The Cleveland Cavaliers can put up points but now is not the time to flex that muscle. Instead the Cavs are focusing on the defensive end because defense wins championships. After dropping Game 1 in overtime Cleveland bounced back to grab a victory in overtime of Game 2.
As I wrote after Game 1, LeBron James needed to be more like Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan. The Warriors wanted LeBron to score a lot of points without getting his teammates involved. In Game 1 LeBron had six assists which is a decent number. Three of those led to three pointers which were not enough. As a team the Cavs had 19 assists which is a good number but LeBron has to produce more open three pointers. The bench scored 9 points and LeBron was tired at the end.
In Game 2 Cleveland had 14 assists but 11 of those came from LeBron. Five of those LeBron assists led to three pointers including a three pointer by Iman Shumpert which happened to be the only basket the Cavaliers scored in overtime. LeBron’s usage rate went from 47.4% to 39.5% however his assist percentage went from 38.3% to 66.5%.
He was able to get easy baskets for Timofey Mozgov just like he did in Game 1. This time around he set up James Jones, a guy who only took one shot in game 1. Jones scored eight points in game 2 including a pair of three pointers and a dribble pull-up. At one point they even posted Jones up against Steph Curry. The Cavs bench scored 21 points and they were all needed.
Cleveland played Game 2 like Memphis or Chicago. They beat the Warriors on the boards 55-45, they slowed the game down and they made it ugly. According to Elias Sports, Cavaliers shot 32.6% from the field, lowest by any team in an NBA Finals road win in the shot-clock era. Cleveland held the Warriors to 39% shooting and 22% shooting from beyond the arc. Steph Curry missed a Finals record 13 three pointers. Cleveland outscored the Warriors from beyond the arc 27-24.
The road ahead is still tough for the Cavaliers but they proved they could beat Golden State. Maybe Curry does not have another horrible shooting game or maybe Klay Thompson doesn’t go off for 34 points or maybe J.R. Smith knocks down eight three pointers again. There are so many things that can happen in this series. This is just one game and the Cavaliers were able to hold on and win.
Cleveland has to continue winning the battle on the boards. Timofey Mozgov was able to draw eight fouls in total. Three of those came when he was getting an offensive rebound. Tristan Thompson was able to draw two fouls going for offensive rebounds. Those two combined for nine offensive rebounds and the Warriors had 10 as a team.
It remains to be seen if the Cavaliers can come out with the same energy and aggression at home. They shot 40 free throws in Game 2, 30 of them coming from LeBron James and Timofey Mozgov. Golden State is still the favorite and adjustments have to be made by both teams.
Two games, two overtimes I hope Game 3 is just as exciting.