LeBron James carried the Cavs in the 1st round, but his help shouldn't go unnoticed
LeBron James was his usual, dominating self in the 1st round against Indiana; but he had some incredible help from certain Cavaliers.
While a majority of first round matchups in these 2017 NBA playoffs are extending the series into five to seven games, a few have gone as expected. The Trailblazers find themselves in another insurmountable hole against Golden State and the Rockets have all but finished Russell Westbrook’s hopeful run with OKC. Of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers have officially cleared the first round before anyone after rallying and sweeping the Indiana Pacers (RIP Jeff Teague). Leading the way for meeting expectations was LeBron James, who performed at his usual, dominating level in the 1st round with 32.8ppg, 9.8rpg, 9.0apg, 54.3% FG% and 45% 3-PT%.
He played the most minutes, clearly had the most essential impact, and has reminded critics where he expects to take Cleveland with another historical playoff comeback. That said, there’s always the need for subtle ingredients to surround the bold, dominating flavor of LeBron James. Aside from Kyrie Irving’s offensive copiloting and Channing Frye’s timely shooting, James found extraordinary help from the minutes of Kevin Love and Deron Williams.
Love may have had the second best performance for the Cavaliers in this series. From leading the Cavs in rebounding to shooting without hesitation, Love helped his team take advantage of the Pacers small ball and opening up the paint for James’ 2-foot average shot distance in Game 4. He also currently holds an unbelievable piece of history even James can’t reach: the highest postseason win percentage in NBA history with record of 23-5 (.821).
There was some concern over the consistency of Irving and Love, specifically during Game 3 and 4 when Coach Lue played Williams and Frye to help James close out the Pacers. In most cases, the concern benching a team’s most clutch scorer in the fourth quarter is a legitimate controversy, but the play of Williams does make the decision entirely situational. Williams was more successful playing off of James in crunch time, but he was even more exceptional when he was the ball handler, and this was the versatility that Frye talked about following the Cavaliers’ third consecutive first round sweep:
“A guy who’s been there, a guy who has, I don’t know what he is all-time in assists, but he can fling that thing around. He’s a heady veteran and he’s a great addition to our team. I’m glad everyone’s getting to see what he can do. He’s still got something left in the tank.
Between him and ‘Bron that screen and roll is pretty mean and we told him to be more aggressive so one day he’ll go out there and shoot the ball once or twice.” – Channing Frye, CLE PF
Williams provided consistency where Irving struggled to finish plays created by James (21.9% 3-PT% in 1st rd) and win isolation battles with Teague in Games 3 and 4. While Irving was forcing many shots and making very few, Williams waited for shots to come to him, and he converted.
Deron Williams shot 10-for-13 (7-for-9 from 3) in the 1st round.
That's an effective FG% of 103.8%.
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 23, 2017
This team is built around James, and James is built to control a game. However, his help shouldn’t go unnoticed, such as Williams’ team-best shooting and Love’s NBA-best playoff record. The Cavs now await for their second round opponent, who will come from the Raptors-Bucks series. Two teams who heavily rely on their starters and struggle to match up with Cleveland’s small ball tendencies. Look for Williams and Love to continue to thrive in either scenario.