Even though the Cavs are trailing 0-2 in the NBA Finals once again, the first two games in Oakland this year look much more promising than last year’s blowouts. After the heartbreaking loss in Game 1 followed by the somewhat competitive Game 2 until the fourth quarter, the Cavs look to take back some momentum as they play Games 3 and 4 at The Q this week.
The Cavs are a much different team when on their home court. In nine games at the Q, the Cavs are 8-1, with their only loss coming in the first game of the playoffs versus Indiana. After the opening two games in Oakland, the Cavs have dropped to 4-7 on the road, where everyone on the team other than LeBron has not been themselves, or at least unlike how they play at home.
Firstly, the Cavs’ level of effort in home games is incomparable to what it is on the road. The offense is more active, the defense looks more aware and the rebounding is more consistent and aggressive. One thing that I cannot stand to see every road game is the stretch of possessions where the defense is completely lost and opponents are getting free baskets inside due to late switches or just general lack of recognition. While this happens at home, too, I feel that the Cavs respond better to these stretches, both offensively and defensively. The offense is more likely to create opportunities for all five players and the defense locks into a “crunch-time” mode for a few minutes even if it’s just the first quarter. While it’s hard to pinpoint these changes in effort with stats themselves, the win-loss record shows their improved effort at home, as does their numbers on the boards and preventing turnovers.
Second, the supporting cast finds their shooting stroke at The Q. Kyle Korver, for example, has a three-point percentage of 55% at home, compared to only 32% on the road. Larry Nance Jr. has come to life offensively as well, going 14-14 from the field for all home games since the beginning of the Raptors series. JR Smith was also a completely different player at home in the Celtics series, shooting 7-15 from deep at home, compared to a poor 3-19 on the road. The shooters appear to be more confident in their shots at The Q and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the open shots they missed in Oakland finally start to fall on Wednesday.
Lastly, a home crowd’s energy carries over to the players. An energized Cavs team has a unique complexion that even the Warriors may not be able to overcome. When the Cavs are hustling and running up and down the court, the crowd notices the energy and leads to louder fans, which in turns gives the players more of a boost on each possession. The Cavs learned last series that when the crowd enters the game, there is little hope for the road team to recover. With a team as talented and deadly as the Warriors, the crowd will play a huge role in mentally blocking the Warriors while bolstering the minds of the Cavs players. To maximize our chance of winning, we the fans need to get involved early and often!
0-2 is never a good start, but every team will look at Game 3 to change the complexion of the series, especially when it’s at home. The Cavs have won eight-straight at The Q and will need to win at least two more in order to capture another title. LeBron will do what he needs to do, but it’s up to our shooters (Korver, Smith) and interior players (Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson) in particular to put us over the top. Maybe the Cavs just need some time at home to turn this series around.