Playoffs: 15-8 (11-2 HOME)
Playoffs: 15-5 (6-4 ROAD)
June 19, 2016
|Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
|ABC | KNBR 680 AM|
|Blog Buddy: Fear the Sword|
Andrew Bogut (knee - out)
Andre Iguodala (back - will play)
Kyrie Irving (foot - will play)
Today we reflect on the ways that our father figures influenced and helped shape our lives, ideally providing appropriate advice, insights, and discipline as we established our identities from infancy to adulthood. In doing so, parents aim to instill a strong set of values in their children and encourage them to stay true to themselves and those values.
As the Warriors prepare for the defining game of this remarkable season, they should consider the identity they collectively forged in recent years and ensure that they stay true to themselves in this Game 7 showdown.
Remember who you are
The Warriors benefited from the leadership of two charismatic coaches on their journey from cellar dweller to league champion. Former head coach Mark Jackson raised this Warriors team to be confident above anything else. For his many failings, Jackson preached the values of defense, hard work, unity, and faith in the team's success that provided the foundation for this team's achievements. Say what you will about his methods, Jackson inspired the team to achieve greatness, which was particularly evident on the defensive end of the court.
When Jackson's inability to (1) generate an effective offense and (2) maintain cohesion among his staff led to his dismissal, Steve Kerr inherited a team with all of the pieces necessary to win. And they did. Kerr kept the defensive principles established under the Jackson era but replaced the isolation-based offense with one that was motion-based and built upon passing to create open shots.
The Warriors went from last in the league in the total number of passes under Jackson to the leader in assists per game under Kerr. The balance between a dominating defense and potent offense proved unstoppable (baby) on the way to the 2015 title and a record-breaking regular season in 2016.
The Warriors have strayed from this identity at times during this series, averaging fewer than 20 assists per game in their three losses. Meanwhile, in their three wins they averaged 26 assists. Kerr must convince the team to stay true to its identity in Game 7 by resisting the urge to shoot contested three-point shots early in the possession in favor of passing to create better shots.
Granted, part of the story here is thatsuspension and injuries to Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala prevented Golden State from putting the players responsible for the team's identity on the court. And the officials haven't been at their best throughout the series. But the Warriors can't let those distractions take them away from their game plan.
Cleveland, to its credit, has disrupted the flow of Golden State's offense with aggressive defense. The Warriors have been instructed to use this aggression against their opponents with pump fakes and backdoor cuts. We'll see whether they're able to make use of those skills rather than shoot contested three-pointers. It also remains to be seen whether the officials will allow the Cavaliers to get away with holding Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as they make their cuts.
Bogut will be missed as the Warriors emphasize backdoor cuts to the rim, but the Warriors won three straight in last year's Finals essentially without Bogut and are capable of doing it one more time today. But they will need to pass the ball. They need to remember who they are and what tendencies put them in a position to win another title.
Iggy's health is a concern
Just as playing Game 5 without Draymond was brutal for Golden State's defense, so is the potential to lose Iguodala to back spasms. Andre did what he could in Game 6, but he was clearly in a lot of pain. If he isn't able to stay on the court, it's going to put a lot more pressure on the Warriors to be efficient on offense to keep pace with the Cavaliers' scoring.
Nobody can defend LeBron James as well as Iggy, particularly when Draymond is available to double team LBJ on the block. Kerr may need to ration Iguodala's minutes in the event that pain killers aren't enough to keep Iggy on the court, which could prove to be difficult when Cleveland's starters have been playing over 40 minutes per game lately.
Make Cleveland pay for playing its starters so much
In light of Cleveland's preference to play LBJ, Kyrie Irving, and J.R. Smith for so many minutes, the Warriors also need to get back to running as much as possible. Make Cleveland pay a price for relying on so few players to play so many minutes. This is where Leandro Barbosa could make another impact on the game (his shooting has been phenomenal in the Finals). The Brazilian Blur is always ready to race to the bucket and put pressure on the Cleveland defense to run hard.
Additionally, Klay Thompson should play just as many minutes as Kyrie Irving. Klay can run for days without tiring and draws so much attention from Cleveland's defense that Klay's mere presence on the court creates opportunities for everyone else to score. Get Klay over 40 minutes!
Warriors will target Love if he plays
Is it just a coincidence that the Cavaliers blew out the Warriors in Games 3 and 6 when Kevin Love either didn't play or only played 12 minutes due to foul trouble? I would suspect that Cleveland has a greater interest in getting Love into foul trouble than Golden State at this point. Perhaps LeBron will intentionally push Love into Draymond to get Love early fouls... Don't be surprised to see Love sit for most of Game 7. If I were Tyronn Lue, I wouldn't start Kevin Love (which is why I list Richard Jefferson as the starter above). But if Cleveland dares to put Love on the court, Curry and Thompson should go directly at him in the pick and roll.
Give Barnes one more chance
I'm not sure whether Warriors fans are directing more ire at LeBron James or Harrison Barnes at this point. Yes, Barnes' shooting has been horrendous in the past two games, but let's not forget that he shot well in Games 3 and 4. We've seen him hit threes when the pressure is on, such as the last second win in Philly this season. And let's remember that he led the league in three-point shooting percentage from that same corner in 2015.
Before directing missives at Barnes and cursing his name, let's take a deep breath, gather our patience one last time, and see if the Law of Averages comes into play to get that ball through the net. It's only his supposed max contract on the line...
The drama doesn't get any greater than this
This is it - the end of the 2016 season comes down to a winner-takes-all battle that goes beyond the 2016 title. Warriors fans see that the tables have turned since last year, as their players are now injured after a brutal playoff run. A win for Golden State under these conditions will definitively put to an end all of Cleveland's bickering about 2015 and place additional scrutiny on LBJ after another NBA Finals loss. This Warriors squad's legacy as among the best teams ever will be cemented with one last victory.
History is on the side of home teams in Game 7. League MVPs have a nearly perfect record in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Everything points to the direction of a Warriors win tonight, particularly if they stay true to themselves and embrace the joy that brought them so much success during an historical season.