How Cleveland Must Defend the Land

The Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in a familiar place after Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals. It was a little over a year ago they lost Game 2 110-77 in the 2016 NBA Finals.

Let’s fast forward to 2017 and add an ingredient to the mix. Kevin Durant is sporting blue and yellow for Golden State and coming off a 33-point (13-of-22 from the field), 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and five blocks performance in Game 2.

What’s the quick fix for LeBron James going back home? “I just need food and wine and I’ll be alright”, stated James after the Cavaliers 132-113 loss in Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals.

If history plans to repeat itself in 2017, James certainly has all reason to be calm as the Cavaliers ran away with a 120-90 victory in Game 3 of the 2016 Finals.

“Defend the Land”

The 2017 Playoffs slogan is stamped on every corner in Cleveland as the is city still ignited by their first NBA Championship last year.

Through two games in the 2017 NBA Finals, the margin of victory in this series so far is 20 points for Golden State. Perhaps on the bright side is that the margin of victory was 26 points after Game 2 in last year’s Finals. As the series shifts back to Cleveland for Game 3 and Game 4 there are a few key details the Cavaliers will need to improve on.

Pace

The Warriors are an offensive juggernaut and pouring in points at an ease. Of course, this is all possible and obvious when you add Durant to the mixture of already prolific three-point shooters in NBA history. However, the Cavaliers will need to play a pace that favors them. Let’s kick it to turtle mode for this one. Slowing down the pace and avoiding unnecessary turnovers can increase the chances to keep the Warriors from transition threes. The one concern for Cleveland would be settling into isolated play with the slower pace. The ball must move while the shooters are freed up for Cleveland. They’ve shot the three ball terribly at 31-percent in Games 1 and 2 which is below the 43-percent average coming into the Finals.

Tristan Thompson

He was certainly my X-Factor coming into the Finals and still remains that. His limited minutes in the series so far has not allowed Cleveland to see many second chances. Thompson is averaging 21 minutes a game in the Finals and only four rebounds a game. Prior to the Finals, Thompson averaged 4.2 offensive rebounds and pulled in 9.3 rebounds per game in the Eastern Conference journey. The Cavaliers will need to try and keep Thompson on the floor and battle on the glass. The offensive rebounds can give the Cavs second chance looks at home.

Better Guard Play

The starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith will have to improve their shooting which is no easy feat to match Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Irving and Smith shot 19-of-51 (37-percent) from the field combined in Games 1 and 2. Smith has only attempted six shots in the two games combined. They say shooters will have to shoot themselves out of a slump, however, time is limited if Klay Thompson remains hot next to Curry.

Chess Match

The highest level of play comes with a chess match demeanor. Steve Kerr returned to the bench in Game 2 and certainly out-coaching Tyronn Lue. The talk of Game 2 was what adjutants would Cleveland make to recoup from their Game 1 loss. One obvious adjustment seen from Coach Lue was Channing Frye off the bench in Game 2 as he did not play in Game 1. With J.R. Smith having no impact on the series thus far perhaps a change in the starting line-up could help boost the Cavaliers. Whatever it is, Cleveland needs a significant adjustment that may come from Lue’s call.

Will History Repeat?

Flashback to the 2016 NBA Finals. In Game 3 of the very same Finals, Kevin Love did not play due to a concussion. This served no difference as Cleveland avenged their first two losses with a 120-90 win. If this series is headed in favor of the history between these teams things are looking up for Cleveland.

Game 3 is on Wednesday night in Cleveland. Tip-off is at 9 PM EST on ABC.