Poor LeBron. He goes to the post-game press conference on Thursday and declares that the difference between last year’s Warriors and this year’s version is Kevin Durant. This is a superstar in denial.
Of course Durant is a huge upgrade over Harrison Barnes. But until Bron-Bron and his mates understand what is really holding them back, they are going to get pounded — and possibly swept — in the Finals.
Cleveland is horrible on defense. They make mistakes that would embarrass a well-coached seventh-grade team. They finished 22nd in the NBA on defense during the regular season, and that was for the most part versus much weaker Eastern Conference competition. Against the Warriors, it really stands out.
Here’s a clip from Thursday that tells all. We’ll break it down below.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 2, 2017
The defining tenet of man-to-man defense. It’s a simple concept that every schoolboy player should eat, breathe and live (except those tragic, condemned souls who play zone). Nothing happens on the floor involving your man or the man with the ball that you don’t see. Normally I would teach my player to take another step into the key here, but this is the NBA, and LeBron might think that he couldn’t get to KD in time to prevent a 3. So this is OK.
Tristan Thompson, Folks
Here’s our first real problem. Tristan Thompson, whom we met two weeks ago when we broke down the Cavs’ crappy inbounds defense against the Celtics, is outlined in red. Why is he guarding JaVale McGee so closely? Thompson should be back in a help position, just above the level of the ball. You learn this concept in grade school. Perhaps he needs to cheat up if his man is a shooting threat, which McGee isn’t. If Curry passes to McGee, Thompson has plenty of time to recover. Is he afraid of the give-and-go? He can easily step into the lane to prevent that — I don’t get it. It’s just another example of how worthless Thompson is when he has to think.
And here we goooo …
Curry passes crosscourt to Durant, literally right under LeBron’s nose. There are some who’ve speculated that Curry was anticipating a backcut by Klay Thompson (far right), and that’s why he threw that pass. But if so, Thompson never cut. So surely the ball would be stolen by LeBron, who after all is The King of Everything. Even LeBron Jr. knows about man-ball vision, right? OOPS! Jesus Christ, that ball sailing by is like a pig tiptoeing past a sleeping farmer. GOAT my ass. That’s embarrassing.
Closing Out For Beginners
SCREEEEE! LeBron, realizing that he was caught watching the paint dry, races out to Durant, who now has the ball. But this is unlike any closeout I’ve ever seen — it’s like he’s sliding toward second base while trying to avoid a tag. LeBron was so intent on stopping the 3 that he forgot Durant still had his dribble. The result is predictable.
Cavs Just Watching
Jam (one of eight for the Warriors in the first half).
Look, everyone makes mistakes. But when you see such a perfect storm of bad fundamentals on one play, and other examples during the game, with starters so lost that you’d swear it had been a 12-week layoff instead of 10 days, you have to wonder what’s going on.
Finishing 22nd in league defense is no way to win a second straight Finals. At the end of the day, this lies on Tyronn Lue and LeBron. The latter doesn’t want a coach to challenge his authority, and he got that. But with that freedom comes a price.