OAKLAND – After being blitzed by a smaller and quicker Golden State Warriors lineup in a 103-82 win in Game 4 of the 2015 NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers need to make use their bench more.
In what was a proverbial case of gutsy desperation on the behalf of the Golden State Warriors in inserting Draymond Green at center and Andre Iguodala at small forward, Golden State effectively neutralized the much bigger and short-handed Cavaliers squad, clearly visually gassed from winning the last two games of the Finals in a 21-point runaway blowout.
With the veteran Iguodala scoring 22 points, while holding LeBron James to 7-of-22 shooting from the field and 20 points, Golden State may have found a way to slow down the King, who was averaging 41.0 points a game thru the first three games.
That, in addition to NBA MVP Steph Curry appearing to have finally found his sharp-shooting form in scoring 22 points, including going 4-of-7 from three-point range gave the Warriors, the spark that they needed.
The question now is, will Cleveland adjust and respond in kind.
If there is one area of concern amongst players and those in the media is the reluctance of David Blatt to expand his current seven-man rotation, which up until Thursday night was running on pure adrenaline and heart. After the proverbial disembowelment at the hands of the Warriors, Blatt has no choice but to consider expanding—or tweaking his rotation—to include fellow NBA champions such as Mike Miller, Shawn Marion and even Kendrick Perkins.
With reports coming out the Cavs’ locker room of players feeling the need for the bench to be used more, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, it is almost shocking that this is even a question at this point. If one were to look back at Game 4, you can clearly see that Cleveland was gassed, as none of their shots had the proper lift and push behind them.
Combine that with James missing driving layups that he normally makes, and you could see that the Cavaliers hit that dreaded wall of fatigue. This is not excuse-making or a case of this writer being a “homer”, just simply stating the facts as Cleveland shot an abysmal 33 percent from the field in making 29 out of their 88 shot attempts.
You don’t win in the NBA—let alone the Finals—when you shoot slightly above the Mendoza line, especially against a smaller and quicker team such as Golden State.
Make no mistake the 67-win Warriors came out to play and ran the Cavs right out of the gym, Cleveland also didn’t help themselves in shooting 72.4 percent from the free throw line in making 20-of-28 attempts.
If Blatt decides to go to his bench more and give the starters some rest, Cleveland still has a shot.
While Cleveland is still bigger than Golden State up front, one possible move that the Cavs should consider is re-inserting the struggling J.R. Smith into the starting lineup at shooting guard, as he—along with James—are the only two players capable of creating their own shot.
While this sounds risky considering Smith’s struggles from downtown, as he went 0-for-8 from three-point range for four points, but at this juncture, Cleveland needs to think outside the box, like Golden State did in Game 4.
One of Cleveland’s greatest strength’s is their versatility and interchangeability, and they have the ability to move players around into a wide range of lineups, such as James at center, James Jones and Shawn Marion at the three and four with Smith/Matthew Dellavedova splitting at the one and Iman Shumpert/Mike Miller and rookie Joe Harris at the two.
Again, these are just these writer’s own ideas and suggestions, surely Blatt will figure out his lineups come tip-off, but if Cleveland has any hope of winning Sunday, Cleveland’s championship hopes hinge on a gutsy move of their own, as time—as well as their own margin for error—are slim to none.