NBA Basketball - INACTIVE

Cavaliers follow Game 1 loss with loss of Kyrie Irving

Apparently the question came up more than once.

Matthew Dellavedova was asked near the end of the Cavaliers’ media availability on Friday if his approach changed when he was in the starting lineup.

“Yes,” he said. “I don’t know if you were listening, but yes.”

A lot changed Friday when Cleveland announced its All-Star point guard, Kyrie Irving, is out three to four months with fractured left kneecap. Dellavedova will start for the Cavs, who even with big games from Irving and superstar LeBron James could not topple the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

Now the Cavs become even bigger underdogs. The Warriors will be content with allowing James to try to beat them single-handedly as the healthy options around him dwindle. Irving is the second Cleveland star to go down during the playoffs as forward Kevin Love was lost to a shoulder injury in the first round against Boston.

Kyrie Irving is the second Cleveland star to go down during the playoffs as forward Kevin Love was lost to a shoulder injury in the first round against Boston.

James was a one-man gang at times Thursday night, finishing with 44 points. But he took 38 shots and Irving 22. Cleveland had 94 shots in the game.

Irving and James combined for 12 of Cleveland’s 19 assists in Game 1. The Cavs need more around James from their streaky shooters. And the pool of players to help isn’t deep. Even with Irving, the Cavs used only eight players in the series opener, while the Warriors went 10 deep.

But without Irving, now would appear to be the wrong time for James to go into full facilitator mode, even if it plays into the Warriors’ strategy not to allow the rest of the Cavs to get going.

Still, Cleveland was waiting for the Warriors to do something to make it even tougher on James, and it never happened.

“I would think after a man has 40 (points) you would send a double team his way,” said Cavs guard J.R. Smith. “But we’ve just got to encourage LeBron to take advantage of that. We’ll get ours when we get ours; you just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Cleveland needs Smith and rest of the Cavs’ bench not to do what it did Thursday.

Smith missed 10 of his 13 shots and had all nine of Cleveland’s bench points. And starters other than James must provide offense. Timofey Mozgov had 16 points, but Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson combined for only eight.

James said the Warriors mixed up their coverages, sometimes using center Andrew Bogut to help on him. Other times, the Warriors switched on pick-and-rolls or dared him to take jump shots.

“I’ve seen it all, and I’ve got to do a better job, as well, getting my other guys involved,” James said. “I’m OK with getting big numbers and things of that nature, but I feel much better when I’m able to get my guys in rhythm and get them guys some more looks.”

Warriors defenders stuck close to shooters like Smith and James Jones, and without Irving, there will be less reason to give them any space. It also helped that Cleveland had little player or ball movement as other Cavaliers often stood and stared at James as he went to work. That must change Sunday.

Then there’s Dellavedova. He made headlines in the postseason by diving for loose balls and accidentally colliding with Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, who suffered ligament damage in his right ankle and was lost for the rest of the playoffs.

Dellavedova has been an irritant, leading Chicago’s Taj Gibson to kick him and Atlanta’s Al Horford to elbow him. Both Gibson and Horford were ejected.

Dellavedova started two games against Atlanta in the Eastern Conference finals while Irving rested because of tendinitis in his left knee. Now there will be little rest for the undrafted second-year guard from Saint Mary’s.

And if the Cavs are to have any chance of an upset, Dellavedova must contribute more than the zero points and three assists he had in 9:23 in Game 1.

“Matty has been a rotation player for us the whole year,” said Cleveland coach David Blatt. “He stepped in and did a great job, and the team believes in him, and we believe in him. ... He’ll be ready, and we’ll know how to play with him.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

NBA Finals

Best-of-seven series will be televised on Ch. 10

  • Game 1: Golden State 108, Cleveland 100 (OT)
  • Sunday: at Golden State, 5p.m.
  • Tuesday:
  • at Cleveland, 6p.m.
  • Thursday, June 11:
  • at Cleveland, 6p.m.
  • Sunday, June 14:
  • at Golden State, 5p.m.*
  • Tuesday, June 16:
  • at Cleveland, 6p.m.*
  • Friday, June 19:
  • at Golden State, 6p.m.*

*If necessary

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments