Déjà vu occurs when a person is in an event or situation that is oddly familiar, like they have already experienced it before. We have this baffling recollection that is impossible to rationalize as our mind is telling us that this has happened before. And after Game 2, there are a lot of NBA fans saying déjà vu at the moment.
Our minds are telling us that last year’s Golden State team went up 2-0 on Cleveland by an average margin of victory of 24 points. We are saying to ourselves that the Warriors are in a position to win one of the next two games at Quicken Loans Arena and do what they should have done last year: finish the Cavs in 5. In all honesty, picking this unstoppable force to win 2 of the next 3 games is the safest bet a fan could make. LeBron James, who is the G.O.A.T, Tyronn Lue, and the rest of the Cavaliers roster is up against the walls, but here are five things they can do to even this series and gain momentum:
- Get LeBron James some rest in the first half.
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The King is one of the most conditioned athletes in any sport, but that doesn’t justify playing him 20+ minutes in the first half. Yes, you will have a smaller deficit at halftime, but James will be gassed for the two quarters that you need him to be the most effective in. James is the only defender Cleveland has who can somewhat keep up with Kevin Durant, so playing him those type of minutes in the first two quarters will allow Durant to carve him up in the next half. At home, Lue needs to rely on his bench and the 2K18 cover athlete Kyrie Irving to handle the offensive load while James sits.
- Start Channing Frye in place of Tristan Thompson.
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Look, Frye was absolutely awful in Game 2. He missed a wide open layup, struggled defensively, and looked like he was playing in the first basketball game of his life. Now, I am going to argue that Lue should start him instead of Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers could have an advantage with Frye while Zaza Pachulia is on the court. Pachulia is slow, which means he would have a difficult time closing out on 3 pointers. Even if Draymond plays center and guards Frye, Channing’s length and height will allow him to shoot over Green. Thompson got a max deal for being an offensive rebounder and hustle player, but his lack of weapons in his offensive arsenal has minimized his impact this series. Look for Frye to get more playing time as he is capable of getting extremely hot beyond the arc.
3. Get Kyrie Irving to be guarded by Steph Curry or Ian Clark
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Stephen Curry and Ian Clark can’t stay in front of Kyrie Irving due to Uncle Drew’s mesmerizing ball handling skills. If Cleveland wants to get back in this series, Irving needs to be put in situations where he can score at will. Look for J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert to set screens on Clark or Curry in order for the Cavs to the get the matchups they want. I personally believe Irving is a better ball handler than Curry because he literally leaves his opponents in the dust with their ankles broken. Curry may be more skilled in terms of using his dribbling to get open 3 pointers, but Kyrie using his handles to get easy finishes in the lane. It’s go time for the Cavs to maximize the strengths of their best players, and Irving being defended by Curry or Clark gives Cleveland the best chance to win.
- Double team Durant when Kevin Love is on him
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Kevin Durant has essentially been perfect so far in these Finals, both offensively and defensively. As a result, the Warriors are going to try to set screens and get weaker defenders to guard him. One of those defenders will be K-Love. Anytime Love gets switched onto Durant, the Cavs need to double team him and get him out of his rhythm. If not, Durant is just going to get past Love with ease and score layups on the Cavs all night long. Use the crowd and double teams to fluster Durant and make him uncomfortable in Game 3.
- Bench players need to step up
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Basketball is a funny game. Bench players, for the most part, struggle to have the same impact on the road as they do at home. That’s why Shaun Livingston led the Warriors in points in Game 1 of the 2016 Finals, and how Matthew Dellavedova (I think that’s spelled right?) could make an impossible bank shot to add to his 20 points in Game 3 of the 2015 NBA Finals. Cleveland is going to need their bench players to hit three pointers and extend their lead while LeBron James or Kyrie Irving is on the bench. I would bet that Kyle Korver and Richard Jefferson hit 3 or more three pointers a piece, and Deron Williams puts up at least a point this game (he’s had zero so far).
As we saw last year, and in 2006 when Miami beat Dallas, 2-0 deficits do not mean that a team has no chance at winning the Finals. Cleveland should not panic over what transpired in Games 1 and 2, but they should make these adjustments if they want to tie the series up heading into Game 5.