Kyrie Is A Flawed Superstar

It sure seems like Kyrie Irving is in the news a lot lately, doesn’t it?

Seriously, ever since it was reported last Friday that Irving has asked the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him, it has consumed sports fans in northeast Ohio.

Most can’t believe a player of this ability would not want to play on the same team as LeBron James and have a chance at a championship ring each and every season.

Ask guys like Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye what it is like to play in the NBA for over 10 years and not win one, especially Jefferson, who went to The Finals his first two years in the league, and didn’t get back until 2015-16.

As a player, Irving is a four time All Star and an MVP of the game as well.  On the other hand, he has made first, second, or third all NBA teams, just once, in 2014-15.

We would say he is among the top 20 players in the league, although he may be the 5th or 6th best point guard.

Irving has one extraordinary skill.  He finishes around the basket better than any guard we can remember, with the possible exception of Allen Iverson.

Unfortunately, the other aspects of his game are not at that level, and that is why he hasn’t been a regular on the season ending all-NBA teams, and he is not considered one of the two or three best point guards in the sport.

His defense is indifferent.  He does give a better effort in the playoffs, but in the regular season, it seems like opposing point guards can get in the paint anytime they want to.

The same quickness that suits Irving well when he drives to the basket can certainly be used to keep his man in front of him.

He is also not a willing passer.  Granted, the Cavs aren’t a traditional team because much of the offense flows through LeBron James, but one of the reasons the wine and gold struggle when James is on the bench or sitting out a game, is the stop playing the ball movement offense they regularly use.

Irving is a ball stopper.  He receives a pass and his first instinct is to use his remarkable ball handling skills to try to get the ball to the basket.

We understand James plays a lot of isolation ball too, and Irving has had success doing it with the Cavs.  His shot to win the 2016 title was off isolation.

Still, we don’t think anyone would call him a great passer.

Does Irving have the ability to improve defensively and as a passer?  Of course, we say it all the time, the man is uber talented, a gifted basketball player.  It’s more about want to, and that’s why watching him play, it isn’t a shock to hear he wants to be traded so he can be the focal point of the team.

In trading Irving, you probably won’t get the scoring punch he provided, but you may get a better defender and a better passer in the deal.  That may help you against Golden State in the long run.

There are many basketball pundits who felt the Cavs’ strategy of outscoring the Warriors was flawed.

The point is Kyrie Irving is a very good basketball player, but there are reasons he is not in the top ten players in the league.  He has plenty of room in his game for improvement.

JK

 

 

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In Midst Of Rocky Times, Cavs Find A Rose

With all of the controversy whirling around the status of Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the wine and gold added another point guard in former NBA MVP Derrick Rose, inking him to a one year deal.

Rose is trying to rebuild his career after being traded a year ago by the Chicago Bulls to the Knicks (ironically, Jose Calderon was in the deal), and suffering through a multitude of knee injuries.

However, it was just two years ago, in the 2015 playoffs, that Rose hit a game winning three point shot to give the Bulls a two game to one lead over the Cavs.

Rose did average 18 points per game last season, his highest total since 2011-12, when he scored 21.2 for Chicago.  He also shot 47.1% from the floor, the best since his second year of his career, the 2009-10 season.

He ranked second in the league in points in the paint for guards last season, and his shooting percentage improved because he basically stopped taking three point shots.

Our concern with Rose has never his ability, it is his ego.

We feel the problems he had in Chicago came after his injury, when Rose still thought he was the Bulls’ best player, when it clearly had become Jimmy Butler.

And last season, he referred to the Knicks as a “super team”, greatly over estimating that team, which failed to make the playoffs.

That won’t be an issue in Cleveland, where everyone knows who the alpha dog is.

The other concern is his injury history.  Although he has played more than 60 games over the last two seasons, you cannot forget he played in just 100 games over a four year period (2011-12 through 2014-15, missing the entire 2012-13 season)

As for Rose’s role, we expect him to be used as a combo guard, perhaps starting beside however the Cavaliers acquire for Kyrie Irving, if they indeed trade him (and we believe they will), and run the offense when James is resting.

He can create his own shot which is something Cleveland lacks, as only James and Irving can do that presently, and no one on the bench is capable of doing it either.

As for the naysayers on this move, remember that the Cavs are only paying Rose the veteran minimum, a little over $2 million per year, a small amount in today’s NBA.

It’s a chance for Rose to get back to playing on a winning team, a squad that has a chance to go deep into the playoffs, and perhaps another trip to The Finals, which would be the veteran’s first trip.

Also, it again was reported that James did reach out to Rose about signing here, again ruining the national narrative that he is not recruiting for the wine and gold this summer.

Even with everything going on with the franchise and that Irving has asked out here, this is a good signing for the Cavs.  We aren’t saying this makes Cleveland the favorite to beat Golden State, but it does make the team better.

That’s all you can ask for at this point.

If James and Irving reconcile, then Rose adds another player who can put pressure on the defense by driving to the basket.  If Irving leaves, he would be more of a factor as a facilitator when James is not in the game.

All in all, this is a positive more for the Cavaliers.

JK

 

 

Irving’s Shocking News Doesn’t Have To Kill Cavs

It was certainly unbelievable Friday afternoon when word come out that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We have said for a long time that it was not a good thing when Irving started talking to former Laker star Kobe Bryant.

After all, Bryant was so self involved as a player that he ran off the most dominant player in the sport, Shaquille O’Neal, after the 2003-04 season, after a stretch where they won three titles and made four Finals appearances in five years.

The Lakers missed the playoffs the following season, and it took Los Angeles four years before they got to The Finals again, and five before they won another title.

By the way, the Lakers never won a title in a season where Bryant led them in win shares.

So, Irving can add another thing in common with Bryant, perhaps the most selfish superstar of his generation.  He wants to separate himself from the most dominant player currently playing in the NBA, LeBron James.

Irving is certainly a gifted player, but he is far from perfect, although his shot gave the Cavaliers a championship, which makes a lot of fans forgive the weaknesses he has in his game.

His lack of effort on defense is one reason he is not considered one of the sport’s best point guards.  In fact, if you are honest, you would rank him 6th or 7th in the league at his position.

And let’s face it, the ball sticks in his hands on offense, and is a primary reason the Cavs struggle when James is out of the game.  For the most part, The King moves the ball.  Yes, there are still times when he dribbles excessively too, but not like Kyrie when LeBron is on the bench.

In those moments, Irving appears to feel like he must take every shot, passing only when he exhausts every option to get his shot off.

You would think with two other all stars on the floor, the wine and gold should function well with LBJ not playing, but since Irving seems to rarely find Kevin Love on the court, the Cavs struggle in those situations.

This doesn’t need to be the end of the Cavs’ run to The Finals.  In fact, it could be the opportunity they need to improve the team and change the dynamic of the roster.

They may be able get more of a traditional point guard, and a better defender at the position and add help in other areas.

Let’s say you can replace Irving with Phoenix’ Eric Bledsoe (21.1 PPG, 6.3 APG), and you can get another very good young player, or perhaps find a way to get Carmelo Anthony, and still sign Derrick Rose as a free agent.

Of course, you would probably have to move Iman Shumpert and perhaps Channing Frye, two players the wine and gold have been looking to move anyway, as well.

Isn’t the Cavaliers roster a little stronger?

LeBron James might be a demanding teammate, but wouldn’t it be better for Irving’s career if he was the second best player on a team that made four straight Finals appearances, and maybe, just maybe won two titles?

Scottie Pippen is considered an all time great, and he was Michael Jordan’s sidekick with the Bulls’ title teams.

That wasn’t good enough for Kobe, err Kyrie Irving.  That’s why it’s hard to believe he can return to the Cavaliers.

JK

 

No GM, No Big Moves, But Cavs Still Team To Beat In East

Ever since the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals, thus losing the series, it seems like a black cloud has followed the franchise, at least if you listen to the national media.

First, GM David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert couldn’t reach an agreement on the former’s future with the team and parted ways.

Then, they tried and failed to get Paul George in a trade with Indiana before the draft, and despite the lack of a GM, this one is really on the Pacers, because their general manager killed the deal.

And according to who you listen to the Cavs have lost out on other free agents too, even though most of those players received contract offers much greater than the Cavaliers can pay because of the salary cap.

However, one thing has not changed with the franchise.  They are still the best team in the Eastern Conference and the odds on favorite to return to The Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

That, my friends gives them a one in two chance to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champs.

The team with the best record in the regular season in the East, the Celtics added the prime free agent available this summer in Gordon Hayward, but they also lost Avery Bradley, an excellent defensive guard in a deal with Detroit to clear cap space.

The other challengers in the East, the Wizards, really haven’t added a significant piece, although they helped their bench, and Toronto’s point guard, Kyle Lowry got another year older, and they traded D’Marre Carroll and lost P.J. Tucker as a free agent.

Meanwhile, the Cavs still have the big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, who together have lost just one playoff series in the last three seasons.

They also still have Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and kept shooter extraordinaire, Kyle Korver.

The only players lost to this point by Cleveland are the free agents, Deron Williams and James Jones, and the latter is probably going to retire.

Now, we aren’t thrilled with the Jose Calderon signing, but getting Jeff Green is a solid move, and we will have to wait and see if Cedi Osman will be able to play in the NBA.

Whoever the new GM is, and it will probably be Koby Altman, still has some of the mid-level exemption to use to sign more players, and of course, there is the veteran minimum as well.

Some of the players we have talked about recently (Shabazz Muhammad, Jeff Withey, etc.) are still available and with cap space drying up around the league, who knows, perhaps a player like that will fall into the wine and gold’s hands.

As for James’ future, which everyone nationally has him leaving after the 2017-18 season, for every reason “experts” speculate why he will leave, we can think of one why he will remain in northeast Ohio.

FYI, that’s not a prediction, because we don’t think anyone, except for LeBron and his people, knows what he is thinking about right now.

What we do know is the Cavaliers will be a very good team at the start of the regular season and everyone should enjoy it because they will be the team to beat in the East.

As for the West?  Houston and Oklahoma City are challenging Golden State, and you can never forget about San Antonio.

The national media’s worries?  First, the off-season still has about two and a half months to go, so more moves could be coming.

But really, nothing has changed since the Cavs rolled through the East with just one loss in the conference playoffs.

JK

 

Kyrie’s “Shot” Doesn’t Mean He Can’t Improve

Besides all of the Kevin Love trade talk swirling around the Cleveland Cavaliers this week, there were a couple of rumors involving another member of the “Big Three”, and that would be Kyrie Irving.

The wine and gold social media went crazy, insisting Irving is untouchable.

A bit of truth here.  One of the trade scenarios was Cleveland dealing Irving to Phoenix for the fourth overall pick in last week’s draft, and guard Eric Bledsoe, who averaged 21 points and six assists per game.

The Cavs would have spun that pick to Indiana for Paul George, giving the Cavaliers a starting five of LeBron James, Bledsoe, George, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson.

Our confession is we would have done that deal.

Look, we have said this before, Kyrie Irving is a gifted basketball player.  There may not be another player in the NBA who is as creative around the basket as Irving.

And he made the greatest shot in the history of the franchise with the go ahead basket in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.

He will always be a “made man” in Cleveland sports because of that.

But let’s not pretend Irving is perfect and doesn’t have room for improvement.

First, he doesn’t put forth a lot of effort on defense.  We know that many stars pick their spots defensively, and we get that.  That’s happened in the NBA for 40 years or more.

The problem for Irving is he takes entire games off defensively and there is no excuse for that.  As the great John Wooden said, the same skills that make players great on the offensive end can be used to play great defense.

Irving’s quickness can get him to the basket on any possession within a game, so it can be used to stay in front of his man on defense too.

The other criticism of Irving is when James is off the floor, the ball sticks in his hands as he waits for an opening to drive.  On a team who plays its best when the ball moves, this is frustrating to watch.

Check out these numbers from last season:

When Kyrie has 10+ assists in a game:  Cavs record is 8-0
9+ assists:  11-2
8+ assists:  12-5
7+ assists:  20-7
3 or less assists:  6-10

When Irving takes 25 or more shots in a game, the wine and gold is just 4-5.  There is no mistaking that when Kyrie Irving is moving the ball, the Cavaliers are a much better team.

And by the way, in those 10+ assist games?  Irving scored more than 25 points in five of them.  The ability to score and pass is there.

Because he is so gifted and just 25 years old, we have confidence that Irving will continue to improve and learn the game.

On the other hand, if you view his game realistically, he isn’t one of the top five point guards in the NBA.  We would rank Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden better than the Cavs’ point guard.

Would our choice be to trade Irving?  No, but we wouldn’t deal Kevin Love either.  We are just saying that anyone can be tradeable if it makes the team better, and that Irving shouldn’t be untouchable because he made “The Shot”.

He’s not in the same class as LeBron James, yet.

JK

 

Cavs Need To Try Something New Now.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have given no indication they can win the NBA Finals based on the first two games.

The Golden State Warriors won both the first two games rather easily, winning by 22 points in game one, and 19 on Sunday night.

This makes Wednesday night’s game three a must win for Tyronn Lue’s squad.  Lose that one, and it looks like a sweep for the Warriors, not only in The Finals, but an unprecedented undefeated run throughout the playoffs.

Can the Cavs win game three and get back into this series?  Of course, no team is unbeatable, but it will be very difficult for the wine and gold if they continue to play at they did in Oakland.

First, we believe they cannot continue to play at the Warriors’ pace.  We understand Lue normally wants the Cavs to play fast, up tempo, but Golden State is better at it than Cleveland, so you must try something else.

That is not to say never run.  When the Warriors miss a three and it develops into a long rebound, grab it and go, and get an easy hoop.

We said in the middle of the regular season that no team’s defense is more dependent on its offense than the Cavaliers.  That is because, by and large, their transition defense is poor, maybe because they have some age on them.

So, if they don’t have a fast break opportunity, slow the game down.  Take as much time as you can on the shot clock and still get a decent shot.  Keep the number of possessions down, and perhaps you can frustrate Golden State with the slow pace, forcing them to take quick, bad shots.

Second, you must take care of the basketball.  You simply can’t turn the ball over, giving the Warriors easy looks.

The wine and gold also need to continue to attack the basket.  Steve Kerr’s team doesn’t really have a rim protector, particularly when they go small, and you have to take advantage of that.

LeBron James and Kevin Love have done a good job around the rim.

By the way, speaking of Love, hasn’t he laid to rest the theory that he can’t play against the Warriors?  He had a 21 rebound game in the first contest, and scored 27 points on Sunday.

They also need Kyrie Irving to play like an all-star.  Irving has shot just 40% in the first two games, and made curious shot choices both nights.  It was odd to see Irving trying to drive on Kevin Durant in game two.

The Cavs have to do better from three point range.  In the regular season, the wine and gold actually shot better than the Warriors from beyond the arc, but have hit just 31.7% from distance thus far in the series.

That seems to be a lot that has to change, but outside of changing the pace, which is difficult and takes discipline, all of the others are possible, because it was done in the playoffs.

This isn’t last year, and there is nothing to indicate the Cavaliers will be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit again this year.  They have to win on Wednesday, or this series will be ending much quicker than anyone in northeast Ohio would like.

They have to take it game by game.  Win game three, and you are back in the series.  Forget about the rest of this series, do whatever needs to be done to win on Wednesday night at The Q.

JK

 

 

Kyrie Can Be Frustrating At Times, But He Stepped Up At Right Time.

It didn’t look good halfway through the second quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals last night.

The Boston Celtics were making virtually every open shot, and LeBron James picked up his fourth foul in the first half.  Could the Cavs weather the last six minutes of the half without getting blown out?

Kyrie Irving made sure Cleveland stayed within shouting distance until James could return to the game after the half, scoring in a variety of ways to keep the wine and gold at a 10 point deficit at intermission.

In the third quarter, Irving went berserk, scoring 50% of his playoff career high 42 points in the period as the Cavaliers outscored Boston by 17 (40-23) to flip the game in Tyronn Lue’s team’s favor.

We have been critical of Irving from time to time for not passing enough, falling in love with his dribble, and not playing hard on defense.

In Game 3 Sunday night, we thought Irving forced the action a bit too much in the fourth quarter, playing hero ball because he was looking to take over, and the defense wouldn’t let them.

Last night, he knew his team needed a lift with James on the bench with four fouls, and hit some outside shots to get going, and after those went down, it opened up driving lanes for him.

Our criticism of Irving comes because he is so talented.  He may have the best ball handling skills in the league, he’s a gifted shooter both from outside and around the basket, even though he gives up a lot of height near the hoop.

He doesn’t understand at times when he needs to take over, and when he needs to sit back and get his teammates going.  Then again, he is just 25 years old.  He has plenty of time to learn when and where and how to do it.

Irving shot an astounding 15 of 22 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from behind the three point line, in a game the Cavs absolutely had to have.

Can you imagine if the series went back to Boston even with two the remaining games in Beantown?

The wine and gold definitely needed to win this one, and with the best player in the game on the bench for the last six minutes of the half, Irving took control and didn’t let the Cavaliers get blown out.

With Irving going crazy, LeBron James got back in the groove, and by the end of the contest, his jump shot, which seemed to go AWOL in game three, returned.  That should bode well for the fifth game tomorrow night.

And don’t discount Kevin Love’s contributions either.  With Boston using two or three players to box out Tristan Thompson, Love picked up the slack with 17 rebounds to go along with 17 points.

In the playoffs, you win with defense, and the Cavs picked up their intensity in the second half too.  James always talks about playing with desperation, and being down at the half seemed to get that edge back for Cleveland too.

But the night belonged to Kyrie Irving and his incredible array of shot making.  When he combines that with the ability to make his teammates involved, Irving can join the list of elite NBA players.

JK

 

 

Cavs And Celts For A Trip To The Finals

It seems like a lifetime ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers last played a basketball game.  When they take the floor in Boston on Wednesday, it will have been 10 days since they played a real contest.

And with the first two games in Boston Garden, when the wine and gold comes home for game three, it will have been 18 days since they last took the court in Quicken Loans Arena.

Boston earned the home court advantage by winning 53 regular season games, compared to Cleveland’s 51 victories, but in terms of point differential, the Cavs show to be better, outscoring their opponents by 3.1 points (110.3 to 107.2) compared to the Celtics 2.6 (108.0 to 105.4).

The Celts have a reputation of being a very good defensive team, holding opponents to a 45% field goal percentage.

However, the team the Cavaliers just eliminated, the Toronto Raptors, were even better at 44.9%.

One decided advantage Cleveland has is on the boards.  Boston ranks low in that category, meaning Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love should control the glass.

As we know, Tyronn Lue likes to make someone other than the opponents’ best player to beat him in a playoff series, so no doubt the wine and gold will focus on Isaiah Thomas, who led Boston in scoring at 28.9 points per game, 12.6 more than the next best scorer, Avery Bradley.

We would expect Lue will blitz Thomas, forcing the ball out of his hands.

When the Cavs beat the Celts in the last regular season matchup in Boston, our thought was Boston had no answer for the game’s best player, LeBron James.

Boston’s starting small forward is Jae Crowder, who is just 6’6″.  A wise man said the problem with James is if you are big enough, you aren’t quick enough, and if you are quick enough, you aren’t big enough.

That capsulizes the Celtics’ problem perfectly.

Crowder can’t check LeBron, and we are pretty sure Brad Stevens knows it.  And of course, if you double him, he will find the bevy of shooters Cleveland has on its roster.

We also expect Lue to put Kyrie Irving (6’3″) in the post when he is being guarded by Thomas, who at best is 5’9″.

We would expect Stevens to do what he did in the first round matchup between the two teams in 2015, be very physical with the Cavs to get a reaction.

However, that was the first playoff experience for many of the Cavaliers.  This time, they are old heads, with a championship under their belt.

Still, this isn’t to dismiss Boston.  They are extremely well coached, as Stevens is one of the finest basketball minds in America.  But Lue can match him in X’s and O’s too.

What we are interested to see is what kind of gimmicks defensively the Celtics’ coach will come up with to stop the Cavs.  Perhaps he will make James a scorer first and try to cut off everyone else.

To combat this, Lue will try to make Kevin Love a scorer.  Love will draw Al Horford or Amir Johnson as a defender.  If it’s Horford, Love should go inside, if it’s Johnson, he will go outside.

We usually can find ways for the Cavaliers to lose if they don’t do certain things, so it scares us that we really can’t find anything in this series.

Cleveland should win and should win fairly easily and advance to The NBA Finals for the third straight year.

It would be great to go into Beantown tomorrow, and punch the Celtics in the face to show them early in the series there isn’t hope.

We will find out starting tomorrow night.

JK

 

 

 

Cavs Keep On Rolling

Another series, another sweep for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tyronn Lue’s squad is moving on to the Eastern Conference final for the third straight season after taking care of the Toronto Raptors in the minimum amount of games.

And save me the Kyle Lowry excuses, Raptors fans.  Yes, he is your team’s second best player and an all star. But outside of Cleveland, no one cares the Warriors won The Finals in 2015 because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were out.

Also, no one cares outside of northeast Ohio that Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar couldn’t start in the World Series.

It’s a loser’s lament.  We get it, it has happened to our teams, but in the end, people won’t remember.  Besides, the Cavs were dominating the Raptors (sorry, Dwayne Casey) before Lowry sprained his ankle.

So, as a result of the sweep, the veteran Cavs will probably get another week off before they take on the winner of the series between the Celtics and Wizards.

Just think how good the Cavaliers can be if Kyrie Irving ever starts shooting the ball well.  Irving shot under 40% from the floor in this series (37.5%), although he was better from three point range in the conference semi-finals.

It was another incredible performance by the sport’s best player, LeBron James.  The King averaged 36 points per game against Toronto, shooting 57.3% from the floor, hitting 48% of his long range shots.

He complemented the scoring and shooting by adding 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the series.  It has taken the post-season for everyone around the country to appreciate the greatness of LeBron James.

During the regular season, all basketball fans heard about were Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and to a lesser extent, Kawhi Leonard.

All three had tremendous regular seasons, but since the playoffs have started, James is reminding everyone who the best player in basketball still is.

Another thing this series showed is the transformation of JR Smith.  Smith came to Cleveland with the reputation as a shooter without a conscience, but now can be put on the opponents’ best wing scorer, and put him in check.

Smith’s defense of DeMar DeRozan in the first two games of the series was a big key.  Add that to the job he did against Paul George in the first round, he is a huge for what Cleveland wants to do defensively.

Back to Irving, he did a great job passing in this series, averaging 8.5 assists in the four games.  When Irving gets seven assists or more in a game, the Cavs are 23-6 for the season, including the playoffs.

And when Irving is being rested, Deron Williams has played very well.  He was on the floor when Cleveland busted open game three in Toronto, just as he was in the big comeback win over the Pacers in round one.

Finally, Kyle Korver was huge in the last two games of the series, hitting two huge three on Friday and going crazy in the second quarter today with 16 points on four three pointers.

And the defense continues to improve too, which was a huge concern going into the post-season.  When Toronto missed shots, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love gathered up the misses.

So, the Cavs are back in the NBA Final Four, the conference finals.  Even if Boston wins the series in five (the quickest it can be over), it will probably be the upcoming weekend before the next series starts.

That’s the biggest benefit for winning early.

JK

 

 

 

Cavs Biggest Opponent Now Is Themselves.

The probability of the Cleveland Cavaliers losing their first round series wasn’t very high at the start of the matchup.

However, someone forgot to tell the Indiana Pacers that, because they almost won Game 1, and recovered from a 19 point deficit in the second half to make the second game closer than it should have been, but the wine and gold prevailed, 117-111 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

So, the Pacers have the daunting task of having to be a LeBron James led team four out of five games to advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

While publicly James says it doesn’t matter how many points the Cavs win by, as long as they win, the point is in a first round match up, style points do count, especially if the team struggled the way Tyronn Lue’s squad did over the last month of the regular season.

In game one, Cleveland had trouble on the defensive glass and shot just barely over 50% from the free throw line.  That’s not a good recipe for winning in the playoffs.

Last night, the Cavs won the battle of the boards, but only because the three frontcourt starters (James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson) all had ten or more boards, because no one else had more than two rebounds.

And the home team hit 20 of 23 from the charity stripe, with the only three misses coming from James, who is working on a new free throw routine after a career low percentage from the line.

Again, only three players took free throws, with Love and Kyrie Irving making all 17 of their shots.

Iman Shumpert provided a lift in the second half after JR Smith left with a hamstring problem.  Shumpert seemed focused after getting a DNP-CD on Saturday, playing solid defense on Paul George, and chipping in with five points.

The bench still isn’t providing a lot of scoring.  Deron Williams had nine, but in total, the subs only scored 21, compared to the Pacers, who had 32 points off the bench.

Don’t blame Kyle Korver though.  Although the veteran has only taken five shots in the two games, he has captured the attention of Indiana, because his man isn’t helping off him.  That leaves the lane open for James and Irving to get to the basket.

Cleveland was +10 with Korver on the floor.

We understand it is early in the playoff chase, but the defensive issues which plagued the wine and gold recently haven’t been totally cured.  Indiana shot 51% in game two.

Nor have the issues with a fourth quarter lead disappeared.  The Cavs move the ball very well to get the lead, and then revert to isolation sets, which are resulting in long, missed shots on offense.

This allows the opponents to get back in the game.  And the culprits are usually James and Irving.

The Cavs only had 19 assists on 42 made shots in game two.  James had 7 assists, but Love was the only other Cleveland player with more than two.

Look, we don’t want the Cavaliers to be playing at their best right now.  Hopefully, they will get better incrementally as the playoffs move on, so they are playing at peak efficiency when and if they return to the NBA Finals.

Unfortunately, they can’t play poorly enough that they don’t win the Eastern Conference.

The best thing for Lue’s team is to make short work of the Pacers, and get plenty of rest before the second round matchup.  The quest for that begins Thursday night in Indianapolis.

JK