Tag: Shawn Marion

2015 NBA Finals - Game Four

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors preview: Five things to watch in Game 5


OAKLAND — Since 1985 in the NBA Finals, when the series has been tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 went on to win the series seven out of 11 times. That’s 64 percent of the time.

It’s technically not a must win, but if the Cavaliers win LeBron James will have two chances to close out the series, including one on his home court. If the Warriors win at home, well, it would hard to imagine them suddenly losing two in a row.

Following a couple days of rest, Game 5 should be a more true test of these teams. Here are five key areas to watch:

1) You know it’s all about that pace, ’bout that pace. Game 4 was not played as fast as it seemed, but the Warriors improved ball movement — they made the smart passes and hit the shots off them — made the game feel that way. Heading into Game 5, the Warriors will again go small and try to run more at home, the Cavaliers will counter by going big, banging the ball inside and trying to go deep in the clock.

“I think we allowed their (small) lineup to get us out of what we did in Games 1, 2, and 3, and that was control the pace and put the ball into the post,” LeBron James said. “We shot 27 threes. So I would say half of those or even more than half were some good shots, but a few of them we wish we could have back.”

2) Can the Cavaliers hit their open threes and jumpers? Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova, we’re looking at you. In Game 3 LeBron found the open man when the double team came, but nobody could convert. The Cavaliers were 4-of-27 from three and 6-of-29 on uncontested looks. Maybe that was the fatigue of the series and the short bench getting to the legs of the shooters, and they extra day off will change that. Maybe it was just one of those things. Whatever the reason, whatever the fix, the Cavaliers cannot have another shooting night like that and win.

3) Cleveland is going to try and pound the Warriors small lineup. Expect to see more LeBron James in the post. Expect another big game from Timofey Mozgov getting deep position on Draymond Green and scoring. If the Warriors are going to go small, the Cavaliers are not going to match that but rather try to exploit it. Frankly, that’s their only real option.

“We’re going to play our game,” LeBron said. “We’ve gotten to this point by playing the way we play, and we’re not going to change.  We’ll make adjustments throughout the game, but we won’t change our starting lineup.”

4) Did two days off between games refresh a fatigued Cavaliers team? Will Blatt go deeper into his bench? One of the storylines of Game 4 was fatigue — the Cavaliers just looked tired. LeBron stopped driving and settled for fadeaways in the fourth quarter. Dellavedova looked flat-footed trying to stop Stephen Curry (and Curry attacked him early in isolations, before the help could come). With an extra day off between games, will the Cavaliers be fresher for Game 5?

“It certainly helps,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “Doesn’t guarantee anything.  You’ve still got to come and play.  But it certainly helps.”

The other question for Blatt is will he trust the veterans on his bench more in Game 5? He’s got Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, who are itching to get more run, but Blatt hasn’t trusted them through most of the playoffs. Does the situation and the tired legs from his seven-man rotation change that dynamic?

5) Have the Warriors figured it out? In every other Warriors’ series these playoffs, there has come a point where Golden State made it’s adjustments, figured out what it would take to win, and then never looked back and won relatively comfortably. In this series, they are the deeper, more talented team, and they made their big adjustment.

“Even more so than the lineup change, we competed,” Warriors’ assistant coach Luke Walton said. “I think the first three games, we hadn’t really adjusted to what it takes, and the amount of effort on every possession it takes to win in the NBA Finals. Last game our guys fought and scrapped all game long and I think that’s why Draymond (Green) had a better game, that’s why Andre (Iguodala) had a great 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,” Green echoed. “And that’s what we had to change. And we were able to do that (in Game 4). That’s what helped us out a lot. That’s what helped me out.”

The Warriors fully expect to play a better game back home for Game 5. If they do, there may be nothing the Cavaliers can do about it.

In Game 5, expect Cavaliers to go big (then go home)


OAKLAND — When the Warriors went small in Game 4, the Cavaliers got sucked into the Warriors style of play for stretches.

“I think we allowed their lineup to get us out of what we did in Games 1, 2, and 3, and that was control the pace and put the ball into the post,” LeBron James said Saturday before the Cavaliers’ practice. “We shot 27 threes. So I would say half of those or even more than half were some good shots, but a few of them we wish we could have back.”

While the Cavaliers were not about to talk specifics of their adjustments for Game 5, LeBron said the starting lineup would remain the same. Speaking to players and coaches, the theme that came up again and again was getting back to what worked — playing big and slowing down the game.

Go big. Then the Cavaliers go home for Game 6 and hope to be in a position to finish the series off.

“We took some quick shots last game, and they got the game off the pace.” James Jones said. “But overall when we sit back and we look at it, that game defensively was still in reach for us…. So they played fast, and we tried to play fast.  And for some parts of the game we played too fast and for other parts of the game we slowed them down, which was to our advantage.”

At points in Game 4 the Cavaliers did try to counter the Warriors small lineup by pounding the ball inside more. Timofey Mozgov had 28 points as a result. He did a fantastic job doing his work early, getting deep position and sealing off Draymond Green or another defender, then finishing. Expect to see more of that.

Which is something the Warriors may be willing to live with.

“Mozgov scored 28 and he’s a good player, but we’d rather have Mozgov beat you than LeBron, who’s proven time-and-time again, year-after-year that he can beat you,” Draymond Green said.

The Cavaliers will go back to the LeBron in the post well more in Game 5. The Warriors doubled that more in Game 4, LeBron made the right passes out of it, but then the Cavs missed those looks.

That’s where some extra rest may come in. The Cavs players all said that having the extra day off between games has them feeling more rested, which should help their shooting — the Cavaliers were 6-of-29 on uncontested looks in Game 4. They expect that changes in Game 5.

The challenge with Mozgov and Tristan Thompson being on the floor together when the Warriors go small is on defense — Mozgov doesn’t like to stray far from the paint, yet he had to chase Iguodala out to the three point line. Then he couldn’t recover to protect the rim the same way. If you’re going to see significant adjustments from Cleveland, look for them on that end of the floor.

Certainly we’ve got to do a better job getting out and contesting shots and matching up in the ways we want to match up with so that the advantage plays well for us at both ends,” Blatt said. 

Blatt is going big, in part because he’s not flush with other options. While we may see a little more of Shawn Marion or Mike Miller in Game 5, the bottom line is that Steve Kerr just has far more versatility at his disposal. If small isn’t working for him in Game 5, Kerr can put Andrew Bogut back in the mix.

If he does, it’s because the Cavaliers went big and it worked.

Report: Shawn Marion, other Cavaliers veterans may see run in Game 5

2015 NBA Finals - Game Three

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers looked worn down and tired. LeBron James stopped taking the ball all the way to the rim, Matthew Dellavedova looked flat footed trying to guard Stephen Curry, and coach David Blatt admited as much after the Cavaliers dropped Game 4 to even the series.

“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 when asked if fatigue was a factor.

Blatt has stuck with a seven-man rotation for the most part since Kyrie Irving was injured, but the short bench and the energy expended to guard the Warriors in the Finals is wearing down the Cavaliers.

Which has led rumors Blatt may finally reach deeper into his bench, tapping veterans like Shawn Marrion and Mike Miller, among others, for bigger roles. From Brian Windhorst at ESPN.

With several players, James and Dellavedova especially, looking worn down from the demands in the playoffs, players have begun to privately grumble that Blatt needs to use his whole roster.

With Warriors coach Steve Kerr going to a perimeter-heavy offense with Andre Iguodala in for Andrew Bogut, the feel is Blatt could take another look at Miller and perhaps give veteran Shawn Marion, who has yet to play in the series, a look. With the Warriors’ depth on the wing, the Cavs ended up being stretched exceedingly thin.

Several sources said Marion, who already has announced he’ll retire following the season, is especially itching to get a chance. He’s recently been bothered by a calf injury and also dealt with a hip injury in the regular season but is healthy and able to go.

Blatt has been sitting those guys for a reason, but these may be the desperate times where he leans on those veterans hoping for at least 10 good minutes. Miller has performed on big stages before, Marion can still make plays. They don’t need to dominate, just hold down the fort.

Ideally, those would be minutes LeBron could rest. In Game 4 the Cavaliers had trimmed a double-digit Warriors’ lead to three but when LeBron went to the bench for just a couple minutes of rest, the lead quickly ballooned back up to 10. The Cavaliers could never really close the gap again.

The Cavaliers catch a break with a couple days off between games 4 and 5 (and between 6 and 7 if it goes that far). They are banking on some rest and just better shooting to pull them back up in Game 5.

But a little help from the veterans down the bench would be a big boost, too.

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.”

How will Cavaliers score now when LeBron James rests?

LeBron James

The Cavaliers scored just six points on 12 possessions – an offensive rating of 50.0 – when LeBron James rested during Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

And that was with Kyrie Irving.

Irving played all seven LeBron sat, scoring four of Cleveland’s six points and assisting the other basket. As you might have heard, Irving is out for the rest of the series.

What will the Cavaliers do now when LeBron is on the bench?



You see…

Let’s start with reviewing what happened in Game 1.

Here are Cleveland’s three buckets without LeBron, two by Irving and one by Timofey Mozgov from Irving:

Otherwise, the possessions featured nine missed shots, no offensive rebounds, no trips to the free-throw line and no turnovers. Only one of those nine shots – a missed Mozgov layup – came within 15 feet. The Cavaliers just stagnated and settled for jumpers.

Irving generated the only looks Cleveland got going toward the basket without LeBron.

This possession, in which Irving didn’t touch the ball, could preview what we’ll see in Game 2:

So what should the Cavaliers do with LeBron off the court?

The simplest answer if for him never to rest. Can LeBron play 48 minutes per game? He might have to do it only three more nights.

If that proves unrealistic, Cleveland shouldn’t settle for running its base offense through Matthew Dellavedova or Iman Shumpert. That’s unlikely to yield positive enough results.

Potential solutions:

  • Maximize LeBron’s minutes. In basic terms, it’s up to LeBron to determine how much he can handle. But David Blatt could help by intentionally fouling Andre Iguodala and/or Andrew Bogut. Iguodala (59.6 percent free-throwing shooting this season, 71.7 percent for his career) and Bogut (52.4, 56.1) probably aren’t bad enough free-throw shooters to validate the strategy in a vacuum, but there are benefits. It could keep LeBron on the court while resting during defensive possessions spent watching the Warriors shoot freebies. Hack-a-Shaq limits running opportunities, but the Cavaliers don’t push the ball much, anyway.
  • Focus on defense. If the Cavaliers aren’t going to score anyway, they might as well do their best to ensure the Warriors score as little as possible while LeBron rests. Maybe that means a rotation role for Shawn Marion.
  • Slow the pace. If the Cavs bleed the shot clock while LeBron sits – something they naturally did in Game 1, anyway – they can limit the number of possessions LeBron misses. That gives Golden State fewer opportunities to use this time to pull away.
  • Bomb 3-pointers. Cleveland can become a true live-by-the-3, die-by-the-3 team. Let J.R. Smith run wild. If you’re going to take a bad shot, might as well take one worth an extra point if it goes in.
  • Crash the offensive glass. The Cavaliers’ deadly offensive-rebounding combination, Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, didn’t share the court without LeBron in Game 1. But Cleveland could turn to the duo in Game 2. There will likely be plenty of offensive-rebounding opportunities. However, crashing the offensive glass would run counter to getting back on defense. Plus, the Warriors’ defensive game plan against LeBron is more conducive to offensive-rebounding than Golden State’s tamer defense when he sits.

Without Irving, the Cavaliers need to increase variance, period.

Those seemingly doomed minutes with LeBron on the bench would be a great place to start.