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Fit To Be Tied

(Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer)
As the series, and momentum, heads back to Cleveland for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Cavs are hoping home court advantage will help what ails them. Namely the offense. After turning the corner in mid-January, the Cavs became an offensive juggernaut, using their offense to completely obliterate opposing teams, while racking up assists and wins.

Much has changed since the season ended. The real ailment of the offense, is the injuries to the players. Losing the floor-spacing Kevin Love for the remainder of the season was gut-wrenching. The suspension of J.R. Smith hurt, almost as much, as the Cavs lost Game 1, at home, to the Bulls. Also, injured was Imam Shumpert, who strained a groin while filling in for Smith during his suspension.

Those who have watched the series have noticed a decline in point guard Kyrie Irving. An MRI this morning revealed knee tendinitis and a foot sprain. Which explains the lack of explosion from the normally phenomenal guard. Taking a leg away from a shooter is almost as bad as taking an arm away. You don’t get the same lift, so you’re not shooting from the same height. It takes time to adjust. As favoring an injury normally leads to another injury, the adjustment to the foot injury has caused the tendinitis
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Which leads us to the man of the hour, LeBron James, who reminded fans who the greatest player in the game was by hitting a game-winning jumper, in Chicago. James rolled his ankle in game 4, but kept playing and led, nay willed, his team to victory.

James can sometimes come across as arrogant; speaking in the third-person, or referring to himself as the greatest player in the NBA, but he has fought through numerous injuries this season and last night, he put the Cavs on his broad shoulders and carried them to the finish line. Injured ankle and all.

Reminiscent of his Game 2 buzzer beater against Orlando in 2009, James again delivered just enough for his team to win, coming through when they needed him most. The true test of this team is how it responds at home tomorrow. With all the momentum on their side, injuries aside, the Cavs need to game plan to slow Derrick Rose. With Irving and Shumpert injured and LeBron carrying the load offensively, someone will need to step up and slow Rose down, or step up and help James out on offense.

James has become a volume scorer, a role he is not used to, and it hasn’t been easy as his jumper is iffy and at 30, he doesn’t have the explosion he once did. He is still an amazing player, as his game winner will attest to, but he needs help.

Shooters need to make shots. Mike Miller and James Jones were brought in to make open three-pointers, that has been a work in progress. Smith was hot most of the season, but alternates between hot and cold in the playoffs, but he has made some timely shots to bring the Cavs back into games.

Another possibility is running the ball through the post for a bit to give James a breath on offensive possessions. Let Timofey Mozgov get physical with Noah under the basket and score some easy buckets in the paint, or kick it out to the injured and flat-footed Irving or Smith for a three.

Whatever the plan, the Cavs must take the series lead and continue to build momentum, at home. This late in the season, injuries are mounting, but feeling sorry for yourself only adds insult to injury. Besides, what could be more Cleveland than an underdog story?
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