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by Larry Ness - 06/08/2016
Playoff Journal (June 8)
LBJ is in the NBA Finals for the SIXTH straight year and for the seventh time in his career. His Cavs lost Game 1 by the score of 104-89, which wasn’t exactly news. After all, the loss drops LBJ-led teams in 1-6 all-time in Game 1 of an NBA Finals. However, heading into Game 2, LBJ-led teams had won NINE consecutive Game 2s in an NBA playoff series after dropping Game 1 (stretched back to the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals). Therefore, Golden St’s 110-77 rout of Cleveland last Sunday (despite underwhelming performances from the “Splash Brothers” for a second straight game), has tongues wagging that this Cleveland team is NOT ready for primetime.
The Cavs were able to cruise through the inferior Eastern Conference all season AND in the postseason prior to the finals. However, this year’s team hardly looks any more capable of beating the Warriors than last year’s injury-ravaged squad did. LBJ was held to FIVE points in the second of half of Game 2, one in which the Cavs were held to just 33 points, as a team. “King James” was held to 19 points, the first time in the 2016 postseason in which he didn’t reach the 20-point mark. In fact, it ended his run of 25 consecutive playoff games of scoring 20 points or more.
Kevin Love took a blow to the head and is following the league’s mandated “concussion protocol,” putting his availability for Game 3 at risk. Cleveland’s starting guards, as well as their backups, have been just AWFUL. Irving is 12 of 36 (33%) from the floor, including 1 of 7 on threes. J.R. Smith has played 69 minutes in the two games, but the team’s “shooting guard” (if you will pardon the pun) has attempted just NINE shots (made just three), while totaling eight points. Backup PG “Delly” is 3 of 12 from the floor and Smith’s backup, Shumpert, has played 37 minutes but scored a grand total of SIX points.
Meanwhile, Golden St’s bench has contributed 45 and 40 points in the first two games plus Draymond Green may already be preparing his acceptance speech for Finals MVP, averaging 22.0-9.0-6.0, after a 28-point effort last Sunday. What happens if Curry (averaging 14.5 PPG) and Thompson (13.0 PPG) find their rhythm? Cleveland’s four starters (not including LBJ) were a combined 12 of 35 (34.3 percent) from the floor in Game 2 and the team averaging 14.4 made three-pointers per game while dispatching Detroit, Atlanta and Toronto, has gone just 12 of 44 (27.3%) from behind the arc in the first two games of the Finals. Then again, it’s always darkest before the dawn. We’ll see.
Golden St has gone up 2-0 in these Finals, by the greatest margin of combined victory (48 points) for any team taking a 2-0 lead in NBA Finals history. Speaking of history, teams taking a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals are 28-3 (90.3 percent) all-time. Looking for a bigger sample size? How about the fact that in NBA playoff history, teams taking a 2-0 lead in any seven-game series have gone on to win 253 of 271 previous series (that’s 93.4 percent!). Checking in on the postseason numbers to-date, home teams are 56-25 SU (.692) and 50-31 ATS (61.7%). Fifty of the 81 games have stayed under (same 61.7%) and those following the Zig-Zag theory are 33-33, which is minus-3.3 net games. The Cavs opened a one-point favorite in game 3 (9:00 ET on ABC) but with the question of Love’s availability unknown, the game is pick-em or even Golden St minus-1 as of Wednesday morning.
My next journal will be Friday, available by 12 noon ET.