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

 

Cavs Need Tweaks, Not Overhaul

With the NBA Draft occurring this past week and the beginning of the free agent period dawning next weekend, there has been a lot of talk about what the Cleveland Cavaliers should do this off-season.

Most of it comes from the uncertainty surrounding the franchise because LeBron James’ contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

In our opinion, whoever the new Cavs’ GM is, probably Chauncey Billups should tweak the roster, making the bench younger and more athletic because that’s where The Finals were lost, when James was off the floor.

Look, most people, especially the national media have painted the Golden State Warriors as this unstoppable team, which we don’t buy into.

They are a great team without a doubt, with two titles in the last three years, and in between a record setting 73 win team in the regular season.

But we can’t help but think what would have happened if Kyle Korver (and we aren’t blaming him) makes the corner three in the last three minutes of the third game of the championship series.

If he does, Cleveland wins that game and is trailing 2-1 with the fourth game at The Q.

We believe even the smug Steve Kerr would admit the wine and gold outplayed his team for the majority of the third and fourth games of the series.

You do not break down and reconstruct the roster for several reasons.

First, as long as you have James, you have a chance to win the title.  That’s how good he is.  So, any talk of trading him (even though he has a no trade clause) is stupid.  You ride it out with him.

Second, remember that the Cavs went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs and one of the East’s best players, Jimmy Butler, went to the West.

Our point is that there is no team in the East challenging Cleveland right now.

Oh, what if Boston signs Gordon Hayward?  Here are the Celtics three best players:  Isaiah Thomas, Hayward, Al Horford.  We rest our case.

The Celts are trying to build to be the best in the East when James finally slows down, retires, or leaves.

In The Finals, we believe we can all agree Tyronn Lue received no help from his bench, outside of Richard Jefferson.  Korver, Iman Shumpert (who played three minutes in the last game), Deron Williams, and Channing Frye were non-factors.

Taking a non-emotional look at the Cavs, the five players mentioned need to be replaced, although we would understand keeping one or two for experience.

We would also look to move Tristan Thompson, who after six seasons still makes you cringe when he is taking a shot from longer than five feet.

Thompson is making a ton of cash ($16.4 million next season), and we believe you could get a similar player AND someone else who can help for that amount of money.

Look around the NBA, there are a lot of players who do what Thompson does.  He’s an very good defender and he’s an energy guy who grabs a lot of rebounds.

We say take emotion out of it because these guys won a title here, the first seen in northeast Ohio in 52 years.  Of course, we love them for that.  But you have to think about the upcoming season.

And whoever is running the Cavaliers has to make the roster better.  And to do it, you don’t move your three best players, all of whom are all-stars, you fix the rest of the team.

Break up the Cavs?  That’s just stupid sports talk conversation.

JK

Cavs Unsettled At Wrong Time

It was just eight days ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers ended their reign as NBA Champions, losing The Finals to Golden State four games to one.

It was the third straight championship series appearance for the wine and gold, all guided by GM David Griffin.

Last night, word came out that Griffin and the team agreed to part ways mutually.  This means that the now former GM and owner Dan Gilbert couldn’t come to some sort of agreement in regards to either the future of the franchise or how much power Griffin should have in determining what will happen in the future for the Cavs.

It has been reported that the departure of Griffin was concerning to the team’s resident superstar, LeBron James, who already has trust issues with the owner.

The most troubling thing about the change in the front office is no one knows who is making the decisions at Quicken Loans Arena now in a very critical time of the year for an NBA team.

This Thursday is the NBA Draft, and although the Cavaliers do not have a selection, it is also a period where moves that will effect next year’s roster are made.

The beginning of the free agent period is also dawning, and there is no one around to be making these key decisions, especially for a franchise with championship expectations.

It does not mean however, that Gilbert is planning a massive rebuild following next season.  As long as James is here, the Cavs will be a contender.  And although there are rumors from every place concerning where The King will play in 2018, if Cleveland wins another title next June, it is difficult to see James leaving.

And if Kyrie Irving is on the roster, it would be difficult to find another NBA roster that could sign James as a free agent, with as dynamic a player as Irving on the team.

This isn’t to say James will definitely not leave when his contract ends after next season, no one knows that except LeBron himself.  However, if the Larry O’Brien Trophy comes back to the north coast, it would be odd for a player who wants titles to turn his back on a repeat chance.

Griffin did have an ability to take limited assets to turn them into players who could contribute, such as his deals for Kyle Korver and the signing of Deron Williams.

In the end though, the lack of athleticism on the bench cost the wine and gold against the Warriors.

Maybe Griffin wanted more veterans and Gilbert wanted more youth.  Maybe Griffin wanted more offense and Gilbert wanted defense.  Who knows?  All we know is there will be plenty of speculation.

Before bashing ownership, we want to see who is brought in to run the show, and we will give them a chance before hammering, if merited.

Cleveland fans will always have a warm feeling for David Griffin, who was the architect of the first championship team in the city in 52 years.  That doesn’t mean he is the only person with good basketball team building skills.

The new GM could wind up being a genius.

The problem with making the move now is it is difficult to find a good thing in being unsettled right now.  And it looks like Gilbert is meddling again in basketball affairs, which is not a good thing.

The pressure regarding this move falls squarely on the owner.  If things don’t work out, and James leaves after next year because he’s not happy with the direction of the Cavs, Gilbert will be vilified by the media and fans alike.

On the other hand, Gilbert hired David Griffin, and we know how that worked out.

Let’s see who takes over and how it turns out before pressing the panic button.  It’s not the end of this successful run for the Cavaliers…yet.

JK

 

 

Cavs’ Decisions? Keep Emotion Out Of It.

The Cleveland Cavaliers lost the NBA Finals last night, dropping Game 5, 129-120, thus losing the series, four games to one.

Now, comes the silly season for the NBA and their fans.  The draft, which the Cavaliers currently will not be part of, is in two weeks, and then the free agency period starts.

The first thing the Cavs’ front office will do, and we say the front office, because GM David Griffin is currently without a contract, is act without emotion, something fans cannot and will not do.

This particularly pertains to Kevin Love, who is consistently the team’s whipping boy for the fans.  If the wine and gold do not win, it is obviously Love’s fault.

However, Love averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds, and two steals in The Finals, shooting 39% from behind the three point line.  And he had the best defensive rating on the team.

This is not to say Love should not be traded.  Our belief is anyone can be traded if the return in right.

For example, right now, no one would want to deal Kyrie Irving, correct?  But if New Orleans called and offered Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, you’d make the trade.

Kevin Love is a top 25 player in the NBA, if you move him, you have to get somebody who’s a better player.  And that’s not easy to do.

You would have to replace Love’s size (he’s the only other offensively skilled big man on the team besides LeBron James), his three point shooting, his rebounding (he led the Cavs), and his passing.

Good luck with that.

What the Cavaliers need to do is upgrade their bench to contend with the Warriors, because Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and Deron Williams provided little in The Finals.

Those four contributed just 49 points combined in the five contests.  Compare that to the 97 points supplied by Andre Iguodala, Shawn Livingston, and David West.  You can make a very good argument that this is where the series was lost.

We believe Cleveland needs to get longer and more athletic on the bench.  By longer, we mean players who are in the 6’6″ to 6’9″ range, with quickness and the ability to make an open shot.

Yes, they should be looking for “three and D” players.

Derrick Williams, who was missing against Golden State, would seem to be an ideal player.  It is a little curious that Tyronn Lue didn’t find a role for him in The Finals.

When Cleveland had a great record in February, Williams was a key contributor.

This is not to hammer on Lue, who did a solid job considering he wasn’t getting anything from his non-starters.

We would guess some of the roster changes will come naturally.  James Jones will probably retire, and he may be joined by Richard Jefferson, who hinted at doing so last season.

Will Deron Williams return, and what about Frye and Korver.  The latter two provide shooting, so they would be useful, but they should be in a diminished role.

Also, Tristan Thompson needs to be more of an offensive player.  He must develop a reliable shot from ten feet out so defenses have to pay attention to him.

As we said previously, the front office needs to step away for a few days, while the emotion of losing is still raw, and make decisions to get back to The Finals with a chance to win a title.

It could be an interesting summer at Quicken Loans Arena.

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

 

 

Previewing Cavs-Warriors III

Well, it’s finally here.

Tonight, the NBA Finals start and the rematch everyone expected prior to the playoffs starting has arrived, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors doing battle for the third straight year.

And better yet, each team has won a title, making this the rubber match.

Make no mistake, the Golden State Warriors are a great team.  They won 67 games in the regular season and have swept through the Western Conference playoffs.  And their statistical resume is outstanding.

They led the NBA in field goal percentage, steals, and blocked shots.  They are also number one in defensive field goal percentage and three point defensive field goal percentage.

They are also third in shooting the long range shot, but one of the teams are rank behind are the Cavaliers, who were second during the regular season.

If they have a weakness, they only rank 7th in the Association in rebounding and they are prone to turn the ball over, 9th in the league in that department.

However, we believe the Cavs have a solid chance to repeat as champions if they control the tempo, and are patient on offense.

We thought this before the San Antonio Spurs executed this in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals before Kawhi Leonard got hurt, and that performance early in that series just confirmed it.

There is no doubt that the Cavs will do what they did in last year’s Finals, that is, running pick-and-rolls with LeBron James and whoever Stephen Curry is guarding to get the matchup of Curry on James.

We understand many people think Curry is a good defender, but the metrics show the opposite, and besides he is five or six inches shorter than James and probably a good 70 to 80 pounds lighter.

Golden State is a solid defensive team, but we feel some of that comes from teams trying to place their style and at their pace.  That leads to poor shot choices and poor passing, which accounts for their outstanding defensive field goal percentage and their steals.

We also think most NBA teams are intimidated by the Warriors.  We said most, because most assuredly the Cavaliers are not.

We also have to bring up the way the games will be officiated.  We have long contended that the Warriors are coached to foul each and every time down the floor, knowing the referees will not call them all.

If Golden State defenders are allowed to hack away at James’ arms when he takes the ball to the basket, that’s a huge advantage for them.  The same with Curry and Klay Thompson on Kyrie Irving.

On the other hand, the Cavs want to be physical too.  They will try to run Curry into picks, bumping him around hoping it will take its toll at the end of games and if the series goes to six or seven games.

One thing we don’t understand is the coaching edge everyone gives the Warriors if Steve Kerr is on the sidelines.  Kerr is a fine coach, but we simply don’t see anything that gives him a decided edge over Tyronn Lue.

Lue has shown an ability to take away an opponents’ strength offensively.  This ability will be tested in this series.

We believe the Cavaliers can win this series, and the Warriors shouldn’t be an overwhelming favorite.  We understand they are favored, but it shouldn’t be a 90% chance.

As for a hero if the Cavs pull it off, besides one of the big three?  We think JR Smith comes up big in a Cleveland repeat.

JK

 

 

Getting To Finals Doesn’t Get Old

Let it soak in Cleveland.

It was anticipated since the start of the regular season that the Cavaliers would get back to The NBA Finals and have a chance to defend the title they won last June 19th.

And here we are after the Cavs dominated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, four games to one.

The only game Boston won, the wine and gold had a 21 point lead midway through the third quarter.

It was that much of a mismatch.

So, the Cavaliers, a downtrodden franchise since the Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, and Larry Nance era, is heading to their third consecutive trip to The Finals, and the fourth overall in franchise history.

All four of those squad contain a certain LeBron James, who became the most prolific scorer in league playoff history tonight.

As for James, he is making his seventh consecutive trip to The Finals and his eighth overall.

Just for comparison, Michael Jordan played for the NBA title six times.

The only players in NBA history who have played in more championship series are as follows:

Bill Russell                      12
Sam Jones                       11
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  10
Jerry West                        9
Magic Johnson                9
Tommy Heinsohn          9

That’s it.  Three of those players played with those Celtic teams that dominated the late 50’s and 60’s.  It’s incredible to ponder James’ greatness and to think he has now been to the ultimate series four times with two different franchises.

Of course, we know just getting to The Finals isn’t enough for James or the rest of the Cavaliers for that matter.

This is the rubber match against the Golden State Warriors, and unlike the great Celtic-Lakers’ rivalry in the 1980’s, we don’t think there is a lot of respect for each other.

Cleveland would love to win this match up, not only to repeat as champions, but also to give them bragging rights in this trilogy.

You have to feel good for two veterans making their first Finals appearance in Deron Williams and Kyle Korver, both of whom joined the Cavs during the season.

Williams has been in the league for 12 seasons, made the All Star team five times, and played on the US Olympic team.  The closest he got previously was in his second NBA season when the Jazz lost to San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals.

Korver was swept out of the playoffs the last two seasons by the Cavaliers, giving new meaning to the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” saying.

He got to the conference finals twice, losing as a member of the Chicago Bulls in 2010-11 and with the Hawks in 2014-15.  Both times, he lost to a team featuring LeBron James.

Be ready for a national media blitz extoling the virtues of the Golden State Warriors and how they cannot be beaten.  They aren’t unbeatable.

That doesn’t mean we are expecting a Cavalier victory, but we are saying if the wine and gold execute their game plan, they can beat the Warriors again.

Remember, the Western Conference Finals were played with San Antonio missing one of the top five players in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard.  The Spurs would have trouble beating Toronto or Boston in a seven game series without Leonard.

These are the halcyon days for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  As James himself said after last night’s win, don’t take this for granted.  After all, before James came back to the team, it had only happened once.

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