It’s a page straight from the 2004 NBA Finals. Larry Brown chose to play Shaquille O’Neal with single-coverage on the way to a 4-1 series win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Detroit Pistons chose to double Kobe Bryant instead and stayed at home with the rest of the shooters. Ben Wallace couldn’t stop O’Neal, who had his way with him, but it wasn’t enough to dominate the series. A younger O’Neal would have went for sixty each night if left alone. But the Pistons knew they were better off letting Shaq get his while shutting down everyone else.
LeBron James scored 44 points in Game 1 of 2015 NBA Finals, but only two in overtime. He continued to struggle with his outside shot, missing a fade-away three-pointer that would have won the game at the end of regulation. Steve Kerr decided not to double-team LeBron James, and as a result, the role players didn’t get open looks.The Golden State Warriors can’t stop LeBron from scoring, but they can stop him from getting his teammates involved.
J.R. Smith who has been huge in the playoffs thus far for Cleveland went 3-13, and starting shooting guard Iman Shumpert went 2-6. The Cavs had only one player with a field-goal off the bench. Kyrie Irving was productive on both ends of the floor, scoring 23 points and blocking Stephen Curry’s game winning shot attempt. But just like Karl Malone on the 2004 Lakers, Irving entered with a knee injury and will not finish the series after fracturing his kneecap.
At this point there is no need for Kerr to make any adjustments. James went 2-8 from the three-point line, and though still in his prime, no longer posses the athletic ability to dominate an entire series by himself. It was Shane Battier, Ray Allen, and Mike Miller who made multiple timely three-point shots during championship runs in 2012 & 2013. LeBron will need that same type of support to win his third ring. The Warriors look to cutoff the support and make LeBron carry the ailing Cavaliers.