War­riors will rely on ver­sa­til­ity against LeBron

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY AN­TO­NIO GON­ZA­LEZ

LeBron James be­lieves there is no­body in the world that can stop him. He is too strong, too fast, too skilled.

For the Golden State War­riors to win the NBA ti­tle, they will need to get past James and the Cleve­land Cava­liers in the fi­nals start­ing Thurs­day night. And not just once — but four times in seven games.

“Some have been suc­cess­ful. Many have failed,” said War­riors for­ward Dray­mond Green, the run­ner-up for De­fen­sive Player of the Year and among at least four play­ers who will get their shot at James in the se­ries.

De­fend­ing the four-time Most Valu­able Player is a chal­lenge the War­riors think they are as well-equipped as any­body to face.

They had the top-rated de­fense dur­ing the regular sea­son and held op­po­nents to a league-low 42.8 per­cent shoot­ing. They are loaded with length and ver­sa­til­ity on the perime­ter, and they lean on 7-footer An­drew Bogut to back them up around the bas­ket.

Call it the Ir­re­sistible Force Para­dox: an un­stop­pable force meets an im­mov­able ob­ject. Some­one, or some­thing, will surely have to give in this matchup.

James had lit­tle trou­ble slic­ing through Golden State’s smoth­er­ing pres­sure in the lone game he played against the War­riors this sea­son. He scored a sea­son-high 42 points in the Cavs’ 110-99 win in Cleve­land on Feb. 26, shot 15 of 25 from the floor and made 8 of 11 free throws.

War­riors coach Steve Kerr called it “one of those games where he was mak­ing ev­ery­thing.” He said the key to avoid­ing a re­peat per­for­mance is clog­ging the paint and avoid­ing turnovers that lead to tran­si­tion bas­kets.

James, who is in his fifth straight fi­nals, has been bril­liant in the play­offs. He av­er­aged 27.6 points, 10.4 re­bounds and 8.3 as­sists per game while shoot­ing 42.8 per­cent against Bos­ton, Chicago and At­lanta and of­ten looked flaw­less.

The War­riors have been tight-lipped about how they’ll go about de­fend­ing James. But, like any­body, they be­lieve there are ways to dis­rupt his rhythm.

The War­riors are no strangers to stop­ping stars in th­ese play­offs.

James will be the fourth straight Al­lNBA First-Team player they face af­ter Hous­ton’s James Harden, Mem­phis’ Marc Ga­sol and New Or­leans’ An­thony Davis. The fifth mem­ber of that team is newly minted MVP Stephen Curry, whom James com­pared him­self to last week when asked how to de­fend the War­riors point guard.

The War­riors will likely do what they did against each team’s best player the pre­vi­ous three rounds: mix and match de­fend­ers and de­fen­sive looks.

Green, Iguo­dala, Har­ri­son Barnes and Klay Thomp­son will take turns guard­ing James. And be­cause the War­riors switch on pick-and-rolls at just about ev­ery po­si­tion, it’s not nearly as im­por­tant who starts on him as it is who fin­ishes.

Kerr and as­sis­tant coach Ron Adams, the de facto de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, will likely shift schemes — such as go­ing un­der screens and over screens, trap­ping or back­ing off — sev­eral times each game to give James dif­fer­ent looks.

James, in his 12th year in the league, has seen just about ev­ery­thing. He said it’s al­ways a luxury for a team to have a va­ri­ety of de­fen­sive play­ers, and the War­riors are no dif­fer­ent in that re­gard.

The War­riors also want to limit the op­por­tu­ni­ties James cre­ates for his team­mates.

The num­ber of as­sists he has might be just as im­por­tant as how many points he scores. Col­laps­ing around him and leav­ing an­other player open for a 3-pointer can be costly, which is why the War­riors are look­ing at the de­fen­sive plan as a “team chal­lenge.”

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