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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 107-94 road loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.
1. Right now, the Cavs have nothing on which to hang their hat. Honestly. Do you see anything that’s working?
2. They have gone back to being a whole lot of LeBron James, a little bit of Kevin Love and zilch from the supporting cast.
3. James was great with another remarkable triple-double stat line: 42 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Love was pretty good, with 22 points and 15 boards. But for about the fifth time this postseason, the rest of the Cavs looked dazed and confused.
4. Actually, Kyle Korver (11 points) was pretty good in the second quarter.
5. But that was about it. Everyone else carried over their Game 1 hangover. And man oh man, has J.R. Smith (0-of-7 shooting and a Flagrant 1 foul) suddenly gone back down the tubes.
6. Maybe the Cavs will luck out and Smith will get suspended for Game 3 after shoving Celtics center Al Horford in the back. Apparently, no matter how bad Smith is, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue will keep right on playing him.
7. And let me ask you this — who on the Cavs plays with any sort of physicality? OK, James. And OK, Tristan Thompson (eight points, seven rebounds). Other than that, well, if any Cavs player were on trial for being too nasty, they would quickly be set free.
8. And what on earth is Lue telling these guys at halftime? That third quarter was again a nightmare. Sadly, it’s been a major problem under Lue all season. It’s not about to change now.
9. I specifically wrote “under Lue” there because the Cavs were much sharper in the second half in Larry Drew’s 10 games filling in as coach. The Cavs went 9-1 in those games, by the way.
10. I hate to pick on Lue. He’s a wonderfully nice person. But he just seems so confused about so many things important to game management. Who to start. Who to put in the game. When to call a timeout. The list goes on and on. Sometimes, not even LeBron can make up for Lue’s confusion.
11. Meanwhile, the Celtics are making all the right plays and continuing to hustle and keep their heads up even when all appears lost. They move the ball, get good looks at the basket and are playing with a major pep in their step. The Cavs are just sort of dawdling along.
12. Along with all that, the Celtics are far and away the best defensive team the Cavs have faced all season. They just flat-out beat on LeBron, daring the officials to make a call. That’s not dirty. That’s playoff basketball. And in the Eastern Conference Finals, only one team is playing it.
13. Three Cavs scored in double figures. That lack of balance almost never works. On the other hand, all five Celtics starters scored in double figures, led by Jaylen Brown’s 23. Marcus Smart added 11 points and unlimited feistiness in reserve.
14. The Cavs’ bench has completely fallen apart. That’s not intended to praise the starters, either. Lue finally dusted off Larry Nance Jr. But Jordan Clarkson never got in the game. I don’t understand.
15. Nothing wrong with Nance Jr. getting in the game — far from it. But why did it take this long? He has progressively gotten worse since the February trade that delivered him to Cleveland. That’s on Lue.
16. Then again, every time I think Lue needs to sit someone such as Smith, I look down the bench and see Rodney Hood. He too has been a disaster for most of the playoffs. Like Nance and Clarkson, Hood has slowly become less effective as the season has gone on. Why, why, why??
17. Lue on the Celtics winning the battle of the brawn: “We’ve got to be tougher. I think they’re playing tougher than we are. We see that. They’re being physical. They’re gooning the game up and we’ve got to do the same thing.”
18. This thing isn’t over. I’ve written it a hundred times and I’ll say it again — a series doesn’t start until both teams play a home game. The Cavs now get two at home, starting Saturday night. They darn well had better win both. As James said, the Cavs are about to “find out what we’re made of.”
19. If the Cavs can take care of business at The Q, the series is suddenly tied at 2-2. They’ll have momentum and LeBron. That’s a lot working in your favor. But that’s a hypothetical. Right now, the truth of the matter is the Cavs are in a hole and not showing any signs that they understand how to dig out of it.
20. So what now? The Cavs should start by running an actual offense with some real ball movement. They have to stop being so doggone soft. They have to stop chucking up 3-pointers — especially when it’s not working. They have to take the ball to the basket, and at the very least, drive to the hoop and kick it out to the shooters.
21. Defensively, the Cavs could use yet another lesson in energy. There were a few plays where James failed to rotate. He’s clearly tired after carrying so much of the offensive load. Someone else had better really step up, and fast. Otherwise, we can go ahead and start revving up those LeBron-is-leaving rumors. And it’s much too soon for that.