What is happening in Cleveland? The East’s number one seed have had a tumultuous year; sacking coach David Blatt and consistently denying rumours of discontent from the players.
At various points both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have been rumoured to be on their way out of Ohio. But here they both are, sharing the load with King James and leading the Cavs back towards the NBA Finals.
The drama around the team has died out and, at the business end of the season, there couldn’t have been a better time to click. Gearing up for a Conference Finals match-up with a hobbled Toronto Raptors or Miami Heat, the Cavaliers are playing at a level that is raising hopes amongst followers that an end to Cleveland’s title drought is but a month away.
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In his short time in charge, Tyronn Lue appears to have listened to the franchise’s critics. In the opening two rounds of the playoffs, the Cavs have moved away from their isolation reliant offence and their reward has been a juggernaut-like success.
Quick and efficient ball movement has torn apart both Detroit’s and Atlanta’s defences. Coupled with a lethal proficiency from deep and it’s not hard to see why the Cavs are the only team with a perfect record in the playoffs. They are playing, dare I say it, like the Warriors.
Irving and Love have stepped up considerably. Watching their pick and roll/pop plays against the Hawks was incredible. The duo’s efforts have meant the team have not needed to rely on super-human performances from James to carry them. In turn, this means that LeBron has been able to stay fresh for when he is required to put his cape on and put the franchise on his shoulders.
The Cavs have known since last June that they would be favourites to represent the East in the Finals again this year. This whole season has been about going one step further than last year and it is clear that they have one eye on a rematch with the Warriors.
As effective as the line-ups they’ve rolled out against the Pistons and Hawks have been, they are undoubtedly preparing for Golden State’s small ball “Death Squad” of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.
No team has been able to handle this five consistently, but the Cavs’ own small ball five of Irving, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, James, and Love, might just do so. The squad’s prolific play through their first eight games has seen them set an NBA record for threes in a game (25) and the most in an Eastern Conference semi (77).
Perhaps most impressive, though, is that their 134 threes so far is only 106 behind last season’s Warriors playoff total (an NBA record). That Dubs side played 21 games. This Cavs side… just eight so far.
So have the Cavs cracked the small ball, three-point dominated game that will dethrone the Warriors? Let just say, if we get a re-match of the 2015 Finals, it’s going to be one heck of a shoot-out!