8 straight finals. Are you kidding me? From Mo Williams playing second fiddle to 31-year-old Jeff Green putting up 14 shots, Lebron never ceases to amaze.
The last time Lebron lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” was the number one song of the year, flash mobs were in style, and the Angry Birds app was just released. Times have changed but Lebron’s dominance has remained.
The other Cavs players played just how you would expect them to play. Lebron stans will point to his lack of support as to why he is the GOAT. The “other” Cavs players shot 11-30 for a meager 33 points. Lebron and Jeff Green (basically MJ and Pippen) combined for 54 points on 19-38 shooting. Jeff Green was Lebron’s sidekick and he still beat Boston by 8.
It ain’t over til’ the fat lady sings. The Celtics started off hot and for a split-second, it looked like Boston could run away with this one, building a 26-18 lead after the first quarter. From then on, the Cavaliers outscored the Celtics in each quarter. The Celtics scored a sparse 13 points in a crucial third quarter.
After Boston continuously took contested threes early in the shot clock when they should have taken advantages of mismatches inside, avid basketball fans could denounce that the game, in fact, was over.
This wasn’t a game Lebron and the Cavs necessarily took from the Celtics. Boston basically gave it to the Cavaliers. But there a few significant other Cavaliers throughout the series.
As time went on we saw the J.R. Smith we expected to see in a game 7. Smith had his typical awakening game, seemingly only playing well when the game is coming down to its deciding stretch. All his shot attempts came from three, hitting two clutch off-balance fourth-quarter treys.
Larry Nance Jr. continued his unexpected run with 12 straight buckets until he missed a step-back three-pointer. Nance didn’t have a great game, only accounting for 2 points and a brutal travel when he was in. He also picked up two fouls which wouldn’t mean much to a deeper team but is detrimental to the Cavs. For a guy that was benched by Lue earlier in the playoffs, Nance outpaced expectations. He has maintained the highest true shooting percentage for the Cavaliers thus far. Nance was great during the series but one guy really stood out this game.
Jeff Green was the key to a Cleveland win. He rebounded the ball 8 times and scored the second most for the Cavs, with 19 points. After Tatum had a dunk and three-pointer in succession, the Cavs needed a big play. Jeff Green delivered with the biggest shot of the series, shifting the momentum to the Land. Thus, the Cavs went on a 15-7 run and wound up winning 87-79. Jeff Green filled in valiantly for Kevin Love. After the victory, a reporter asked Green how he handled the newfound role, “Play hard, stay in the zone, have fun with it and enjoy the moment.” Jeff Green played hard and had fun with it on the biggest stage. Jeff Green was Scottie Pippen to Lebron’s Michael Jordan.
Notwithstanding, my Lebron bet did not pay out. The Celtics actually held Lebron under his projected point total of 38, pressuring him every possession so he was not able to entirely dissect their defense. Yet he still produced an otherworldly 35-15-9.
Brad Stevens even stated “He’s (Lebron) unbelievable. Every day you’re totally focused on this and he’s gotten past it 8 straight times. It’s ridiculous. With the pressure, with the scrutiny, doesn’t matter. Stevens reiterated their goal going into the series, “Was to make him exert as much energy as humanly possible and for the most part we were pretty good at that, but he still scored 35, It’s a joke.” Even the best coach in the NBA can’t stop Lebron. The coach on the opposite end was not too shabby either.
When is Ty Lue getting the credit he deserves? You can’t sit there with a straight face and tell me Mike Brown or even David Blatt could have done what Ty Lue just did. This is by far the worst team Lebron has ever had. He made Korver serviceable, running him off a myriad of screens and using him as a decoy. He made frail George Hill look like Pacers’ George Hill, having him attack the rim off ball-screens. Ty Lue’s Cavaliers will now appear in three straight finals and now is time all take note.
Lue realized that Boston would attack its weak links on defense, Korver, Nance Jr., and Clarkson. So he played one group for a total 205 out of 240 minutes. His willingness to vary tactics in each series exhibits his adaptability as a coach.
Although there are areas both coaches can improve in. For example, this series was a cesspool for horrible switching tactics, neither team constructed a solid defensive foundation.
Cleveland’s switching hurt them, multiple times Korver switched onto Horford, leaving Thompson on an island with Jaylen Brown, who would either take the slow-footed Thompson to the rim or hit an open 3.
Boston would often switch Horford onto Lebron, even though James would blow by Horford for a runner or shoot an easy mid-range shot over him.
On the other hand, Al Horford played well offensively, but only shot 12 times, with most of them coming in the first half. Horford was sure of himself, taking advantage of the “mouse in the house” post situations and made bang-bang decisions. Nonetheless, the Celtics refused to give Horford the ball in the post. Smart, Morris, and Rozier shot a combined 5 for 28, chucking up shots like they were down 30 instead of down 3.
Even though the Celtics had a dormant game where some playoff stars did not produce like in other games, Lebron shoulders major credit for dragging this Cavaliers team to the finals.
Lebron does Lebron things and has been since I started watching basketball.
But it has to hurt Boston a little knowing they got this far only to fall to an arch nemesis.
Even though the Celtics were not expected to be here, this one still stings.