Being the best player in the NBA makes LeBron James expect certain things, but even with that truth being spoken, it’s hard to believe the Cleveland Cavaliers, down 2-3 in the NBA Finals, can upset and stop the momentum of the Golden State Warriors, one win away from being crowned as champions.
For the first time in these Finals, we’ve reached an elimination game. James has an impressive record in games when it’s win or go home in terms of his individual scoring, but it really means nothing this time. He also has unbelievable numbers in this series, and the Cavaliers are still down 2-3, and need something special to happen in order to somehow change the momentum of this series.
Can he give any more than he already has? Is it actually possible? He can be more efficient, the numbers suggest. But considering the kind of burden he has been shouldering since Kyrie Irving exited with an injury that turned out as one that he won’t be back from, it’s hard to expect any efficiency, smarter play or anything better from him. James thinks differently.
I’ve got to be better. We’ve got enough to win it. I feel confident. I don’t put a ceiling on what I’m capable of doing. I know I’m shouldering a lot of the burden, but it is what it is.
The problem for James, is what’s on the other side. While he has a very inconsistent J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova as his shooting support, while Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov help out in the paint, if David Blatt actually gives Mozgov more than a few minutes this time, the Warriors seem to be flooded with endless options in comparison.
It’s not just Stephen Curry who is relentless with his 3-point shooting and setting a record for 3-pointers in a postseason that will probably never be broken. It’s Klay Thompson who isn’t great but good enough on both ends of the floor. It’s Draymond Green who finds himself useful again once the smaller lineups appeared. It’s Shaun Livingston with excellent minutes off the bench. It’s Andre Iguodala, maybe the real change maker for the Warriors since getting a lineup spot. Harrison Barnes has made himself useful once more. Andrew Bogut? The Warriors don’t even need him anymore.
And the way this series ends is more up to the Warriors than the Cavaliers. Yes, James is the best basketball player in the league and in the world, paraphrasing on what he said. But it’s never been about who has the best player. It’s about putting on the best team, and what you do with it as a head coach. While Blatt seemed to be doing wonders earlier in the series, keeping his team in it, Steve Kerr has changed the perception but finding the one thing that works even better than the simple system of giving LeBron James the ball.
Are there any more surprises for the Cavaliers to pull from somewhere? Probably not. Their options were limited to begin with, especially with Kevin Love not playing. More minutes to Mozgov, some sort of small ball version that includes James Jones or Mike Miller. Things can be done. But it’ll come down to how good James is, usually the difference between a competitive or sulking Cavaliers team in this series, and how well the Warriors shoot the ball from three. Everything else is just camouflage to what really makes this series tick.