CLEVELAND -- The three-point shot has been a key weapon for the Cleveland Cavaliers throughout the 2016-2017 regular season and over the first three rounds of the NBA Playoffs, but the opposite has been true through the first two games of The Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
The Cavaliers converted just 19 of their 60 looks from three-point range in back-to-back lopsided losses, and to fight their way back into the best-of-seven series despite being in an 0-2 hole for the second straight season, they know what has to be done.
“We have to make some shots, but also, they’re closing out hard to us, so we’ve got to be able to read when we have a shot or when we have a chance to attack the basket,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said after Tuesday’s practice at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Drive and closeouts is one of their weaknesses, so we’ve got to do a better job of shooting the three, but if it’s not open, driving and closeouts, and then, making the extra pass and finishing at the rim.”
The Cavaliers’ struggles from three-point range have not been limited to the offensive end of the floor.
The Warriors have knocked down 30 of their 76 looks from three-point range, including an 18-of-43 showing (41.9 percent) in their 132-113 Game 2 win. The 18 three-pointers were six more than the Warriors buried in Game 1.
“They made some tough shots, but that’s what they do,” Lue said. “They make shots three or four feet behind the three-point line, and they’re capable of doing that. But we’ve got to do a better job of just staying locked into these guys, being physical, staying on their bodies, and then, we can do a better job with the three-point shot.”
The Warriors have not lost in the postseason since their three straight setbacks against the Cavaliers in Games 5-7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
In the Game 2 win, the Warriors got double-digit scoring efforts from four of their five starters, as well as reserve point guard Shaun Livingston.
Small forward Kevin Durant (33 points, 13 rebounds) and point guard Stephen Curry (32, 10, 11 assists) led the way for Golden State. Shooting guard Klay Thompson tallied 22 points and despite foul trouble for much of the game, power forward Draymond Green added 12 points, nine of which came on three made three-pointers, to go along with six rebounds, six assists and one steal.
The Cavaliers got 29 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists, three steals and one blocked shot from James, as well as 27 and 19 points from power forward Kevin Love and point guard Kyrie Irving, respectively.
“Some of it has to do with transition, turning the basketball over, trying to get back in transition,” Lue said. “A lot of it is just being aware, staying alert. With this team, you can’t relax at all. If you relax, they make you pay.”