June 6, 2016, 9:43 am
It is getting more and more apparent that the Cleveland Cavaliers do not belong in the same class as the Warriors. Apparently, the Warriors already took home the championship trophy after they came back to beat the Thunder. They have dominated the Cavs in five straight games in the NBA Finals dating back to last season, and the Cavs do not have an answer.
In the first two NBA Finals contests of 2016, the Warriors have outscored the Cavs by 48 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. The Cavs would have to beat a Golden State Warriors team who has won 87-0f-101 games four out of five times to take home an NBA title. Stick a fork in them.
IT’S PLAIN UGLY
From a personnel perspective, the Cavs simply do not have the size and length to keep up with the Warriors. Even when they show flashes of a championship caliber team, they muck it up with an undisciplined turnover or set. It is getting too hard for them to score buckets and too easy for the Warriors to get open looks. This doesn’t seem like the shorthanded Cavs team who had a chip on their shoulder one year ago.
You know the story. LeBron James needs help. It’s becoming a lazy narrative but after we fast forward to June year-in and year-out, that is really what it comes down to. He had one of the greatest finals performances of all-time in 2015 but lost to the Warriors in six. His cast is supposedly improved this season but they aren’t showing up. In Game 2, Kyrie Irving shot 5-for-14 from the field for 10 points with three rebounds, one assist and three steals. For all of the fight that he endured to train and get back to the NBA Finals, last night was a performance to forget about. The Cavs have a +/- of -71 with Irving in the game in these Finals.
Kevin Love is quickly becoming useless, as I predicted in my NBA Finals preview last week. He doesn’t fit the mold against these Warriors, as they have repeatedly attacked him on defense. Love scored just five points on 2-for-7 shooting from the field, adding three rebounds and one steal in 21 minutes. He did leave the game in the third quarter and was diagnosed with a concussion, so that explains a low threshold of minutes. Love has entered the NBA’s concussion protocol and his status for Game 3 is unknown. It could be a blessing in disguise for the Cavs as they need Love off the floor if they want to attempt to match the Warriors.
Outside of LeBron playing par for the course, the only other bright spot for the Cavs has been Richard Jefferson (yes, it’s that bad right now). Jefferson shot 4-for-6 from the field for 12 points with five boards, one block and one steal in an energetic 26 minutes off the bench. His aggressive style is a good compliment to a style of play that the Cavs need to adapt if they want any chance of climbing back in to this series.
THEY FORGOT ABOUT DRAY
If you are searching for an MVP for the NBA Finals so far, look no further than Draymond Green. He put up 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting (including five threes) with seven boards, five assists and one steal in 34 minutes on Sunday. He is a matchup nightmare for the Cavs. LeBron has been forced to check Green after he torched every other Cav. Even then, LeBron is helping too often and forgetting about Dray. He is 7-for-14 this series from beyond the arc. They might want to close out on him. Just a thought.
Dray’s splash brothers haven’t made much of a mess in these finals, but it hasn’t been necessary. Stephen Curry is making a habit out of playing second fiddle in the NBA Finals, on his way to perhaps a second ring but zero Finals MVP awards. Curry only had to play 25 minutes in Game 2, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting with four threes, nine boards, four assists and one block. He was in foul trouble in the first half, but sat most of the fourth quarter due to the blowout. Klay Thompson had four threes of his own for 17 points in 31 minutes. These guys are cruising to a back-to-back title. It seems like the hard work is behind them.
IS THERE HOPE?
No. In league history, 31 teams have fallen behind 0-2 in the NBA Finals. Only three of those teams came back to win the series. Again, the Cavs have to win four out of five games against the best team in NBA history. Drastic changes are necessary.
The Cavs don’t really have a death lineup to match the Warriors, but if they did, it would go something like this: LeBron at center, with Tristan Thompson, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova as the supporting cast. Plug in Kyrie and add some Channing Frye to space things out. It’s not a fun scenario to think about. Something must be done.
LeBron has to play out of his mind, much like he did in 2015. Everyone else needs to play much better if they want to defend home court. There isn’t really much more to it than that. They will have to rediscover their scrappy style that won them two games against the Warriors last season and even this series by the weekend. We are quickly looking at a 2-5 Finals record for the King. Hope is lost. Only the Cavs locker room can keep believing. We are all smarter than that.