Tag: J.R. Smith

2015 NBA Finals - Game Three

LeBron James says Cavaliers won’t change starters for Game 6


The small-ball Warriors jumped to an 8-2 lead in Game 5, practically running Timofey Mozgov off the court for most of the rest of the game.

David Blatt defended the strategy of sitting Mozgov, but the Cavaliers coach also wouldn’t say whether he’d repeat it in Game 6.

LeBron James let the cat out of the bag – at least about the first few minutes of the contest.

Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

That’s be LeBron, Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson.

I’m not sure whether LeBron is revealing Blatt’s plan, dictating the plan himself or even telling the truth.

Starting Mozgov might be the right move. I don’t think it will work, but I don’t think benching Mozgov would work either. The Warriors are the better team, and most Cleveland strategies are bound to fail.

The Cavs just don’t have enough depth to tinker too much. Their perimeter players are already overextended, and the more Mozgov sits to go small, the more they play.

Blatt has shown a willingness to adjust quickly. Just because Mozgov starts doesn’t mean he’ll play major minutes. But it at least buys J.R. Smith a few minutes extra rest. If Cleveland goes small, Smith will have to play a lot.

Five things to watch in NBA Finals Game 6: Will LeBron get any help to force a Game 7?

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two

We know who and what the Golden State Warriors are, we’ve seen it for 103 games now. We’ve seen Stephen Curry hit those ridiculous step-back threes off the bounce, and we know he can keep doing it. We have seen Draymond Green defend and knock down threes. We’ve seen this team destroy opponents in transition. We’ve seen this team defend brilliantly.

After the last two games of these NBA Finals, we have a pretty good idea what the Golden State Warriors will bring in Game 6 Tuesday night as they try to win the franchises’ first title since David Beckham was born. They will go small and bring everything mentioned in that first paragraph.

The big questions are all on the Cavaliers side at this point — they need to find an answer to the Warriors small-ball lineup. David Blatt tried going big and lost by 21. He tried going small and lost by 13. Now what?

Here are five things to keep an eye on as we head into Game 6:

1) Can LeBron do anything more? There have been so many statistics — LeBron James scored or assisted on 70 of the Cavaliers 91 points in Game 4 — and so many stories written about the load LeBron is carrying. This is my new favorite stat (via Seth Partnow): On LeBron’s shots, assists, and the offensive rebounds off his shots the Cavaliers have an eFG% of 51.6 percent, on all other shots not created by LeBron it is 30.7 percent.

Can LeBron do any more? He may have to if the Cavaliers want to play one more game.

“I don’t put a ceiling on what I can do,” LeBron said after Game 5. “I don’t know. I mean, tonight I gave up two offensive rebounds, one to Barbosa in the first half, one to Harrison Barnes, which allowed him to get an and-one with Iguodala with the left-hand trick shot. I had a couple turnovers, a couple miscues defensively, and I’ve got to be better. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t put a ceiling on what I’m capable of doing. I know I’m shouldering a lot of the burden, but it is what it is.”

2) Will any other Cavaliers step up and knock down some shots? LeBron’s kingdom for a little help.

The Cavaliers have struggled faced with a bit of their own medicine. Against the Atlanta Hawks, the Cavaliers went under picks and dared Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, or any other Hawk not named Korver to beat them from three. Atlanta couldn’t. Now the Warriors are daring Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and any Cavalier save LeBron to beat them from three. They haven’t, not consistently.

Through the last two games the Cavaliers are 23-of- 65 (35.4 percent) on uncontested shots. The Cavaliers need to knock down their open looks.

3) Will the Cavaliers have the legs left to close out the game, or will fatigue get them again? Those shooting numbers speak to a team with dead legs. So does the fourth quarter collapses the last couple games. The Cavaliers are going with a seven-man rotation and asking those guys to give NBA Finals level effort for heavy minutes. They wear down. LeBron gets gassed. And they fade late while the Warriors seem just to get hot (despite shrinking their rotations some the last couple games). Now add in just one day off between games (with a lot of travel) and you could see a fatigued Cavaliers team.

Mostly, the Cavaliers need to defend better late somehow.

“You know, we needed our best defensive quarter tonight in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t get it,” LeBron said after Game 5. “We gave up 31 points in the fourth.  Some of them were free throws, but a lot of them were them just breaking us down.  So we’ve got to do a better job of that.”

One other note: Will the Warriors fade a little? Kerr has tightened his rotations, and Stephen Curry needed fluids (not an IV) after feeling dehydrated after Game 5. Will his legs be a little dead, too?

4) Will David Blatt go big or small? He’s tried both. Neither worked. It’s counter-intuitive to go small against the Warriors, who would rather play at the pace small ball tends to generate (and Game 5 was five possessions faster than Game 4, more to the Warriors liking). However, while Timofey Mozgov may have poured in 28 in Game 4 he was exposed defensively out on the perimeter (plus the paint opened up, as did transition opportunities for the Warriors). The problem for Blatt is he just does not have the chess pieces to move around the board here. There are no good options that will obviously work. Maybe he throws a little of both at the Warriors this time around.

But it feels like the Warriors have solved the puzzle. And the series.

5) Are the Warriors ready to withstand the Cavaliers best punch? Closeout games are the hardest ones to win. Especially on the road. The Warriors may have figured out how to win the Xs and Os battle, they may be the deeper and fresher team, but can they withstand the effort and intensity of what will be a desperate LeBron and Cavaliers team. For the first three games of the series, the Warriors were not ready for the level of energy and focus on every possession needed to win the NBA Finals. They finally figured that out.

But now the Cavaliers are about to crank that up to 11. Has Golden State figured that out too? Will they withstand the opening rush that the Cavaliers will bring to start the game?

If so, this likely is the end of the NBA season. If not, the dance will continue on Friday night.

J.R. Smith one flagrant foul from suspension

J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith got suspended for his first flagrant foul of the playoffs, a flagrant-2 against the Celtics for taking a shot to Jae Crowder’s head.

Smith picked up a second flagrant foul in Game 5 of the NBA Finals for trying to run through Draymond Green. This time it was just a flagrant-1, but that still gives him four flagrant points (at least unless the league rescinds last night’s).

Another flagrant-1 would trigger a one-game suspension. A flagrant-2 would trigger a two-game suspension.

Smith would serve it in his next healthy game, whether that’s Game 7 or the start of next season.

David Blatt’s gambit going small didn’t work, but was only call he could make

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five

OAKLAND — There comes a point in every NBA playoff series — particularly a Finals series — where a coach realizes that he is about to lose, that what has worked to get them there is no longer good enough. When that happens, you see desperation moves. Heck, in 2008 Phil Jackson tried to roll out Chris Mihm against the Celtics front line because he needed a desperation move.

Cavaliers coach David Blatt reached that point early in Game 5. The Warriors had gone small in Game 4, subbing Andre Iguodala in for Andrew Bogut. It worked.

Blatt had tried to counter by staying big with Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson in at the same time, and Mozgov had 28 points in Game 4. And the Cavaliers lost by 21.

To open Game 5 the Warriors missed a couple threes and had a couple turnovers, but then really started to expose Mozgov — Golden State hit four of their next five. There was Stephen Curry with a layup, Draymond Green with a dunk in transition, followed by Green with another dunk — Green and the Warriors were  exposing Mozgov’s inability to get out on the perimeter and still protect the rim, plus the fact Mozgov is not fast in transition. Golden State was getting the shots it wanted and early on was starting to pull away (already up 8-2). They had solved the Cavaliers. This game was going to get ugly.

Blatt knew it. So he made a desperate move and decided to match the Warriors small lineup. Out came Mozgov and in came J.R. Smith.

After the game Blatt took a lot of criticism for going small, including a number of questions about why he went away from his big man and trying to pound the Warriors inside as they had Game 4. Blatt responded by noting they lost the lost Game 4 by more than this one. Game 5 was a one-point game with just more than five minutes left, which is a lot closer than Game 4.

“I thought (going small) was our best chance to win the game, and we were definitely in the game with a chance to win,” Blatt said.  So that’s the way we played it.”

The Warriors beat the Cavaliers to some offensive rebounds late in Game 4, and there were no solid second scorers behind LeBron James in Game 4 like Mozgov in Game 4. On the surface you can make the staying big argument, but it misses the real picture.

The reality for Blatt was obvious and simple:

If he stayed with the big lineup, he was going to get blown out. Again.

Going small played to Golden State’s strengths, but it worked a lot better than staying big did or would have.

The problem for Blatt and the Cavaliers is it doesn’t matter what style he plays — the Warriors are the better, deeper team. The Warriors have more pieces on the chess board and can adjust. The Cavaliers made some nice adjustments in this game to get J.R. Smith open off some pindown actions, and he hit his first three from beyond the arc. Then the Warriors adjusted how they defended the action (switching more) and that play went away, it didn’t work. The Warriors have the depth, the personnel to counter anything the Cavaliers try.

Blatt was getting beat playing big. So, he took a gamble playing small. It didn’t work out.

But he had to try something. The status quo was his team getting blown out again.

LeBron James’ teammates hit playoff low in scoring

LeBron James, Tristan Thompson

LeBron James didn’t mince words.

“I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” LeBron said. “It’s simple.”

If only it were that simple for him.

LeBron scored 40 points (to go with 14 rebounds and 11 assists), but Cleveland lost Game 5 of the Finals, 104-91, Sunday. Why? The other Cavaliers scored just 51 points.

That’s a low for LeBron’s teammates this postseason:


The last time his teammates scored so few was March 26, 2014. LeBron scored 38 in an 84-83 loss to the Pacers.

Before that it was Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. Again against Indiana, LeBron scored 29 in a 91-77 loss.

This is the 39th time LeBron’s teammates have scored so few points, including 12th in the playoffs. His record in those games: 5-34 overall, 2-10 in the playoffs

Why aren’t his teammates scoring more now? Here are the thee biggest reasons in order:

1. Kevin Love’s and Kyrie Irving’s injuries

They were the Cavaliers’ second and third options, and they’re sidelined. If those two were healthy, Cleveland’s scoring would be much more balanced. As is, LeBron has taken it upon himself to do practically everything.

2. Warriors’  defense

Golden State has spent a lot of time defending LeBron straight up, not helping off Cleveland’s shooters while still forcing LeBron into enough misses. When the Warriors have double-teamed, they’ve been very deliberate about when and how to do it. Essentially, they’re daring LeBron to beat them singlehandedly and not letting anyone else get going.

3. Remaining Cavaliers playing poorly

Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova are over their heads as No. 2 or even No. 3 options. It’s no surprise this group can’t put the ball in the basket enough. LeBron shot 15-of-34 (44%) Sunday, and his teammates were 17-of-47 (36%).

No. 1 isn’t changing. I suppose No. 2 could, but Golden State has been the NBA’s best defensive team all season. For the Cavaliers to win again this season, No. 3 will have to change.

Will LeBron’s teammates score more, enough to beat the Warriors?

Finding confidence there definitely isn’t so simple.