After taking a 113-91 beatdown by the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers believe they have a recipe to turn things around in Game 2. There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, though, and cooking it all up won’t be easy.
Among those ingredients: Turn the ball over less, play better transition defense, be more physical, get better production from role players and get in a better frame of mind.
That’s a pretty long list. Let’s look at each point.
Turnovers. In Game 1, The Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers that led to 21 Warriors points; Golden State turned the ball over just four times. The 16-turnover difference is the largest in an NBA Finals since at least 1970-71, when Elias Sports Bureau starting keeping track, per cleveland.com.
Before the series even started, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue knew turnovers would spell disaster for his squad. "If we're turning the ball over, we're dead," Lue said.
But of all the issues listed here, turnovers figure to be among the easiest for the Cavs to fix.
They won’t have 20 turnovers next game,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said, via the New York Daily News.
Transition defense. The Cavs were outscored in transition, 26-10. They didn’t hustle back on defense a lot, and they often chose to guard Golden State’s 3-point shooters and ignore Kevin Durant as he drove down the middle of the lane for an uncontested dunk.
Said Lue, “It’s a different dynamic when you have Kevin Durant pushing the ball in transition and you have Steph and Klay on the wings.”
On Saturday morning’s SportsCenter, ESPN analyst P.J. Carlesimo pointed out several instances where the Cavaliers were outhustled on Warriors fast breaks.
“Tyronn Lue knows that. They’ll clean it up,” Carlesimo said.
Physicality. After reviewing the Game 1 tape, Lue determined the Cavs must play more physically to disrupt the Warriors' offense, ESPN.com reports.
"I think, just make them feel us," Cavs forward Kevin Love said Friday. "That's something that I imagine Ty probably talked about with the (media) and we can definitely do a better job of."
Said Thompson (via Yahoo! Sports), “I think the Cavs on Sunday will make a plan to not let (Durant) get so many easy buckets around the rim. I expect the Cavs to play a more physical game on Sunday to combat that.”
Role players. A J.R. Smith 3-pointer was the first basket of Game 1. He didn’t score after that. Reserves Kyle Korver and Deron Williams were held scoreless. But in terms of lack of production from role players, Tristan Thompson is culprit No. 1.
Thompson had no points and just three rebounds in 22 minutes.
“I think Tristan will come out in Game 2 and be a lot more assertive and just use his will to get rebounds on both sides of the ball,” Love said. “He’s so capable and so good at doing that, no matter who we’re playing, against any team in the league.”
Head space. Cleveland.com’s theory for the Cavaliers’ less-than-impressive Game 1 performance is debatable.
“Team sources surmise the Cavs' heads were not in the proper space to deal with the Warriors and all they throw at you,” the report says. “The situation, in a sense, was similar to the 2016 Finals in which Cleveland was on its heels for the first two games and lost both, before finally gaining footing in Game 3 at home.”
One source said, "The moment was huge and it got to us. What (the Warriors) do requires time to focus your mind and energy. We didn't do that (in Game 1)."
"It's more or less a heart thing, a prideful thing," Kyrie Irving said. "Going into Game 2 we'll be a lot more settled in, a lot better on the defensive end. Offensively, I mean, we still have to take good shots against this great team. So we'll get better."
Considering this is the third year in a row the Cavs have played the Warriors in the Finals, this notion rings strange to us.
Nevertheless, there are clearly numerous fixes the Cavs need to make ahead of Sunday night.
“We made a lot of mistakes. There’s nothing really needs to be said,” James said. “We didn’t play as well as we know we’re capable of. We look forward to the next one.”