Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
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CLEVELAND — This is it. This is the season. This is now the only game that matters for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And boy, does it matter.
Lose here, and it’s time to start talking LeBron James free agency.
Actually, everyone is talking James free agency anyway. But a loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday at The Q would mean … well, it would mean the Cavaliers’ season is basically over.
Not officially, but very unofficially. Another loss would put the Cavs in a 3-0 Finals hole for the second straight year. Another loss would mean the Cavs are broken. Another loss would mean it’s merely a matter of time before the Warriors are again crowned champs.
That doesn’t have to be the case. The Cavs can win. They can show that this series is really just getting started. They can show that the Warriors (and some might say the refs) did what they were supposed to do in California. The Warriors took care of business at home.
Now they’re in LeBron’s house. Now the Cavs can do the same.
But will they?
You would think they stand a chance, just based on the first two games on the road. The Cavs weren’t awful. Only in moments. And role players almost always play better at home. Aside from LeBron, the Cavs are Kevin Love and role players. The others must rise.
STAY THE COURSE
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue doesn’t need to panic. He doesn’t even need to bench J.R. Smith — who probably deserved to be benched for not knowing the score in Game 1.
But Smith has been this way all season. The Cavs have been frustrated with his lack of focus and indifference. You must convince him that now if the time to earn that fat contract. Otherwise, give him a quick hook, put him on the sidelines, and keep him there.
Otherwise, if you’re Lue and the Cavs just keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe this time, the shots will fall.
Actually, the Cavs haven’t shot all that well from beyond the 3-point line all postseason. Yet against the Warriors, on the road, in Game 1, they had a real chance.
They failed to steal it for an array of reasons (all of which have been beaten into our heads like a Steph Curry dribble-drive), and then came out flat in Game 2. They never recovered.
Aside from making shots, the Cavs will need an extraordinary performance from someone not named LeBron. That’s been the case all postseason. I’m not saying anything new.
Love needs to put forth another solid outing. J.R. must continue to defend and focus on firing away. Lue must design some screens to unleash Kyle Korver. And someone from the group of George Hill or Jeff Green or even Tristan Thompson must have an otherworldly game.
And please, for the love of Dr. James Naismith, someone please get physical. Someone send a message. Someone deliver a clean, but aggressive foul.
I don’t know if it will be enough. I don’t know if the Cavs can build a lead … then hold on … then close against this Warriors team. There’s a lot of talent on the other side.
But the Cavs were right there once already. And now they are at home. They must win. This is the season.
THE JAMES GAME
So here we are. The Cavs trail the series, 2-0.
It’s true if the Cavs don’t win here, I think they’ll get swept. And it’s true if the Cavs get swept, I’ll have my doubts about LeBron returning.
People ask me if LeBron will return. I’ve predicted his next destination incorrectly — twice. So it doesn’t matter what I think. I have no feel for what he will do next.
Part of me thinks he may just look to team up with his best buddies, and form a mostly over-the-hill super team with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
I have my doubts they would do it in Cleveland, and I have even stronger doubts they could beat the Warriors if they did.
Or maybe James will leave for Philadelphia, where he could team with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and give Golden State an even stronger push.
Or maybe — and I honestly think this is the strongest possibility — he comes back to the Cavs, on another one-year contract, and does this all again next summer. The Cavs can easily improve the roster. They have a lottery pick (and Love). Other teams are strongly interested in both. See what you can get.
But this also could be the end of an era. For all the whining about the Warriors being better, imagine what next season could be. It could be no LeBron, no Love, no playoffs, no winning.
I doubt it — but I don’t deny it could be true.
The Cavs can’t worry about any of it. They must win Game 3. They can save the season, offer some hope, simply by doing it.
And they can do it. They’ve proven they can play with this opponent. The time is now to show they can do more than that. The franchise needs a win.