Consistency. Consistency is the word that has eluded the Cavaliers in their drama-filled, 57-25, top of the Eastern Conference, season. From defeating the Spurs by fourteen to being humbled by the Warriors in a thirty-four point loss, the disparity in effort from one game to the next was frustrating to watch as a fan. Bright spots were very present but losses to injury hit teams like the Grizzlies at home nearly sealed the fate of Cleveland’s playoff seeding: the dreaded second seed. This is something NBA fans and executives never could have imagined would be in question. The Cavaliers should have rolled through the Eastern Conference foes. However, as LeBron says, “Winning is not an easy thing to do in this league.” That being said, many weren’t upset with the losing ways of the Clevelanders, but in the way they lost. Some games almost looked “fixed” as if the Cavaliers didn’t want to try or didn’t want to win as crazy as that sounds. In games where they went up 15, they let the lead go and lost because they took the foot off the gas pedal. They did not have the “killer instinct.” However, with as much drama that went into this season such as Stephen A. Smith’s report on Kyrie and LeBron’s cryptic tweets, the Cavaliers held onto their first goal, clinching the number 1 seed in the East.
There is another thing that has eluded this Cavaliers team, and that is an NBA Championship, their main goal. A symbol of greatness, a glorious mark in history, and a plethora of bragging rights comes with winning this prestigious award. Now, that golden ball of a trophy sits just twelves wins away. Twelve wins until LeBron can cement his legacy. Twelve wins from breaking “The Cleveland Curse.” Twelve wins from becoming immortalized as NBA Champions of the World. What stands in the way? Well certainly not the gritty Detroit Pistons as the Cavaliers looked every bit consistent in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series as they made quick work of the fellas from Michigan in a four game sweep. While few negatives, this series contained a lot to like for the Cavaliers moving forward.
Most noteworthy, playoff character and leadership was certainly shown in the Cavaliers’ “Big Three” in Lebron, Love, and Kyrie. In games where they were down, even sometimes headed to the fourth quarter, LeBon put the team in winning position with his passing. Much of his passes, set up Love (and occasionally J.R.) for a monstrous three, while in the end, “Mr. Fourth Quarter,” Kyrie Irving closed the game with clutch shots and surprisingly defense, his Achilles’ heel. Game 1 saw a Kyrie and Love scoring show, particularly from three while LeBron was in full attack mode. The game stayed close the whole way because of the Pistons’ out of body experience from three point land. In the end, talent won as the “Big Three” combined for 81 points which was much needed in an overall lackluster defensive night for Cleveland. Final, 106-101 in a thrilling “Wine and Gold Winner.” While Detroit stayed close for the first half of game 2, the second half was anything but close as the Cavaliers got hot from the three point line, totaling twenty threes in a 107-90 victory. The Cavs now contained a commanding 2-0 series lead. The scene shifted to Detroit where it got very physical. Cheap shots were taken but in a gritty game, Cleveland, namely Kyrie, hit the big shots to result in a 101-91 win. No team had ever come back from a 0-3 hole in the playoffs and this would hold true as the Cavs gutted out a 100-98 win that saw a half court shot from Kyrie, a near thirty footer from J.R., and a clutch defensive stop by you guessed it, Matthew Dellavedova… no wait… Kyrie Irving? Cavs win the series 4-0 and now battle either the Hawks or Celtics in a likely, entertaining series.
Takeaways? The Cavs are playing defense. Kyrie is playing defense much like he did in last year’s playoffs which makes him that much better of a player. They faced adversity through dirty and gritty play which makes them stronger. The Cavs play well in winning time. While their first halves are a little bit to be desired, they show up in the clutch and lockdown in the second half. A team needs character in the playoffs and Cleveland is off to a good start in building that championship character. With fixing up a few issues, like better play from the bench, the Cavs need a similar series to the one they just played. It would be great if every series ends with Cavalier fans pulling out their brooms but all that matters is that the Cavaliers win four in each series. The next test for the Cavs is a team they swept in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks. The series tips off tomorrow at 7 PM. The Championship sits just 12 wins away.