This Cavaliers loss feels different. Worse, somehow. More traumatic. Or, dramatic. A tipping point. As if something has really changed in the NBA landscape that makes it highly unlikely from here on out that the Cavaliers can compete with the high octane offense that is the Warriors. Although a core of this Cavaliers team lost to the Warriors two years ago, the distinction is palatable. The Cavaliers were young to the Finals in 2015. They were injured. They had to depend on Matthew Dellavedova. But two years later, as the defending champion, the maturity of the Cavaliers as a championship team was supposed to, at the very least, make this series competitive. It was far from that. With the exception of game 4, there wasn’t much to lead anyone to believe the Cavaliers had the defense, speed, and shot making to hang with the Warriors.
Conveniently, many are using the Warriors are the greatest team ever excuse as a way to wipe away this five game mess. But there are significant Cavaliers problems.
The Cavaliers took an organizational gamble to win right now with what is left of LeBron James prime and in doing so they made the calculation that winning was incumbent on veteran talent, players who had a lot of NBA dog years, as if their purpose, desire and hunger would elevate the product. The problem with that kind of math is that the risks were not adequately measured. Older players are slower players, are physically beat up players. The talent of LeBron James was interpreted to be the equalizer of all things when, in fact, James has dominated the Warriors all three years and lost twice, so it is not just about him. The Cavaliers bankrolling Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith and Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert had a consequence. Only minimum contracts were available to pass out like candy and the only takers were past their prime players who lacked the athleticism or pure skill to match the Warriors dominance. The talent depth on the Cavaliers is thin because they don’t have money to go after talented role players nor is there a philosophy in place other than LeBron James do everything. Please. That doesn’t work for Chris Paul and the Clippers. It doesn’t work for the Cavaliers, in spite of LeBron’s brilliance. The Cavaliers need more skill. (Valerie Morales)
It’s The Numbers, Stupid
The Warriors had more assists, scored 34 more points, matched the Cavs three point shooting and had more trips to the line. The Warriors scored 7 more points per game, had more blocks, more steals. No Warriors player had a usage rate over 30% while two Cavs players did, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Want to beat the Warriors? You can’t iso your way to victory. The ball has to move and shot makers have to make open shots. The Warriors grabbed 51% of the rebounds which means the Cavaliers were outworked. The Warriors had an offensive rating of 121.3 while the Cavs offensive rating was 114.6. Kyle Korver, the three point specialist, shot 31.3% from three. He was a disaster on open shots. Deron Williams was even worse, 11.1%. Kevin Love of the max player contract shot 38% after everyone- and I mean everyone- was exalting his Eastern Conference playoff play as being the difference in this series. He was the same Kevin Love- shocker. From game to game, it was hard to see what adjustments Ty Lue made. Last year he outcoached Steve Kerr. This year no such sophomore luck. The numbers are the symptoms and not the disease. An inability to make shots under pressure, mindless turnovers and poor transition defense lost the series. There is no magic wand to make Tristan Thompson out hustle Drayomond Green, or reshape J.R. Smith into a playmaker. The Cavs had two shooters/creators on the floor. The Warriors had four. Do the math. (Mallory Stith-Wheat)
LeBron James is Not a Robot
LeBron James at 32 years old played less minutes in the regular season than Kobe Bryant played at 31 years old. (One minute less). Bryant won the title. James did not. Why? Did the one year matter? No. Both were high schoolers and had logged a lot of minutes. Both were defending champions. But Bryant had more versatility on his team. He had a higher usage rate in the 2010 Finals(35%) than LeBron did in the 2017 Finals (30%). But Bryant had more trustworthy offensive players in Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, players with skill. LeBron having to do everything is a recipe for catastrophe when the Warriors have players that do more with less. While LeBron was exhausted in games, no one on the Warriors seemed to break a sweat. The Warriors didn’t have to gut out each and every possession. They all passed the rock. They all screened. They all dribbled, stopped and drained a pull up. They all dribbled and assisted to the wing. Their skill levels varied but their ability did not. The Cavaliers with Tristan Thompson who cannot score and Iman Shumpert who is not a pure scorer and Kyle Korver who is ancient and Deron Williams who was lost and J.R. Smith who was streaky, were not dependable against dynamic scorers. They came up way short which meant LeBron had to do just about everything: score, assist, rebound, create mismatches. He has no equal on his team. Everything is out of balance. I am not sure if the Cavs realize LeBron is human (Brendan Gillespie).