Tag: NBA finals Game 1

LeBron James, Jason Phillips

Did Cavaliers miss their best chance to win at Oracle?


OAKLAND — LeBron James had a career NBA Finals high of 44 points, posting up and overpowering every defender the Warriors threw at him (although Andre Iguodala did a solid job). Kyrie Irving, coming off eight days rest for his sore knee, was moving well and making plays. The Warriors started off ice cold shooting in the first quarter, opening the game 4-of-18 (1-of-5 from three).

In the end, the Cavaliers had a situation they will take every time — the ball in LeBron’s hands with a chance to win the game.

And still the Cavaliers lost.

Now — especially considering Irving’s knee injury — it feels like the Cavs best chance to earn a split of the first two games in Oracle Arena went skipping off the rim, like Iman Shumpert’s shot at the regulation buzzer.

“Realistically, we put ourselves in position to win that game the way we played it,” Cavs coach David Blatt said.

“It’s our game plan, and our game plan worked,” LeBron said. “ We put ourselves in a position to win, we just didn’t come through.”

LeBron, Blatt and the rest of the Cavaliers went into these NBA Finals knowing they were about to face their toughest test by far — their margin for error was nonexistent. They couldn’t miss out on opportunities.

That’s exactly what happened.

It wasn’t for lack of effort, in fact Blatt said fatigue from that effort may have played a factor in Cleveland scoring just two points in overtime. Cleveland doesn’t have the depth of Golden State.

To open the game Cleveland was the more mature, focused team — they were the team that had guys that had been there before. The combination of rust and the bigger stage seemed to overwhelm the Warriors. Meanwhile LeBron and Irving were making shots, and when they missed Tristan Thompson seemed to get his hands on the rebound.

“We did start extremely well,” Blatt said. “We were prepared, and we had a game plan that we followed well early. But the NBA game is a long game. A 48-minute game is a long game, lot of stops, lot of changes in momentum. You know, a tough away game.

“Teams are going to make their runs. They did. We ran back. They did, we ran back. But still we were in a position to win that game in a very tough and hard fought game by both sides.”

What should worry the Cavaliers — outside of Irving’s potential knee injury — is that the Warriors can play a lot better. The combination of Cleveland’s athletic defense and some nerves/rust had the Warriors not looking like the Warriors early. As the game wore on the Warriors started to find and exploit the holes in the Cavs defense. That will only get worse with time to watch the film, plus a comfort level with the stage.

The same is true of the Cavaliers.

“We had a lot of miscues tonight. I think they would say the same,” LeBron said. “We had a lot of breakdowns, a couple of transition threes they made that we kind of pinpointed on saying we don’t want to give those up. But at the end of the day, we gave ourselves a chance, man. I missed a tough one. But we had so many opportunities to win this game, and we didn’t. It’s up to us now to look at the film, watch and make some adjustments, what you need to do and be ready for Sunday.”

Adjustments as the series has gone on has been the purview of the Warriors this postseason — by the third or fourth game of every series they had figured out what they wanted to do, and the opponents couldn’t counter.

The Warriors are going to get better as this series goes on.

The Cavaliers may have just missed their best chance to steal a game. It certainly feels that way.

J.R. Smith beats buzzer just before halftime

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 04:  J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots against Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors at the end of the in the second quarter during Game One of the 2015 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 4, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Every playoff team needs a guy who just doesn’t give a… well, any manure about the moment. A guy unfazed by pressure.

J.R. Smith is that guy for the Cavaliers.

He had nine first-half points, topped off by this three to give the Cavaliers a 51-48 lead at the half.

By the way, really nice play design/call by David Blatt to set that up. (Well, unless you want to credit LeBron for everything Blatt does right, as some do.)

NBA Finals Game 2 preview: Don’t expect Game 2 to look, feel like Game 1

LeBron James

SAN ANTONIO — There isn’t much you can take away from Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The air conditioning going out, the AT&T Center becoming a sauna, and the effect that had on LeBron James (cramping up and missing almost the entire second half of the fourth quarter) and the rest of the players (both teams had their rotations slow, Miami’s just much more) made this a game a one-off. An outlier.

Whatever happens Sunday night in Game 2 — with the air conditioning working in the building — it will not look like Game 1.

What both teams talked about over the couple of days off, besides the recovery from Game 1, was tightening things up — sharper defensive rotations and cutting down the turnovers.

“My guess is you won’t see that tomorrow night, turnover-wise,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Saturday, talking about how the teams combined for 40 turnovers in Game 1. “I don’t think either one of us will turn it over as much as we did. In that regard we were both pretty sloppy.”

“We need to do what we do better and harder,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said about the Miami defense. “They make it tough with their passing and, you know, getting into the paint with their rolls and spreading you out with three-point shooters. So we need to do that better, there is no question about it.”

That means being disruptive and forcing those turnovers for the Heat. The ones that Popovich has drilled into his guys to limit.

The Heat also want to make Miami’s ball movement more difficult.

“We’re going to try to get our hands in the passing lanes a little more, make those extra passes tougher, so it’s not on a straight line,” Miami’s Chris Bosh said.

That kind of pressure, the gambling that makes the Miami’s defense hard to deal with when they are focused, also requires tight rotations. Ones that failed them at points in Game 1, particularly the final five minutes.

“I think just communication,” Bosh said of improving those rotations. “They get you moving on the weak side, they make it very difficult. But we’ve always said you’ve got to be ahead of the play with this team, and there were a couple times where we weren’t ahead of the play and our weakside help wasn’t there on time — which is early — and we’re just going to have to trust each other that we’re going to make the proper rotations. Sometimes we’re thinking ‘I’ve got a three-point shooter,’ they do that for a reason, make you hesitate one split second and they get a lay-up. We’ll fix it. We’ll make sure we’re on the same page.”

Sounds logical, but if the Heat do exactly what Bosh suggests and pre-rotate more, that can be its own problem.

“They caught us pre-rotating a few times in the last game, and that makes it difficult sometimes because one guy is off and one guy pre-rotates, they make those reads fairly quickly,” Bosh said. “That’s what makes them who they are.”

The Spurs just need to not do too much — keep it simple, Tony Parker said.

“I think the key for us is do the first easy pass. Don’t try to invent something, just play our game,” Parker said. “We need to have the pace and we know Miami is a great defensive team and they have a great rotation, they’re fast but if we do the first easy pass and move the ball at the end, you know, I think we will get good shots.”

The last 12 times the Heat lost a playoff game, they won the next one. That streak includes last year’s Finals, when the Spurs took Game 1 but lost Game 2 and eventually the series. San Antonio played the season on a mission to get back to this very series and force a different outcome.

Winning Game 2 would be a big step in that direction.

But however they do it, it will not look anything like Game 1.

Off day wrap up from San Antonio: Tim Duncan wants to be a point guard

2014 NBA Finals - Practice Day And Media Availability

SAN ANTONIO — Emptying out my notebook like people are emptying out kegs at River Walk bars….

• Tim Duncan has joked before he wants to be a point guard, and he was asked again by a reporter on Saturday if Gregg Popovich should let him.

“I’ve been arguing that point for years now and I’m going to get your name and card, and I’ll get you in a room with him,” Duncan joked.

Popovich played along.

“You see him bring it up once in a while.  He brings it up with three more dribbles than he needs to, he should throw it ahead to anybody in the same color uniform.  But he’ll get three more dribbles in, just to practice in case I do it, which I’m really going to do.”

Tony Parker does not exactly worry about his job security, and probably doesn’t have to after Duncan’s five turnovers in Game 1.

“Are we still talking about that?  I can’t believe they brought it up in the NBA Finals (laughter),” Parker joked. “It’s been a joke that Timmy thinks he’s a great quarterback, that he can be a good passer.  I disagree with that.  I want to keep my spot.”

• Popovich was asked about the three-point shot and how it has changed the game, and as you can expect with Pop he was honest and blunt:

“I hate it. To me it’s not basketball but you gotta use it. If you don’t use it, you’re in big trouble. But you sort of feel like it’s cheating. You know, like two points, that’s what you get when you make a basket. Now you get three, so you gotta deal with it. I don’t think I don’t think there’s anybody who is not dealing with it.”

• There’s been a lot of talk online and on sports talk radio about LeBron James’ comment to ESPN Friday that he’s the easiest target in sports. You can debate amongst yourselves whether that is true or not, but Shane Battier had interesting thoughts about what’s different about LeBron James’ celebrity.

“He is the first (basketball) mega-star of the twitter generation. So the world was introduced to LeBron when he was in high school as a 14-year-old, there isn’t a fact or a wrinkle or a blemish about him that the general populace doesn’t know about already. Everybody feels they know him and so everyone feels they can critique him because they’ve known him for so long. That’s not something Jordan ever had to go through, or Bird or Magic. I blame it on the information age, and it’s a sign of the times….

“LeBron is complicit in it. You accept everything that goes along with being King James, then you are complicit. Blood is on his hands, too. But he understands that and he deals with it.”

• If you’re still trying to make a conspiracy theory out of the air conditioning situation in Game 1 — and if so you need to take the tin foil hat off and seek help — I will throw you tis bone.

• We’ve written at PBT a couple of times about Boris Diaw has been a game-changer for the Spurs in this series. Here is what Chris Bosh said about the problems Diaw presents:

“He’s a crafty player, man, he’s difficult. You never know what he’s going to do. You don’t know if he’s going to shoot it, you don’t know if he is going to drive it, pass it, shoot it again, you don’t know what he’s going to do. I think his ability to do everything in that point forward position makes it difficult. He’s another one of those guys, we’re really going to have to lock in on him, and really do a number on him individually to slow him down. Because when he’s driving and kicking to guys and getting you confused, then you don’t rotate, now he’s hitting threes — he’s one of those players that confuses the hell out of you.”

• Eric Spoelstra also addressed the Boris Diaw problem.

“He’s multi dimensional, puts the ball on the floor, great vision,” the Heat coach said. “You could see with the passes that he made the other night. So we have to do what we do, but do it better, do it with a little bit more thought tendencies, and so forth.”

• Shane Battier talked about how the scouting reports he gets on players he will guard: “I get basic splits — right/left, drives, dribble jumpers vs. spot jumpers, left shoulder vs. right shoulder in the post, basic tendencies.”

So how is that different from what he got when he first entered the league?

“When I first started scouting reports consisted of ‘ya, that guy likes to go left’ and that’s it. ‘Great driver’ and it was like come on, give me a little bit more than that. Now you can tell how good a guy is driving vs. shooting, how good a guy is going left vs. going right, how often he goes left vs. right. You understand what a guy is and what he’s not.”

• Battier was asked to give something off a scouting report of a current player (not in the Finals) and chose Carmelo Anthony.

“You make Carmelo Anthony go right. When he’s on the left block make him go right. He does not want to go right. His percentages go down, his foul drawing goes down, if he goes left it is not good for the defender.”

• Spoelstra gave a shout out to Greg Oden:

“Greg Oden is one of the biggest success stories in this league, and unfortunately people are only judging him by the fact of how many minutes he plays. Two years ago people were saying he would never play the game again and he’s available every night.”

Spoelstra is right. Where most guys would have quit and lived comfortably the rest of their lives off their first contract. He worked hard to get back, to get on the Heat. Maybe he wasn’t everything Miami hoped, but that Oden is here, in the Finals, is a massive accomplishment.

LeBron James, Heat joking about cramps at this point, but happy for extra day off

LeBron James

SAN ANTONIO — Having spent a couple of days seemingly only getting asked about leg cramps and how to recover from them, LeBron James and the Miami Heat were pretty much just joking around about it Friday.

Such when LeBron was asked how he could test out his body and recovery before Game 2.

“The conditions are nowhere near extreme as they was, unless I decide to run from here to the hotel, that’s the only way I would be able to test my body out,” he said with a laugh.

“We anticipate we will play in a very cool gym,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We will have to deal with that now. I don’t know if guys will be wearing tights under their shorts and long-sleeved shirts, I don’t know.”

LeBron cramping up and missing almost all of the final seven minutes of Game 1 — and the Heat falling apart in that time, losing to the Spurs 110-95 — has been the story line for a couple days. LeBron did go through some practice with the Heat on Saturday

“The soreness is starting to get out,” LeBron said. “I’m feeling better than I did yesterday and with another day, I should feel much better tomorrow…

“(My plans are) A lot of treatment, icing, stretching, obviously I’m going to get some cardio in today, get the heart rate going. A lot of fluids, kind of get my body above the curve.”

How Hard was Spoelstra going to push him in practice?

“Whatever he’s willing to do. It’s not going to be a Bahamas-like training camp practice today…” Spoelstra said, referencing the Heat’s training camp this season in the Bahamas. “Yesterday was all about rest and hydration and building his body back up. Thankfully we had that extra day.”

What the Heat were really focusing on is taking the steps to even this series — the last 12 times they have lost a playoff game they have bounced back with a win. They have yet to lose a playoff series in the “big three era” after losing Game 1 of a series.

“We need to do what we do better and harder,” Spoelstra said trying to talk around adjustments. “They make it tough with their passing and, you know, getting into the paint with their rolls and spreading you out with three-point shooters. So we need to do that better, there is no question about it.”

Chris Bosh put it this way.

“Coach didn’t want to get too much into it, but mainly on defense and on offense the way they flattened us out, things we could have done better, make simpler passes, simple cuts that would have opened up the floor a little bit for us, and we could have gotten into our game,” Bosh said. “Especially those last three and a half minutes, we could have done a much better job. We look at those and try to capitalize and fix those mistakes for Game 2.”

They had an extra day to think about all of that. And rest.