For starters, I predicted a sweep. So going forward, let’s not forget that. It makes more sense for the NBA if this series goes 7 BUT after this new TV deal, maybe that doesn’t matter. At this point I can’t see how the current narrative of this series changes. We root for an exciting Super Bowl, World Series and NBA finals so seeing something that is not worth turning on the TV for can’t possibly be good for business.
Obviously as sports fans we have seen some amazing and inexplicable feats of will and desire carry a team or player to do some remarkable things, but that requires a level of pride that the Cavs simply do not have. Allowing the Cavs to win game four is only a way to ensure that they can close out the series in California. Sure, allowing the Cavs to win a game is more insulting than Klay and Steph shooting threes late in the 4th during a 30-point blowout but there is nothing Cleveland can do about it at this point. Not only is this series over, but its worse than anyone could have predicted. The Cavs learned absolutely nothing from the OKC series. The Thunder allowed Steph and Klay to beat them, forcing the role players to be great and they struggled, especially Draymond Green. Steph and Klay combined for 70 points in a game against the Thunder and were still in jeopardy of losing down the stretch several times. When you’re playing against this team you have to put yourself in position to win late, otherwise you’re doomed.
When the Warriors’ role players are watching, the Splash-Bros show they lose rhythm and are in no position to make shots consistently when that’s your only hope. Make AND1 Steph beat you. He’s a great shooter, but can he make enough of them to win the game alone? He’s a below average passer once he leaves his feet, so even if he beats you, you have to collapse with active hands to increase the probability of him making a mistake.
The Cavs’ lack of consistent fire power makes it hard for them to be effective on any level. Every possible solution to their struggle is hard to implement without causing some degree of internal panic and possible damage to their team chemistry. The alternative is sitting around praying for guys to get going and after a 30-point loss, that can’t be an option. Some sort of lineup change to start game 3 has to be on the table at this point. Starting an attack-first lineup to put the Warriors on their heels could create open looks for the shooters. J.R. Smith needs to come off the bench going forward. It’s time he begins to transition into a sixth man capacity because he is clearly no longer a starting shooting guard in the NBA. His output has been atrocious and it’s clear that Richard Jefferson, a savvy vet, can give them more consistency at that position.
The Cavs need to permanently bench Delavadova and Shumpert and move to a 9-man rotation that includes: Fry, Jefferson, Jones and Jordan McRae. This could allow them to make the defensive switches needed to keep up and put more length on the court, which is something that Golden State struggled with against the Thunder. Delly and Shumpert both look extremely overmatched when they get in the game. Shumpert gives them nothing good, not even on defense, with guys either outmuscling him or shooting over him. Making changes and losing is not nearly as bad as being stubborn and getting your ass handed to you. Faith is for church, not a championship series. In the absence of production you make changes.
So with Kevin Love out, how would this new lineup look? Draymond struggled with Durant and would theoretically struggle with Lebron. If Lebron isn’t going to increase his responsibility offensively then as a staff you have to increase his responsibility defensively. It’s just that simple. Kyrie gets AND1 Steph, Jefferson gets Klay, Tristan gets Bogut and Fry gets Iguodala. This won’t happen because Lue is too loyal to shake things up. Changes like these could give the Cavs the type of spark they need to change the narrative.
What the Cavs have done in this series to this point hasn’t been all bad. They had the lead late in the 3rd of game one and had opportunities to seize control of game two but could not find any offensive consistency. Offensively they have to go back into the triangle offense sets that they have run throughout the playoffs and stay there. The Cavs haven’t even begun to try to impose their will in anyway and that needs to change, starting with the coaching staff. Winning the physicality battle means getting the Warriors into foul trouble early by attacking. If the Cavs are able to shorten the Warriors bench by putting Klay and Steph on an Island alone, that could make things interesting.
The Cavs are a team of young inexperienced players who are looking for a leadership from a hero that’s looking to be saved. There was a time early in Lebron James’ career when he was fighting for a legacy that he wouldn’t be denied. Lebron made a guy like Moe Williams an All Stars because he inspired him with his ferocious approach. Lebron scored 25 points in the 4th against Detroit, battled with Paul Pierce in an epic game where they both scored 40+ points and traded half court buzzer beaters with Gilbert Arenas in a game where he had a video game stat line that included 20 rebounds. He has produced greatness. I just don’t think he has that dog in him anymore. The game is still there but the edge is gone. The Cavs are finished because Lebron James is finished. Lebron can’t continue to do it all anymore and by doing it all I mean, be the agent, coach, GM and Superstar. When he fails this time it will be entirely his fault, why? Because greatness is about knowing how to share the load and in Lebron’s case that extends beyond passing the ball. At some point he will have to relinquish some of that power. If he doesn’t do it willingly, the assault on him when he can no longer produce will be unmerciful. They will say he held the franchise hostage, getting in the way of their ability to do their job, while getting his homeboys paid. As if they were a relevant finals contender before his arrival. What too soon?
4-1 Golden State.