May 4, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts beside Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) in the third quarter in game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
The Cavs and Bulls series is only one game old, but it’s time to worry if you’re a fan of the Cavaliers as Cleveland is coming off its worst showing of the NBA Playoffs this season.
Playing at home with LeBron James posting a near triple-double state line (19 points, 15 boards, 9 assists), the Wine & Gold still didn’t have enough to shake off the pesky Bulls.
It’s only one loss, and even James described the game as a “feel-out” contest between the two squads, but it doesn’t take away from the fact Game 2 has shaped up into a must-win for the Cavaliers.
The Finals looked like a given just two weeks ago, but then Kevin Love went down. We all knew that would be problematic, but there’s even more cause to worry after some ugly problems popped up their heads in Monday’s loss.
Here’s why we’re fretting:
•J.R. Smith will miss Wednesday’s game, and won’t be eligible to play until Game 3 Friday in Chicago. Obviously, the Cavs need his scoring. Iman Shumpert had 22 points starting in Smith’s place (4-of-10 shooting), but Cleveland fell victim to the domino effect. Smith was gone, Shumpert took his place, and no one on the bench stepped up.
The Cavs can’t afford to go to Chicago down 0-2.
• Cleveland’s bench was outscored by Chicago’s 19-9. This ties back with the Smith issue. Rotations get shortened in the playoffs, and benches don’t go that deep.
David Blatt was experimenting with lineups, especially in the first half, with negative results. James Jones missed his two wide-open 3-point attempts. Mike Miller started and took two shots, making one. Matthew Dellevedova was on the court too much.
Depth will be an issue again in Game 2.
• LeBron’s turnover act is puzzling. He’s still so great, yet he’s becoming an unforced turnover machine. On the day James finished third in the MVP voting, the four-time winner of the award committed six turnovers while admitting he needed to play better in the postgame presser.
James averaged 3.9 turnovers per game in the regular season, and he’s giving the ball away 5.0 times per game in the playoffs.
LeBron’s unfortunate knack for turning the ball over this season has been attributed to age by some scribes. Whatever the reason, he’s got to cut it back if the Cavs are to have a chance this series.
With the two big men on the floor at the same time, the paint gets clogged up and prohibits opening lanes for James and Kyrie Irving.
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Not much you can do to remedy this one. Kevin Love would stretch the floor and he’s gone. Jones was ineffective when he got his chance. This was a huge concern entering the series and will continue to be one until someone on the Cavs knocks down consistent shots.
• Defensively, the Cavs were dismal. Somewhere, Pau Gasol is still coming off a screens for wide open 18-footers. The former Laker killed the Cavs going 10-of-16 for 21 points.
Cleveland must tighten it up in Game 2, or it may be a short series.
Am I overreacting to the Game 1 defeat?