The Cavaliers’ biggest weapon has been their 3-point shooting

The 2016 NBA Finals will reunite the Cleveland Cavaliers and the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors. The Cavaliers are four wins away from capturing their first NBA championship, and it would not have been possible if they did not make a coaching change earlier in the season.

In January, general manager David Griffin decided a coaching change was needed, despite the Cavaliers being 30-11 and in first place. Griffin fired David Blatt and replaced him with assistant coach Tyronn Lue. Although Lue pleaded to the front office to keep Blatt, Griffin had his mind set on the belief that Blatt was not the guy to lead the Cavs into the future; Lue was.

Griffin was right.

With Lue as the head coach, the Cavaliers are playing faster, which has led them to take and make more three-pointers. If you have kept up with the 2016 NBA Playoffs from the beginning, one might say that the Cavaliers became the East Coast version of the Warriors: They get out in transition and use the three-point shot to their advantage.

In this year’s playoffs alone, the Cavaliers have shot a ridiculous 46.3 percent from three-point range. This percentage is higher than their regular season number, 36.3 percent. If you look at last year’s playoff three-point rate, the Cavaliers shot only 34.2 percent with David Blatt at the helm.

One of the reasons why this year’s percentage is higher than last year’s is what Cleveland did in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, sweeping them in four games. This year, the Cavaliers bombarded Atlanta from three-point range, shooting 50.7 percent. Cleveland’s barrage reached its height in an historic Game 2, when the Cavs made 25 three-pointers in a 123-98 victory.

In that series alone, the Cavs went wild from three-point range:

LeBron James (42.1%), Kyrie Irving (66.7%), Kevin Love (47.5%), Channing Frye (57.9%) and J.R. Smith (50%) all shot really well.

The Hawks tried to take away the paint and the drive, but the Cavs made them pay continuously from the three-point line. This was a far cry from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Hawks, when Cleveland shot only 39.8 percent from distance.

This is where it’s worth noting that the Cavs were also without Kevin Love (injured) and Channing Frye (not yet acquired).

Looking forward to this year’s NBA Finals, the Cavaliers must continue to knock down the three-point shot at a consistent rate. They cannot afford to go cold, because they do not want trade two-point baskets for three-point baskets with the Warriors. The Oklahoma City Thunder tried to do that in the Western Conference Finals, and it cost them in the long run.

In last year’s NBA Finals, the Warriors did a great job of not allowing the Cavs to consistently knock down the three-point shot. The Warriors held the Cavs to 29.4-percent shooting from distance; Cleveland suffered on offense without Irving and Love.

Even without those two players, the Cavaliers still shot a considerable amount of three-pointers. James took 42 threes, making only 31 percent of them, as the Warriors were willing to let him score at will especially inside 10 feet of the basket. Smith took 51 threes and knocked down only 29.4 percent of them, several only after Golden State took a big lead in the fourth quarter of Game 6.

The only consistent shooter from three-point land in last year’s Finals was Iman Shumpert, who shot 32 percent — that’s not saying much for a guy who is known predominantly for his defense.

The recipe for success for the Cleveland Cavaliers is simple: They have to continue to play with pace and knock down the three-point shot when the opportunities present themselves. The Cavaliers cannot afford a three-point shooting performance akin to last year’s Finals or this year’s regular season against Golden State. In the two regular season meetings between the teams (on Christmas Day and Jan. 18), they Cavs shot only 29 percent from three-point range.

If the Cavs shoot 29 percent from three-point range this time around, they won’t stand a chance. They need Frye, Irving, Love and Smith to knock down their three-point attempts, because we already know James will be ready.

Will the rest of the Cavs be ready for the bright lights of the NBA Finals? That’s the question of the moment in Oakland in the hours before Game 1.

About Jovan Alford

Jovan is the founder and editor at Total Sports Live. He is also a 2014 graduate of La Salle University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.