OAKLAND — Cleveland’s lineups in Game 1 where LeBron James, Kevin Love, or Channing Frye were the center were -13 on the night. Those lineups struggled to score and had a hard time getting consistent stops against the ball movement of the Warriors.
So what is Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue changing up for Game 2?
“I don’t see a reason for change,” Lue said Friday. “I think the way they play defense, they switch 1 through 5, and it makes you play one-on-one basketball. So your movement with floppy stuff coming off of pin-downs, they just switch out and try to deny those passes. And then you’ve got to post Kevin, you’ve got to post LeBron against those mismatches. So I don’t see any reason for change. We’ve just got to convert.”
That was the theme of the day for the Cavaliers — they think their defense did a good enough job holding the Splash Brothers and Warriors in general in check, they just need to knock down their shots. And get better ones by playing faster and moving the ball more.
“I just told LeBron I need him to play faster,” Lue said. “I need him to pick up the pace for us offensively, getting the ball out and just beginning to play faster….
“Pace, so we can get up the floor and get guys open shots in transition like J.R. (Smith) and Kevin and Channing and those guys. But I think the floor’s more open when you’re able to play with pace and LeBron and Kyrie (Irving) can get downhill. Ball movement, we’re running our sets. When you’re switching 1 through 5, it makes you stagnant. It makes you play one-on-one. So the best thing you can do is try to get the matchup you want and try to explore it.”
If Cleveland trying to play faster seems counterintuitive to you, you’re not alone.
If you watched the game and thought Cleveland’s defense looked scattered, and not used to having to stay sharp for 24 seconds of ball movement and passing, you’re not alone. Did Cleveland’s defense make the Warriors look uncomfortable or rushed at any point?
I’m not sure more of the same is the answer for what ails Cleveland. That said, making drastic changes after one game or moving away from your identity is not wise either.
Lue is not wrong — the Warriors smooth defensive switching threw off the Cavaliers offense because Cleveland stopped the ball, tried to isolate the mismatch, then pounded the ball and became predictable. That can’t happen, and they know it.
“You know, when you’re out there and they’re switching and you have a one-on-one matchup, I think quick moves and not holding it as long is good,” LeBron said. “I think when you keep the ball on one side for too long and you’re pounding and pounding and pounding, then that can — too much of that won’t result in good basketball. It won’t result in good rhythm for everyone out on the floor. So there is a fine line. I’m okay with us having some isolation basketball if we’re going quick.”
As it was Thursday night after the loss, this was not a downtrodden Cavaliers team — they believe they could have won Game 1 if they had just made the shots they usually make.
“I’m not discouraged at all,” LeBron said. “I understand we had our opportunities. We played some good basketball for 36 minutes, and the fourth quarter got away from us. We definitely missed some really easy looks. Some looks that we’re accustomed to making that we’ve made all year long. But not discouraged in the fact that we were able to get into the paint, get where we want to go, but we’ve got to be able to knock them home.”
Shooting better from three and in the paint will help.
Will it be enough is another question.