It’s safe to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers need to do something differently in Game 3 if they expect to win.
After back-to-back losses at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers will be in must-win mode on Wednesday in front of their home crowd. If the first two games were any indication, the Cavs face a very serious threat of not only a loss in the third game of the series, but also a potential sweep.
Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue is considering placing guard Iman Shumpert into the starting lineup for Game 3.
Posting six points on 1-of-6 shooting with four rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes off the bench in Cleveland’s 132-113 Game 2 loss, Shumpert reportedly caught the attention of Lue and his staff for his strong defensive play on Kevin Durant while he was on the court.
It's worth noting that Durant did finish with a game-high 33-points and has had back-to-back dominant scoring efforts against Cleveland, who has not had an answer for him on the defensive end. Shumpert is arguably the best defensive player that the Cavs have on their roster, and would likely shadow Durant for most of the game if he’s inserted into the starting lineup.
Since KD is virtually un-guarable to begin with, Shumpert would merely give Cleveland the best chance to win if he's matched up with Durant on the defensive end.
While Lue didn’t indicate who Shumpert would replace in the starting five, the presumable choice would be JR Smith, who didn’t score, missing both of his shots in 14 minutes on the court in Game 2 after scoring just three points over 28 ineffective minutes in Game 1.
Lue indicated that his team must vastly improve on the defensive end if they expect to come out on top in Game 3:
"I think that having awareness, can't relax, can't fall asleep," Lue said. “This team, their offense is constant movement, so you got to be locked in. You can't take a peek somewhere else and lose your man. So they make you pay. And they have a lot of guys who are great passers, so you got to be alert at all times.”
Therefore, inserting Shumpert into the starting five would send a clear message that Cleveland will be defending their rim at all costs in front of their home crowd. If they don't and if Durant scores at will once again, this series might be over almost before it began.