- Much has been made about the new-look Warriors, but the Cavs' new additions have struggled mightily in the Finals. If their shots don't fall soon, Cleveland will.
OAKLAND — You may have heard by now, but before staging the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history last year, Cleveland dropped the first two games of the series in Golden State by a wide margin. Just as it was then, the Cavaliers have been crushed twice again to open things up this year.
Naturally, this is all anyone with a tape recorder and a media credential wants to talk about. What’s the biggest difference? Is there anything you can draw from last year, being down 0–2? The questions started swirling ever since the Dubs took Game 1. Finally, after Sunday’s 132–113 loss in Game 2, Kyrie Irving had just about heard enough of them.
“This is a totally different team. There is no comparison even though we’re down 0-2 going back home,” Irving told reporters in the locker room. “It’s a different series our third time playing against each other.”
The easy assumption was that the Cavaliers’ star point guard was referring to Golden State’s off-season addition of Kevin Durant, whose monumental impact on this series has been well-documented. Of course, the Warriors are a different team—they swapped out Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant.
“A totally different Warriors team?” a reporter asked, to clarify. The question stopped Irving in his tracks.
“Uhh, a totally…I feel like, I mean I’ve—could be both, honestly,” Irving said, smiling.
In as polite a way as he could, Irving was attempting to remind the world that his team has changed quite a bit, too. At backup point guard, the Cavs replaced Matthew Dellavedova with a still-somewhat-useful Deron Williams. They also added one of the league’s best three-point threats in Kyle Korver. Sure, those two acquisitions aren’t as sexy as adding perhaps the second-best player on the planet, but they were viewed at the time as moves that could push Cleveland’s talent level a bit closer to the Warriors’ seemingly-unattainable level.
Could. After two games, Cavs GM David Griffin is still waiting on a verdict. The pair has been ice-cold, shooting 2-of-16 from the field in the Finals, a far cry from the torrid pace at which they’d been scoring from deep earlier in the postseason. While Golden State has flaunted how much it’s improved since last postseason, Cleveland’s re-tooled bench has built the 0–2 narrative brick by brick.
The Cavaliers’ depth represents their only real hope in this series. LeBron James has been otherworldy, per usual, averaging 28.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 11.0 assists over the first two games. Kevin Love (21 PPG, 14.0 RPG) has balled. And Kyrie Irving has provided adequate scoring to complement them. By all accounts Cleveland’s ‘Big Three’ has been fine, but its secondary options have left much to be desired.
The Cavaliers—who shot 38.4% from downtown during the regular season, second to only the Spurs—shot 35.5% from three in Game 1 and 27.6% in Game 2 thanks in large part to their struggling bench, which has hit just five triples on 24 attempts.
If there is any solace for the Cavaliers to find, it will be in their split stats. In home games this postseason, Iman Shumpert (44%), Kevin Love (50%), Deron Williams (50%), J.R. Smith (50%) and Channing Frye (59%) have all shot the ball well from three. The team as a whole has shot a playoff-high 43.9% from deep at Quicken Loans Arena.
The sample may be small, but the Cavaliers certainly don’t shoot poorly at home, where they’ll head for Games 3 and 4. If the series moving to Cleveland doesn’t help them, then there’s probably no helping them.
“If going home to Cleveland and playing in front of our crowd isn't enough for you, then you might as well go home,” Love said after Game 2. “So I think we’ll be ready to go.”
It had better be enough for the Cavs’ role players, or else this postseason will finish just as boring as it began.