5. Iman Shumpert’s Perimeter Defense
To start the game, the Cavs will find themselves in a conundrum. When thinking about how to defend the Splash Brothers, there’s only one way Cleveland can match up.
LeBron will be forced to stay with Harrison Barnes. This means Kyrie Irving will have to stick with Curry and J.R. Smith will be pitted up against Curry.
This scenario favors Golden State considerably.
Enter Iman Shumpert.
There’s no question that Shumpert will be a critical factor over the next two weeks. Aside from LeBron, Shumpert is the best perimeter defender in the series. When he’s inserted into the lineup, the Cavs will allow him to shut down Thompson.
The calm before the roar. Oracle Arena is ready for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. pic.twitter.com/2RJexy4n5s
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 4, 2015
This leaves Irving on Curry with LeBron roaming the floor and challenging Barnes to hit open jumpers and make timely backcuts.
Only during the absolute critical of times will James directly guard Curry. It’ll happen, but due to the lack of matchup opportunities for David Blatt, it’ll be very seldom.
Steve Kerr will actually be forced to not go small at the 3-spot because he won’t want to give LeBron the opportunity to matchup with the reigning MVP. So, when Andre Iguodala is on the floor with Curry and Thompson, J.R. Smith, or even Irving, can slide over and guard the small forward spot. Irving might be stretch, but Smith is absolutely feasible.
The more Shumpert and LeBron can be two-on-two with the Splash Brothers, the better off Cleveland will be.