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How the Warriors neutralized Tristan Thompson

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A look at Cavs’ adjustments for Game 3, particularly how they might jump-start Tristan Thompson.

2017 NBA Finals - Game One
two hearts that beat (up) as one
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

So, in thinking about Games 1 and 2, I ended up thinking about Tristan Thompson and what a boogeyman he was in 2016, and how he’s been contained so far in the 2017 NBA Finals.

This required me to re-watch footage of last year’s Game 6 — and it was not pleasant. That’s way more than my Recommended Daily Allowance of Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao.

Underplayed in the blizzard of jokes and crap analysis was the impact of Andrew Bogut’s injury. Bogut wasn’t a real positive, but Ezeli and Varejao were, to put it mildly, not ready to handle being attacked repeatedly in the Finals.

And Tristan Thompson roasted them.

I wrote elsewhere brief thoughts on Games 1 and 2:

Three successful strategies from the 2016 Finals have not worked well up to now.

The Cavs have tried to:

Attack Stephen Curry in the pick-and-roll. The Warriors have responded with an unusual pre-emptive, high-tag defense, which we analyzed previously in “The New Way Stephen Curry Defends LeBron James”. To my surprise, the Cavs have not come up with a standard counter to this gimmicky defense, either by having LeBron attack right on the high tag or have screeners slip smartly. The Cavs went away from this in Game 2.

Have Kyrie Irving attack bigs in the pick-and-roll. The Warriors have responded by having Zaza Pachulia double-team Kyrie Irving, as predicted in “How the Warriors Defend Kyrie Irving with Goalies and Traps”. Again, the Cavs haven’t found an effective counter.

Have Tristan Thompson create havoc by rim-running and grabbing offensive rebounds for extra chances. We’ll spend the rest of the article looking at why Thompson has been neutralized, and how the Cavs might unlock him.

Thus, here’s a quick summary on defending Tristan Thompson:

  • For offensive rebounding, Zaza Pachulia mainly and Draymond Green are focusing on boxing out Thompson, knowing the Cavs don’t send many other rebounders;
  • For the rim-running, Green takes special care to get a body on Thompson in transition; and
  • As a release man for Kyrie Irving’s double teams, the Cavs are just messing up the spacing, and can improve.

For video clips and possible Cavs’ adjustments, you can check out the whole article at BBallBreakdown.