The Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs have struggled offensively, defensively, in loose ball situations, and in pretty much every aspect of the game. But before we get into what’s wrong with these Cavaliers, let’s tip our hat to these Boston Celtics. No matter how many so-called experts say they don’t have enough star power to win, the Celtics continue to win anyway. In the eyes of every player on Boston’s roster, all of them are stars. Cleveland needs to crush this mentality if there’s going to be a Cavaliers conference finals comeback.
Key to a Cleveland Cavaliers Conference Finals Comeback
Why are the Cavaliers losing?
The main reason Cleveland is in a hole is the team’s lack of energy and communication on defense. The Celtics just faced the Philadelphia 76ers. Before that, they played the Milwaukee Bucks. Those two teams rely heavily on their defense, so the Celtics are just having a field day against Cleveland’s lax defense.
Another reason the Cavs find themselves in trouble is their lack of a second shot creator after LeBron James. With no one else creating any offense, James is having to expend all of his energy on creating shots. Pair that with the fact that the Celtics have at least four healthy players who can consistently create (Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier) and the Cavaliers end up down 0-2. The final reason for Cleveland’s struggles is that once James creates for his teammates, they are not completing plays and making shots – even open ones.
How can the Cavaliers come back?
Defense will not be mastered in a four-day time frame, but the Cavaliers should at least have spent these four days working on their switches and communication. They should be able to increase their physicality simply through better effort, and with the home crowd cheering them on, the Cavs should be feeling amped up enough to be physical. The lack of physicality shown in Games 1 and 2 is attributed to a lack of effort. The Cavaliers’ playoff lives will be on the line in Game 3, so expect them to put forth everything they have to keep themselves in the series.
Cleveland’s most consistent scorer in the Game 2 loss– besides James – was Kyle Korver. The Cavaliers should roll with this starting lineup in Game 3: George Hill, Korver, James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. Hill will give them a decent point guard on both ends, which will allow James to work from the post. James should spend more time working from the post so that he doesn’t wear himself out, driving the lane every play.
This lineup also gives Cleveland the chance to have Korver on the court a little more to provide some much-needed perimeter shooting. Perimeter shooting will also be vital to a comeback. Not only do the Cavs need the points to make up for their abysmal defense, but they need the space down low for James to be at his best.
However, this lineup could also cause problems for Cleveland because Korver can’t guard anybody on Boston’s roster. But if the shots are falling early, the Cavs could just run away with it anyway.
While the Celtics are 9-0 in Boston this post-season, they’re also just 1-4 on the road. That’s because their offense has struggled mightily in away games. Rozier has only had one good road performance this post-season, which was in the one road game that Boston won. Horford has struggled to score on the road but has still been able to make his fair share of ‘Big Al’ plays, though they haven’t been enough to win. So, it’s possible that the Cavaliers can just go home and play better while the Celtics go on the road and play worse. It’s very possible when there are 20,000 people in the arena rooting for a Cavaliers comeback.
The Cavaliers can do all of the above, but the only way that Cleveland will come back is if role players step up and start knocking down shots. The team will need at least a combined 40 points from Hill, J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and Jeff Green. They will need another 35 combined from Love and Korver. Unfortunately, they will also need James to score another 35 points on his own – which is no easy task against Boston. If they can get all these contributions in Cleveland, where the Celtics’ offense is more likely to struggle, the Cavs can go back to Boston tied 2-2.
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