After blowing out the Raptors by 31 points in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now 9-0 in the postseason and just might sweep their way to the NBA Finals.
So, you have to ask: Would the Cavs be playing this well if David Blatt were still their head coach?
“No, they wouldn’t be,” Fox Sports Ohio pre- and post-game host Jeff Phelps said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think they’d probably be in the Eastern Conference Finals, but I don’t know that they would be playing the same way that they are and as effectively. I think when the move was made, the move was not made because they weren’t winning – because they were 30-11 when Coach Blatt was let go. But the minute that Ty Lue took over, he said some of the things that he wanted to do. He wanted to push the tempo, he wanted to create better opportunities in the offense, play a little easier offense. That’s what we’ve seen on display in the playoffs.”
The Cavs are averaging 108.6 points per game in the postseason and have made 141 threes in nine games (15.7 threes per game).
“The ball doesn’t stick hardly ever,” Phelps said. “Before the coaching change – and then even after the coaching change as Coach Lue was trying to change some things around – that ball was sticking like crazy. It just wasn’t moving very well and guys maybe weren’t trusting the system, trusting the team as much as they certainly are now. I’m a big fan of team basketball. I love watching San Antonio when the Spurs are really, really cooking, I love watching Golden State when they’re moving the ball like crazy, and the Cavs are playing a similar style of basketball, at least as far as moving it like crazy. It’s been a pleasure to watch.”
Critics, of course, will say that the Cavaliers are simply feasting on inferior competition and will be in for a rude awakening against the Warriors or Thunder in the NBA Finals.
Phelps doesn’t see it that way.
“Even though they’ve had an easy run of it through the East so far, I honestly don’t think you can say the reason they’ve had it is because they’ve played lesser competition,” he said. “The Pistons are a pretty good young, rugged team. The Toronto Raptors, they won 56 games in the regular season. Now I do think that Golden State is a better team, certainly, and I would think Oklahoma City is a better team. But I think the reason the Cavs have had such a great time in the playoffs is because the Cavs are playing so well. I think that people might be stunned – if you get to a Finals matchup and the Cavs are in it against either one of the teams in the West – (to see) just how well the Cavaliers are playing right now.
“I’ve said all season long that I think the Cavs win the NBA championship this year,” Phelps continued. “Folks early on said, ‘Well, you’re just saying that because you want your team to win and you do the pre- and post-game shows.’ I said, ‘No, I’m saying it because I think they’re the deepest, most talented team in the NBA. I think we’re seeing that roster on display now.”
LeBron James, it is worth noting, does not lead the Cavs in scoring or rebounding. Kyrie Irving leads in scoring (24.7 points per game), while Love (11.6 rebounds) leads on the glass. James does, however, lead the Cavs in assists (6.9), which is great for Cleveland.
“There’s not been a game yet where LeBron had to go out and win the game for the team,” Phelps said. “If that’s the case, I think they (win) the NBA title. Will that be the case? Who knows? But I’ve thought all season long this is the best team in the league.”