OAKLAND — Tyronn Lue does not watch Saturday Night Live. At least, he has not recently.
The Cleveland Cavaliers coach was asked about the faux promo from a few weeks back that, one that featured “The Other Cavaliers,” a spoof of the state of LeBron James teammates, which include a Roomba vacuum, a golden retriever, a heavy smoker, and the guy who sweeps up LeBron’s chalk dust.
“They write all kinds of narratives, but I think our guys have done a good job of having different guys step up at the right moment to solidify wins for us.”
But had he seen the SNL bit?
“No, I didn’t.”
It’s on YouTube, he was told.
“No, I don’t watch that stuff.”
Fair enough. Start watching one clip about the Cavs bench and before you know it the YouTube algorithm might have Lue watching clip of various Cavaliers throwing passes into the stands and missing layups. No coach needs that.
While it has been an ongoing story that Cleveland’s roster has the depth of a kiddie pool, it has until recently escaped much notice that their opposite number in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors, are awfully top heavy. There is an “Other Warriors” parody to be done, if Saturday Night Live were so inclined.
LeBron James, asked about the Warriors this week, started talking about all their talent, and even as he was praising them he inadvertently made the point that there is a steep drop off in that talent.
“You look at it, they’ve got four Hall of Famers on their team in Klay, Dray, Steph and K.D.,” James said. “They’ve got a Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala) that comes off their bench.” OK, we’re with you so far. “They’ve got a number one draft pick, or I think — what was Shaun Livingston? One or two when he came out? Fought back, and he comes off their bench. They’ve got an All-Star power forward in David West who comes off their bench.”
Well, yes, about that. Livingston was indeed a high draft pick, fourth overall. But that was in 2004, or right as LeBron was exiting his teenage years. And West is technically an All-Star, if you treat that title in the way former U.S. presidents still get called Mr. President. His two All-Star berths came when he was with New Orleans, four teams and nine seasons ago.
Against the Houston Rockets, Golden State’s four big stars all averaged at least 38 minutes per game, and other than Iguodala, who has been out with a leg injury, no other Warriors averaged at least 20 minutes per game in that series. West played all of 27 combined minutes over seven games. Zaza Pachulia played 12. Javale McGee played three. Some of that was matchup-related, with the Warriors staying with a small lineup to counter Houston’s array of perimeter shooters, but it does add some context to the slogan that the Warriors have been using in this post-season. Strength in Numbers? That number is four.
Still, also explains why Golden State is such a heavy favourite in this series. Four is, last I checked, a lot more than one.
If the Cavaliers are going to make this any kind of a series, they will have figure out a way to survive the hurricane that is Golden State’s third quarter. The Warriors have outscored their opponents overall by 10.3 points per 100 possessions in these playoffs, by far the best mark of any of the 16 playoff teams. (Cleveland’s is just a paltry 1.2.) But that discrepancy soars to 33.1 points per 100 possessions during the third quarter, a number that sounds like it should only happen if the Warriors were playing with a man advantage.
What causes the onslaught? Coach Steve Kerr said his guys sometimes spend the first half in a feeling-out process, “figuring out what’s what.”
But then if the first half ends and they are close or behind, “guys are upset, so their competitive desire kicks in.” That seems like a polite way of saying, “we don’t try really hard until we have to,” but it does seem to work for them.
Kerr also suggested that opponents can come out trying to defend them aggressively, which is tough to do for 48 minutes.
“I thought that happened in Houston the other night. Their defensive intensity is incredible,” he said. “They had a lot to do with our turnovers and mistakes, but that takes a lot out of you. In the third quarter teams tend to tire a little bit, and maybe that’s why we make a push.”
Whatever the reason, the ball goes in for the Warriors at an absurd rate in the third. Steph Curry is shooting 58 per cent from three-point range in the third quarter, after averaging 25 per cent from that distance in the second quarter.
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, scored fewer points than they gave up in the third quarter all season long, and in the playoffs they have an even bigger deficit — 3.6 points per 100 possessions — in the third. In a word: Yikes.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson, asked about James’ streak of eight straight Finals appearances: “This is my fourth. I can’t imagine doing it four more times. I’d love to, but it’s just so hard. I don’t care who he’s faced. I don’t care who has been out, eight straight times is eight straight times.”
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