J.R. Smith has made 49 3-pointers in this postseason, more than any other player besides Klay Thompson. Smith has been haunted by his dismal showing in the NBA Finals last year when he shot 29 percent from 3-point range and vanished when injuries forced him into a leading role. Now he finally has his chance at redemption.
Kyrie Irving has scored at least 20 points in 12 of the Cavs’ 14 playoff games and three times has scored at least 30. He is second on the team in scoring (24.3) this postseason behind only LeBron James. Irving’s 3-point shooting has been one of the most pleasant developments of the postseason. He shot 32 percent from behind the 3-point line during the regular season (a career low), but he’s better than 45 percent in this postseason. Irving’s defense has been suspect at times in these playoffs, and he’ll be tested again by the Warriors’ combination of Thompson and Steph Curry.
Matthew Dellavedova has been the opposite. Dellavedova shot a career-best 41 percent from 3-point range during the regular season, but has plummeted to 28 percent during this postseason. He has made just seven 3-pointers in 14 games. Still, he has 50 assists compared to just 11 turnovers, and he’s a key component (particularly defensively) on what has been a highly successful second unit for the Cavs.
It’s no secret by now how the Warriors play, particularly in the backcourt. They love to shoot. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry both broke the record for 3-pointers made in a series. Curry ended the Western Conference finals with 32 3-pointers, and Thompson made 30 in the seven-game series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both players surpassed the previous record of 28 shared by Ray Allen and Dennis Scott.
Thompson’s 77 3s in this postseason are far and away the most of any player, and he’s shooting 45 percent from range. Thompson has carried the Warriors at times in this postseason when Curry was either hobbled by a knee injury or ineffective. Curry, however, seems to be rounding back into form now.
“This whole playoff run has kind of been a roller-coaster ride for me specifically, but for our team,” Curry said after eliminating the Thunder. “We never lost confidence, and every game just played with fearlessness and that confidence that we could get back to the Finals however we had to get it done. Now we’re four wins away from our goal, and that’s pretty special.”
Former Cav Shaun Livingston is the Warriors’ top backcourt reserve. He filled in admirably while Curry was out with a sprained knee. His size (6-foot-7) causes matchup problems and allows him to guard either position in the backcourt.
LeBron James conceded he couldn’t appreciate last year’s run to the Finals because of all the Cavs’ injuries, but now he has plenty of help around him. Kevin Love has enjoyed a terrific postseason aside from two clunkers in Toronto. Much like with Irving, Love is shooting 48 percent from 3-point range during the postseason after shooting just 36 percent from deep in the regular season. Love, however, has curiously struggled to make shots in the paint, and his defense has been a concern throughout. The Cavs privately entered the postseason concerned with where Love fits defensively in pick-and-roll schemes should they have to face the Warriors and even wondered if his defensive flaws would keep him off the floor. But Love is shooting the ball so well right now that he’s likely to find a place somewhere on the court — perhaps guarding Harrison Barnes.
James has been terrific in this postseason, staying patient and playing through Irving and Love even when both stars have scuffled. The end result is a postseason usage rate for James of 28.5, among the lowest of his playoff career. He has attacked the basket at will and opponents have no chance at stopping it.
Tristan Thompson struggled through a tough series against Bismack Biyombo in the conference finals but remains a defensive weapon when switching pick-and-rolls defensively. He totaled just 10 points and 12 rebounds in two games against the Warriors this season.
Channing Frye has developed into an incredible shooting weapon off the bench and was acquired with an eye toward this series. Frye allows the Cavs to play with James on the floor and four shooters around him. Frye is shooting better than 57 percent from 3-point range in this postseason, easily the best on the Cavs.
Draymond Green had an eventful conference finals, but the bottom line for the Cavs is Green enters the Finals one flagrant shy of a suspension. If Green commits a flagrant of any kind in this series, he’ll face a mandatory one-game suspension for the following game. Green is averaging 15.1 points and a team-leading 9.8 rebounds in these playoffs.
Andre Iguodala was an unlikely Finals Most Valuable Player last year. His insertion into the lineup changed the complexion of the entire Finals last year. Coach Steve Kerr started him again in Game 7 against the Thunder after he was a bench player the rest of the way.
Harrison Barnes is averaging 8.9 points and shooting 36 percent from 3-point range during the playoffs, and center Andrew Bogut’s minutes have been scaled back.
Tyronn Lue entered the postseason 14th in a Sporting News ranking of playoff coaches (out of 16) but he has more than proven his worth. Lue has discovered effective lineups, built a second unit that opponents have yet to solve and has consistently drawn up out-of-bounds plays that have worked well. Lue might be a rookie head coach, but he hasn’t handled himself like one.
Kerr was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year despite missing half the season following back surgery. Kerr’s cool demeanor has a calming effect on an emotional team. Assistant coach Luke Walton is leaving after this series to take over as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Prediction: Cavs in six
— Jason Lloyd