The Cleveland Cavaliers have swept the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the NBA playoffs, and much of the public’s attention has been given to LeBron James – and deservedly so.
James has been producing superhuman numbers for the Cavs and they wouldn’t even be anywhere near the second round of the playoffs if it weren’t for his heroics. However, despite all the heavy-lifting that James has done, the manhandling of the Raptors wouldn’t have been possible if his oft-criticized supporting cast hadn’t finally stepped up their play in the second round.
First Round: 11.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 2.7 turnovers, 33.3% fg
Second Round: 20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 47.5% fg
Kevin Love has undoubtedly been the most maligned Cavs player since his arrival in 2014, and his performance against the Indiana Pacers in the first round didn’t help him quiet those criticisms. Fortunately, he responded by turning in one of the best playoff series of his career against the Raptors. Love finished the series scoring 20 or more points in three straight games. Against the Pacers, the UCLA product never reached the 20-point mark.
First Round: 8.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 2.3 3pm, 37.8% fg, 40.0% 3fg
Second Round: 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 3.5 3pm, 58.3% fg, 56.0% 3fg
Despite shooting a respectable 40.0% from distance against the Pacers, Kyle Korver didn’t provide much else for a Cavs team desperate for non-LeBron production. Against the Raptors, the former Atlanta Hawk shot even better from beyond the arc and it further opened up the floor for himself and for his teammates, thus allowing him to produce slightly better all-around numbers.
First Round: 8.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 32.3% fg, 31.3% 3fg
Second Round: 12.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 63.0% fg, 76.9% 3fg
J.R. Smith is one of the streakiest, most enigmatic players in the NBA. When he’s having one of those nights, he can hit shots from anywhere on the floor as well as anybody in the league. When he’s not, well, you’ll end up scratching your head most of the time while watching him play. So far in these playoffs, we have seen both sides of J.R. Smith in full effect. If he continues his hot streak, he’ll be definitely be a game-changing presence for the next round, or even the Finals.
First Round: 5.6 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 34.2% fg, 31.6% 3fg
Second Round: 12.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 54.8% fg, 43.8% 3fg
Jeff Green is a player with all the physical tools and talent to be a real impact player in the NBA. But somehow, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. His inconsistent and selfish play always ended up frustrating every team he’s been on. The Cavs are his fifth team in the last four years, and they would be wise not to reward Green with extended minutes because of a good series – that is a decision that is going to blow up in their faces. What they can do though is to manage the rotation to maximize his production while minimizing his deficiencies.
— NBA (@NBA) May 8, 2018
LeBron James finally got the help that he’s been looking for.
The Raptors had the best bench unit in the league during the regular season and was stellar in the first round. Their depth was supposed to be their trump card against LeBron’s one-man show. They weren’t going to stop LeBron from getting his, but having competent and reliable two-way players across their entire roster was supposed to overwhelm the rest of the Cavs.
This year’s Cavs team is arguably the weakest iteration since LeBron’s return. After a tumultuous regular season and after almost being eliminated by an unproven Pacers team, no one really believed they had enough to win the championship. But after a season-long search for the right rotation and combination of players to support LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers may have finally found a formula that works – even if this adjustment has included limiting the minutes of some of the “key” players they got at the trade deadline (Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr., and Rodney Hood).
The way the entire Cleveland Cavaliers team performed in the second round of the playoffs has inspired some hope not just in the fans, but in LeBron James himself. For the first time in a long time, LeBron James is once again talking about legitimately competing for a championship – and the remaining teams in the playoffs should be alarmed.