Do the Cavs still have a shot at winning a second consecutive NBA title? The answer is yes, but it’s not looking very good for them right now. I know that the Cavs lost the first two games in Oakland last year, and they actually lost those games by more points than they did this year. I also know everyone counted them out and thought it would be a quick series a season ago before they stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to win it all. However, this feel a little more dismal this time around, and the Cavs now have to deal with the second best player in the world on the other side. If the Cavs want any chance of even making this a series, they have to win Game 3 tonight, and here is a look at some things that will need to go right for them to do that.
Kyrie Irving has to play like Kyrie Irving
Kyrie has been averaging over 20 points in these NBA Finals, but he has not had a large impact on the game. He went through a stretch in Game 1 where he was driving to the basket and finishing at the rim in incredible ways like only he can, but outside of that stretch he has looked very average. Going into the series, there were a lot of people that actually gave Kyrie the advantage over Steph in the point guard matchup. Steph shrunk in the Finals the last two seasons, while Kyrie stepped up and had some huge games and moments a season ago. He proved he could perform on the big stage and Curry hadn’t. This year Curry is outperforming Irving and even had a triple double last game. For the Cavs to have a chance, this matchup has to swing back in their favor.
The Cavs Must Continue to Try to Find Ways to Slow Down Durant
It’s obvious to anyone who watched the first two games that Durant has been a huge x factor for the Warriors. He is hungry for a championship and is scoring and defending at an alarming rate. He is getting to the hoop almost at will, shooting over smaller defenders, and making LeBron expend tons of energy. Shumpert gave it his all in defending Durant in Game 2 to the point of exhaustion, and the Cavs will need him to continue to give Durant problems moving forward. LeBron will need to continue to guard him as well, but it would be nice to give him more breaks playing on Klay Thompson or Draymond Green where he doesn’t have to work quite as hard at that end of the floor.
Role Players Need to Step Up
LeBron has had his typical stat line so far, and Kevin Love has played pretty well, but that is not enough for the Cavs to be able to contend with all the weapons the opposition has to throw out there. The Cavs are going to need to get more contributions elsewhere. Tristan Thompson needs to crash the glass and finish around the basket. He has been very ineffective so far, and he was one of the catalysts for the Cavs in the Finals the last two seasons. Someone out of Kyle Korver, JR Smith, Richard Jefferson, Deron Williams, and Channing Frye needs to step up and start hitting some threes. These guys were all brought in (with the exception of Jefferson) for their ability to get hot from deep. If one or two of these guys could start hitting threes consistently, it would really help open the lanes for LeBron and Kyrie to get to the hoop. I know some of the poor shooting has to do with bad ball movement, and that will definitely need to change for these guys to get out of their funk.
The Cavs Must Slow the Game Down
Through the first two games, the Cavs had tried to beat the Warriors at their own game and have really given up a ton of points. I’m not saying the Cavs shouldn’t run at all, but they need to pick their spots better. From a pace of play standpoint, those two games had the quickest pace of any playoff games LeBron has played in during his career. When watching the games, anyone can see that LeBron looks spent at the end. He needs to have some left in the tank to close out games if the Cavs want to work their way back in this series. Slowing the game down will also cause the Warriors to expend more energy on defense and wear them down a little. It’s easy for them to go on big runs when a team comes down and forces a quick shot. That gives them the ability to grab a quick rebound and take off. Moving the ball around on offense more would also help create more open looks for the three-point shooters, so maybe they can finally find a rhythm.
Winning Game 3 tonight in Cleveland is a must if the Cavs want to keep their hopes alive. Even if they hold serve at home the next two games, winning four out of five against this talented Warriors team would be an incredible accomplishment. Even though they battled back from down 3-1 a year ago, there was a reason that feat had never taken place before. The Warriors are much more talented than they were a year ago, and that is not going to happen in back-to-back Finals. A lot has to go right for the Cavs to even make this a series, but I really hope they can at least make it more competitive. If not, this could be the start of a long run for the Warriors atop the NBA, and no Cavs’ fan wants to see that.