“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”
That is what LeBron James wrote nearly 2 years ago in his essay in Sports Illustrated. It was a letter to Cleveland and the rest of the world, to announce that he was “Coming home.” They say home is where the heart is, but home can also be where the pain is, as evidenced by the pain LeBron is experiencing in effort to deliver a championship to Cleveland, Ohio.
Since returning to Cleveland, LeBron and company have experienced ups and downs, but one thing has remained constant. His Cavaliers has always been good enough to be the last team standing in the weaker, Eastern Conference. The 2016 NBA Finals marks LeBron’s 6th straight trip to the finals and the Cavaliers second straight trip. The Cleveland Cavaliers basically steamrolled their way through the East to begin this year’sÂ post-season. They swept the first two rounds, as they bullied the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks. They then opened the conference finals against the Toronto Raptors similar to the way that the Golden State Warriors are now doing against them in the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers annihilated the Raptors by a combined 50 points in the first two games of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. The tables are now turned against them, as the Golden State Warriors have beat them by a combined 48 points in the first two games of the NBA Finals. That is a record point differential in the first two games of the NBA finals.
After losing in embarrassing fashion yesterday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves down 0-2 to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. Â The Cavs lost by 33 points and to sum things up briefly, nothing is going right for the team. The obvious is exactly that, so this will not be another one of those articles that will bash the Cavaliers. Instead of discussing what the Cavs are failing to do, more should be said about what the Warriors are doing.
After being down 3 games to 1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Golden State Warriors rallied from behind to punch their ticket to appear in their 2nd straight NBA finals. In what has been a historic season for the Warriors, they appear to be determined to finalize their special season with an NBA championship. After starting the season 24-0 Â the team proved to be one of the best teams constructed in the NBA, as they went on to beat the 1995-1996, Chicago Bulls single season record of 72-10, by going 73-9. Stephen Curry went on to break records and repeat as MVP for the consecutive year in a row.
Last season the Warriors met the Cavaliers in the finals, and won the series 4-2. The Cavs were without All-star forward, Kevin Love and they lost All-star point guard Kyrie Irving in game one of the series. Many counted Cleveland out, but the Cavs did not go down without a fight, as the team managed to use their physicality to win 2 games in the series.
This year was supposed to be different. After eliminating Toronto from the Conference finals, the Cavs earned the right to represent the East in the NBA Finals. Many hoped for a rematch of last year’s finals however, the chances looked dim out west for Golden State as they found themselves in an unlikely scenario. They overcame the odds, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Thunder as they went on to beat them in a game 7 in the West finals. To many people’s satisfaction, that led to the rematch of last year’s finals with the Cavaliers.
Many storylines swirled around heading into game one. How would Cleveland fare with a now healthy roster against the Warriors? Would Golden State have anything left in the tank after fighting back against OKC? How would the battle of the current MVP in Steph Curry go against the former 4-time MVP in LeBron James? It was the number 1 seed in the East, against the number 1 seed in the West and the first meeting in finals history between the top two teams with the most 3 point makes. Â Game one was actually the most watched game 1 of the NBA finals since 1998, as 19 million people tuned into what became a massive disappointment. After losing by 15 points on a night where Steph Curry, and his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson only combined for 20 points,Â it looked like Cleveland had blown a golden opportunity to take advantage. Instead of capitalizing off the Splash Brothers limited night, the Cavs allowed the Warrior’s bench to outscore their bench 45-10. After game one, everyone expected Cleveland to bounce back.
We were wrong. Things got worse for the Cavs and even worse for the eyes of viewers. After winning the first quarter 21-19, the Cavs went on to lose quarter two, 33-23, quarter three 30-18 and quarter four 28-15. They looked like a team in disarray for much of the game and LeBron James did not bother to play a minute in the fourth. The Cavs were only down 8 points at the half but something happened in that third quarter and Cleveland could not recover.Â Cleveland lost the game in every area last night. The loss was embarrassing and revealing.
The Cavaliers were exposed to the world, by with what many of us had already known. They are a group of individuals that struggle collectively, competing competitively against a great team like Golden State. Last year adversity, physicality and the back of LeBron James won the Cavs two games. This year that formula seems to be exhausted. In short, the Golden State Warriors are largely a better put together TEAM, than the Cleveland Cavaliers and that is apparent.
The Cleveland Cavaliers came into the finals, sporting the highest team payroll in the entire league but it appears to be money squandered, considering how awful that look on the highest stage. Cavs ownership spends a little more than 15 million dollars more in player salaries than the Golden State Warriors, who are 4th in the league in player salaries. The Cavaliers on paper have great scorers, but the Golden State Warriors on paper and on the court have a great group of guys that understand their roles.
Cavaliers were beaten in similar fashion this past January against the Warriors but many people did not think much into that regular season game.
Prior to teaming up with LeBron, Kyrie Irving was a highlight reel point guard on a routine lottery team. Kevin Love was a 26 and 12 man, on a team that he never could lift into the playoffs. JR Smith was an inconsistent shooter that NY saw it’s team better off without. Iman Shumpert was a Â “strong perimeter defender,” with a broke jump shot and Tristan Thompson was a rebounder that got drafted too high in what was probably a favor to his agent, Rich Paul who also represents LeBron James. After LeBron, he became an overpaid rebounder, still with noÂ coordination or skill on offense. The team of individuals struggled in its two season’s playing together as its big three struggled with making adjustments to their own play but they all figured it out just enough to get through the junior varsity conference known as the East. What never was figured out, was how to not depend so heavily on their star in LeBron James. The Cavs are a sad 4-14 without their leader, and often times look like lost children without the supervision of their dad,Â when he struggles or doesn’t play at all.
That is the difference. The Golden State Warriors are a collection of pieces that fit and compliment each other. The Cavs have pieces that are attractive individually but not as attractive together. The Warriors offense is a free for all, as the best shot is determined by ball movement, whereas the Cavaliers offense is an offense dictated by isolation. With Cleveland, LeBron James may be the only “2-way player” on the entire roster, whereas the Golden State Warriors have multiple 2-way players on the court at all times. These are players that are solid defenders and scorers. The Warriors are not as dependent on their MVP, as the Cavaliers are on their’s and this series is showing exactly that.
Warriors Head Coach, Steve Kerr came up with the phrase, “Strength in Numbers” to describe how deep his roster is. The phrase has been a mantra for the Warriors, and it has been proving to be true as seen in their play. A bench that features, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights and Anderson Varejao may be talented enough to even crack the playoffs if they were in the Eastern Conference.
“This is a great team, and I stated that before the series ever started. They’ve got two of the best shooters that we’ve ever seen, and they’re a great team.”~ LeBron James
The Warriors are a complete match up headache for Cleveland, and Cavs players and their coaching staff does not appear to have any medicine to serve as a remedy or defense. LeBron James is usually a reliable source of remedy but at age 31, and 6 straight years of playing into June, he appears to be out of answers himself. Last year, in Superman-like fashion he averaged 36 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists. This year he is leading his team in points and turnovers. Last night the Cavaliers were -20 with LeBron on the court, as he coughed up 8 turn overs and looked like a slouch on defense. His streak of 16 straight NBA Finals games scoring over 20 points came to an end, as he only scored 19 points on Sunday. With the victory last night, the Golden State Warriors became the first team to beat a LeBron led team in seven straight games. Such consistent success against LeBron for one team is not a normal occurrence, but it’s fair to say that it may be a bit of karma coming back to the King.
LeBron James is one man but he has completely owned the Eastern Conference for at least the last 6 years. He has experienced a career of domination, by routinely sending many players on early vacation in the post season. Early in LeBron’s career he beat Gilbert Arenas and his Washington Wizards for 3 straight years in the playoffs. He’sÂ been the thorn in the side of Jokim Noah and the Chicago Bulls for years, as his team’s eliminated them in four playoff meetings. He and his Miami Heat team were unbeatable against Indiana, as they booted the Pacers out the playoffs for 3 straight seasons.
The West is different, much different.
The San Antonio Spurs has experienced some success against LeBron, as he’s lost two championships to the Spurs but the Golden State Warriors appear to be a different beast. The Warriors seem to have LeBron’s number, much like the Celtics did before LeBron left Cleveland in 2010. The Cleveland Cavaliers just do not have any answers for the Warriors. They are 153-414 from the field, in the last five finals games against the Warriors. They have not shot above 36% from the field in almost an entire year against the Warriors. This year was supposed to be different, as the Cavaliers entered the series with a healthy roster but the losing is the same, if not worse.
This year, former starting Center, Timofey Mozgov rarely sees the court and Kyrie Irving seems to have left his game at home or in the hotel room. The support that LeBron was expected to have has gone AWOL, without a trace. Kyrie Irving is shooting 33% from the field. Richard Jefferson recorded more points off the Cavaliers bench than what Kyrie did as a starter in game 2. Kevin Love was shooting 33% from the field before leaving the game with a possible concussion. JR Smith, the Cavs starting shooting guard, seems to have forgotten how to form a shot, as he’s 3-9 from the field this series. Head Coach Tyron Lue is proving to be a rookie coach, as he’s failing to make proper adjustments to his game plan and rotations. This isn’t Atlanta, as there is no record setting three’s being made by Cleveland. The offense is at a stalemate every possession and players look to be stuck in cement and confusion on defense. To make matters worse, the Splash Brother’s have not played up to their abilities in any game this series.
Then again this article was not supposed to be about what the Cavaliers are not doing so please excuse my digression.
The Golden State Warriors are a TEAM, with strength in numbers, and they are beating the Cavaliers in every facet of the game of basketball. The Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be overmatched and the Cavs coaching staff may be as well. With the lack of adjustments and solid game planning, Tyron Lue looks like Mike Brown, 2009 against the Orlando Magic. The Cavaliers do not have history on their side, as 244 of the 261 teams trailing 2-0 in a 7 game series have lost the series. Cleveland may not win the series, but perhaps they can at the very least go down with some pride, respect, and dignity. IfÂ they do make adjustments and turn this thing around, everything will be earned. That’s the Ohio way, and LeBron knows that. Let’s see what happens in Cleveland for the next two games. If they do not improve and turn this thing around, perhaps Dan Gilbert will start to cut his losses this off season by re-piecing the puzzle. If not, this team will prove to be millions not well spent and LeBron James will drop to a 2-5 finals record.
What are your thoughts? Will LeBron lose 3 straight NBA finals? Does this Cavs roster need to be restructured?
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