An incredible amount was at stake as Golden State and Cleveland took the court Thursday night to kick off the 2016 NBA Finals. LeBron James has staked his claim as the best player of this generation, but his current 2-4 Finals record gives ammo to his critics to poke holes in his resume. Stephen Curry is aiming to defend his back-to-back MVP awards, and the Warriors are seeking to validate a record-setting regular season of 73 wins.
With so much on the line, no stone can be left unturned for these two coaching staffs. Tyronn Lue, Steve Kerr and their assistants have already spent hours upon hours breaking down video and scheming for holes in the other squad.
A large portion of those discussions will involve statistics. Each team has a litany of breakdowns at their disposal, supplying them with information on offensive rebounding percentage, field goals defended at the rim and which players are the most efficient with a post touch.
While Hudl may not have the NBA’s fancy SportVU cameras, it does allow coaches to unearth all kinds of useful data through the advanced reports tool. To show the power of these breakdowns, we tagged Game One Thursday night to uncover some reasons why the Warriors took home the 104-89 victory.
Power of the Bench
Stars Curry and Klay Thompson couldn’t find their range, but Golden State’s bench picked up the slack. The Warriors’ reserves crushed those of the Cavs, outscoring their counterparts 45-10 while registering 10 assists and just one turnover.
Shaun Livingston was particularly lethal, contributing a season-high 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Livingston doesn’t have 3-point range, but his length and soft touch allowed him to excel in the midrange.
It will be difficult for Lue to scheme Livingston out of his favorite zones as the latter has made a career out of those shots. Livingston’s height makes him a tough guard for any perimeter defender, but maybe more time for Iman Shumpert (17 minutes) or Richard Jefferson (12) could help. Those two can at least be more of a pest in the post, where the Cavs are terrified to double Livingston and leave a 3-point bomber open at the arc.
Livingston was aided by 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala (12 points, seven rebounds and six assists), but Leandro Barbosa gave the Warriors a surprising lift. The 14-year veteran averaged just 2.0 points per game in the Western Conference Finals but blitzed the Cavs for 11 points in 11 minutes on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night.
It was the bench’s dominance early in the third quarter that allowed the Warriors to finally pull away. Cleveland actually took a 68-67 lead late in the third quarter, but Golden State went on a 29-8 run over the next eight minutes to establish a 20-point lead and essentially put the game on ice.
No Splash, But Plenty of Sizzle
Curry and Thompson, known as the Splash Brothers for their shooting prowess, were uncharacteristically bricky. The duo combined to make just eight of their 27 shots, including four of 13 3-pointers.
But their impact was still felt. Hudl makes it easy to pull out specific plays just by clicking a few key stats. By selecting Livingston’s field goals, we find this attempt:
The Cavaliers desperately tried to force the ball out of Curry’s hands, doubling him hard on the perimeter. But that allowed Livingston to slink undeterred into the lane, where he sunk a floater over the much shorter Kyrie Irving. Curry may have only made four shots, but the threat of his marksmanship drew additional attention from Cleveland and freed up the role players to step forward.
It’s not as if Kerr is worried about Curry and Thompson. They just both happened to go cold on the same night, and the fact that Golden State won without them contributing much is actually a positive sign. Though the Cavs’ defense certainly deserves some credit, Curry was clearly not himself. Look at this wide-open 3-pointer, which clanged harmlessly off the rim:
Curry won’t miss too many more shots like that. The Warriors don’t need to worry about their star duo moving forward.
Little Help for the King
James did his part, just missing a triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. As has been the case all season, he was particularly dominant in the paint, where smaller defenders have little chance of matching his bulk and centers can’t handle his quickness.
But James can’t do it alone and his supporting cast came up short. Irving was just 3-for-13 outside the paint and 7-for-22 overall. Kevin Love shot 7-for-17 and J.R. Smith made only one shot on three attempts in 36 minutes.
The Cavaliers made just 12 of their 36 shots (33.3 percent) outside the paint, allowing Golden State to constrict their defense inside and bottle up James.
Cleveland’s poor shooting allowed the Warriors to focus on James and gum up the paint where he’s most effective. Look at this third-quarter possession:
All five defenders are watching James, completely ignoring Smith (near corner), Matthew Dellavedova (far corner) and Shumpert (top of the key). Golden State didn’t fear the scoring ability of Cleveland’s secondary players and were able to limit James’ impact.
There’s not much Lue can do if his shooters aren’t hitting, but he could make a few tweaks. First, Channing Frye (38 percent on 3-pointers this season) needs to play more than seven minutes, even if that moves Love to the bench more often. And Lue needs to encourage Smith, who shot a scorching 46.2 percent from deep in the first three rounds of the playoffs, to let fly more often.
In viewing these stats and video it’s not hard to see why Golden State was able to take Game One, and these insights are just scratching the surface on what Hudl can provide.
These very statistics and reports are available to any coaches who use Hudl to tag their games or send the video to Hudl Assist. They can help teams discover a previously unseen weakness in an opponent or realize where certain players are most effective on the floor.
To experience the power of Hudl for yourself, click here.