– Evan Sally and Jim Bearor
Jim and Evan’s NBA Ramblings
Co-founder Evan Sally and our newest exciting addition to the Hard Foul Sports roster, Jim Bearor, offer their thoughts on the Cavaliers’ big 106-101 victory over Chicago.
LeBron Responds – Evan Sally
LeBron can’t be efficient anymore, he’s taking too many bad shots, he can’t win without help. LeBron is on the decline. This was the common belief amongst The King’s critics after the first 4 games of the Cavaliers’ series against the Chicago Bulls. Even though the series was tied at 2-2 and LeBron had won Game 4 on a buzzer-beating shot from the corner, this chorus of negativity was hard for even the biggest LeBron fan to disagree with. Through the first 4 games of the series, while still putting great counting numbers (amount of points, rebounds and assists), LeBron had shot 40 for 106 from the field for a paltry 38%, and incredibly had only made 2 of the 19 3s he had attempted, far below his season averages of 49% and 35% respectively. The decline wasn’t just on the stat sheet either, visually, LeBron’s shots weren’t just missing; he was missing badly, and even when he able to get to the rim, finishing had become a struggle. Whether it was the burden of having to carry a Cavs team without Kevin Love and with Kyrie Irving playing on one foot, or age, or a combination of the two, something seemed to be wrong.
As it turns out, reports of LeBron James’ demise were greatly exaggerated. LeBron responded with his strongest game of the playoffs and perhaps one of the best games of his storied playoff career. He had 38 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks on 14 for 24 shooting. He looked like the LeBron of old, punishing Jimmy Butler in the post and moving like a relentless freight train towards the basket all night. He was also disruptive defensively all game, including two absolutely incredible blocks: one on NikolaMirotic afterMirotic had pump faked, LeBron into the air was forced to readjust, and another on
Derrick Rose, as Rose took a shot that could have tied the game late in the 4th quarter. It was his 51st playoff game with having at least 30 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds, tying Michael Jordan for first all time in NBA history. Perhaps the most impressive stat he had last night was a category with zero in it: LeBron had no turnovers, a massive change from having 15 turnovers in the previous two
games alone. It was a historic performance from a historically great player. If LeBron continues to play at this level, he may still be able to lead the depleted Cavs roster to an NBA title.
David Blatt’s Redemption – Jim Bearor
David Blatt, the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers (at least in title) gave LeBron James all the praise in the world for his performance last night. James controlled every aspect of the game, scoring 38 points off 24 shots with 0 turnovers, and David Blatt was quick to give credit where credit was due, kicking off the post-game press conference by saying “You can’t pick a thing he didn’t do at the highest level.”
That is very true, but it is also nothing new. Blatt also showed admiration for Kyrie Irving battling through his injuries, and Tristan Thompson doing the dirty work that doesn’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. In the presser after the game, Blatt looked every part the head coach of a championship-level team.
And to be honest, he is a very good coach. His blunders at the end of Game 4 don’t define him. The Cavs are a win away from the Eastern Conference Finals, his team has gelled over the course of this season, and they peaked at the start of the playoffs. Yes, he had LeBron, Kyrie, and Love, but coaching is still part of that equation.
LeBron has gone to bat for Blatt throughout, and I like how he compared the coach-player relationship to a marriage. I wouldn’t look too much into a rocky first year. First years are tough. If it’s still rocky a few years down the line, then maybe the marriage isn’t what the Cavs thought it would be. A lot of marriages work themselves out over time, though. I feel like this one might. Winning helps.