Is the NBA Series Finals already over?
There is an old adage in sports that a series hasn’t really begun until the home team has lost a game. By this logic the Cleveland Cavaliers are no worse off today than they were before the NBA Finals Series with the Golden State Warriors tipped-off about a week ago. That though is certainly not the conventional wisdom at this point.
The problem is that the Cavs didn’t just lose the first two games in the series in Oakland, they got destroyed both times. In Game 1 the Warriors rolled, pretty much untested, to a 104-89 victory. Many were able to overlook the score of this first game, putting it down either to nerves or to the fact that the Cavaliers had waltzed uncontested through the much weaker Eastern side of the playoff bracket and it was going to take the team that first game to get acclimatized to the suddenly much higher level of competition. The Cavs would come out strong in Game 2.
Except that’s not what happened.
In Game 2 the Cavaliers were somehow worse than they were in Game 1. A team with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James should never be held to just 77 points in a game, especially against a Warriors’ squad that isn’t exactly known for its lockdown defense. In the series so far LeBron has been doing everything he can, but Irving, along with Kevin Love and some of the Cavs other role players, have done nothing to help their star player.
Again though, playoff series don’t start until a team has lost on its home floor and Cleveland has quite the home floor to defend. The Cavs are 7-0 at home in the playoffs this season and this streak is tied for the longest postseason winning streak in the history of the franchise. It is not like Cleveland is squeezing out wins at home either. During their 7-0 run the Cavs are winning by almost 21 points per game, they are shooting .496 from the field and are draining threes at a .455 mark. If the Cavs shoot anything close to those numbers in Game 3 then they will have a chance to get back into the series.
While the offensive numbers are impressive, it is on defense that Cleveland just has to be better. Again, the home floor mojo bodes well for the Cavs as they have held their opponents under 100 points in six of their seven home wins this postseason. The main reason for that is a combined field goal percentage for their foes of .422, as Cleveland has been active on defense, swarming the ball and keeping their opponents out of the paint.
The key though to the Cavs turning around this seemingly unassailable two game deficit is the same key that Cleveland always relies on when they are in a hole; LeBron James. It is not like James has been coasting. Through the first two games of the series he has averaged almost a triple-double (21 points/10 rebounds/9 assists) and yes Cleveland hasn’t been close in either contest. Cleveland now has two games at home (the Finals format is 2/2/1/1/1) and in one of these two games (preferably Game 3) James simply has to take over.
Sometimes, despite press that would suggest otherwise, James is too unselfish. He likes to play in the style of Magic Johnson, when in this series he has to be Michael Jordan. LeBron is the only player in the entire league that can stand up to the combined onslaught of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and come out on top. James has to absolutely take over on the offensive end. Basketball is such a unique sport in that one player can dominate the game and that has to be James for the rest of this series of Cleveland are to do what Oklahoma City could not and take down the Warriors.
The series isn’t over until a team has lost at home. If James can step up and be the transcendent star he is then this thing could be tied at 2-2 heading back to the west coast.