The Cleveland Cavaliers may still advance to the NBA Finals, but if they’re getting outplayed by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, what’s going to happen against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook? Or Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green?
“(The Cavs are) just not as good on the road as they are at home,” Cleveland’s 92.3 morning host Ken Carman told Paul Nanos, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. I think a lot of teams are like that. They’ve always matched up really well against Oklahoma City. Against Golden State, Golden State’s got their own set of problems. I think what you’re find right now is four teams that really got to take care of what’s right in front of them. I still think the Cavs will win the series, but as far as getting to the Finals, you’ve got to take care of DeRozan and (DeMarre) Carroll and certainly Kyle Lowry and Bismack Biyombo before you get to what’s going on in the Finals.”
LeBron James finished with a team-high 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists in Game 4, but he failed to score in the final 5+ minutes of action. Cleveland lost, 105-99. It’s safe to say that James can get to the rim at will against Lowry and Carroll, but he had no interest in doing so in the final minutes.
“Nobody on Toronto can stay in front of him,” Carman said. “I don’t know if a lot of people have been calling out LeBron or anything like that. I think it has been the play of two of the guys inside (Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson) who have really been unable to produce for you. You have Jonas Valanciunas out of this game and out of this series. In the first coupe of games, they took care of business. Ever since they got up into Toronto, Toronto has controlled their post the way they wanted to control their post and they let the Cavs go out and try to hit shots. They went ice cold yesterday.”
The Cavs shot 13-of-41 from three (31.7 percent) – and that’s with Channing Frye going 4-of-8 off the bench.
Nevertheless, the Cavs led in the fourth quarter.
“I thought in the third quarter, Toronto seemed to relent in the post and LeBron had some run-ins and Kyrie had some run-ins and then (Matthew) Dellavedova started hitting some things and then Channing Frye starts to really get it going from three,” Carman said. “All of sudden an 18-point (deficit) is a three-point lead. When they got the lead by three, that’s when I really thought (Cleveland would win). I didn’t have much faith because of the way Toronto had played over these last two games, but I’m going, ‘Well, if this is where you’re going to do it, this is where you pull ahead and you calm down everybody and you win this game by eight or nine and you move on magically from 3-1.’ It just never went that way. They kind of went back to getting a little bit tight. It was the kind of basketball team that we saw a little bit in the regular season but we have not seen in the postseason.”
James, who shot 11-of-16 from the field, including 10-of-13 from inside the arc, went 0-for-1 in the final 5:28.
Why was he so passive when it mattered most?
“Well, I think he’s going to commit to playing in the system,” Carman said. “I think the way he looks at it, you have something really good working for you for 10 games and then it just went away. Now he’s trying to find within the system how the guys are going to play. Kyrie was a little bit rough to start the basketball game, but he finished out all right. Kevin Love, over the last few games, has completely forgotten how to play basketball, and Tristan Thompson has gotten eaten alive inside by Bismack Biyombo. So I think that’s part of the concerning thing. Tristan Thompson has always been able to put together a pretty good stat line and a pretty good game in the postseason, and these last couple games, he’s been non-existent.”
Thompson has just two points in the last two games, while Love combined for 13 points and 11 rebounds.
If that continues, the Cavs will need a Herculean effort from James in Game 5 on Wednesday.
“LeBron has his system,” Carman said, “and he’s going to stick to his system until he feels that it’s time to hit a red button and do what he has to do to pull them out of these games.”