Hudl Analysis: How Cleveland Dominated Game Six

Hudl breaks down how the Cavaliers cruised to a victory in Game Six and forced one last game Sunday.

Hudl Analysis: How Cleveland Dominated Game Six

Hudl breaks down how the Cavaliers cruised to a victory in Game Six and forced one last game Sunday.

On June 10, Golden State waxed the Cavaliers 108-97 on the road to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. Considering no team has ever recovered from such a deficit and Cleveland looked out of sorts for much of the contest, the Warriors appeared to be well on their way to repeating as champions.

Then Draymond Green got suspended, Andrew Bogut got hurt and LeBron James ascended to levels even he has rarely reached. The Cavaliers swiped Game Five in Oakland, then led wire-to-wire in knocking off Golden State 115-101 Thursday night to tie the series 3-3 and force a Game Seven on Sunday.

It’s easy to look at the box score and see that James dominated, Tristan Thompson was a major pain for the Warriors and Golden State’s offense muddled through its second straight poor game. But as we prepare for what figures to be an epic final game, let’s take a deeper dive into the statistics to see how Cleveland has come alive.

Using Hudl’s advanced reports and interactive shot charts, the game can be broken down in greater detail. Let’s take a look at what happened in Game Six and how the Warriors can try to reverse the momentum.

The King Is Rising

Always recognized as one of the game’s greatest, James has simply been on another level the last two games. The forward turned in 41 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds Thursday, tossing in four steals and three blocks for good measure. He’s been unstoppable in the post and made 12 of 17 shots in the paint.

But James has also rediscovered his jump shot, broken for much of the playoffs. The Warriors have been ducking under screens and sagging back to prevent the drive, but James has punished this idea over the past two games:

The Warriors have struggled to corral James at any point in this series, but having Andre Iguodala hobbled with a back injury only made things worse. Iguodala won the 2015 Finals MVP essentially for his fantastic defense of James and is Golden State’s best option, but a back issue forced him to the locker room twice and had him shuffling around the court when he was in.

Take a look at Iguodala’s defense on this James isolation. He doesn’t even have the strength to get off the ground and contest the shot.

And though Bogut was only averaging 12 minutes per game in the Finals, his absence was felt in Game Six. Without Bogut (done for the series with a knee injury) mucking up the paint, the Cavs feasted inside.

There’s no easy answer here for Kerr. Bogut isn’t coming back and Iguodala doesn’t figure to be 100 percent come Sunday. Harrison Barnes and Green will have to see more time on James, though the latter is now the Warriors’ only trusted center and paint protector.

Golden State has excelled defensively all season by playing defense on a string, players switching and moving seamlessly as if part of one organism. That synergy will have to be at full strength in Game Seven.

Thompson Proves His Worth

Many shuddered when the Cavs handed Thompson a five-year, $82 million extension last summer, but Game Six proved his value. The Warriors couldn’t keep Thompson, who finished with 16 rebounds, off the boards, and the fifth-year veteran’s activity sunk Golden State.

This possession in particular was telling. Thompson grabs the rebounds and starts behind Festus Ezeli, yet beats his man down the court for a dunk.

Thompson’s ability to switch onto Curry and Thompson in pick-and-roll scenarios is critical as well. He has the athleticism to mostly stay in front of the Splash Brothers and the length to bother their shots.

The Warriors’ offensive efficiency has plummeted in three of the last four games. Barnes has missed 20 of his last 22 shots and Shaun Livingston is shooting 7-for-23 in the past three games. Curry got loose for 30 points Thursday, but even his effort couldn’t save Golden State’s slumping attack.

Check out each team’s points per possession (Golden State in blue, Cleveland orange):

The Warriors seemed to panic at times, hoisting 39 3-pointers. While they are deadly from deep, the Golden State offense is at its best when the ball whips around the perimeter and players drive and kick the ball. Too many times in this series have Thompson and Curry settled for contested 3-pointers. They’re supremely talented players and some of those shots have gone in, but it’s unrealistic to build an attack around miracle shots.

Kerr and his staff have an army of statistical reports at their disposal, but much of the same information is available to any coach through Hudl. Hudl’s advanced reports spit out detailed breakdowns that can reveal weaknesses and allow coaches to make corrections.

That’s just what Kerr will need to do before Sunday. This series is far from over and the Warriors will need all the information they can get to slow the James freight train.

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