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The Cavs are finding a way

Sunday nights’ 95–93 overtime win against the Golden State Warriors was big for the Cavs for several reasons. For one, it took the monkey off their back and showed them they can win. Not just a game, but the series. It may sound silly, especially considering how LeBron James and the rest of the Cavs including head coach David Blatt have denied being the underdog, but injuries have devastated this team.

Kevin Love’s shoulder injury in the Boston Celtics’ series could have been disastrous. The Cavs could have given up, shrugged their shoulders and said “maybe this isn’t our year.” Instead, they found a way to get it done with less floor spacing.

Inserting Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup was worrisome because of his lack of offense. The plus side was the defense and rebounding. Thompson plays with intensity, whether off the bench or as a starter.

Then, there was Kyrie Irving’s leg injuries. At first thought, a hobbled Irving, slowed by pain was a hindrance on defense and wasn’t able to execute much offensively. The Cavs managed to play well without him. Inserting Matthew Dellavedova into the starting lineup while Irving rested his injuries in the Atlanta Hawks series.

Again, the Cavs lost spacing, but picked up their defensive intensity. The defense turned into offense and Delly ended up making several open shots while frustrating the Hawks, something he did well against the Bulls as well.

But, the worst was yet to come. Already down Love, Irving was also lost for the remainder of the season due to a fractured kneecap. The Cavs lost in overtime after holding the lead most of the game. It seemed they would be destined to stay within an arms length of a win, but never firmly grasp ahold of it.

In Game 2, the Cavs grabbed that win by the throat and refused to let go. Led by a triple-double from LeBron James, 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists, who had his second consecutive amazing, mind-boggling, awesome, and jaw-dropping game. It is truly ridiculous the amount of criticism James gets, even when his team wins. He was obviously the leader on the floor, and upstaged the current MVP on his home court.

Curry had a miserable shooting night, making 5 of 23 shots, for 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. The MVP was nullified by the physical defense of Delly. Curry is an amazing shooter and, in all likelihood, will not be held down for the remainder of the series. The fact that the Cavs got out of Golden State with a series split is key.

The second reason is, last night’s win puts all the pressure on the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were supposed to dominate this series, some even predicted a sweep because of the various injuries to the Cavs. The Warriors are a relatively young team, with a bunch of NBA Finals virgins. Not one of them has the experience of James. The Warriors are not used to playing a grind-it-out, half court offense style game. James is adaptable. Learning to play that style in the most crucial series of the season is not ideal for the Warriors.

Not to mention the Cavs have James Jones, who made several veteran plays last night, Mike Miller, and Kendrick Perkins. They have all been there and done that. The Warriors haven’t. This is still a series. How the Warriors respond in Cleveland on Tuesday will show their mindset. If the Cavs can come out quick and fluster Golden State with tough defense, Golden State may not be mentally up to the challenge of “competing.” Beating them in Golden State, something that’s only happened 3 times this season, was crucial. Mentally, it’s a blow for the Cavs. Hopefully, they go for the knockout on Tuesday.
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About David Burkart

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