To begin the NBA Finals, everyone only gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a fighting a chance against the Golden State Warriors with a healthy Kyrie Irving. If Game 1 were any indication, a dominant LeBron James and a productive Kyrie Irving could be enough to win against the best team in the NBA—with both players taking turns handling the offense torching the Warriors with their scoring prowess.
Things would change when Irving would go down in overtime—sidelined with a fractured kneecap which will keep him out of action for the next three to four months—visually frustrated and disappointed with his body’s inability to hold up and cooperate with him.
That now leaves the entire burden in James’ shoulders. However, the pressure either could escalate or diminish for The King. It could escalate because he now has to shoulder the entire load offensively especially now with Kyrie out and a lack of shot creators or it could be the opposite because no one expects him to get his team over the hump.
In Game 1 of the Finals, the game plan of the Cavs was very obvious—slow down the pace of the game, limit their turnovers and wayward passes, and give the ball to LeBron down in the left block and let him create scoring opportunities for himself and the team. The Cavs exclusively went to LeBron down on the post—with members of the broadcast team of ABC calling it Isoville—as the team heavily relied on James to manufacture points against the tough Warriors’ defense.
The problem wasn’t giving LeBron the ball through the use of different screens and pick-and-roll actions but it was more of the Cavs stagnation when he held the ball. There was no weak-side action or movement and everybody was just watching LeBron go to work.
The Cavs did a good job spacing the floor for LeBron—often giving LeBron exclusive use of the left side of the floor while the other four players spaced the floor out to the three-point line. Not only did this give James room to operate but it also opened up cutting lanes for players to take advantage of the gaps with the Cavs taking advantage especially TimofeyMozgov.
However, the Cavs attack becomes predictable which forced LeBron to take those ill-advised fadeaway jumpers. For the Cavs to have a chance in this series, they need to be able to use a lot of weak-side action to keep the Warriors’ on their toes on defense and not just focus on LeBron. The Warriors already have showed that they would allow LeBron to go to work in the post and defend him one-on-one and its up to the Cavs to find ways to help LeBron in the scoring column.
Even if the NBA is revolving to five-man offenses—with all five players in the court constantly moving and screening to either become scoring threats or to set-up other players—sometimes the best option still is to give the ball to your best player and let him do the work. However, going one-on-five on offense is not healthy way to manufacture points and by the end of the day, basketball remain team sport with the objective of scoring the most points in any way possible.