Cards on the table, I’m a fully paid member of the LeBron James fan club. The Cavaliers are my team of choice and I partied like it was 1999 when we won the Championship 2 years ago.
Since beating the Warriors in the NBA finals though, the Cavs have been in somewhat of a slump. Not quite a Phoenix Suns slump, but we’re not getting the results that a team containing the greatest player in the world should be getting. Yes, we’re continuing to challenge deep into the postseason, but this is not the same calibre of Wine and Gold that earnt themselves some Championship jewellery in 2016.
Last year was a struggle, LeBron James and co walked away from the finals feeling pretty embarrassed as they fell to a revenge seeking Warriors who had solidified an already strong roster with the introduction of Kevin Durrant.
The Cavs are currently locked in battle with the Celtics and are heading to game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The question is, should we even be in this position?
Kyrie Irving left Ohio for the greener pastures of Boston in the off season in a trade that saw Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder take residence at the Quicken Loans Arena. It would be an understatement to say that the Celtics got the better end of that deal as just a few months later the Cleveland recruits were on the move once again with Thomas in particular failing to impress in his handful of appearances.
With the Cavs slipping further down the conference, LeBron and Tyronn Lue went shopping in LA and collected a couple more players along the way in an attempt to rejuvenate a lacklustre season. 2018 is the year the Cavs never really got started and the flashes of brilliance every now and then have done little to paper over some very obvious cracks.
James is carrying this team and has been all year. He is a natural born winner and in my opinion the greatest sportsman on the planet right now. We are in the Conference Finals solely because of his skill and determination. In past years he was surrounded by an All-Star quality starting line-up and a more than capable bench. This season however, things just haven’t clicked.
Great scene in Cavs locker room. LeBron was FaceTiming his daughter, Zhuri. She asked to see Kevin Love. Someone brought the phone over to Kevin and she said “good game!”
Kevin responded, “Not me, that was your Dad.” #Cavs
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) May 22, 2018
Given time, I think the current roster could go on to re-establish their NBA dominance. The squad has had so little time to fully gel after coming together mid-season and now they’ve been thrust into the business end of the finals whilst simultaneously trying to build familiarity and chemistry.
The squad are undoubtedly worthy of their playoffs place on paper and are putting up a good fight but rather than sailing through games as we have done in the past, this year we seem to just be grinding them out. There is probably a future Championship winning side in the locker room but right now it may be asking a bit too much.
Now, you may be reading this thinking “but the series is 2-2 you clueless moron?!” Well, you’d be right (about it being 2-2, the moron bit is still up for debate). There’s something a little peculiar about complaining when your team has just won 2 on the bounce to even up a series with it all to play for. One thing about supporting a team of the Cavs level though is that you almost expect to win and failure becomes less of an option.
The Cavs must now go back on the road and ship up to Boston for their fifth showdown with the Celtics. We were very lucky to make it past Indiana, the Pacers must be kicking themselves for throwing the opening series of the playoffs away. We may have trounced Toronto but the wins weren’t all hugely convincing. Defensive errors still plague the team and we seem to need a couple of feeler games before we lock down our tactics for a series.
We are very fortunate that Irving is missing out on the playoffs otherwise the current Celtics series could be over already. Who knows, if it wasn’t for LeBron James continuing to smash 40+ points and racking up triple doubles then Boston could already be booking their tickets out West, regardless of Kyrie’s involvement.
As it stands though, the teams are tied and we will fight on. As much as I love the Cavaliers, I can’t help but feel that we are constantly teetering on the brink of defeat. If James fails to turn up then we’re dead in the water. On occasion J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver or Kevin Love will pick up the slack but our number 23 is the crucial cog in the Cleveland machine and if that doesn’t turn then the others grind to a halt.
Going to Boston is no easy feat for any team, but the opportunity for an upset in Massachusetts is still there.
Beating the Warriors or the Rockets though? Now that’s one hell of a big task and I’m not sure if I can cope with watching us crash out to Steph Curry’s clan for the second year in a row.
If there’s anyone that can carry a struggling team through to another Championship ring though, it’s LeBron James. But even with the King firing on all cylinders, the rest of the roster will need to play their hearts out too – if for no other reason than the fact that if we lose again – ‘Bron probably won’t be hanging around next season and then we really will be in trouble…
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