LeBron James made hay bashing overmatched backups to start second quarters in the first three playoff rounds.
For the second straight game, the Warriors countered the Cavaliers in what had been Cleveland’s best and Golden State’s worst moment in the post season: the beginnings of second quarters. Golden State outscored Cleveland 12-10 to open the second quarter in Game 2 before the teams substituted.
Prior to the Finals, each team had startlingly different results in the second quarter before subbing:
- Cavaliers: +34
- Warriors: -33
Golden State outscored the Cavs 8-4 before subbing in the second quarter in Game 1, and though the advantage was smaller yesterday, it was more than enough. Cleveland has counted on winning that stretch decidedly.
The Cavaliers opened the second with their usual lineup: Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, LeBron and Channing Frye. With four shooters surrounding him and typically facing weaker backups, LeBron has dominated these situations.
But Steve Kerr has countered with Draymond Green at center, replacing Marreese Speights, who usually started second quarters. In Game 2, Kerr also began the period with Klay Thompson on the floor (along with Shaun Livingston, Iguodala and Harrison Barnes) rather than Leandro Barbosa.
Not used to facing such high-powered offensive players, the Cavs’ backups and LeBron couldn’t stick defensively. The Warriors shot 5-for-6, including 2-of-2 on 3-pointers, in this stretch.
Cleveland also scored reasonably efficiently, but Iguodala and Green made LeBron work much harder for his points than he’s accustomed to.
Using LeBron to begin second quarters was one of Tyronn Lue’s best adjustments in these playoffs, but it’s not working now. Does the Cavs coach have another trick up his sleeve?