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It Won’t Matter, But…About Kyrie

Mark Kreidler
June 06, 2017 - 5:57 pm

Kyrie Irving is too good to disappear in an NBA Finals, so he never actually does.  But if the Cavs are to have any shot at staying in this thing, they first have to figure out how to free up their best perimeter threat.

Here’s the problem: They already feel like they figured it out.  It just doesn’t work.

Welcome to Warriors World.

You can boil down the first two games of the Finals any way you wish, because in the end, Golden State is maybe just a little too good for much analysis to matter.  But there’s no doubt the Cavaliers are going nowhere with LeBron having great games and Irving at least making a noticeable dent.

The issue is so basic it almost begs for a fix.  Cleveland runs a lot of isolation offense, and it works against most teams.  Finding a defender to exploit on a pick-and-roll has been good for LeBron, good for Kyrie and generally good for business.

It just isn’t good against the Warriors, who defend the pick-and-roll as well as any team in the league.  They also are constantly assigning Klay Thompson to dog Irving around the floor and contest his every shot.

Put that together with the energy Irving must expend trying to defend Golden State’s cadre of shooters, and bad things happen.  Through two games, Irving has scored 43 points on 45 shots, and in Game 2 he shorted a number of his jumpers, which almost screams “dead legs.”

“Defensively, now he has to do a lot more,” said Cavs coach Ty Lue.  “Running around with Steph and chasing Klay and chasing Steph and constantly having to be on alert, it takes a lot out of you offensively.”

Can Irving get life back in his game in time for Game 3?  Of course he can.  All of the Cavaliers can.  The question is for how long they can go at a near full tilt – and, so far, the answer has been that such a pace is sustainable for about two and a half quarters per game.

Still, Lue says his team won’t switch what it does, because such is Cleveland’s style and approach.  You don’t become a different team in the middle of the Finals.  And that’s why the Cavs have almost no chance in this series: because the Warriors have already shown they can stop what Kyrie Irving and his non-LeBron teammates want to do.  Bummer.

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