Cavs approach danger zone: Warriors up 2–0
Cleveland hasn’t been able to take advantage of pedestrian performances from the Splash Bros, and they’re running out of chances to capitalize.
There are many things LeBron James has seen in his career. Dropping the first two games of a series on the road is certainly one of them. But being absolutely dismantled in the first two games of a series is not something James is used to.
On Sunday night, that’s exactly how it played out for James’ Cavaliers yet again. The Golden State Warriors are just flat out better than this Cavaliers team. James has found himself in a hole plenty of times before and he’s managed to dig his way out, but I just don’t see how he can turn around what has been an old-fashioned butt whooping.
Through the first two games of the NBA Finals, the Cavs have lost by a combined 48 points — the largest total margin of defeat through two games in NBA Finals history. The Warriors are too fast, and too athletic for the Cavs to hang and it’s showed through the first two games.
LeBron is averaging 21 points on 42.1 percent shooting from the field. He’s also averaging 5.5 turnovers per game. He’s seen his field goal percentage drop and his turnovers increase. You can attribute these numbers to the Warriors length and quickness on the defensive end of the floor.
The narrative of both of the LeBron James eras in Cleveland have always revolved around the question: Where is the King’s help? And after Game 2, that narrative didn’t change and the question remained unanswered. Through two games, Kyrie Irving has scored 36 points on 36 shots. With Irving on the floor, the Cavaliers are being outscored by 36 points. Kevin Love has scored 22 points on 24 shots through two games. With Love on the floor, the Cavs are being outscored by 17.
Just before halftime, Love took an elbow to the temple from Harrison Barnes, who was going for an offensive rebound. Love returned to the game in the second half, but only played a few possessions before pulling himself out of the game due to dizziness.
The Cavs’ fourth option, J.R. Smith, has been a no-show, which I can’t say is very surprising based on the Finals performance he turned in a year ago. Smith is being outscored 21–8 by Barbosa, who has played half of the minutes Smith has played in this series.
All of this is putting LeBron in a situation where he has to produce dominant, herculean performances to even give the Cavs a chance to win a game. James’ body cannot take the pounding it once did. That was evident in both Game 1 and 2.
Last year, he used his physical dominance over the Warriors to get to the rim whenever he pleased and it gave the Cavs a chance. Now, he’s getting to the rim less and is converting on less field goal attempts at the rim. Surely, a sign that his legs can’t withstand the beating anymore.
James’ legs, which have gone through 14 extensive seasons, could finally be giving out. James just doesn’t have the same explosion he had a season ago. It could be due to having to chase the Splash Brothers around on the defensive end, but as of this moment, LeBron just doesn’t look like the best player on the planet anymore.
Whether it be James or Irving, they’ve both fallen into hero ball. There have been way too many rushed, low-percentage shots taken by both. During Game 2, James fell in love with the three-point line — a bad habit that gives the Cavs basically no chance to compete in this series. Hero ball plays directly into the hands of the Warriors, who baited the Thunder into a similar style of play.
If the Cavs want to have any shot in this series, they need excellent ball movement to keep the Warriors’ defense scrambling. So far, it’s been too much pounding of the basketball and that’s just one of many reasons why the Cavs find themselves down 2–0.
Maybe, the toughest pill of all to swallow for the Cavs — the Warriors are doing this without the MVP of the league leaving his stamp on the series. Curry, the reigning MVP, has been surprisingly quiet through two games.
On Sunday night, the Splash Brothers combined for only 35 points. Just 15 more points than the absurdly low number they combined to produce in Game 1, but the Cavs still couldn’t capitalize. Now they’re running out of chances to do so.
Curry has scored 29 points through two games. Game 2 was just the 2nd time this season both Curry and Thompson scored fewer than 20 points in back-to-back games. Yet the Cavs have been blown out in both contests and trail the series 2–0. That’s a recipe for disaster if you’re a Cleveland fan.
The odds of Thompson and Curry continuing to struggle are not likely. In the Western Conference Finals, the Splash Brothers came out of their shells on the road at OKC. Forcing the Thunder into isolation ball and riding hot shooting from Thompson, the Warriors managed to steal a pivotal Game 6 and kill OKC’s title hopes.
If the Cavaliers are unable to play team ball, and the Splash Brothers find themselves on the road in Cleveland, this series won’t be returning to the Bay. It’ll be over in four games. If that’s how it plays out, the Warriors will have validated the title of “best team in NBA History.” All while destroying the last bit of hope lingering in Cleveland.