With the NBA playoffs starting this weekend, the common verse being sung by local fans and both the local and national media is the Cleveland Cavaliers should win the Eastern Conference and return to the NBA Finals.
Why? Because they have LeBron James and he will raise his game in the post-season to another level.
And? Because the Cavs have a very talented roster and eventually they will put everything together.
And?? That’s about all they have.
That’s worrisome from our point of view. And an awful lot to put on the shoulders of James, although the way he has played over the last month shows he may still be the best basketball player in the world, despite the Stephen Curry enthusiasts.
Look, this isn’t last season, when the top seeded team was the Atlanta Hawks, a team without a lot of playoff success in the past, and not a physically overwhelming roster.
The East is much better in 2015-16, making the Cavs route back to The Finals, much more treacherous.
In short, the wine and gold need to have their act together starting this weekend, which is tricky because they seem to be playing in a fog over the last month.
Yes, yes, they played well last night against Atlanta. It showed once again how good this team can be when they are clicking on all cylinders, but what happens when some adversity gets in the way, such as the opponents’ defense taking something away.
One of the members of the “Big Three”, Kyrie Irving, is in a huge shooting slump, and when he doesn’t shoot, he is dribbling an excessive amount of time.
Kevin Love has been starting games scoring a lot, but then he seems to disappear, mostly because it seems his teammates forget he is on the floor.
JR Smith has become a consistent three point threat, but “consistency” is not a word usually associated with Smith.
Post scoring? Forget it, unless it is James doing it. Timofey Mozgov’s minutes are dwindling by the week, and Tristan Thompson’s best offensive play is getting a rebound on that end of the court.
Mozgov seems to be marginalized by Lue, which we aren’t sure is a good move, because the Cavs will need him, particularly against Detroit and Toronto.
Iman Shumpert has struggled with his shot all year, although he is out there for his defensive ability. Matthew Dellavedova looks like a guy who needs a few days off before the playoffs start. His shot seems to have taken a siesta as well.
The other question is how will Lue handle himself in the playoffs. We said this a year ago with David Blatt, but the post-season is really the measure of coaching in the NBA because adjustments are needed to fit your opponent.
Can Lue make the tactical moves needed to offset what other teams are doing to Cleveland both offensively and defensively?
This isn’t a knock on Lue, we just don’t know if he can make the correct moves to counteract the other squad.
And he will be going up against some veteran guys with success in the post-season, guys like Stan Van Gundy, Frank Vogel, and perhaps the best bench coach in the league, Boston’s Brad Stevens.
Right now, based on the past several weeks, we have questions as to whether or not the Cavaliers can get back to The Finals, because it seems once again to be all on the shoulders of James.
There is no doubt he can carry the team there, but it doesn’t give the wine and gold much margin for error.
This we do know. It won’t be easy to return.