Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Pre-Game Jitters

The third game of the NBA Finals in Cleveland will begin soon.  For the past few days the sports media chatter has been almost universally about Warriors dominance.  That may be so in the series, but it doesn't guarantee a win in this game.

In terms of the physical benefits of rest, the home team has a decided advantage in the first two games, especially in a time-zone spanning series like this one.  The Cavs crossed from the eastern to the western zone, with whatever effects that may have on sleep and sheer physical energy, presence and groundedness.  The Warriors hadn't gone anywhere in a couple of weeks.  They were totally there.

So we've seen only games in which the Cavs were at the biggest physical disadvantage in terms of time zones of the series. That advantage doesn't repeat to the same extent as the series goes on.  The Cavs will have some but a smaller advantage in their home time zone, but they've had to adjust as well as the Warriors.  The games are at about the same relative time, (5 or 6 p.m. West Coast time) so theoretically both teams now don't have to adjust as much.  But small differences in energy levels, in the ability to maintain focus, can have large consequences.

This is apart from the other aspects of home court advantage, such as familiarity with the space and especially the home crowd.

So how do the Cavs win this one?  If the Dubs come out shooting threes and don't make them, and especially if at some point in the game, the Cavs start hitting threes in droves.  Both things have happened before with these two teams.

The Cavs didn't shoot especially well in Oakland, and still managed to be competitive for most of the second game.  The Warriors went from only four turnovers in the first game, to 20 in the second.  As Steve Kerr said, they'll be hard pressed to win in Cleveland with that many turnovers.

So missed threes and turnovers that help to energize the Cavs with easy baskets early, followed by a rain of Cav threes.  Those are the obvious routes.  But of course every game is only itself: players in foul trouble and above all injuries can change the game, and injuries can still change the series.

Still, it's hard not to agree with media observers that the Warriors have so many weapons and are playing so well (and so fast) that over the course of a game, and certainly over the course of a series, they're very very hard to beat.

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