This morning’s headlines:
- Myers says Kerr will return as coach
- Defense proves to be Cavs’ undoing
- Iguodala, West bask in title moment
Myers: Kerr will be back to coach Warriors in 2017-18 — Lingering back issues wreaked havoc with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s ability to be on the sidelines for much of his team’s Finals run. He was, however, well enough to coach Games 2-5 in The Finals and, after leading Golden State to their second title in three seasons, should be good to go next season. That’s the word from Warriors GM Bob Myers, writes Chris Haynes of ESPN.com:
Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Steve Kerr will be back to coach the 2017-18 season.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he will return as the coach of this team,” Myers told ESPN after the Warriors won the NBA championship after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games. “I’m confident we’ll have him back. Steve will be our coach.”
Kerr returned to coach the last four games of the NBA Finals after taking time off since the middle of the first round of the playoffs in hopes of finding a remedy to the nausea and migraines he was experiencing stemming from back surgery from nearly two years ago.
After guiding the squad to its second championship in three years, Kerr was visibly emotional with tears.
“I’ve been so lucky to be part of so many championship teams as a player and now as a coach, and it never gets old,” Kerr said. “But tonight, was a little different, just based on the things I’ve had to go through during this time.”
In his absence, assistant Mike Brown served as the acting head coach and led the team to an 11-0 record. Even though Kerr returned, he still had some complications.
Defensive issues prove to be Cavs’ undoing in Finals — Given the way the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled through both the regular season and Eastern Conference portion of their playoffs, finding flaws with them was not easy. One thing stood out, though — their defensive efficiency rating and how that number figured into NBA title winners past. As Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes, the Cavs can look at that nagging defensive stat as perhaps one of the reasons why the faltered in The Finals:
The Cavs were asked about it, informed of the stat repeatedly: No team outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency had gone on to win the NBA championship since the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers.
Cleveland, an at-times disjointed group with myriad defensive issues during the regular season, finished outside the top 20. In the latter stages of the regular season, during a grueling March while re-integrating Kevin Love and J.R. Smith from injury and working the newbies into the rotation, the Cavs dropped to 29th, only better than the dreadful Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, these were the Cavs, a team capable of defying odds and one that chuckled at the mere mention of outsiders doubting them. Silly numbers didn’t matter to them. They have LeBron James and, with him, the improbable becomes possible, just as it did last year in The Finals.
Not even James, the ultimate trump card and series shifter, could make the numerous flaws, only hidden beneath a pile of lesser opponents, vanish against the Golden State Warriors.
In Game 5 of the NBA Finals — and throughout the shorter-than-expected series — the Warriors unmasked all of them, starting with Cleveland’s undisciplined defense.
A few things improved, but the Cavs’ run through the Eastern Conference was more about an historic offense, led by a group of prolific 3-point shooters and an array of offensive weaponry that made defensive shortcomings irrelevant.
In the Finals, the Cavs needed to take it up a notch, perhaps even flip the made-up switch. Only there was no power.
The Warriors prey on flaws, they take advantage of the slightest opening and cause confusion with a plethora of screens and off-the-ball actions. They don’t allow defenses to relax or recover from self-inflicted wounds.
It became obvious early that the principles needed to win a championship were never mastered and kept the Cavs from keeping most games within striking distance, despite a sprinkling of offensive genius from James and Kyrie Irving.
“That team makes you pay, they make you pay at an unbelievable rate when you make a mistake or you’re a split-second slow or you miss an assignment or for just a second you’re not conscious with what they’re trying to do and who they are,” veteran James Jones said. “They do a great job of reminding you of that every time you make a mistake. That’s not a team you can beat unless you’re focused on limiting your mistakes and being in the right place and executing at an extremely high level.”
Part of Golden State’s fast-break success can be attributed to Cleveland’s hurried shots and poor offensive possessions. But who didn’t see the numerous fast-break chances coming? The Warriors boasted the league’s best, most efficient transition offense. The Cavs, well, they ranked 28th defending against it.
Every time the Warriors plucked a rebound, Kerr waved his hands furiously, imploring his team to run. The Warriors sprinted up the floor, seeking early offense, which came in a variety of forms. There were uncontested dunks, full-throttle layups and dagger 3-pointers.
Poor effort. Lack of attention to detail. Running out to 3-point shooters instead of stopping the ball. It was all there. The Warriors broke the Cavs’ defense quickly and easily.
Some of the issues are personnel-related, as the Cavs’ roster is littered with negative defenders and one-way players, especially off the bench.
There’s a reason Golden State uses the slogan “Strength In Numbers,” which is plastered all over Oracle Arena and stitched into the shirts. Golden State’s bench outscored Cleveland’s, 35-7, in the finale. For the series, it was just as lopsided: 145-92 in favor of the Warriors.
On the biggest stage, in the pressure-filled moments, a team’s true identity shows. The Cavs were always too reliant on The Big Three for offense and never good enough on defense. But no team had the talent to make them pay for their sins. Until June, until they went up against a relentless offensive juggernaut that had James stressed from the moment the matchup was set.
This loss was easy to spot months ago.
Iguodala, West thrive in Game 5 clincher — Warriors veterans Andre Iguodala and David West know the spotlight is usually directed at their Warriors teammates of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. As Golden State basks in its title this morning, though, the contributions Iguodala and West made in this Finals journey can’t be discounted, writes Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Andre Iguodala rose to the moment again — and David West is searching no more.
Iguodala and West led a spirited effort by Warriors reserves in Monday night’s title-clinching, 129-120 victory over Cleveland. Golden State’s bench outscored its Cavs counterparts 35-7, no small reason the Warriors became the first Bay Area team in 43 years to secure a championship on its home turf.
So there stood West, green goggles draped around his neck in a loud, raucous postgame locker room. He cradled the shiny trophy in one hand and a Champagne bottle in the other.
“I’m going to be hyped for the next two months!” West shouted in his deep, booming voice. “It feels great. It feels absolutely great. Every step is worth it, to get to this point.”
Iguodala — the 2015 Finals MVP, when his entry into the starting lineup shifted the series — once again illustrated his extraordinary value. He played more than 38 minutes and committed only one turnover.
The Warriors outscored the Cavs by 18 points during Iguodala’s time on the court. That’s no coincidence.
“Andre is the ultimate professional and ultimate veteran,” teammate Stephen Curry said. “Any moment out there he can spark us, and you don’t know how it’s going to happen.”
West anchored the unit that sent the Warriors scurrying away on a 21-2 run in the second quarter. He also found himself in the middle of a scuffle with Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, resulting in technical fouls on all three players.
The dust-up made an important statement for the Warriors, via West: They were determined not to let the Cavs push them around, as LeBron James and Co. did in Game 4.
The fracas began when West corralled a rebound and Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving tried to wrestle away the ball. West vigorously swung his elbow in an effort to secure possession and pushed Irving, drawing the technical from referee Danny Crawford and the ire of Thompson and Smith.
Moments later, West and Thompson went nose-to-nose, angrily jawing. Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown had to pull away West, who was uncommonly angry and animated.
“We’re not going to back down,” he said later, amid the wild locker-room celebration. “That’s why Zaza (Pachulia), myself and JaVale (McGee) came here, to up the toughness of this group, and we felt like we did that.
“They played physical, and we also were ready to play physical. Anyone crosses that line, we’ll cross that line, too.”
* * *
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kevin Durant has a rebuttal for all his critics … Top prospect Markelle Fultz will reportedly soon have a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers … Kansas standout Josh Jackson has reportedly cancelled his workout with the Boston Celtics … Dennis Rodman is heading back to North Korea … Will you be watching the new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary tonight on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s? … Some facts and figures to chew on about the Warriors’ title run …