STOPPING LEBRON JAMES
Make him a shooter. He's become better from the perimeter but it's by far the lesser of two evils. Send your defender under the screen and dare him to beat you from three. Give him space, send him left and hope he settles for jumpers. It's dangerous—if you are too far back, he might get a head of steam and drive. Then he's unstoppable. And you don't want to send help because he makes quick passes to three-point shooters that can kill you. It's why he's so effective in the post. If you have to double, he reads the floor so well. He will find the open shooter.
Your best play is to guard him straight up and hope he has an inefficient night. San Antonio won last season because it had Kawhi Leonard, who made LeBron's life hell. The Warriors will give him a bunch of different looks, just like they did with James Harden. And they have a very good rim protector in Andrew Bogut who can contest in the paint when LeBron attacks. Look, you can live with 25 to 30 points from LeBron. You can't live with 10 to 12 assists too.
X-FACTOR: J.R. SMITH
I don't know how much different J.R. is from the guy who left New York. He's still streaky and he still takes bad shots. That [28-point] explosion he had in Game 1 [of the conference finals] against the Hawks—those were bad shots. He's been more focused defensively. Cleveland's numbers since the trade have improved, and that's directly related to J.R. and Shumpert coming over. He has to stay locked in on [Golden State shooting guard] Klay Thompson. The Warriors are going to run Thompson off a hundred screens. They will try to catch J.R. napping. He can't lose him.
Offensively he's not going to get a lot of open looks. Golden State is great at running teams off the three-point line. If the three isn't there, J.R. has to resist the urge to shoot it anyway. You can't miss a bunch of jump shots against the Warriors; they will kill you in transition. He has to drive and make the extra pass. These are not J.R.'s strengths. He can't get into a macho shooting contest with the Warriors' guards. He'd lose, and he would shoot Cleveland right out of the series.
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED