The WTLC staff is enjoying the NBA 2015 Finals, and you should too! Here is our analysis of game 2.
1) What is was your initial reaction to Game 2?
Justin Danziger: It certainly wasn't as pretty as Game 1, but it was just as exhilarating. Danny Chau of Grantland couldn't have said it better: it was a mix of grit-and-grind of the past and the new age of basketball with teams shooting 30 threes a game. The Cavs' defense was phenomenal on the league's best offense, and that ultimately won the game for them. It is rare to see such a catastrophic breakdown of Stephen Curry's offense. Was Kyrie Irving's injury a blessing in disguise? No, because Cleveland looked lost trying to score. But the team is lucky they have a backup that plays every possession like it's his last.
Ali AlShowaikh: I knew that the Cavaliers had the opportunity to win the game when I noticed that Curry is struggling shooting the ball both from the field and the 3-point line. Typically, when Curry goes through a shooting slump, opponents have a high chance of winning the game.
R.K. Anthony: My initial reaction is that the Cavs are one put back jump shot from being up 2 games to nil and heading home. If Curry doesn't get back into the flow of the offense, GS could find themselves in a deep hole before they get back to the bay area.
Jack Warren: THIS IS WHAT WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!!! As bad as these playoffs have been the first 2 games of the Finals have made it worth it. LeBron is on another level, sure he isn't his most efficient but he is single handedly willing his team to victory. I don't know what happened to Steph, or why the Warriors went away from Klay Thompson down the stretch, or what the heck Jr Smith was thinking most of the time, but I will watch that kind of basketball game anytime.
Sherman: The most striking thing to me is that we're watching a Cavaliers team whose defense, midway through the season, aspired to be mediocre, and now they've suddenly morphed into a defensive lockdown team. All it took was them losing Kevin Love from the lineup (and killing their high octane offense) and relying on Tristan Thompson to fill in (losing Kyrie Irving hurt too, but he was already showing some signs of defensive aptitude in game 1). The result has been the Thunder 2014-15 season in reverse. Cleveland's offense is permanently wounded (they only shot 32.2% from the floor and 33.3% from three), so they have turned by necessity into the Memphis Grizzlies, hammering the boards, chasing shooters over screens, and denying the MVP from getting anything going on offense. Maybe it only lasts for 2 games, but color me impressed.
2) Who was the MVP of the game?
Justin: DELLY!!!! Without his ability to completely shut down Curry, who went 0-8 when he was guarded by Dellavedova, this game would have been a blowout. Aside from his defensive effort, he hit two clutch free throws towards the end of the game and made a big time steal.
Ali: LeBron James obviously. He recorded a triple-double, 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists.
R.K. Anthony: Dellavedova's demon defense on Curry was big but it was largely offset with 6 turnovers to just 1 assist on the other end. LeBron's 16 rebounds and 11 assists were huge and his initial post game reaction to the win spoke volumes. For LJ, this is personal, he is playing for the "home team" now. Scary.
Jack Warren: LeBron. I love Dellavedova as much as the next guy, but it's LeBron. Let's just think about this, if I told you this time last year during the Finals that the next year the team with home court advantage after game 2 would be starting Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson, and Timofey Mozgov, you would have thought I was crazy. Somehow LeBron can make this group work. And LeBron deserves it if for nothing else than executing the most intense spike I have ever seen.
Sherman: It is LeBron's claim until the Cavs' season is over. The team goes nowhere without him, even in his sub-optimal offensive ways. What is crazy is that the Warriors are actually playing him exactly how they should be, and it is working. James is playing 42 minutes a game but shooting under 40% from the floor at over 36 shots per game, and 36% on threes while attempting 7 per game. But until the Warriors start to play to their capabilities on offense, LeBron still owns the world.
3) Is Dellavedova capable of performing like this every game?
Justin: I think the real question is "Will Stephen Curry play like that every game?" The answer is clearly no, but Dellavedova will be a pest to the MVP. This guy was barely a role player on the struggling Cavaliers last year, so his consistency is definitely going to be tested. But there is no doubt in my mind that he has talent. He wants the ball, he wants to win, he wants to prove his worth, and there isn't anything that can stop him from working hard every second of the game.
Ali: I don't think he's capable of performing like this in the entire series because that depends on the outcome of the games. However, in the mean time heading into Game 3, I think his performance will not deviate from the standards expected from him as they've just evened the series and are mentally ready to play without any stress in Game 3 in front of their fans.
R.K. Anthony: Not taking anything away from how effective he was keeping Curry out of rhythm, but Delly's game 2 offensive stats were nothing to write home about. He is what he is but he will bring that with everything he has got every second he is on the floor. Let's face it, the guy looks like someone the Cav's recruited from a local YMCA pick-up game and I love him. When Justin mentioned ‘grit' being a part of this game, he was talking about Dellavedova and he will bring it every night.
Jack Warren: If we're being completely honest and looking at the game as a whole did Dellavedova really have that good of a game? I am not diminishing what he did down the stretch or what he did against Steph Curry. But he had 9 points and went 1-6 from the 3 point line (that's 16%, aka not very good). So yes I think he could be as productive as he was again, and I am sure he will be as aggressive guarding Steph as he was this game, but will that be enough to stop Steph again, I am not quite sure.
Sherman: I hate to be a hater, but the game result was more on Curry's poor performance than anything else. Dellavedova played the Patrick Beverley role perfectly, making the shots way harder for Steph than they normally are, but Curry missed plenty of open ones too. He admitted as such after the game, commenting that the mechanics were off.
That said, Dellavedova has proven that you can put a stamp on a big playoff series simply by playing intelligent, aggressive defense, and you can win games with it too.
4) Was Speights missing a fast break dunk then falling for a loose ball then taking out a referee one of the funnier things you've seen?
Justin: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE CURSE IS REAL!!!
Lil b is terrible— Marreese Speights (@Mospeights16) September 2, 2011
Ali: YES LMAO
R.K. Anthony: Mr Speights, Shaqtin a Fool is calling.
Jack Warren: Not as funny as this.
Sherman: Speights is kind of a punk, so I'm not going to feel too badly for him. But still, that two points would have really mattered in the end. It underscores how out of sync the Warriors offense has been so far. The offense that plays fast and loose yet precise has not looked like any of those 3 things.
5) Do the Cavaliers have a legitimate chance at winning?
Justin: Slightly better chance than I thought after Game 1. Winning in Golden State is HUGE and nearly impossible. This game gives the Cavs momentum going home and all LeBron needs are fans cheering his name. However, I highly doubt Curry will have another slump of a game again and the Cavs lack of offense will catch up to them. Still going with Warriors in 6.
Ali: They used to have a legitimate chance actually when they had Irving on their squad but not anymore. Yes the Cavs won, but let us not forget that in this particular game, Stephen Curry was struggling from the field and behind the arc. Therefore, obviously if Curry hadn't gone through a shooting slump, the outcome would've been different. Other than that, the Warriors had already been in such a situation against the Grizzlies where they lost game 2, and yet won the series.
R.K. Anthony: I would have to say yes. Momentum from this win and the best player on the planet going at it like his life depends on it are a lethal combination. I still give a big edge to Golden State because I don't see Steph Curry having another game like he did in game 2, but I I think at some point JR Smith could have a big game, maybe two, and that gives the Cavs a legitimate chance if he does. In the first two games the Cavs lost when Smith shot 23% in game 1 and won when he improved to 38% in game 2.
I don't think too much emphasis can be placed on this Cavs win considering Golden State only lost 2 games at home in the regular season and once in the playoffs leading up to this Final. Memphis beat the Warriors in game 2 in their series with the Warriors, but Memphis didn't have Lebron James to help them seal the deal when they went back home.
Jack Warren: Heck yes they do. I don't know if I could tell you why besides LeBron, but they certainly do. There is a very realistic possibility that this series could have been 2-0 Cavs and then the question would be, "Do the Warriors have a chance of winning this series?" Sure, Steph Curry isn't going to shoot the ball as poorly as he did last night again, but they have proven that even if Steph does play well they can compete.It won't be easy for the Cavs to win, but they certainly have a chance to win, they have shown that the first two games.
Sherman: While my previous prediction of a sweep is off the table (seriously, nobody should ever listen to me, like, ever), and while I have to acknowledge the fact that the Cavs came within an inch of being up 2-0 now (via Shumpert's missed heave at the end of game 1 regulation) and heading back to Cleveland, it is far from panic time for Golden State. They've played a C-game and a D-game and managed to split them. Things look like they are in Cleveland's favor...
...And then I remember the Grizzlies series. If you recall, Memphis was up 2-1 on the Warriors and Memphis had a game 4 at home where they could have put a stranglehold on the outcome. Memphis was battle tested, defensively capable, and they had the momentum. What happened? Curry lit them up like a fireball and knocked out Memphis in the next 3 games by an average margin of victory of 20 points.
This is one thing that young MVP-type players have to learn about the Finals. You can't just play your normal game; you have to aggressively make an impact, the way LeBron has done, and the way Kawhi Leonard did last year. Kevin Durant never quite figured it out in 2012. I am reminded of how last year Gregg Popovich challenged the eventual finals MVP after dropping game 2:
"You can't just be mediocre out there if you want to win a game."
That's it. Your best players have to play like they're the best players if you want to win. That's the message Pop sent, and Kawhi answered the bell (and was rewarded with some stiff punches to the chest by Pop). Curry proved he can do it in the last 2 rounds, and he will have to again if the Warriors want to regain their footing. Incidentally, this is also why I would never give up on Russell Westbrook. In a Finals series, you have to be dialed in competitively if you want to take what you think is yours. LeBron just posted another Westbrook-like game, replete with a triple-double, low shooting percentage, and a tidal wave of emotion; James knows it, and we should recognize it too that Russ has the element that it takes to scale the mountain.