After starting the playoffs a perfect 10-0, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost their last two. They go back to Cleveland tied 2-2, a situation that they aren’t too familiar with. We all remember their absolute domination leading up to last years finals, highlighted by their destruction of the Hawks, winning 4-0 in the ECF. This year is a lot different than last year’s “joke of an ECF”. As we go back to Cleveland for game 5 many are asking, “is this the year LeBron gets dethroned in the East?”
After game’s 1&2 of the ECF, a tied series was the last plausible thought on anyone’s mind; it appeared that a repeat of last years pitiful ECF was imminent. LeBron & Co. won those games by a combined margin of 50 points, looking so dominant, that some labeled them as the favorites to win the NBA Finals. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were playing within their roles, and LeBron was being, well, Lebron. So what changed in game’s 3&4?
In game’s 1&2 the Cav’s shot a combined 14-41 from the arc; getting most of their looks from mid range, and down low. The quality of looks that they were getting showed in the box score. In game 1 they shot 55% from the field, and in game 2, 50%. The Cav’s played to their strengths, which is exactly why they won both games.
In game 3&4 the Cav’s got “3 happy”, trying to do their best impression of the Golden State Warriors. In game 3 they shot 14-41, shooting just as many 3’s in the game as they did in games 1&2 combined! Game 4 was much of the same: 13-41 from 3 point land.
After Game 3’s awful shooting display, it is beyond me, as to why the Cav’s did the exact same thing in game 4. Perhaps Kevin Love’s embarrassing rejection at the rim by Bismack Biyombo early in the 3rd quarter scared everyone else away from the rim.
We can see that the amount of 3’s taken in each game had a drastic effect on the overall efficiency of the Cavaliers.
Game 1: 3pt. field goals: 7-20; shot 55% from the field
Game 2: 3pt. field goals: 7-21; shot 50% from the field
Game 3: 3pt. field goals: 14-41; shot 35% from the field
Game 4: 3pt. field goals: 13-41; shot 47% from the field
Also, in the first two games the dynamic duo of Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan were held in check, despite Cleveland’s history of bad defense against opposing guards. The tandem averaged a combined 29 ppg in the first two games, 15 points lower than what they averaged in the regular season (44 ppg).
Lowry was uncharacteristically bad in these games. He was a near 40% from behind the arc during the regular season, but you wouldn’t have known it during the first two games.
Game 1: 8 points; 3pt. field goals: 0-7
Game 2: 10 points; 3pt. field goals: 1-8
Game 3: 20 points; 3 pt. field goals: 4-8
Game 4: 35 points; 3 pt. field goals: 4-7
Derozan and Lowry averaged 59.5 ppg in games 3&4. This, combined with the Cavaliers awful shot selection, has given the Raptors new life. Bringing them 2 games closer to the franchise’s first NBA finals, and becoming the first Eastern Conference team to dethrone LeBron in 5 seasons. Going into game 5 the Cav’s must look at game’s 1&2 if they want to avoid losing a 3rd straight game. The Raptors have the hot hand, and the dethroning of LeBron suddenly seems possible.