The Cavs are Good But Not 2001 Lakers Good

The 2001 Lakers of Kobe-Shaq mystique went 15-1 in the playoffs. They were undefeated going into the NBA Finals and were huge favorites over the Iverson 76ers. The Finals that year matched back-to-back regular season MVP winners in Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson. The Lakers were defending their title and once the playoffs rolled around they were brilliant at it.

The 2001 Lakers were 8-0 after the first game of the Conference Finals. They averaged 105.1 points a game, making 46.3% of their shots, a number that would have been greater if they could make threes (30.0%). Through 8 games, their offensive rating was 119.7 Their defense was dominant. With Shaq in the middle and Kobe and Rick Fox on the perimeter, they only gave up 93.2 points per game. They pulled in 14.3 offensive rebounds, shared the ball for 22.3 assists and had a defensive rating of 99.2.

The Cavs are 8-0 having won their first two series of the early playoff season. They have averaged 107.7 points a game, on 46% shooting, 23.8 assists and a whopping 47.2% from three. Their offensive rating is 121.6.

The Cavs defense hasn’t been as dominant as their offense. They grab 11.7 offensive rebounds per game but their defensive rating is nothing spectacular, 109.9. The Cavs have the disadvantage of Kyrie on the wing, who has never been any kind of a defender.

8-0 in Playoffs Points Scored Points Allowed 3-Point% Offensive Rebounds Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
2001 Lakers 105.1 93.2 30.5% 115 119.7 99.2
2016 Cavs 107.7 97.2 47.2% 84 121.6 109.9

The 2001 Lakers 15-1 playoff record is the best playoff winning percentage in NBA history (93.7%). No NBA team has gone undefeated in the postseason. The Lakers are the only team to play 16 games and lose once.

But the Cavs are rolling. Like the Lakers, after 8 games they have not lost. But unlike the Lakers, their defensive energy isn’t as crisp, they don’t grab as many offensive boards, they allow more points.

The Cavs ability to take and make threes has changed their entire postseason. They have launched 290 three point shots and made 137 of them. The 2001 Lakers took 121 three point shots and made 37.

Or, to put it another way. The Cavs took 37 three pointers against the Hawks in game 4. The Lakers made 37 threes the entire 2001 postseason.

But with Shaq down low and Kobe’s iso game, the Lakers didn’t need deep scores. They had enough offense inside the three point line.

No one is expecting this Cavs team to match the Lakers squad with only one loss, not when they have the Spurs or the Warriors coming up, teams they haven’t beaten this year.

The 2001 Lakers had two of the top-10 players in NBA history in Shaq and Kobe. They had a 7-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson. They had proven veterans who were champions in Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Dererk Fisher. They eviscerated a NBA in which no one team was their equal. The Cavs don’t have that luxurious biography.

But Ty Lue was on that Lakers team so he saw it all up close, the beginning, the middle and the end of 15-1. He sees the Cavs up close now. (Lue had to guard Iverson in the Finals).

As intoxicating and fulfilling as not having lost in the playoffs is, adversity is coming. It always does. It came for the Lakers in the form of Allen Iverson and it is on a fast track meeting with the Cavs when the Warriors or Spurs face them in the Finals.

No, they are not the 2001 Lakers. But they are running through the east with all the momentum to bring the title to Ohio for the first time ever.


photo via llananba