Here we are, nine months into the 2015-16 NBA season, already a game into the best-of-seven finals and the Cleveland Cavaliers are totally unprepared. Doesn’t seem possible, but if Thursday night’s series opener at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., proved one thing it is that.
Did they learn nothing from last season’s finals loss to Golden State?
Guys, you ain’t gonna beat the Warriors in a game of bombs away. You ain’t gonna beat ’em in a battle of wits or style, either.
So, how can LeBron James and the rest of the Cavs rebound and keep Steph Curry and Co. from rolling to a title repeat?
Suggestions … yeah, we have a few.
SCREW THE FINESSE SHIT For some reason, Cleveland got this idea in its head that the only way to beat Golden State is to play like Golden State. Ugh, forget it. Warriors got that market cornered. Cavs, you ain’t upstaging the originators of the pro version of that free-flowing, fire-’em-up-from-anywhere stuff that Loyola Marymount made trendy for a couple minutes in the college game back in the 1990s. Here’s the deal: Cleveland has the clear edge in one area, brute strength. So use it. Stop this namby-pamby stuff and start playing like the Celtics 35 years ago against the Lakers once Larry Bird ripped his Boston teammates for playing soft. Yo, LeBron, it’s time to take the same kind of stand with your boys.
SHAKE UP THE LINEUP When you have a squad with three guys capable of going off for 25 or more any night, it’s pretty silly to have them on the floor at the same time almost all the time. Why James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving all start and play almost exclusively together always has escaped me. It’s a completely inefficient way to attack 48 minutes of action each time out. There isn’t enough shots to go around between the three when they’re all out there together extensive minutes. In Game 1, the first stringers-heavy plan was exposed to the umpteenth degree. The Warriors won the battle of the benches, 45-10. So switch things up for Game 2, which tips off Sunday night in northern Cali.
YO, KING, STICK HIM LeBron ain’t too thrilled with all the pub and appreciation shifting away from him to Curry? OK, King, then take the guy on defense, full time, to halt that. You’re the best one for the job anyway, possessing elite athletic ability that includes the big-time “quicks” and “hops” to truly alter the reigning MVP’s success. If that means sacrificing some of his own effectiveness on offense, so be it. Shutting down Curry is the key to Cleveland’s hopes. That is, unless someone else starts killing the Cavs, like, say, Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodola. Guess what? Stick LeBron on whoever the guy is then.
NO EXCUSES Don’t wanna hear about bad calls, bad breaks or bad decisions anymore. No more missed layups by Love, and damn sure no more pathetic failed dunk attempts by Tristan Thompson against often cement-shoe-wearing Draymond Green, a guy who stands a good 3-4 inches shorter than the Cavs forward yet still blocked him in the lane Thursday night. Enough. Just get it done. Take it to the hole stronger. That includes James, too, who actually allowed Curry, 6 inches and 60 pounds his “junior,” to push him around in the lane before meekly kicking the ball to a teammate … more than once. Absolutely ridiculous. Gotta play tougher, mentally and physically. Impose your will, Cavs, and your muscle.
PRAY Hey, if all else fails, give it a shot. Certainly better than trying to beat the Warriors at their own game.
Matthew Dellavedova (left) and LeBron James work well together.
TIME TO DELLY-VER
As offered to the left, it seems a lineup change would be a wise decision by the Cavaliers in this Finals series. The way their rotation sets up, they are overloaded with scorers at times when there is only one ball to go around, and then they have none at other times when that same ball remains.
There are multiple ways to go with a switch, but one that would be a no-brainer here would be to have Kyrie Irving come off the bench and just “green light” him. He’s the top scorer in the postseason for the team, but his points are not needed when you got LeBron James and Kevin Love already on the floor.
That would mean starting fellow Australian Matthew Dellavedova in his place, and while consensus knee-jerk reaction to such an idea would be “man, that’s crazy,” the reality is the move would create much greater balance for Cleveland. Full disclosure, yeah, am a fan of the guy and the way he plays. Thing is, like him or not, Delly works well with LeBron, and has shown on several occasions, including in last year’s Finals when he played an integral role in the Cavs grabbing a 2-1 series lead, that he is up to the task.
Frankly, wouldn’t mind seeing Love join Irving on the second unit. They’re buds and they work well together, too. The Cavs could insert Channing Frye in his place. He offers a similar skill set to Love, especially with being a big man possessing an outside stroke, only without the star-type demands of requiring so many shots. James could dominate the action OR dish much more freely without another “go-to guy” needing the spotlight.
While we’re at it, how about getting a little more and coordination in there with Richard Jefferson ahead of Tristan Thomson. Sorry, Double-T can rack up all the double-doubles he likes and it won’t matter. He’s not a positive factor for the club. Not against the Warriors.