As I predicted following Game 2, the Cleveland Cavaliers woke up from their playoff slumber. Not looking crisp and a tad rusty, the Cavs' lackluster effort in Game 1 gave the players a reality check. Simply tighten up or go home.
From the looks of their efforts in Game 2, our guys seem to follow through on all of the media rhetoric. The "we HAVE to play better" and "I have to do more" lines were not left hollow.
I said that the Cavs in essence needed to completely reverse the role from the the first game to the second. And they must read Triple Threat here because that's exactly what happened. Early on in Game 2 we looked like the Bulls did in Game 1 and vice versa.
There are the far-out fans that will attribute the stellar play of the James Gang to the return of the headband. While that would be great for some fictional piece by someone else, us sports fans over this way delve in reality and what actually happens.
Hustle and grit were two things that the Chicago had plenty of and Cleveland had little to none. Plus, Thompson’s ability to play the pick-and-roll out on the perimeter limited to Bulls offense. Kudos Tris, you the real MVP.
From there, it was all will and rhythm.
The Cavs started very aggressively. They were everywhere. Attacking the rim on offense and covering/shutting off the floor on defense, it was like Cleveland was playing with 6 guys out there.
Mozgov, who was ghost in the first game, had two shots on three of the Cavs first three possessions. And not just open baskets, we're talking strong assertive attacks and moves to get around the Bulls height and length in the post.
The refs were letting both teams play from what I could tell. Didn't get as many whistles as I thought we should have but the Cavs were still very efficient in getting to the line. Also, there was not much noise from Kyrie Irving in the first frame. The Bulls, much like the Cavs would make small runs from time to time. But also like the Cavs, they were not sustained runs and could not get them over the hump. Cleveland was just too hot and efficient. The Cavs went 7/10 from 3 in first 16 minutes of game time.
The 50/50 balls and hustle plays were dominated by the Cavs. The Cleveland bench also stepped up tremendously.
Dellavedova was hitting shots and working the offense well when Kyrie was resting. He almost seemed go-to for a while. Lol I know, I know.
A HUGE dunk by LeBron stifled a Bulls run and momentum. With the Chicago turning the ball over consistently, the Cavs rode the wave into halftime leading 64-45. Cleveland was 9/15 3FG, 12 assists, 22 points in the paint and 20 pts off of turnovers.
The remainder of the game would continue this way for the most part. The most intriguing part of the second half was the leg groin injury for Iman Shumpert mid 3rd quarter. Not exactly what Cleveland needed or could afford.
After a short trip to the locker room and a brief stint on the exercise bike, Shumpert would return to game action later in the 4th.
Cleveland would go on to win 106-91 never having really been pressured throughout the game. Though Kyrie was relatively quite, or overshadowed, he still needed with 21 points. LeBron had the night he said he needed to have to win totaling 33pts, 8 rebs and 5 asts.
Looking forward to Game three in Chicago: the Cavs will have to open exactly how they did in Game 2 if not better. The United Center is a hostile environment and especially difficult in the playoffs.
With Smith coming back, I would assume that he would have more rust than the rest of the team in Game 1 because of the suspension. If Shumpert is healthy, I would keep him in the starting lineup. He's the better defender and Smith, who is having a subpar playoffs thus far, will need to be eased back into the lineup. Let him get his second round feet wet by coming off the bench and get his game wind gathered.
And for those worried about Tristan's minutes, he was a starter last year and a few season leading up to this year. It's not like he is out of shape. He just gives the Cavs an advantage off the bench. A starter who is playing against 2nd units, why not? Hell, he lead the team in minutes in Game 2 with 35. So relax Sir Charles. Thompson is a big boy and plays like it. He'll be able to run up and down for big time minutes. And to C-Webb, our bench seemed just fine in Game 2, so please find something else to talk about.
I look for the momentum of Cleveland to continue. We should win at least on in Chicago and be back home with the series at 2-2 or better. Recent history favors LeBron against the Bulls too. The last two times LBJ has face the Bulls in the playoffs, Chicago has won Game 1 but lost the next four games straight. Let's make that a three peat and a trend to follow in later years.
Let's get it done Cleveland!!!