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Steve Kerr wants improved defense on LeBron, rebounding in Game 2

Steve Kerr

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr speaks at a news conference after Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 31, 2018. The Warriors won 124-114 in overtime. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


OAKLAND — The Warriors got the win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Barely. They survived is a better way to describe it — LeBron James went off for 51 points, the Cavaliers slowed down the pace, and Cleveland survived and responded to the Warriors’ runs.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr is expecting more out of his team in Game 2. Specifically in a couple of key areas.

One is on the defensive glass.

“The glaring weakness on film was our lack of aggression on the boards,” Kerr said on Friday. “That’s something we’ve got to clean up.”

Cleveland went big starting Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love, and those two were given a mandate to crash the glass against the smaller Golden State lineups. It worked. The Cavaliers had 19 offensive boards — they grabbed the offensive rebound on 35.7 percent of their missed shots — and they turned that into 21 second-chance points. The Warriors know if that happens again, they may not be so fortunate to escape with a win.

The other area Kerr wants to see improvement is much easier said than done: Slow LeBron.

“Overall, we did not do a good job on LeBron, no matter who was on him,” Kerr said. “I just felt like he got to spots that he wanted to get to.”

He did. The Cavaliers forced switches to get Stephen Curry or Kevon Looney on LeBron, then let him attack. LeBron surgically carved the Warriors up. Not only did he score 51 points, but he also had eight assists — and should have had a lot more, LeBron’s teammates shot 3-of-17 from three on passes from LeBron.

The best adjustment for Golden State would be to have a healthy Andre Iguodala to add to the defensive mix, but Kerr called him doubtful for Game 2. Beyond that, the Warriors just have to make LeBron work for his buckets.

“I think we have to continue to explore different ways to defend him, putting different bodies on him,” Kerr said. “I didn’t think we were very good against him (Thursday) night. I thought he was spectacular, but I didn’t think we made it that difficult for him.

“And that’s always the challenge when you play a great player. There is this balance between accepting that he’s going to get his numbers, but making it difficult. I never felt like we got him out of any sort of comfort zone. We’ve got to do a better job of that on Sunday.”

Do that and the Warriors should have a more comfortable win. Don’t and they may not be so lucky as they were in Game 1.