Ok, it’s not a real word….but I can imagine David Blatt saying it
The Cavs dropped Game 5 last night, but more importantly they dropped their confidence and control over how this series is being played. With all this talk of “small-ball”, let’s look at what really went on in the last two games.
Golden State came out with a small line up in both games. Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Igoudala started on the front line for the Dubs. Considering none of them is over 6-7 it seems like Cleveland had a huge size advantage. On the flip side, the Warriors had 5 shooters who are also capable of handling the ball and taking advantage of slower defenders. This is the cat and mouse game many teams, coaches and players have been playing forever. Basketball has always been about matchups and how those matchups are exploited. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they were ill-prepared to adjust to the lineup Golden State put on the floor.
Cleveland has failed to take advantage of Golden State’s lack of quality size. Timofey Mozgov, at 7-1/250, is a load in the middle. The Warriors can’t match his size and strength and for a few games he was able to run roughshod in the paint. He can shoot over almost anyone they have and is the best rim protector in the Finals. Bogut and Ezeli couldn’t establish strong enough position in the post. At the Four, Tristan Thompson is far more athletic than any big the Dubs can throw at him. He’s also a rebound machine who understands his importance to the team. He knows his rebounding, especially on offense, is required for the Cavs to get wins. But for some reason, David Blatt has failed to devise a game plan or coach his players in the skills needed for the players he still has to win. This true center, whom he coached on the Russian national team, seems to be unable to score when he gets the ball inside 5 feet. With a rebound machine like Thompson, has no one worked with him to improve his put-back percentage? Why does he seem to look to pass to the perimeter on most of his offensive rebounds? Because this young man, with one year of college basketball experience and 3 seasons in Cleveland under questionable leadership, has not been taught how to play by the staff in Cleveland.
The Cavs other glaring weakness is their inability to execute ANY offense when LeBron is off the floor. I understand that many of these players aren’t top level NBA talent. Some of these guys were back-ups in the regular season. Some weren’t even in the regular rotation! If you are an NBA player, you should be ready to step up and bring some game. And if you’re and NBA coach, you should be able to create a plan for the team you have. During every James absence, the Cavs look like no one wants to shoot the ball. There’s a lot of standing around and very little movement from a team that needs movement and space to create. Once again, where is David Blatt? Or where is David Blatt’s X & O coach? Crickets……. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert are dribbling around the perimeter while Thompson tries to stay in position for a rebound. Delly and James Jones are posting up around the three point line, waiting….WAITING for something to happen. While I understand that these players are pros and should be able to understand how to play on their own, so are the coaches and it’s their job to strategize and implement countermoves. That’s not what’s happening on the Cavs bench in this series.
I can appreciate that Coach Blatt won championships in Israel and Europe. I respect that he coached talented Russian national teams and won coaching awards from Italy to Moscow. But, the NBA is the cream of the crop. American players who don’t cut it here go to the leagues Blatt coached in. He seems to be just another in a long line of Cleveland coaches (Paul Silas, Brendan Malone, Mike Brown, Byron Scott, Mike Brown) who don’t really fall in line with the talent level of LeBron James. Why can’t Cleveland get a top tier coach?
This NBA Finals has been dramatic and featured the best player in the world dragging a team with limited talent and no direction to victory over a team of all-stars. While some would say David Blatt has done a great job dealing with LeBron and this new incarnation of the Big Three, I think the Cavs have been winning in spite of their coach.