Confidence, physicality, execution winning formula for Cavs

Jun 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) in the first half of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 1, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) in the first half of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a winning formula. Confidence, physicality and execution.

In the aftermath of the Cleveland Cavaliers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1, the Cavs weren’t dejected or disheartened.

While acknowledging the abundance of talent and intelligence on the Warriors roster, the Cavs knew what they did wrong, accepted it and vowed to be better.

They’re confident.

Starting shooting guard J.R. Smith believes the Cavs could beat anybody, even the 1996 Chicago Bulls, in the NBA Finals if they “do what [they’re] supposed to do.”

Small forward Richard Jefferson doesn’t think the Cavs are too far from where they need to be to win.

Head coach Tyronn Lue says they “will correct” a lot of their mistakes moving forward.

Kevin Love shares those sentiments.

LeBron will concede that Kevin Durant, who got the better of him on quite a few occasion as James had a few uncharacteristic lapses on defense reminiscent of James’ first regular season matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2016-2017. In that game, James looked a step too slow against the lanky Giannis Antetokounmpo.

In their next matchup, James outworked, outmuscled and outplayed the Greek Freak.

Moving forward, Lue says the team will be more physical.

The Cavs were being outworked from the start as the Warriors pushed them out of position with their physicality and relentlessly attacked the offensive glass.

The physicality, as many remember from the last two NBA Finals series, was key in making Stephen Curry uncomfortable on the perimeter. For the Cavs, being physical with both Durant and Curry will be imperative. For shooters like them, not much will affect their ability to make shots but great shot contests, frustration and physical fatigue can affect both their percentages and approach to a game.

The Cavs saw that with Curry, who was at times frustrated and passive when guarded by Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert.

Down low, Love will have to be more physical in establishing himself on the low block before receiving the entry pass, refusing to get pushed out of his spot. Tristan Thompson will have to be more physical he knows as much.

Thompson played poorly in the paint on both ends, failed to rebound well or show off the energy and hustle that’s made him a valuable player in the league.

He battled and fought in the paint and he was being boxed out by two Warriors pretty often. Nonetheless, there’s no excuse to finish a game with zero points and four rebounds if you’re Thompson. He received even more attention from the Boston Celtics and his performance against the boys in Beantown was nothing like the tape from Game 1.

While JaVale McGee, who grabbed five rebounds in six minutes, may pose a problem with his size, the Cavs’ frontline has to work together to clean the glass against whatever combination the Warriors put on the floor.

Execution will be key moving forward.

While rebounding and limiting the Warriors to one possession is important, making the proper rotations and switches on defense will be even more important.

Irving and James were responsible for poor pick-and-roll defense as well, failing to communicate and choosing to allow the 1-3 switch in the pick-and-roll.

The team as a whole played apprehensively on defense and in the above tweet, Iman Shumpert’s reaction to the switch just shows the level of concern they had with Durant’s scoring.

Unfortunately, you can’t try to double the Warriors. They’re too long, too smart, too good at moving without the ball and too good at moving the ball.

The Cavs definitely need to pick up their man and play them tighter with their on-ball defense and off-ball and do a better job of recognizing the play before it fully develop. They can’t compromise the team defense by doubling.

Offensively, there was over-passing by James and not enough passing, or off-ball movement by the Cavs.

James’ skip passes were telegraphed and, unless screens are set to open up shooters, he should just try to finish at the rim until he really collapses the defense and passing lanes open up.

Irving’s shot selection in the third quarter was poor and while you always have faith that he can make the shot, there are times when he should have moved the ball and got others involved. One pass for Irving could lead to a good shot or a hockey assist.

James and Irving were responsible for 12 of the team’s 20 turnovers, they’ll need to be much better. Irving also took 22 shots compared to 20 for James and Love, while he’s an amazing scorer, there needs to be more balance among the Big Three.

It should go without saying that Kyle Korver and Deron Williams can’t go a combined 0-7 from the field. They got good looks but needs to convert.

Three field goals could be the difference between being up (or down) 10 and being up (or down) 1 at the end of a game.

There’s no reason to doubt that the Cavs can beat the Warriors. Game 2 is the perfect game to get back on track.

Related Story: Cavs - Warriors: What we learned in Game 1

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