Sunday, June 04, 2017

If Game 1 Is Any Indication, Klay Thompson Is Going to Be a Genuine Nightmare for the Cavs

The Golden State Warriors drew first blood in their record-setting third straight Finals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Despite not quite functioning at their best (they missed a couple of easy layups and open looks; Klay and Draymond only combined for 6-of-29 shooting), they managed to rout the defending champions due primarily to the following reasons:
a.) The Cavs beat the Dubs in the rebound battle (59 to 50), but this is off-set when the Cavs turned the ball over 20 times while the Dubs only did so 4 times.  This significantly helped the Dubs to win the possession game, allowing them to take 20 shots more than the Cavs (106 to 86).
b.) Simply, Dubs had a gameplan, and executed it with poise.  Meanwhile, the Cavs lacked energy and grit.  Their defense was porous, and Coach Lue failed to make adjustments on the fly and rally his team.
c.) The Cavs, in an attempt to run Stephen Curry out of the three point line, let Durant take a ton of uncontested dunks.  Sure, giving up two points is better than giving up three points.  But, still, letting Durant dunk freely to achieve that is not a wise strategy.
d.) Kevin Durant managed to outplay King James (38 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 0 turnovers, 54% shooting vs. 28 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 8 turnovers, 45% shooting) on both ends of the floor!  Durant had no problem scoring on LeBron.  On the other hand, the lengthy Durant managed to bother LeBron.  Here’s my favorite Durant-defending-Lebron moment, which led to a Stephen Curry trey on transition:
e.) The Dubs’ defense.

When we hear “Dubs’ defense”, the first thing that comes to mind is Draymond Green.  That’s understandable since he’s the best defender in the NBA not named Kawhi Leonard.  He should win the Defensive Player of the Year award this year.  And, as usual, he delivered a fantastic defensive performance in Game 1.  He played tenaciously and intelligently.
Dray reads the Cavs' play, directs his teammates, then anticipates the pass.  Brilliant.
But, again, this is a given for him.  He’s the Dubs’ “defensive captain” after all.  Steph, Iggy, and Durant also had beautiful defensive moments.  As a whole, the Warriors are an awesome defensive team.

But Klay Thompson’s performance, for me, was the most notable thing about the Dubs’ defense in Game 1.  He didn’t have a great offensive outing like Durant and Curry, as his playoff shooting slump continued.  He only scored six points from 3 of his 16 shots; he missed all five of his three point attempts.  Nevertheless, he was the Warrior I had the most fun watching in Game 1.  Screw the boxscore; it doesn’t show how terrific Klay’s defense was.

He took on the Cavs’ best scorers, and made their lives miserable.

He shut down J.R. Smith.,,
He shut down Kevin Love...
He shut down Kyrie Irving...
He even shut down LeBron James!

According to ESPN Stats and Info…
Yep, the collective Cavalier only shot 8.3% against Klay.  And that one shot that managed to get in was Kyrie Irving’s “prayer of a three-pointer + foul” highlight play – basically an outlier, a fluke.

Klay Thompson is one of the best two-way players in the league – probably just second to Kawhi (and LeBron, when he feels like defending).  Even if his shooting remains cold this Finals, as long as his tenacious lockdown defense can be counted on – which is all but certain – Klay will always have tremendous value.  Now, imagine if, on top of this, he gets over his slump; he gets hot again.  He’s, after all, the kind of player that is very much capable of suddenly dropping 50 points.  Scary.

Sure, LeBron is still a demigod.   It’s very possible for the Cavs to bounce back from this series.  After all, they did it last year, after being routed in the first two games.  Nevertheless, Klay Thompson could prove to be a genuine nightmare waiting to happen.

This time around, Klay and the Dubs wasting another advantage of “3-1” proportions is quite unlikely.

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