Slowing Kevin Durant proved to be the biggest problem for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals one year ago.
However, the Western Conference Finals were a reminder that when the Golden State offense is running through Stephen Curry, it is an unstoppable force that can essentially end games in one quarter. If you’re going to “cut off the head of the snake” with Golden State, it means containing Curry.
“Multiple guys are gonna be thrown at Steph,” Lue said. “He’s a tough player. He’s gonna take a lot of shots. He’s gonna get shots. He’s gonna make some tough shots, so we understand that.
“But we want to be physical, stay on his body. Just being alert and taking away those easy like — losing him in transition or we turn our head, he moves and he gets a three wide open or an offensive rebounds, he moves and we don’t lock into him. Those are the ones we want to take away. We just gotta make sure we take away the easy ones.”
The book on defending Curry has not changed in years — be physical with him, crowd and challenge him, and don’t let him get the clean looks in transition that get him going.
For that matter, the book on beating the Warriors hasn’t changed dramatically from when the Cavaliers did it in 2016 — slow the pace down and don’t let them get rolling in transition, be physical, force them into an isolation-heavy game not one with a lot of ball movement, attack Curry in isolation on offense, get offensive rebounds, and hit your own threes. We just saw Houston execute that plan impressively well (especially before Chris Paul went down), but when they wore down in the second halves of Games 6 and 7 the Warriors got rolling it was over.
The question is can Cleveland get anywhere near the level of execution and defense that Houston did to push the Warriors to seven games?