The Many Face LeBron: GSW at Cavs, Game 4 Review

by S.A. Prince

I know. I know. It’s been awhile since I’ve broken down an NBA game, but this is where I make it up to you. This is the exact way I’ll break them down at the NBA Summer League next month (can’t wait to go!). We’ll talk LeBron. We’ll talk Curry. We’ll talk Kyrie, and we’ll talk strategy. Here we go.

I haven’t seen a team shoot themselves in the foot like Cleveland has in this series. The Thunder were capable of beating Golden State, and so are the Cavaliers. It’s not so much Golden State winning the game (not trying to take anything away from them), as it is Cleveland making mistakes at critical moments. We’ll start with my quarter by quarter game notes, and then the stats I found most important to keep.

My notes will be in italics. My comments won’t be.

1st Quarter

Love subs into the game. Immediately works out of the post. Highly successful. This is why Kevin Love has to leave Cleveland. He is still a dominant and crafty scorer in the paint. He can still be a top rebounder. It isn’t that Cleveland refuses to use him this way. It’s just that this style of play isn’t conducive to what LeBron and Irving want to do. Lue should consider bringing him off the bench, playing him as little as possible with LeBron and Kyrie. This guy needs touches.

Every time a screen is set at 35 feet and more, Curry is being set up for the Iso. Tristan Thompson did a good job on the switch in the first half. He’s considerably better than Ibaka and Adams at this.

When Draymond has ball at the top of the key, GSW is sending him a screen to work the 2 man game. More times than not Green will drive with right hand strong to the rim. If the size advantage is to the roller in post he’ll dump it down. Believe it or not, getting the ball out of Curry’s hand is a good thing. Curry is better off-ball, and Green typically has a weaker defender than Thompson and Curry.

2cd Quarter

LeBron misses two straight drives to start quarter. The next six straight possessions where the offense ran through his isolation plays, he passed instead of taking the shot. LeBron can’t get gun shy when he misses. He had drives where he’d end up at the free throw line or deeper, and he’s passing the ball out to Richard Jefferson or JR Smith. Take those shots LeBron.

LeBron goes coast to coast and scores layup finally. Next two possessions he passes the ball again, instead of finishing his attacks to the rim. I’ve begun to notice this about LeBron. He doesn’t stack up points. His tendency to pass kills his offensive scoring rhythm. This actually wouldn’t be that bad if the Cavs ran an offense that predicated on cuts and multiple passes, but they don’t. LeBron passes the ball, and either gets it back, or the receiver takes a shot. There is no second pass in the Cavalier offense. I repeat. There is no second pass in the Cavalier offense.

Love has officially finished for the night. Not really but he’s mentally checked out of the game now. There’s no point in him being there with the bulk of the Cavalier offense being isolation. How do you reign in superstars like LeBron and Kyrie? I don’t know. Blatt can’t and neither can Lue. As long as they aren’t reigned in, Love’s game will suffer. This is an issue because Love can score and score well in the paint when GSW goes small.

3rd Quarter

Back to Back easy shots by Curry and Thompson in the eighth minute, and another 30 seconds later. The Cavs defense is beginning to waver. This is how games get out of hand.

Cavs offense is 1 pass, or a shot taken by LeBron or Kyrie. Here’s a challenge: Find out how many shots from the middle 3rd through 4th quarter weren’t taken by Lebron or Kyrie. I didn’t make note of that, though I should have. Probably less than 5. Definitely less than 10.

3 straight second chance opportunities by GSW. 2 from Anderson. 1 from Livingston. Lazy rebounding from Cavs.

LBJ kills any possible chance for momentum when he takes a shot from an isolation and misses after a hard fought Cavalier stop.

Backdoor to Curry. Backdoor to Iggy. Drive by Draymond. Game still close. Momentum clearly in favor of GSW though.

4th Quarter

Cleveland worked hard to take lead early in fourth, only to be squandered by LBJ due to a lazy closeout on Harrison Barnes at the 3 point line. Great effort from superstar in a must win. GSW up by 1. Momentum back in their favor.

Next Possession! Cleveland down by 1 and LBJ settles for a 3, where he is only shooting I think 33%, and he misses. Bad decision.

Cleveland stopped running any semblance of a play from about the 9 minute mark until about the 4 minute mark. All true-isolations from Kyrie and LeBron. True-Iso, meaning that there wasn’t even a set play to run a screen and roll to try for the switch. Rec-league basketball.

2 blocks in a row in 5th minute on LBJ and Kyrie drive. Those baskets would’ve cut game to 5 points.

2 straight second chance opportunities by GSW in 4th minute. When GSW gets this many second chance opportunities they negate the Cavaliers only advantage. They actually have more second chance opportunities than the Cavs do in the fourth quarter, possibly the third too.

Lue brought Frye in at 4th minute. Defensive liability when they NEED stops. Didn’t need to take Thompson out unless he was tired. Spacing is not the problem. It’s the sets they’re running that’s the issue. I bet Frye doesn’t even get a look at a shot. Bad decision by Lue.

Final notes: Frye got 1 shot! Cavs 11 missed free throws. 1 of 9 from the 3 in the second half, because isolations don’t create 3 point opportunities. 3 point opportunities are created by off-ball movement and screens, none of which the Cavs do.

Recorded Stats:

Isolations- all isolations I recorded are with the possession ending in a shot, a turnover, or a dead ball. Pass outs of the isolations were not recorded.

GSW Easy shots-all easy shots recoded are shots taken or drives initiated to the basket with at least 14 seconds left on the shot clock.

1st half:

LeBron isolations: 9

Curry Isolations: 11

GSW easy shots: 14

Cavalier second chance opportunities: 10

2nd half: Look at how these stats change

LeBron isolations: 13

Curry Isolations: 2

GSW easy shots: 16

Cavaliers second chance opportunities: 6

Possessions where the Cavs ran a play: 24

Now, what’s missing are Kyrie’s isolations. I’d wager he had as many, if not more than LeBron. Meanwhile Curry’s isolations fell off completely. He had NO isolations in the fourth quarter. He played off-ball and used screens to get open for the three pointer. This adjustment was undoubtedly made by Kerr, and Curry and his teammates obliged. Curry didn’t let his pride stand in the way. He didn’t continue to force isolations. He allowed his coach to run sets and let the ball come to him.

Meanwhile, out of the 24 possessions where the Cavaliers ran a play, 21 of those times the play was a screen and roll/pop. That screen was only set to possibly create an isolation mismatch for LeBron or Irving. After the screen was set, there was no movement. LeBron’s teammates became spectators. The plays where they did pass where one pass and then a shot. LeBron James’ assist numbers are inflated. They don’t come as a result of a good offense and ball movement. They come from his isolations, which he has an exorbitant amount of. He probably had nearly 30 isolations. He should have 9 assists off of that many isolations.

The Cavs missed 11 free throws. They were down by 9 points before they begun to foul and send GSW to the line to try and catch up. They hit those 11 free throws, and we’re looking at a different game.

People defend LeBron a lot saying he can’t do it alone. But LeBron isn’t alone. LeBron has shooters in Love, Smith, Frye, and even Jefferson somewhat. The problem is play-calling. Neither he, Lue, nor Kyrie are doing what’s necessary to be efficient offensively. They are living and dying with isolation basketball, more so dying at this point.


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