We are sure that LeBron James will get criticized for speaking the truth after the deciding game of the NBA Finals, mostly because he gets picked on for pretty much everything he does.
James pointed out that the Cavs didn’t have good luck in the health department on their side, losing Kevin Love in the fourth game of the first round series vs. Boston, and Kyrie Irving also missed the bulk of the post-season, including the last five games of The Finals.
In a series where the Cavs struggled to find anyone who could shoot from outside consistently, the absence of Love and Irving, both players who can most definitely shoot, sticks out like a sore thumb. Or shoulder and knee if you will.
For the regular season, Cleveland shot 36.7% from behind the three-point line, and in The Finals, they shot 29%. Now, we agree that there would be some decrease in that percentage in the playoffs due to the stepped up defense.
As a comparison, Golden State’s percentage on long distance shots dropped from 39.8% in the regular season to 36% in The Finals, a drop of almost four percent. The Cavaliers drop was double what the Warriors’ was.
There can’t be a question that having Irving and Love on the floor would have made a major difference.
Love’s replacement, Tristan Thompson, played marvelously in the playoffs, but he’s not an offensive threat outside of the paint. There is no need to guard him away from the basket.
In terms of shooting, some of the shots Love would have had were taken by James Jones, and he hit only 4 of 13 from long distance in the series. There is no question, Love would have helped Cleveland both in spacing the floor and in making shots.
As for Irving, his shooting from outside and his creativity around the basket would have added a different dynamic to the Cavalier offense. His replacement, Matthew Dellavedova, a gritty defender who did a good job on Stephen Curry (so good that the league MVP in the regular season didn’t receive a single vote as MVP of The Finals), made only 6 of 26 three-point shots (23%) and doesn’t drive to the hoop nearly as well as Irving.
It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.
And it’s a fact ignored by several national media people who were exposed as trolls for constantly saying that LeBron James was a one man team during these finals.
He was, but only because two of the Cavaliers’ starters, and not just starters, but current and former all-stars were unable to play due to injury.
The insinuation is that the Cavs’ management can’t put a decent team around the best player in the sport. The reality is they did, but a couple of freak injuries took their toll on the roster and forced David Blatt to shorten his rotation.
Which leads to another point. Blatt is portrayed as a coach that doesn’t use his bench because he played really just seven players in The Finals. However, with Irving and Love in the mix, he would have played nine guys.
The Cavaliers played the way they played at the end because it was the only way they could compete. And they got within two games of an NBA title.
It’s too bad the national media came late to the party and didn’t see how they played when James had Love and Irving at his side. In the last 35 games they played together, Cleveland was 32-3.
That’s why you should be optimistic heading into the off-season.
James will get criticized, because that’s what these guys do. He is in the middle of the cycle where he has been around so long, people pick on him.
In a few years, he’ll be the elder statesman, and will go back to being loved.
After the game, he was honest. That’s the best policy.