Seven Questions That Will Shape the 2015 NBA Finals
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Basketball
3. How Much Help Do You Send at LeBron James?
You know LeBron is going to post up a ton, especially when the double-big lineup doesn’t leave space for anything else, and a number of coaches4 have suggested that Golden State leave LeBron one-on-one and let him score as much as he wants.
It’s an interesting idea. Barnes will start on LeBron, and he’s deceptively strong — stout enough to jostle with Zach Randolph, and to keep LeBron just far enough from the rim to force him into hook shots or difficult passes:
Green will guard LeBron a lot, especially when the Cavs go small, and he’s been holding the fort against mammoth power forwards all season. He’s also done surprisingly well sliding alongside LeBron drives:
Golden State has other anti-LeBron options, but James can overwhelm all of them with sheer power. If either Green or Barnes can keep LeBron from the rim, leaving that defender on an island might be a good way to exhaust LeBron and vaporize all the open 3s he sniffs out when he draws help. It would also force the Cavs to battle 4-on-4 on the glass behind LeBron instead of having help defenders rush to find boxout assignments.
Steve Kerr will be judicious, but this is an idea that sounds better in theory. If LeBron knows that no help is coming, he can get to the rim whenever he wants — by backing dudes down or facing up for turbo drives. He will get layups and draw fouls, and Green already has to be wary about picking up extra fouls in rebounding scrums with Thompson. The Dubs are minus-36 in 163 minutes with Green on the bench in the playoffs. He has become nearly as important as Curry in defining Golden State’s identity; lineups without Green sacrifice spacing or size, and they just don’t function as well. Green experiencing foul trouble will be an X factor in at least one of these games, and if it happens more than that, the Cavs will be in business.
The Warriors are also an exquisite help-and-recover team — the best in the league. One guy sinks in to help and everyone else shifts around the floor in concert so all the best passing lanes are blocked off. The helper drifts back out and everyone shifts back in kind — a gang of 6-foot-6 marauders working under a mind-meld. Is it perhaps the only team that can double-team one player and somehow still appear to be everywhere at once. Every pass LeBron whizzed across the floor against Atlanta and Chicago will be harder in this series.
Bottom line: The Warriors won’t overcommit, but they’ll send some well-timed swipes at LeBron from an ever-changing array of places.