CLEVELAND – Shaun Livingston and JaVale McGee have been giving the Golden State Warriors a huge lift in these NBA Finals by making every shot they take look easy.
Then again, they all have been easy.
Livingston is a perfect 9 for 9 from the field in this championship series. McGee is 8 for 9, and his lone miss came when he tried a dunk and stuffed the ball into the rim instead. The average distance of their made field goals is a staggeringly close 3 1/2 feet, which is basically gimme range in golf and darn close to gimme range in basketball as well – especially at this level.
For as spectacular as LeBron James has been in the first two games, his Cleveland Cavaliers are down 2-0 largely because the Warriors’ supporting cast members like Livingston and McGee – journeymen of sorts – are soundly outplaying their Cavs’ counterparts.
Stephen Curry is playing like an NBA Finals MVP, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been brilliant, and Draymond Green is quietly averaging a near triple-double. But the Warriors’ motto is “strength in numbers,” and Livingston and McGee are personifying that.
“It’s just being aggressive, being in the right spot too,” Livingston said. “It’s nothing really magical about what I do or how I’ve been playing. I’ve been fortunate enough to, you know, shoot at a high clip. But a lot of those are dunks. Also, just being in the right spot on the court.”
Livingston has taken three jumpers, all of them mid-rangers of about 13 feet, in this series. Everything else has been at the rim. McGee made one shot from about 6 feet; his other eight attempts from the floor have basically been dunks.
McGee was moved into the starting lineup for Game 2. He said Tuesday that he doesn’t know if he’ll stay there for Game 3 in Cleveland on Wednesday night.
“These are some of the greatest teams in the world, ever,” McGee said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of it and to be a contributor in it.”
It’s a difficult enough spot for the Cavaliers to deal with Curry, particularly when he is coming off an NBA Finals-record nine 3-pointers in Game 2. It’s daunting to deal with Durant, one of the few guys in the league who can post up against James, turn and face the four-time MVP and shoot over him with relative ease. It’s maddening to chase Thompson around and have him get shots off using his super-quick release, even when he’s fairly well covered.
Golden State opponents expect that.
Livingston and McGee shooting 17 for 18, that just doesn’t seem fair.
“I think when you’re locked in and you’re trying to take away K.D., you’re trying to take away Steph and Klay, Livingston, McGee, they’re going to get some shots,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of taking away the easy dunks and layups around the basket. When you’re focusing on those three guys, other guys are going to get shots. But we’ve got to do a good job of just taking away the easy ones.”
McGee got the Warriors off and running in Game 2 with two easy dunks to open the game. Golden State never trailed.
Livingston said that wound up being a huge energy boost for Golden State, and he knows that the Cavaliers will aim to take the easy ones at the rim away in Game 3. As such, the Warriors might already have a counter in mind for whatever anticipated adjustment Cleveland makes.
“Coaches, I think they have a good game plan moving forward, seeing maybe what kind of adjustments Cleveland can make,” Livingston said. “We just have to be ready. Steph, Kevin, Klay, our scorers, they take the majority of the load, right? So they get a lot of the attention and the pressure. I think we have to be ready, all us other guys, to relieve some of that pressure.”
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