Our first thought at the beginning of last night’s game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals was why can’t the Cleveland Cavaliers play defense like this all the time?
It was that stifling approach on that end of the floor that led to a 116-78 blowout victory by the wine and gold at Quicken Loans Arena, and gives Cleveland an opportunity to earn a trip to the NBA Finals Friday night in Toronto.
Tyronn Lue did some different things defensively, mainly having his guards come over screens instead of behind them, and blitzing the pick and roll more often. The latter strategy was used in the comeback that fell short in game four.
Obviously, the success then showed the coaching staff it would work.
And while many are attributing the victory to Kevin Love’s aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor, make no mistake, it was the defensive effort by the Cavs that put them one game away from a second consecutive appearance in The Finals.
Lue will have to have the team prepared to counter the adjustments Dwayne Casey will make to free up his all-star backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, because he knows if they aren’t scoring, the Raptors don’t have much of a chance.
Part of the defensive improvement was the activity of Tristan Thompson, who looked like he was tired of being chewed up by Bismack Biyombo. Thompson had two offensive rebounds in the first couple of minutes, and Cleveland scored both times off the extra possession.
Offensively, Love’s effectiveness was a big help, and it was interesting to note that he started his night making a post move to score his first hoop, and worked his way out. That’s his preferred mode of getting going with his shot.
LeBron James played facilitator last night, setting up all of his teammates for easy looks.
Everyone is looking for that game when James takes total control in terms of the scoring, and tomorrow night could be the night. We can see him coming out and taking the ball to the basket early and often, and coming up with a 35 point night to take pressure off his teammates.
Toronto is going to be playing with desperation, if they lose, their season is over. But James is preaching the same thing all post-season for the Cavaliers. He has stated over and over that nine wins, ten wins, etc. isn’t the goal. It’s 16 wins, and they aren’t there yet.
So, don’t expect another blowout win and don’t be surprised if both teams are back here Sunday night for a seventh and deciding game.
Still, it would be better for the blood pressure of the entire wine and gold fandom if the Cavaliers finished the series in six games.
As well as Cleveland has played at “The Q”, when you play one game for all the marbles, anything can happen. Something like D’Marre Carroll getting hot from behind the three point line or Biyombo making 15 foot jump shots.
Let’s not forget what a huge win it was last night, though. It was really the first time in this post-season that Lue’s crew faced a must win situation.
They passed the test with flying colors.