Would “utterly deflated” be the best phrase to describe Cavalier fans? After cutting apart their first three opponents in the postseason, Cleveland has been torched by the Golden State Warriors in two straight games.
It — literally — looked like the Cavaliers got the life sucked out of them following their Game 2 meltdown, and now the King leads his troops back to The ‘Land, hoping to bring some competitiveness back to the series.
Cavalier fans shouldn’t yet hit the panic button, even though their team looked worse than Andrew Bynum‘s most recent hairstyle. LeBron’s supporting cast has been less than stellar, but James hasn’t exactly been marvelous either. However, the difference maker has been the Warriors having more guys that have stepped up for them. Cleveland is only -3 in the turnover department (32-29), and only -6 on the glass (87-81). Their aggression has been rewarded, and Cleveland has taken 44 free throws (hit 34) to the Warriors’ 20 (hit 16).
Back in 2006, there was a 24-year-old rising superstar who led his Miami Heat to four straight victories against the Dallas Mavericks: Dwyane Wade. In those four straight wins, DWade averaged a staggering 39.3 points per game, and LeBron is going to have to do similar things to salvage this series.
I get it; circumstances are different. LeBron isn’t a 24-year-old anymore, and you could argue that Wade got a bit more help, but not much: Antoine Walker was the second leading scorer that series at 13.7, Kyrie Irving‘s at 18 for through two games. Although James isn’t the player he used to be, he remains the league’s second-best player and can enforce his will whenever he wants. Dallas was also the favorite that year after a 60-22 regular season, similar to Golden State being heavy favorites. I will acknowledge the fact that this Golden State team is all-time great, and that Mavericks team was not.
Despite the selfish gene not being in his nature, it’s the only way for Cleveland to regain relevancy. He’s acknowledged it’s not his style, to be selfish, but James has a special skill that has molded him into the player that he is today, and it’s the ability to score at a high volume and still be willing create for others. For his career, James joins Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and Allen Iverson as the only players to average more than 25 points and six assists per game for their career. What’s mind-blowing is that he has the highest scoring average (27.0) and second-highest assist average (6.9) among them.
Furthermore, he averaged 35.8 and 8.8 in last year’s Finals with no other consistent weapon.
So, what does all this mean?
This means Cleveland’s faithful shouldn’t give up on their team just because they looked dreadful and are in a 2-0 hole. Teams have come back from a 2-0 Finals deficit before (including the 1977 Blazers, one of the greatest teams ever), and teams that come back from those deficits don’t turn it around until their superstar turns on the proverbial switch.
For James, that switch is the selfish switch. The team looked more competitive last year because James turned that switch on sooner because he knew he was going to be without a reliable, complimentary piece. This time around, it’s been two games and somewhat of a grace period to see if anyone would emerge as that piece.
No one’s risen to the occasion (including James to a certain degree), but I firmly believe we’ll see a different LeBron for the rest of the series no matter how it goes. And if anyone can do more with less, it’s LeBron James.