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Five Reasons to Ignore the “Drama” in Cleveland

By Kody Miller
Published on April 12, 2017
Cavaliers Drama Feature Image

For a second time in three years, the Cavs will likely be the 2-seed out East and people seem to think the walls are collapsing at Quicken Loans Arena. Is there reason to be worried? Sure, they have looked dysfunctional at times but there is no reason to think this Cavs team will not make it back to the NBA Finals. We will look at why this “drama” around Cleveland is something to ignore come playoff time.

Lebron James’ Playoff History

We have seen him play in the previous six NBA Finals! As he looks to join only a handful of players () to make seven consecutive. You do not have to look much further than this to see why the Cavs are going to be successful during the postseason. LeBron has one the best playoff records in history and looks to build on that his season.

When looking at James’ first round record alone it shows how dominate he has been. His teams have never lost a first round playoff series. LeBron is 11-0 going into the 2017 first-round playoffs and looks to continue that streak; he has also won . There has not been a team closer than a game six, never playing in an opening round game 7.

Uh oh…. They probably are not going to be the top seed! Not a big deal, as a 2-seed (five times) he has only been to the Finals 100% of the time. If you think LeBron might be frustrated by losing the top to Boston you are dead wrong. He actually seems to thrive off the drama.

A LeBron James led team (Heat or Cavs) are a lock to get into to the second round, no matter what sort of adversity they are facing. His first year back in Cleveland they were the 2-seed and that team ran through the Eastern Conference on their way to the NBA Finals.

The Cavs are Good, No Matter What You Think!

Yeah everyone who follows basketball believes the Cavs have struggled this season and they certainly have in stretches, but it is still a team filled with talent.  During games that have mattered- last week against the Celtics, a game they won by 23-points and they completely dominated the soon to be 1-seed in the East. After an awful loss to the Atlanta Hawks, they followed it up by blowing them out by 26-points but they wound up losing that lead and the game.

The Cavs have not seemed concerned about getting the 1-seed in the East and Golden State has home court locked up for the Finals. Their domination in the Eastern Conference playoffs last year showed that the Cavs still do not have much competition in their conference when firing on all cylinders. Once the playoffs start, we will see a completely different team.

It is important to remember their starting lineup is- LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, JR Smith, and Tristan Thompson with a bunch of veterans coming off the bench. Only one other team has a comparable lineup and it is that one team out West.

Their Bench has Improved

We know the Cavs have their big three (James, Irving, and Love) but they also have some key bench players that need to show up in the playoffs. While sitting James and Irving, players such as Deron Williams and Channing Frye have been able to see key minutes to get in playoff form.

Williams looked like the all-star he once was during the Heat game. He scored a game high 35 points in a game with playoff implications for the Heat. If he can give the Cavs any sort of contribution during the playoffs, while Kyrie Irving takes a breather it takes pressure of LeBron. Williams is no slouch, once considered one of the best guards in the league with tons of experience.

Channing Frye/Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert are other key players the Cavs need to have show up during the playoffs.

Korver/Frye- this sharpshooting duo can get hot from deep, starting key runs. Korver is one of the best shooters in the league and is a player the Cavs hope to count on throughout the playoffs. In his against the Pacers in January he thrived off of LeBron driving and kicking out. If he is healthy and can find his rhythm from behind the arc it will open up the lane for James and Irving, his defender cannot provide help defense without getting punished from deep.

Frye is another threat from behind the arc and hard to defend at almost 7-feet tall. He provided key minutes last year in the Cavs championship run and will be essential to another this season.

Shumpert’s level of play has declined since his fantastic first year that the Cavs acquired him. He is a lockdown defender but offensively he has been awful, as his shooting struggles so does his playing time. On Monday night, “Shump” played one of his best games of the year going for 11 points against the Heat. The Cavs really need him to find his game on offense because he is their best option to guard the opposing teams #1 scorer. He will play crucial minutes down the stretch and they need him to be an option on offense.

At 36-years-old, Richard Jefferson has been the most reliable reserve for the Cavs. The veteran might be the biggest key to this Cavs team making it back to the NBA Finals. The was an important part to last season’s Championship run as a backup to LeBron and he continues to give the Cavs solid minutes when he is on the court.

All the Pressure is Off

Winning the NBA Championship, last year took most if not all of the pressure off this team. Yes, the expectations for the Cavs in 2017 are the same but the pressure to provide Cleveland with a Championship is off their shoulders. Therefore, they can play the 2017 NBA Playoffs as an underdog Champion to a stacked Warriors team.

If it is Cleveland vs. Golden State for the third straight year, the Warriors have all the pressure going into the playoffs. If you recall they lost a historical (3-1) lead in the NBA Finals and acquired future hall of famer, Kevin Durant in his prime during the off-season. The Cavs made no big name free agency pickups and lost one key backup on last year’s squad (Mathew Dellevadova) but the late season signing of Deron Williams fills the backup point guard void.

No One Else in the East Knows How to Win

The Boston Celtics were a great story to the NBA season, young and talented lead by one of the youngest coaches in the league Brad Stevens (40 years old). Unfortunately, they still do not have the experience to win in the playoffs. Their roster is missing true veteran leadership () or the experience of grind time in the playoffs. Another issue is they cannot guard LeBron James, we saw this during their last game where James had 36 points, shooting 14/22 from the field.

In the past 2 seasons, the Cavs have faced this year’s “contenders” in the East and it has not been pretty. Here is a look at those matchups from 2015 and 2016: 2015- Boston (4-0), Chicago (4-2), and Atlanta (4-0) and 2016-Detroit (4-0), Atlanta (4-0), and Toronto (4-0). There is not a team in the East that the Cavs are afraid to play, but these teams are certainly scared of Cleveland, well maybe just LeBron James (4 years of dominating the East in Miami) for good reason.

The only team the Cavs have not recently matched-up against in the playoffs are the Washington Wizards (4-seed), but they would need to beat a solid Raptors squad to meet up with Cleveland in the second round. If Washington manages to beat Toronto, they would be an interesting matchup since they do not have that history of domination by Cleveland (e.g. Toronto/Atlanta).

Favorable Matchup

As of today, they have an easier first round matchup against the Indiana Pacers compared to a series against the Bulls or Heat. Cleveland went 1-7 against Miami and Chicago during the regular season seeming to have their number in comparison to the Pacers (3-1). Indiana seems like a much friendlier First-round matchup.

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