times, and we just wanted to keep him fresh as possible. I mean, he looks great out there. He’s been our best player through four games. He guards LeBron pretty much every possession that he’s out there, and his offense has been terrific.”

But being a sixth man is a lot more palatable when you’re also the frontrunner to win Finals MVP if your team wins the title. Iguodala has played stellar defense on LeBron James all series, and he slid comfortably into the starting lineup on Thursday, when Kerr decided to make an adjustment. It paid off in a big way with the Warriors’ convincing 103-82 win over the Cavs, taking back homecourt advantage.

After superhuman performances in the first three games of the Finals, James was held to 20 points on 22 shots on Thursday. It was a perfect storm for the Warriors, who have been content to let the four-time MVP go nuts while taking the Cavs’ role players out of the game. This time, they sent the occasional double-team at James, and none of the other Cavs players made them pay.

“I didn’t think Andre guarded him any differently than he did in the first three games,” Kerr said. “It’s a different game. LeBron’s shots didn’t go in. The same shots may go in next game. And you never know how it’s going to play out. But Andre, he battles him. He’s played him a lot in his career. Whatever team he’s been on, he’s been the guy who has to guard LeBron when LeBron comes to town.”

It’s not just Iguodala’s defense that has made this a series again. He benefitted greatly on the offensive end from being inserted into the starting lineup, speeding up the pace of the game and giving Golden State another perimeter threat.

It’s all because Iguodala was willing to make that sacrifice during the year. He became a situational threat for the Warriors, which has made him a “different look” Kerr can throw out there, rather than a mainstay that’s an obvious player to gameplan for. And now, he’s the X-factor for a title team.

“I think it’s just about playing the game the right way, and our team has been really good at just letting it flow, and whoever’s night it is, that’s the guy’s night. But the majority of the time it’s Steph, because he is who he is and he’s going to do that no matter where he’s at.

As we get older and mature and play this game, great players like that understand maybe it’s not my night, but someone else is going to have a huge game because of me.”

Small ball works, Golden State handles Cleveland comfortably to even series


CLEVELAND — They went small from the opening tip. The ball flew around the court. Three pointers fell at a 40 percent clip, led by the MVP hitting four. They pushed the ball off the other team’s makes and misses, then attacked the rim. They made the extra pass.

Put simply, the Golden State Warriors looked more like the 67-win Warriors from the regular season again.

And the result was a comfortable win 103-82 victory for Golden State, behind 22 points each from Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry.

With the win, the Warriors evened the NBA Finals at 2-2 and are heading home for Game 5 Sunday.

And now it’s David Blatt and the Warriors’ turn to come up with answers, because the first big adjustment of the Finals came from Steve Kerr — and it worked.

“We did it for pace and floor spacing and just to get the tempo going…” Kerr said of the switch to starting small. “We controlled the tempo and the rhythm of the game. But that I think had more to do with us competing and getting to long rebounds and loose balls. I thought the first three games they were the more competitive team. Maybe it’s our first trip to The Finals, we thought we can play hard. It’s not just about playing hard. It’s about playing every single possession like it’s your last. And I thought tonight our effort took a step up, and that’s why we were able to win.”

“It made sense when (Kerr) told us just because we’ve been getting off to such slow starts,” Curry said of being told about the switch. “When we have that lineup out there in parts of the game, we were able to turn defensive stops into transition and just pick the tempo and the pace of the game up.”

Kerr altered his starting lineup for Game 4, starting Andre Iguodala in place of big center Andrew Bogut. This small lineup had been +18.8 per 48 minutes in limited run (20 minutes in the Finals) but Steve Kerr was going to use it to pick up the pace and make this a more Warriors friendly pace. It worked.

Well, not for the first minute, the Cavaliers raced out to a 7-0 lead (including a no-look LeBron James feed to Timofey Mozgov). But then Stephen Curry hit a couple threes, the small lineup opened up the floor, the attacked the rim, and the Warriors started to look like themselves again.With balanced attack (Green and Barnes each had five early) and Warriors came back to lead 22-20 and never looked back from there.

The Warriors pulled away and were up 54-42 at the half. They shot 46.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-17 from three in the first half — not vintage numbers for the Warriors, but far better than we had seen through three games. Most importantly Curry got some help, from Draymond Green who had 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first half, and Andrew Iguodala had 9 points (all in the first quarter). The energy of the Warriors was just different this game.

“I think if we played as hard as we were playing the last couple of games, it would have won us probably 67 regular season games, but it would have lost us the Finals 4-1, and that’s what we had to change,” Green said. “And we were able to do that tonight.  That’s what helped us out a lot.  That’s what helped me out.”

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were 2-of-13 from three in the first half and 4-of-27 for the game — the new Warriors lineup gave them looks, couldn’t hit them. On the night, the Cavaliers were 6-of-29 on uncontested looks.

“We didn’t make shots,” Blatt said. “And that put a little bit more pressure on (LeBron), too, because he was passing the ball, and the normal shots that we make in that situation, we didn’t.”

On the other end, the Cavs defense in the paint wasn’t the same when Mozgov had to come much farther from the perimeter to protect the rim compared to how close he was with Bogut.

But the third quarter was far more the Cavaliers kind of game. The Cavaliers defended well and the Warriors were 5-of-15 from the floor, plus the Cavaliers out-rebounded Warriors 17-6 in third. All that led to a 12-2 run midway through the third cut the lead all the way down to three.

The Cavaliers tried to punish the small lineup by going inside, Timofey Mozgov led the Cavaliers with 28 points. He did an excellent job sealing off smaller guys and getting early, deep position all night long.

But at the start of the fourth, LeBron had to rest — he said he was “gassed” — and the Warriors got back in their flow and stretched the lead back up to double-digits. Fatigue was an issue.

“Tonight was the third game in five days, including the trip back from the West Coast, and it seemed to have an impact on us, yes,” Blatt said.

The Warriors’ best lineup had Shaun Livingston on the floor, and that made things happen. Plus the Warriors got good minutes from David Lee, who had 9 points on the night.

LeBron careens into cameraman after foul, stays down for a stretch

LeBron James

CLEVELAND — It wasn’t flagrant, it was a smart playoff foul. LeBron James was driving toward the rim, Andrew Bogut fouled him to make sure he’d earn his points from the charity stripe.

But LeBron landed off balance and went careening into the cameramen. LeBron’s head hit hard on a camera, and he stayed down for a couple minutes, and pictures after showed a circle on LeBron’s head from the lens.

However, there wasn’t much blood, and he came back in to take his free throws — if he hadn’t taken the free throws he could not have returned to the game. LeBron didn’t come out immediately afterwards. There was no concussion test.