The NBA Eastern Conference Finals can be summarized simply. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.”
Other than showing off my Madison North education, this Charles Dickens quote from “A Tale of Two Cities”, perfectly illustrates the precarious nature of being a Cleveland sports fan. In particular a Cleveland Cavaliers fan.
As the Golden State Warriors secure their entry to the NBA finals by sweeping the undermanned San Antonio Spurs, the Cavaliers are now facing a game four against a rejuvenated Boston Celtics squad. The Celtics obviously did not appreciate the way they were humiliated in game two of the NBA Eastern Conference finals and fought back in the way any basketball fan would have hoped they would. In doing so they may have illuminated a few things about the Cavaliers, both good and bad.
Though Cleveland is a more than solid defensive team, on the whole they aren’t the youngest, most athletic bunch in the league. When forced to chase, Kevin Love, Channing Frye, Kyle Korver, and Richard Jefferson may not have the wheels to do so anymore.
Reliance on LeBron James and Momentum
It is very easy to feel good about yourself playing alongside the best player on the globe. James covers a multitude of sins and allows his teammates to play to their strengths. If your job is to stand in the corner and knock down open 3’s, and play help defense, nice work if you can get it. And as we witnessed in game two of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, when the tidal wave comes, grab a surfboard because the entire team rode that wave. But in game three, when the Cavaliers had to grind a bit, and LeBron wasn’t quite his best, it became a bit more disjointed. Does Kyrie Irving takeover? Who is the facilitator? Who is going to make the important stop?
Still Very Good
At this point the standard is not the Boston Celtics. The standard is last year’s championship team and this year’s Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have already clinched, finalized travel plans, been to the barbershop, and are waiting and frothing at the mouth awaiting the chance to avenge last season’s thwarted repeat. This year’s model of the Cleveland Cavaliers may not have assisted parking, but it is still loaded. The in-season additions of Kyle Korver and Deron Williams have only helped. Tristan Thompson is doing a Rich Little caliber impression of Anderson Varejao. And, at no time do they have fewer than three capable three point shooters on the floor at a time. Oh, and lest we forget, King James is still lurking about.
Boston Celtics Outlook
Much brighter than it was after game two of the NBA Eastern Conference finals. That’s not to say they are going to win the series, but going to Cleveland, after being woodshedded at home, and stealing a game, speaks volumes about their character and their coach, Brad Stevens. It’s especially impressive considering it was all done without their best player, Isaiah Thomas. Going back to the days of Nate “Tiny” Archibald leading the league in both scoring and assists with the Kansas City/Omaha Royals in 1972-1973, and this season with Russell Westbrook and James Harden, when a team’s point guard dominates the ball the rest of the team either feeds off of him or stands around and watches. Remove said point guard from the equation and they’re playing an entirely different brand of ball. Maybe Boston has it figured out.
Cleveland Cavaliers Outlook
Remember when the Cleveland Indians were trouncing the Cubs in the World Series? Remember when Al-Queda caused a rain delay just as we were getting ready to win the World Series? Don’t sweat it folks, just a little drama that should restore your faith in the integrity, talent, and desire of NBA players. The Celtics could have mailed it in. They most definitely did not. However, as long as LeBron James is playing in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, the Cavaliers will prevail.
17 December 2015: Cleveland Cavaliers Forward LeBron James (23) during the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Oh. (Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)