Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Can Somebody On the Cavs Please Help LeBron

OAKLAND — Life finally isn’t fair for LeBron James. 

The greatest player in the world, authoring one of the greatest postseasons of all-time, is going to have nothing to show for it. In the NBA Finals, putting up triple-doubles doesn’t even come close to getting the job done against the Warriors. And in this bizzaro world, an effort like that doesn’t even make the Cavs competitive.

Such is the sad state of the Cavs these days after they wasted another brilliant performance from LeBron in Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday. He finished with a superb 29 points, 11 boards, and 14 assists and all the Cavaliers got for that genius work was a 19-point spanking and an 0-2 hole in the series. If LeBron doesn’t get some legit help STAT, basketball’s going to be done as soon as Friday night.

"He's one of the great players of all time, we all know that," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I think he's playing better than he's ever played and you just do your best."

The Cavaliers, who had a pretty easy time of it in the East on their march to the Finals, have collectively been anything but their best these last two games. They've looked thoroughly outclassed and overmatched against the Warriors through eight quarters of the Finals. While LeBron has been pulling his weight and doing everything humanly possibly except ordering Nancy Kerrigan clubbings on the Warriors, the same can’t be said for his supporting cast that desperately needed to play above their weight if the Cavs were going to have a chance in this series.

Instead, LeBron has been blessed with no-show performance from his running mates and Sunday the main culprit was Kyrie Irving. But he wasn't the only one. Tristan Thompson again had a brutal game and the 3-point shot that was the Cavs’ calling card all season failed them. Yeah, Irving scored 19, but needed 23 shots to get there. Thompson only managed 8 points and was a -18 while on the court. The team finished shooting 27.6 percent from three, easily their worst mark of the postseason.

But it was Irving’s poor play that hurt the most. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue chalked some of that up to Irving’s defensive assignments.

“Running around with Steph and chasing Klay and chasing Steph and constantly having to be on alert, it takes a lot out of you offensively,” said Lue.

So there was LeBron Sunday night, putting on a brave face after another bitterly disappointing performance from his Cavs and doing his best not to throw his teammates under the bus. He balled. Other than Kevin Love, who finished with 27 points, nobody else joined him.

“I don’t want to get into what we need to do better. We need to do better right now,” James said. “Do things—I don’t want to say differently because you work so hard to get to this point—but make a couple of changes to see if we can be a lot better defensively.”

Once again, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry had themselves a night. Curry matched LeBron’s triple-double with one of this own—his first in the postseason—finishing with 32 points, 10 boards, and 11 assists. Durant ended the night with 33 points and 13 boards. The revelation was Klay Thompson who had been AWOL for the Warriors recently. Thompson busted out for 22, hitting 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Every Warrior saw some action and they combined to shoot 51.7 percent from the field. The win had added meaning since Kerr made a triumphant return to the sidelines for the first time since Golden State's first round series with the Trailblazers. The good vibes were flowing throughout Oracle Arena for anyone who bleeds blue and gold. The Cavs, on the other hand, probably endured the quietest plane ride back to Cleveland this season.
Looking ahead to Games 3 and 4, what can the Cavs do that’s going to stop a Golden State squad that still hasn’t played their A game and still has cruised to victories in the Finals? Three nights after the Cavs turned the ball over 20 times, the Warriors did the same. And despite all those extra possessions, the Cavs watched a close game in the first half balloon into a blowout after halftime. You can chalk that up to an NBA Finals record 18 3-pointers from the Warriors.

“The game changed quite a bit tonight from Game 1,” Kerr said. “They made a lot of adjustments. They put us on our heels and we were able to respond.”

In the locker room, James, who tied Magic Johnson’s record for most career triple-doubles in the NBA Finals with eight, not surprisingly wasn’t in a particularly great mood. For reasons he refused to reveal, he wasn’t paraded up to the podium to meet the media like normal and gave it right back to a reporter who asked him if Games 3 and 4 were just about defending home court.

“Are you a smart guy?” James asked. “Think so right? So if we don’t defend home court what happens?”

The season ends, basketball’s over until October, and LeBron and Cavs have to go back to the drawing board and maybe completely revamp things. After two games in the NBA Finals, he’s got no answers for how to stop the Warriors from raining on his repeat parade. If only he could get a little help from his friends. 

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