A classic turn of events Friday in Game 4 of the NBA Finals makes the Golden State Warriors’ 3-1 advantage as shaky as it was in last season’s championship series.
There were several key elements that explain the Cleveland Cavaliers’ overwhelming 137-116 win, but the focus here is on what the Warriors must do to end the season back in the Bay.
Except for their dismal 3-point shooting (11 of 39), there were only minimal problems with Golden State’s offense.
A year after Steph Curry was being hailed by many NBA-watchers as being the best point guard in NBA history, he had a stinko game — 4 of 13, including 2 of 9 from distance for only 14 points. Certainly contributing to his subpar performance was the ferocious defense of Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert, who used outrageous bump-and-grab tactics whenever Curry didn’t have the ball.
Curry didn’t help the Warriors cause with his passive play — passive, that is, when he wasn’t forcing his dribble and his passes into crowds. Hence his game-high total of four turnovers.
Instead of the free-flowing offensive movement that’s characteristic of the Warriors’ game plan, too many possessions lacked the participation of all five players.
Moreover, too many treys were missed, with very few of those shots taken when either not or minimally contested. This was another symptom of the Warriors’ general lack of ball and player movement.
However, the Warriors’ most damaging shortcomings came on defense.
- They sent too many helpers into the lane on the Cavs’ ball-penetration, a tactic that led to direct kick-out passes to open long-range shooters, or else snappy reversal passes that likewise found unguarded shooters.
- A corollary to this was the Warriors’ poor perimeter rotation.
- For sure, several of Irving’s triples were shot from another time zone, but with all the Cavs’ open looks, it’s no wonder they were 24 of 45 from downtown.
- Zaza Pachulia and Kevin Durant were guilty of turning their heads and subsequently allowing unimpeded layups.
- Poor weak-side rotation allowed Tristan Thompson to snatch four offensive rebounds. The resulting extra shots were critical in Cleveland’s early outburst.
- Golden State’s rim protection was inconsistent.
- Irving scored 40 points while shooting only four free throws, indicating he was basically untouched as he put up 27 shots.
Be ready to play from the get-go.
Don’t allow the Cavs to bully them.
Make KD the lynchpin of the offense. This would include having him set screens, then moving to an open space and receiving the ball when the Cavs are forced to switch.
Instead of always setting high screens, set some closer to the basket, say, at the foul line extended. This would deny the defense the time and the room to make meaningful adjustments.
Back-door cuts can counter the Cavs’ bumping and grabbing defense.
Have David West set screens, then dive into the low post. Furthermore, both Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston (with his deadly turnaround jumpers) should also get some touches in the pivot. This would entice double-teams, and also allow the Warriors to play inside-out offense.
The bigs have to be more active in defense of high screens by either showing or two-timing the ball.
Make the driving Irving have to pick himself up off the floorboards and make free throws.
Run some isos for Curry to put Irving on an island.
Tell Green to keep his yap shut before, during and after Game 5.
By the way, the NBA can also do its part to avoid the madcap, overly boisterous action in Game 4 by assigning better officials in Game 5.
Whatever they do, the Warriors absolutely must make whatever adjustments are necessary. It says here that whoever wins Game 5 will win the series.