OAKLAND — Even before we had all learned Kyrie Irving was out for the rest of the playoffs, the Cavaliers were trying to sell that they’ve been in this position before.
“We’ve played games without Kevin (Love), without Kyrie (Irving),” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said to the media less than an hour before Irving’s fractured kneecap was revealed. “We know how we want to play when they’re not in there. From that standpoint, we can prepare.”
The truth is the Cavaliers have never been quite here before.
These Cavaliers have never been in the Finals before, let alone against a 67 win team that has the best backcourt in the NBA, plus rolls out a deep and effective bench every night.
The Cavaliers already had no margin for error in this series. Then they dropped a winnable Game 1 and in the process Kyrie Irving fractured his kneecap to the point it will require surgery.
1) More Matthew Dellavedova. He’s going to get the start in place of Kyrie Irving, where he will bring some pesky defense, but a lot less athleticism and scoring. The Cavs need Dellavedova to be brilliant.
“Well, you all saw he played terrifically,” Blatt said about Dellavedova in the previous series against the Hawks when he started three games due to Irving injuries. “Matty has been a rotation player for us the whole year. He stepped in and did a great job, and the team believes in him and we believe in him. If necessary, he has to play significant minutes again, he’ll be ready, and we’ll know how to play with him.”
“Just watch some film, see what they are doing at both ends, then be ready for whatever the team needs,” Delladedova said of his preparation.
2) Even more LeBron James. Just when you thought the offensive burden on LeBron couldn’t get any bigger…
LeBron put on a little show for the media Friday. The Cavaliers were not practicing but had media obligations, LeBron came out, had the media moved off one end of the court and took 20 minutes worth of shots. Not in private on a side court, in full view of everyone. He is now the only guy on that team who can be relied upon to create shots, and he’s going to have to do it efficiently for himself and others.
“When guys myself, Kyrie, Mozzy (Timofey Mozgov) you know, we did a good job of putting points on the board, and every addition that we had was big for us,” LeBron said. “We’ve got to do a better job, obviously, of getting guys involved.”
What the Cavaliers need is one crazy good J.R. Smith game. You know it’s coming.
3) Play Tristan Thompson at the five and bomb away from three. Going small and shooting threes against the Warriors is far from an ideal strategy — that’s how Golden State prefers to play. But the Cavaliers need to generate offense, and that has happened for them through much of the playoffs when they have played Thompson at the five with LeBron, James Jones, J.R. Smith, and a point guard. The Cavs don’t have many choices here, they need offense and they need to try some small ball, and then hope Smith gets hot.
The two lineups with Thompson at center and Dellavedova at the point were -11 in 10 minutes in Game 1. It didn’t work. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the Cavaliers are desperate.
If they’re not, they should be.