Freelance: How the Cavaliers Can Come Back From an 0-3 Hole

The 2017 NBA Finals are well underway and things aren’t looking good for the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron James and company are down 0-3 for a number of reasons. Prior to June 7’s Game 3, Bovada had the Cavs as the +650 underdog in the series with Golden State as the -1,100 favorite after the Cavs dropped Game 1 and Game 2 by wide margins (113-91 and 132-113 respectively.)

However, the Stephen Curry-led Warriors are nothing new to the Cavs, who have had to get out of tough spots before, having dropped three of the first four games of the seven-game 2016 finals (104-89 in Game 1, 110-77 in Game 2, and 108-97 in Game 4.) Cleveland then took the series with back-to-back-to-back wins. They could shock the world once again, but there are a few factors at play.

The Cavs are feeling the pressure to be fast…and it’s not working.

Much like in hockey, you want to spend as much time in your opponent’s end of the court with the ball in your hand as possible (duh!) Although, the “wine and gold” have been trying to force the action so hard that it’s making their shots sloppy.

Former Cleveland coach Mike Fratello told the New York Times, “When you know the other team runs and scores way more than you do, at a high, up-tempo pace, do you keep doing it, or do you make adjustments?” he asked. “Maybe you should be using 20 to 22, 23 seconds every possession. If you don’t have a two-on-one or three-on-one fast-break opportunity, run some clock. Pass the ball five or six times and make the Warriors defend for longer stretches.”

The Times also reported that Cleveland turned the rock over 20 times in the first game of the series alone and that allowed Golden State to produce 21 points. This might be easy for a writer to say, but tightening up the screws when it comes pacing and spreading the ball around the floor to look for better shots needs to happen.

Basketball is a five-man game.

James has an average of just over 28 points per game is in double figures when it comes to assists as well and has a shooting percentage of slightly over 55 percent theses playoffs. He has a great partner in crime, the Pippen to his Jordan, in Kevin Love also. Love has produced an average of 21 points and 14 rebounds. However, the rest of the major names are almost completely silent. The need here is bench depth, threats everywhere the Warriors turn.

When Kyrie Irving is involved, he is the other missing component to an unfinished triangle, the last third of a triple threat. He has 38 points so far this postseason. When alongside James and J.R. Smith, the threat totaled 93 points in Wednesday’s Game 3.

Isolating two men and maintaining that isolation for a full 48 minutes is a heck of a lot easier than trying to suppress five men.

It’s time to step up the physical (and mental) part of the Cavs game.

Basketball is not golf—this is not a gentleman’s game we’re talking about here. If the Cavs can play rough enough, make the Warriors afraid to get close. They should maintain possession that way. If they maintain possession, they should score, and if they score, Cleveland can build up enough of a cushion to account for mistakes that will happen regardless of how well they perform. A perfect game of basketball is unheard of. They just need to not get down on themselves, because they have in fact been here before.

“You're deflated from losing a game that you should have won,” Cleveland’s head coach Ty Lue told USA Today Sports yesterday. “You're right there. But after tonight you got to get back to the drawing board. If we came out with the same fight and intensity we did (Wednesday), I can respect that and we’ve got a good chance of winning on Friday.”

Looking Ahead to Game 4: A Comeback is Possible- By The Numbers

There is a difference between having all hands on deck and panicking. If you look back at Game 3, the Cavs are down 0-3 BUT are closing the gap. Game three ended with a final score of just 118-113 in the favor of Golden State. With a little more pressure, it is possible that they may finally crack.

The Warriors had a 3-1 series lead last year. Right after they took Game 4 in enemy territory, possible over-confidence forced everything to fall apart. Although, the Cavs have also been so worried about offensive production (the point made above) that their defense has looked like a big piece of Swiss cheese. The Cavs even had the lead during crunch time, ahead of Golden State 113-107 with just over three minutes left on the clock.

In that time, they relaxed and the Warriors took back the lead by scoring 11 unanswered points.

Game 4 Odds per Bovada: At the time of this writing (June 8,) the spread for Cleveland is at +6.5 (-110) with the Warriors spread at -6.5 (-110.) The money line has the Warriors as the obvious favorite (they have had a stranglehold on the playoffs when it comes to finishing series, just shy of a 16-0 streak) at -245 with the Cavs as the +205 underdog.

Creating a brick wall while back-stepping will allow Cleveland to do what it has already proven it can. According to the team’s official website, even in a losing effort, the Cavs have put up 100 points 15 times in the postseason alone. They have scored 110 or more 11 times.

Through Game 3’s loss, the team is surprisingly amassing a record-setting average of 114.7 points. Other statistics are also on the team’s side as they are 5-2 in this year’s postseason at their home QuickenLoans Arena and have won 14 of their last 17 games there.

Game 4 will take place from Cleveland tomorrow (Friday, June 9) and will be broadcast on ABC at 9:00 p.m. ET.