The Answers Aren’t On This Test

William MurphyBasketballLeave a Comment

In the words of the great philosopher, Ron Burgundy, “Well that escalated quickly.”  This is the feeling I get when I watch approximately 96.3% of Golden State Warrior games. I really don’t cuss…unless my Dallas Cowboys are on, but I am convinced that Golden State leaves fans with more “WTF Moments” on average than any other team. “WTF Moments” leave you saying exactly what the letters imply.

For example:
You decide to go use the restroom, something you figure can’t take more than a minute. You come back and it’s…
“WTF…the Warriors are up by 2,000 points!”

You’re hungry, so you decide to go make a sandwich. That can’t be more than 3-4 minutes. The score is tied when you leave. You come back and…
“WTF…the Warriors have scored 7,568 points since I left!”

That’s pretty much how I feel watching them play, and interestingly, they are now doing it on the biggest stage of the NBA – the playoffs. Game 2 really felt like a repeat of Game 1 to me in most ways. Once again, we were treated to a competitive first half with an aggressive Lebron and hot-shooting Love, keeping the Cavs in striking distance, as they trailed 67-64 at the half. The wheels fell off in the 3rd quarter for the Cavs once again, as Golden State started “Golden Stating”. After some ridiculous NBA Jam-like shooting and a few Steph jumpers all the way from Davidson’s campus, we were all left with…
“WTF…they scored 132 points on these guys!” (To Cleveland’s mere 113…)

So, Murph what you got for Game 2? Glad you asked. Let’s go.

  • His Mama Named Him Klay. Apparently of all the articles, books, and magazines that he chose to read after Game 1, Klay Thompson took it upon himself to hack my computer from across the country and read what I wrote about him from Game 1.

Uh…yea…about that “Klank” Thompson moniker I gave you…
Um…yea…about that slump…
Um…yea…about looking unhappy and having poor body language…

Mychal and Julie’s boy snapped out of that stretch of poor shooting with a 67% shooting performance, including 4 of 7 from the arc.

I also would be remiss if I did not reiterate my sentiments from Game 1 regarding Klay’s defense. The guy is giving everything he has on the defensive end of the court. Serving as Kyrie’s primary defender, he has put on a defensive clinic, making life difficult for Uncle Drew. It took 23 shots for the kid to score 19 points. The Warriors will live with that all day.

  • Michael’s Secret Stuff. Either the Warriors drank it all or the Cavs are taking full naps in the locker room at halftime. In both games, the 3rd quarter has been the great separator in both games.

Game 1 3rd Quarter: Warriors 33, Cavs 20
Game 2 3rd Quarter: Warriors 35, Cavs 24

It has been really puzzling to watch the Cavs exit the locker room as ill-prepared and sluggish as they have in Games 1 and 2. For some reason, their defense gets downright atrocious after the break, particularly out of timeouts.

  • Help Wanted. Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns…hell, Ohio State Buckeyes! SOMEBODY HELP LEBRON!

The only consistent help that the King has had over the first 2 games is Kevin Love. I’ve already mentioned how largely ineffective Kyrie was (and I will come back to him later).

In my Game 1 column, I noted the following stats of the Cavalier supporting cast:
Tristan Thompson: 22 minutes, 0 points, 4 rebounds
J.R. Smith: 28 minutes, 3 points, 3 mental meltdowns
Kyle Korver: 19 minutes, 0 points
Deron Williams: 18 minutes, 0 points
Iman Shumpert: 16 minutes, 5 points

So let’s see how these guys improved in Game 2. To be sure things had to get better after a game to get your nerves settled right?
TT: 21 minutes, 8 points, 4 boards
JR: 13 minutes, 0 points, a few more meltdowns
Ashton Kutcher: 23 minutes, 8 points
DWill (only the one who plays): 14 minutes, 0 points
Shump: 21 minutes, 6 points (wow, I really thought he did more than that)

To be fair, there was improvement. I’m really not sure what else to say on this. I will ask this, though…Why is no one looking like their usual self?

JR Smith never met a shot he didn’t like. In 2 games, he has taken a measly 6 shots. He has tried to play chippy and it has resulted in him frustrating his own self.

Thompson was an unstoppable force on the boards all season and all playoffs to this point. I watched games where he was literally the only Cavalier out of 2-3 players from the opposing team, crashing the glass, and I’ve seen him come out of there with the board. In 2 games, he has 8 rebounds.

I could have sworn Shump played great minutes in Game 2. So who snuck into the boxscore and tampered with the data to make his performance look like trash?

Speaking of who doesn’t look normal…

  • Kyrie? I know I gave props to Klay earlier for the defensive performance that he is turning in. He is legitimately making Kyrie work hard for every bucket…

But come on now.

This is Uncle Drew we’re talking about. Containing him is akin to herding cats. You just can’t do it.

There were points where he almost looked aloof and zoned out. To be honest, he has yet to truly look comfortable for large stretches in this series. I have seen him over dribbling on multiple possessions…which is really what he does regularly, so I can’t fully knock him there. However, I do have a question that we may need to consider…When Kyrie’s offensive game is off, what else does he bring to the table that compensates for his scoring?

I’ll wait…

And while i’m waiting, now would be a great time to make my shameless plug for MORE JAVALE MCGEE. WE WANT MORE JAVALE!!! To be sure, we can find more than 2 minutes for this energy guy to play. It feels like they are rationing his minutes out to see what he can handle.

  • The Answers Aren’t On This Test. A few years ago as an elementary school principal, we were engaged in state testing. At this time, the state tests were lengthy multiple choice tests that were untimed. Basically, if a student wanted to take from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, they could…and the only thing the adults could do was monitor. One of my favorite students of all time was testing. The school day ended and he was still testing so we moved him to the library. 3:30 came and went. 4:00 came and went. Finally, I walked over to him to see what the hell was taking so long. With a straight face and with all seriousness, he looked at me and said…

“Mr. Murphy, some of these answers aren’t on this test.” I feel like this is my response for Cleveland right now. The answers just aren’t on the test. I pride myself in being knowledgeable about the game of basketball. I understand it. I can talk it all day. I have coached it. I have played it and still play fairly regularly. I know fundamentals. I know how to teach the game. I can dissect game plans and even suggest adjustments…And for once in my life, I am legitimately stumped in trying to figure out what the Cavs should do to actually compete in this series.

In Game 1, the Big 3 for the Cavs all had solid numbers, Klay and Draymond were MIA, and they lost by 22.

In Game 2…
LBJ drops a triple double
Love is on fire with 27
LBJ cuts his turnovers to 4
The Cavs shot 11 more shots than the Warriors (which doesn’t really mean much but it sounded good to put here.)
The Cavs dominated points in the paint.
The Cavs had 15 steals to Golden State’s 5.
The Cavs had only 9 turnovers while the Warriors had 20 (Curry had 40% of those turnovers).
The Cavs scored 113 points!

The only problem is that Golden State had 113 points with about 7 minutes left in the game and ended with 132.

What else is left? I keep looking at the roster and I can’t find anything on it to help the Cavs.
Heck, now would be a good time to revisit my game advice for the Cavs following Game 1. Let’s see what I said on Friday…

For Cleveland…

  1. Muddy the game up. Make it chippier. Get you a flagrant foul if you have to, but show that you are there to fight.
  2. Try to slow the game by using size on the blocks.
  3. Win the rebounding battle.
  4. Hit a few of those open looks. Yea, its easier said than done, but thats the only way you can open up the offense.

They tried #1 and were in the penalty before I could blink. Putting 90% free throw shooters on the line isn’t exactly a good strategy either, so there’s that.

#2…The only people that can actually do something on the blocks are Love and LBJ. LBJ is getting his driving. Love goes down there every now and again, but largely seems to have changed that part of his game more to float and hit jumpers. Plus, what does posting up do for Kyrie’s game? Also, you really can’t slow a team down, especially this team. They run on makes. They run on misses. They run on turnovers.

#3…How’s that working out?

#4…I learned a long time ago that hope wasn’t a strategy, so this tip was inserted simply to have a 4th point to make…*shrugs

So here’s my revised list for the Cavs…

  1. Muddy the game up. Make it chippier. Get you a flagrant foul if you have to, but show that you are there to fight. Actually do this. Get up in them and make them put the ball on the floor to work for every single thing they get. If you’re going to foul them, kill them…no “and 1” crap. If you need to, put some goons in the game, but you’ve got these West Coast guys fighting harder than you right now and that’s not cool.
  2. Try to slow the game by using size on the blocks. attacking the basket with reckless abandon to get calls that ultimately put you on the line so that you can set your defense. Of course this implies that you have to make free throws too, but at least you can get someone in foul trouble.
  3. Win the rebounding battle. Find the MonStar that stole Tristan Thompson’s powers and get them back.
  4. Hit a few of those open looks. Yea, its easier said than done, but thats the only way you can open up the offense. Hope is not a strategy, but it is now, so see the last few tips…
  5. Hope Golden State forgets they have a game tonight.
  6. Hope the MonStar that stole Tristan Thompson’s powers prefers to have the skill set of a certain 7-foot, pure shooting, versatile player from Golden State.
  7. Hope that 1 or all 3 of the Big 3 play out of their minds OR that a role player mysteriously catches fire and has an “out-of-body” experience…for the rest of the series.

I almost feel ashamed for such abstract game tips for the Cavs, but I can’t help it! The answers are not on the test!!!

“What about the Warriors, Murph?”

What about them? I have nothing to recommend for them. Heck, I’m starting to think of off-the-wall challenges for them…

  • Choose a quarter and shoot only left-handed shots.
  • Try out crazy lineups (ex. 6’10 and above lineup; 6’8 and below lineup; Regional lineups based on where players are from or played college ball)
  • Try to score 200 points
  • Only attempt field goals from behind the arc

I know I’m being facetious here, but I have nothing to say to Golden State. 

  • Ya Can’t Sit Heah. That’s the best I can do in attempting to transcribe the little girl on the bus that refused to let Forrest Gump sit with her. You can’t sit Lebron James. Correction. You can’t sit Lebron James and feel any level of comfort. I mentioned in my Game 1 column that he was tired.

Guess what? The King was tired in Game 2 as well. This time, if you noticed, he took his breather on the floor. Some of the final possessions of the 3rd quarter, he went to the far corner and pretty much conceded the offense to Kyrie. They realize they just need his presence out there, even if it means he’s only a decoy stealing rest minutes.

I get it too.

I just don’t think there’s a solution for it. You want him to be aggressive like he has started both games, but drives take energy too! He can take plays off on offense, but if he’s having to guard KD, he can’t take plays off on defense. The pace that the Warriors play with also makes you have to run back regardless of who you are, and that’s energy as well.

After Lebron, I believe the best perimeter defender for the Cavs is Shumpert. The Cavaliers may want to consider the following lineup…

Start Love at the 5 on Pachulia
Move LBJ to the 4 on Green
Put Shump on KD at the 3-spot (You give up some size, but you simply want him to be a dog.)
Leave JR at the 2 or try Jefferson or someone else at that 2 spot.
Kyrie has to play Steph.

Or you could ask LBJ to guard Klay if you want to leave Thompson in the lineup, moving JR to the bench. The counter for Golden State, in this case, would simply be telling Klay to run him all over the court.

Pardon me…JR Smith just fouled me while I was typing that last paragraph. (seriously though, does he not commit the absolute worst fouls?)

Cleveland, it’s your move. Home court. Home fans. Home cooking.

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