Maybe the Warriors should have let this guy – rather than Stephen Curry – take the potential game-winner last night.
OAKLAND — Golden State plays the beautiful game — multiple actions going on at once, guys working on the weakside, a rhythm and flow that ends with some of the best shooters on the planet knocking down looks with the little bit of space created.
But the Warriors had no rhythm Sunday night — and that was all about Cleveland’s defense.
The headlines will be about LeBron James’ triple-double brilliance, or Matthew Dellavedova grabbing key rebounds, and those are key components, too.
However, it was the Cavaliers defense that has the NBA Finals knotted up at 1-1.
“I think they deserve a lot of credit for the way they played,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They got into the passing lanes. They took our rhythm away. Then we’ve got to do a better job ourselves of trying to create that pace and rhythm. We’ll look at the tape. We’ve got to put our guys in a better position to get good looks.”
Golden State shot just 39.8 percent overall and 22.9 percent from three (8-of-25).
The most celebrated shooter in the game, Stephen Curry, set a record for most missed three-pointers in an NBA Finals game with 13. Curry was 1-of-9 on uncontested looks in Game 2 (using the NBA’s SportsVU camera data). LeBron credited Matthew Dellavedova — Curry was 0-of-8 shooting when Dellavedova was on him.
“It had everything to do with Delly,” LeBron said. “He just kept a body on Steph. He made Steph work. He was spectacular, man, defensively. We needed everything from him…. He just did a great job. Just trying to make it tough on Steph. That’s all you can do. You make it tough on him. You get a contest, and you live with the results, and I think Delly did that.”
It was a brilliant team defensive performance holding down one of the most powerful NBA offenses — the Warriors scored just 95 points and they had an extra five minutes of game time.
The question is, can the Cavaliers sustain this defense?
Why not, they already hey have been. Through the regular season and playoffs, when Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were off the floor but LeBron was still on it, the Cavaliers allowed just 93 points per 100 possessions (that much better than the Warriors’ league-leading regular season numbers.
The Cavaliers have developed a new, gritty, grinding personality on defense. They have done this to the Bulls and Hawks; there is no reason it will not continue.
On the other hand, Golden State is going to make more shots at some point. Curry is not going to go 2-of-15 from three for a lot more games. Klay Thompson, the one Warriors knocking down shots, summed it up well.
“They’re a long, athletic team,” Thompson said. “They are playing good defense, but I think a lot of it is on us. We’re not playing like ourselves. We’re not moving the ball like we should. We only had 16 assists. That’s not us, man. We usually get 20, 25 when we’re playing great. So we’ve got to move the ball better and trust each other. But they are playing well on the defensive end. But it’s more on us. We’ve got to play with a better rhythm.”
The Cavaliers disrupted that rhythm, and the result was the Warriors seemed to rush shots — they shot earlier in the clock with less ball movement. Then when they did get looks they just missed them — the Warriors as a team shot 31.6 percent on uncontested looks.
The Cavaliers are going to continue to defend well through the rest of this series. Memphis gave the Warriors trouble — Curry was 15-of-40 through games two and three of that series — but eventually the Warriors adjusted.
If they find the right adjustments in this series, the Warriors may go on another run. But the Cavaliers defense is not going to make it easy on them.
OAKLAND — Are you not entertained?
Two NBA Finals games, two overtimes. It’s the first time in NBA history the first two Finals games have gone to OT.
A lot of fans (and media) may have thought this series was over when Kyrie Irving went down, but Cleveland did not. Fantastic Cavaliers defense all night, a masterful game from LeBron James, and a couple Matthew Dellavedova free throws with 10.1 seconds left (after he hustled for an offensive board) gave the Cavaliers a 95-93 Game 2 win that silenced a deafening Oracle Arena.
The Cavaliers and Warriors are now tied 1-1 with the NBA Finals heading back to Cleveland for Game 3 on Tuesday.
“It’s the grit squad that we have,” LeBron said of how the Cavaliers won Game 2. “It’s not cute at all. If you’re looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, then that’s not us. That’s not us right now. Everything is tough. You know, we’re going to come in with an aggressive mindset defensively and offensively. And for us to win a Finals game shooting 32 percent from the field, it’s just a testament of how gritty we can be.
“It has to be that for the rest of the series, no matter how many games it takes.”
LeBron was every bit the best player in the world, finishing with 39 points (on 34 shots), 16 rebounds, and 11 assists — and finishing the game by slamming the ball into the ground, as pumped up as he’s ever been on the court.
“You’d be hard pressed to find a guy anywhere, anytime, I can think of a name or two, but that’s the whole history of basketball that can give you the kind of all-around performance and all-around leadership that LeBron does for his group…” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “He really willed his guys to win that game. That’s what a champion does, and obviously he’s a champion.”
Just as important as all the numbers, LeBron controlled the tempo of the game and kept the Warriors from their patented runs.
Well, except for one — Golden State went on a 13-4 run late in the fourth quarter to come back and force the game into overtime. They did it with Andre Iguodala hitting a three and Klay Thompson making plays inside, and they sent the game to OT on a Stephen Curry scoop shot in the lane that tied the game at 87-87. LeBron couldn’t hit as the clock expired and the second extra session was on.
But none of that happens without the Cavaliers defense.
“I think they deserve a lot of credit for the way they played,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They got into the passing lanes. They took our rhythm away. Then we’ve got to do a better job ourselves of trying to create that pace and rhythm.”
All season long, when Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were off the floor, but LeBron was still on it, the Cavaliers played very good defense (allowing 93 points per 100 possessions). That was not a fluke.
Cleveland held Golden State to 39.8 percent shooting overall and 22.9 percent from three (8-of-25).
How bad a shooting night was it for Golden State? Look at these numbers.
• Stephen Curry set a record for most missed three-pointers in an NBA Finals game with 13. Curry was a perfect 7-of-7 from his preferred left corner in the last round, was 0-of-2 early in this game.
• Curry was 1-of-9 on uncontested looks in Game 2 (using the NBA’s SportsVU camera data). The Warriors as a team shot 31.6 percent on uncontested looks.
• At one point in the fourth quarter it was Klay Thompson with 30 points on 13-of-25 shooting; the other four Warriors starters had 22 points on 6-of-27 shooting.
“Didn’t feel right all night, but no time to worry about it, but no time to worry about, just have to keep shooting,” Curry said of his off night. “I’ve got to play better.”
Curry didn’t hit a shot all night when Dellavedova was covering him, shooting 0-of-8 (according to ESPN).
If this game felt familiar to Warriors fans, it’s probably because they saw similar games like this when Golden State was struggling and went down 2-1 to Memphis in the second round. This was a grinding game. Slow, physical and now the Cavaliers wanted it played. That showed on the scoreboard. The Warriors are entering the fourth quarter down 62-59 — that was their lowest point total after three all season. The Cavs lack of offense is what kept the game close.
The game was that way from the start and the Cavs were thriving. It was very scrappy, and played in the paint. LeBron was a beast with 20 points, six assists and six rebounds — statistically he had never put up numbers that good. He shot 7-of-13 and was in attack mode with nine of those shots coming in the paint. He had the Cavaliers up 47-45 at the break.
If it hadn’t been for Klay Thompson the Warriors would have been in serious trouble in the first half. Thompson had nine of first the first 11 Warriors points. Dellavedova was switched on him a couple times but couldn’t hang with him. The only thing that slowed Thompson was fouls — he picked up a second and came out midway through the first quarter. When he returned in the second, he hadn’t cooled down.
At the half Thompson had 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting. The rest of the Warriors were 8-of-25 for 25 points — Stephen Curry was just 2-of-10 in the first half.
The Cavaliers needed other guys besides LeBron to step up and they got it. James Jones came in and went 3-for-3 to give the Cavaliers a lift, while Timofey Mozgov was strong in the paint with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
J.R. Smith was his own story. He had 13 points on 13 shots, but his mistakes — and there were many, he fouled out of the game with a number of silly ones — almost cost the Cavaliers the game.
Almost. But there was LeBron and Dellavedova to save the day.
And we have a real series on our hands.
OAKLAND — Stephen Curry started off the game cold, shooting 1-of-6 to open the game.
But his one make was impressive — over the outstretched arm of Tristan Thompson and high off the glass.
Curry also made a nice pass to set Leandro Barbosa up for a three.
The game was tied 20-20 at the end of one quarter.
The Warriors, on the brink of winning their first NBA title in 40 years, will have some roster decisions to make this summer. Chief among them is re-signing restricted free agent Draymond Green, and they’ll also have to decide whether or not David Lee is part of their long-term future as he enters the final year of his contract (hint: probably not). But flying slightly under the radar is the future of Harrison Barnes. Coming off his third year in the NBA, Barnes is eligible for an extension to his rookie contract, a pay raise that would kick in after the 2015-16 season. If he doesn’t sign an extension by October 31, he will become a restricted free agent next summer.
According to a new report by Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, both sides would prefer to get something done before it comes to that:
Much of the Warriors-related contract talk this season has been focused on Draymond Green and how much the free agent-to-be will get. But he isn’t the only starting forward who should get a new deal this offseason.
Harrison Barnes, who once again has shined in the postseason, is due for a contract extension this offseason. And the Warriors should be diligent about making sure he gets it.
According to multiple sources, Barnes indeed wants an extension and the Warriors want to give him one. The only question is how much will he get.
Barnes has proven his worth this year after a disappointing second season in 2013-14. Steve Kerr moved him into the starting lineup upon taking over as head coach, which completely restored his confidence, and he’s proven himself to be a versatile scorer and defender. He mostly plays small forward, but he’s been effective in the frontcourt in smaller lineups with Green at center. It absolutely makes sense for the Warriors to keep him around, and they should. He’s been an important player in this title run.
The question of how much Barnes will get with a new contract is going to be a fascinating one. In 2016-17, the first year of his hypothetical new deal, the Warriors will be faced with the impending contract years of Stephen Curry ($12.1 million), Andre Iguodala ($11.1 million) and Andrew Bogut ($11 million), as well as Klay Thompson’s long-term deal that will pay him $16.6 million that season, per Basketball Insiders. It’s a pretty safe assumption that Green will also get maxed out this summer, meaning he’ll make similar money to Thompson.
The salary cap is going to jump significantly next summer thanks to the influx of revenue from the NBA’s new television deal, so if Barnes agreed to a deal worth, say, $10 million per year, that would look like an outright steal by the time the extension actually kicks in. Even if he asks for $12 or 13 million annually, that’s still a fair price considering his age (23), versatility and the impending cap spike. If they need to clear cap space to go after a major free agent, a contract like that for Barnes will still be very moveable.
It sounds like both sides want to get a deal done now and not worry about free agency in a year. What they can come up with between July and October will tell us a lot about the Warriors’ future plans.