NBA Finals: Kyrie Irving's struggles top among Cavs' offensive woes vs. Warriors
How Golden State has layered their defense to limit the explosive Cleveland guard
OAKLAND-- The Warriors don't need their three stars firing on all cylinders, because they have four. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are woefully short in the firepower department, thanks to the struggles of Kyrie Irving.
Irving has been a disaster in these Finals, despite a line that says he's averaged 21.5 points with 4.5 assists. He's shooting 40 percent from the field, has seven turnovers to just nine assists through two games, and the Cavaliers have been outscored by 34 points across 75 minutes in two games. And that's just the offense. He's lost Stephen Curry several times, been bodied by Kevin Durant, failed to get by Klay Thompson.
"Just seeing a lot of bodies," Irving said afteron what the Warriors have done to disrupt him. "They're obviously trying to make a few other guys make plays and when we're coming off our isolations, they're bringing a few more bodies to clog the lane. For us, just see the weak side action and be able to make those passes."
Spoiler alert, he hasn't.
The Cavs aren't cutting, or moving, or doing anything like what the Warriors do on the weakside, and as a result, Irving isn't passing to anyone open on the perimeter. Irving's game has never been adept at that; the most common criticism of Irving is that he's not a player who sets up others, but a one-on-one scorer who looks awesome when he has it going and looks like a limited player when they don't. They're not good shots, it's not efficient offense, they're just shots he can make with his special ability. But that's being attacked and overwhelmed by the Warriors' length, especially, you guessed it, Kevin Durant.
Here Irving does find some space, finally, and then, nope, Durant obliterates the shot.
Much like with the Warriors' offense, it's just too much. Last year, the Cavaliers were able to draw space for Irving, and he capitalized. But Golden State has been better at every level on Irving. Steph Curry, with a healthy knee, is more spry and staying with him, forcing him into contested 3's constantly. They're layering the defense. They've cut off the angles. Irving's not passing, and not finishing the tough shots he's capable of.
Does that change in Cleveland? Maybe. Irving can play better, but here's the thing. All that means is he makes more shots. That's what so much of his game is predicated on.
Except, earlier this year, there were signs that maybe that wasn't he case. He averaged the most assists per game since LeBron's return to Cleveland this season, and has registered his highest assists per game average of his playoff career. He's learned how to be more of a playmaker. But the Warriors have clearly identified him as a weak point to attack on both ends, and it's a huge part of why the Cavaliers have been blown out in two straight games.
Kevin Love was the one who always struggled vs. the Warriors, but he's found himself, and been the second-best player for the Cavaliers. Irving made the biggest shot of his career last year in the Finals, capping off an epic run in Games 5 through 7 where he dominated with his scoring.
Appropriately, Irving was asked after the game about comparing this year to last, and his answer spoke volumes, unintentionally.
"As much as the comparison wants to be drawn from last year to this year, this is a totally different team [in Golden State]. There is no comparison even though we're down 0-2 going back home. It's a different series."
It certainly has been for Irving, and the result will be different for the Cavaliers unless he's able to rise above their multi-level defense against him.
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