LeBron Has Been Here Before

Trailing in the NBA Finals is the same place LeBron James was last year. He was in Oakland and it was worse. Kevin Love was on the sidelines, in a suit, bad shoulder. Kyrie Irving injured his knee in game one and no one was sure what to make of it, though rumors persisted he was done for the series. That just left LeBron to do everything that had to be done and the end result was that one man, no matter how iconic, extraordinary, and spectacular, no matter how hard he pushes his body and his mind, cannot cross this finish line alone.

The moral of that story is the reality of this one. Lingering in the aftermath of the game one loss is a common truth: no one can do it alone. The Cavs are constantly heralded for the Big Three fellowship. But the Big Three can’t win a game alone unless Love gets 28 and Kyrie gets 38 and LeBron gets 40. The odds of that happening are slim and so the Cavs have to get something out of J.R. Smith and the bench.

Channing Frye was acquired for this series, so his three point shooting could level the playing field against the fun shooting Warriors. It was hoped that Frye could provide easy buckets for a bench without much firepower.  In game one, he took one shot and missed it. He had two points.

The Cavs bench are going up against a Warriors bench of scorers. Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala and Mareese Speights can drain threes and they move the ball and more importantly, because they are champions, they have a confidence on how to impact the game. The Cavs bench has to answer back. No more 45-10 beat downs. Otherwise this series is going to get ugly in a hurry.

LeBron James has been here before.

Last year in game 2, without Kyrie Irving and without Kevin Love, LeBron played 50 minutes and took 35 shots and drained 31.4% of them and went to the free throw line 18 times and had 16 rebounds and 11 assists and 39 points. His plus/minus was 0. But the Cavs won the game and went back home with a split, all they ever wanted.

That type of performance tonight by James will win it and will lose it. He can’t shoot 31% but dominating the boards for Cleveland and taking shots inside the paint so he is continually at the line changes the spacing for the Cavs so shooters are open.

The wisdom of the moment is that LeBron needs to do more. He can’t just be one of the Big Three. He is the only champion of the group, he is the only league MVP, he is the only Finals MVP, and his championship experience plus the fact that he is, at all times, the best all around player on the floor, means something. He has to exert his will so the game is his. This is too important a series and a moment in James career.

LeBron James has been here before.

He went into a series trailing and came out tied. He gave it everything, as exhausted as he was. And the Cavs only won by two points. That is enough evidence for James. He can be brilliant and the Cavs margin of victory still is narrow. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are talented players but they can’t match LeBron as far as in game hero of the moment goes. Love and Irving are still too experienced and their defensive games have huge holes.

LeBron James has been here before.

Winning is all about what LeBron does at an elite level. Losing is all about what he does at a good but not great level.

 

photo via llananba