The Cleveland Cavaliers are tied 2-2 in their first round series against the Indiana Pacers. As a point of comparison, on route to the finals last year, the Cavs with a drastically different team, lost 1 game in the entire eastern conference playoffs. Watching this series against the Pacers gives the impression that this may be Lebron’s last season in Cleveland.
During the regular season I was a firm believer in NBA teams, especially the Cavaliers, having a switch to turn on in the playoffs. Flipping this switch would tap into reserve tanks of effort and production that players have but choose not to use during the monotony that is the regular season. This may not be the case for the rest of the Cavs’ players, but it has been the case for Lebron James.
Lebron’s post-season contribution is a tier above his regular season production. Averaging almost 32 points a game to go along with 10+ rebounds and 7 assists, Lebron in this series leads his team in almost all statistical categories. It goes without saying that the rest of the Cavalier cast is severely underperforming. Trade deadline acquisitions Rodney Hood, George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., and Jordan Clarkson are not producing up to par. Although performing well in games 3 and 4, Kevin Love also had a slow start to the post season. To go along with their offense woes, Cleveland’s defense has been shoddy at best, allowing Victor Oladipo to single handedly win Game 1 and blowing a 17 point halftime lead in a game 3 loss.
Championship teams need to have decisive wins in big games against seemingly mediocre opponents. A legitimate championship contender needs to dominate meaningful games against supposedly weaker opponents, and the Cavs do not seem capable of doing so. They lack the postseason switch that desperately needs flipping. This aspect of the team is most concerning for Lebron’s future with the team because it is truly the first time since Lebron’s return to the Cavs where he can still have a 40 point “vintage Lebron” type of game and not be guaranteed a victory.
This is a reminder of a young Lebron, before he ever left for Miami. A superstar who could put up monster performances but lose because of a lack of talent surrounding him. Lebron does have sufficient talent on this team; his talents alone seem not to be enough. Although it’s expected that the Cavs will make it to the finals, for the first time in 8 years the world is seeing a vulnerable Lebron, one who could be bounced out of the playoffs before the league even realizes it.
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