LeBron James and his merry band of 3 point shooters buried the Atlanta Hawks early in game 2. An unprecedented, long distance barrage in the first half from which the Hawks never looked like recovering. Cleveland led by 36 at the half having made 18 threes. 18!!!!! To put that in perspective, until the start of the 2016 playoffs the record for an entire play off game was 20. The Cavs slowed down in the second half, resting their starters, and eventually settling for 25. A new record which looks unlikely to stand until the end of the playoffs (this is the second time it has been broken in this postseason).
Cleveland’s switch to this 3 point happy style of offence reflects a league wide trend, shooting from distance is king in the modern NBA. Steph Curry is the poster boy of this revolution, making 402 this season, and leading his Warriors team to the greatest regular season in NBA history. 10 years ago the record for 3 pointers made was 269, held by Ray Allen, Curry has almost doubled that record and shows no signs of slowing down. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so does Cleveland’s attempt to mirror the Warriors give them a shot at the title?
Cleveland’s offensive system is not complex, essentially they run isolation with a kick. LeBron James or Kyrie Irving isolate their man, drive to the basket, and as the defence panics and is drawn to the ball, it is kicked out to open jump shooters. Cleveland are moving the ball better in the postseason, but in no way should their offence be compared to Golden State’s based solely on the amount of 3 pointers they are taking, and for now hitting.
Watching Golden State play is watching perpetual motion, a potent mixture of off the ball movement which not only creates open jump shots but also easy layups. This is where the Cavs struggle. Last night Cleveland shot the ball pretty horribly from inside the arc (16 for 42), this is fine if your perimeter shooters are hot but when there is a cool off you need a plan B. A better one than let LeBron do everything and fingers crossed. We already saw last year that it doesn’t work against the very best.
Golden State have shown this year that the threat of the 3 point shot is just as valuable a weapon as the 3 point shot. This means that on the rare nights that Curry, Thompson and co. are shooting badly they can rely on their offensive system to give them easy looks and build confidence. Cleveland’s players rely on their talent and athleticism which can always be matched by championship contenders.
Cleveland shot the ball lights to last night and if they shoot it like that then they will be very hard to beat. The point is though that they won’t always shoot like that. It is easy to keep burying threes when the other team isn’t finding a way to answer back, but can you do it over 7 games when every time you hit one, Steph Curry hits one straight back.
Last year they couldn’t, lets see if they can this time round.
25 made 3s, whilst impressive, does not make you Golden State. That would be 73 wins and a chance for back to back championships.