Game 2 stayed close in the first half with the Cavs only trailing by 3 going into halftime. The second half was a different story with the Warriors slowly pulling away. Then a dagger came in the form of a Kevin Durant block on Kevin Love leading to a coast-to-coast acrobatic layup that seemed to take the remaining wind out of Cleveland’s sails. Now the Cavaliers find themselves in a similar situation to last year, down 0-2 in the finals heading back home. But so much has changed since last year and none of it is good news for Cavs fans. The off season addition of Durant has elevated an already historic Warriors team to new heights but Cleveland’s bigger issue is internal: Their defense, or lack thereof.
According to Basketball-Refence.com last year the Cavs held opponents to 98 points per game which ranked their defense 4th in the league. What about this season? Not so much. This season that number jumped to 107 points which dropped the defending champs to 20th in the league. That enormous drop off in one year is unprecedented but it didn’t affect them throughout the regular season or the first few rounds of the playoffs. But this is no longer the regular season and the Warriors are not the Boston Celtics. To make this series last more than four or five games the Cavaliers are going to have to take a trip down memory lane to a time when their defense wasn’t giving away wide open dunks or threes.
Some things you can’t help. When it comes to the offensive of the Warriors you have to pick your poison. For instance when Steph Curry hits a contested 28 foot three – you have to live with that. There are some things the Cavs can control though such as their pace. During the regular season the Cavs averaged 85 shots per game but in game 2 they took 100. The Cavaliers need to stop trying to fight fire with fire, they cannot win a shootout with two former MVPs, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Watching game 2 it was clear to see Cleveland was running up and down trying keep up with the Golden State culminating in a rare moment when LeBron James actually looked human as he caught his breath on the bench. When the Cavaliers have the ball they need to slow it down and take their time with their offensive sets. They have LeBron and Kyrie who no one has been able to consistently stop so far this series. Just like the Warriors have been constantly using high ball screens to get favorable matchups the Cavs should not make a move towards the hoop until LeBron or Kyrie has a favorable one-on-one chance to take it to the rim.
The Warriors had 20 turnovers in game 2 while the Cavs had 8. Yet the Warriors somehow still scored more points off of the Cavs turnovers than vice versa even though LeBron and company had 12 more chances. That fact within itself goes to show the Cavs lack of defense so far this series. The numbers continue to go on and on and show that the way to elongate this series lies on the defensive end.
The common saying is that “It’s not a series until someone wins on the road,” but a road win for the Warriors would really end this series.