After going 12-2 in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost back-to-back Finals games by a combined 48 points – the largest margin of defeat through two games in NBA Finals history.
Golden State deserves credit for this, of course, but Cleveland, it seems, deserves even more blame.
“The Warriors aren’t playing that great, but the Cavaliers just don’t look like they have it together,” former NBA All-Star Cedric Ceballos said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “This is not the same team that ran through the Eastern Conference playoffs all the way to the Finals. You can start with LeBron. I know everybody will not want to point fingers because of his size and all the stuff that he does passing, rebounding and defending. But it’s the little things that you have to do to finish this off in the Finals. I thought that he would learn that last year after losing in the Finals with this new crew and teach them that and then they come in and have a little different mentality. But we don’t see J.R. Smith. (Iman) Shumpert hasn’t shown up yet. Kyrie is playing okay, but it still seems like he’s hobbling on one leg with he way he’s playing right now, and no Kevin Love. He might as well play against Boston again and pull his arm out of his socket and be dismissed. So it’s tough.”
Seven Warriors scored in double figures in Game 1. Golden State erupted for 15 threes in Game 2. Draymond Green, who had been quiet offensively seemingly all postseason, went off for 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists and shot 11-of-20 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from three. Steph Curry is averaging just 14.5 points in the Finals, but he’s also hit seven triples.
The Cavs? Helpless.
“If everybody does not participate on defense, that’s when they kill you,” Ceballos said of the Warriors. “That’s when they light you up. Steph Curry is an unbelievable player and shooter, but the biggest thing he does is he draws people in to get other people shots. Even though he hasn’t had a great Finals right now, he’s drawing people in, he’s grabbing attention, and that’s when they get more effective. Everything that Cleveland is doing is being stagnated. Coach Lue said he was going to pick up the pace a little bit. They’re walking it up and it’s basically let me tumble with the ball and Kyrie Irving go to the hole. Let me tumble with the ball and then LeBron starts backing people down.
“I’ve said this before,” Ceballos continued. “LeBron James, as great as he is, he does not have a signature shot. He does a lot of things, he’s tremendous, shoots the three, puts the ball on the ground, he can post up at times, also has a midrange (game). But when you need a bucket from LeBron James, where do you go to? Do you go to the block? Do you go to screen-and-roll? He doesn’t have a Stockton-Malone ensured play to get me a bucket.”
James is averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and one block through two games. Those aren’t bad numbers, but Cleveland has been utterly embarrassed twice. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, meanwhile, are shooting just 12-of-36 (33.3 percent) and 9-of-24 (37.5 percent), respectively, in the series.
What’s the deal? Were these two players wildly overrated entering the Big Three era in Cleveland?
“Both of these players, as dynamic as they were, they were on losing teams,” Ceballos said, referring to Love in Minnesota and Irving in Cleveland pre-LeBron. “There was no responsibility. They were the franchise players. When you’re the franchise player on a sorry team, all they do is take care of you. They don’t worry about nothing else. You don’t have to get back sometimes on defense. You can complain to officials and walk up the court. You can’t do that when you’re on a team that’s responsible for each and every possession. I think that’s the biggest problem with both of them when it comes to clutch games. They’re not used to being in clutch games and not being able to have the ball and do what they want to do how the want to do it.”