After winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers have stolen home court advantage away from the Atlanta Hawks in convincing fashion. They now fly back to Cleveland to the cheers of fans hungry for postseason success.
Entering the series, the Cavaliers have already seen its players get hurt one by one with Kevin Love (shoulder), Kyrie Irving (foot, knee), Iman Shumpert (groin), and Tristan Thompson (shoulder) all experiencing trouble with their bodies. With Love out for the entire postseason and Thompson, along with Shumpert, looking like they can tough it out until the end, the big question mark is now beside Kyrie Irving.
The All Star point guard and All NBA Third Team member was not able play in Game Two after he reaggravated his left knee and his status for the remainder of the series remains unclear. This would have been a huge and devastating blow to the Cavaliers’ playoff hopes but with the way Cleveland has outplayed the NBA’s second best regular season team in Atlanta, another question burns and that is whether Kyrie should sit out the remainder of the East Finals.
With Irving not being 100%, backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova has taken extra minutes in the first two games. Although he did not make a repeat performance of his Game Six effort against Chicago, the rugged defender from Down Under was doing what he does best and that is frustrating the opposing team’s guards. In Game One, Jeff Teague scored 27 points but only shot 1-of-5 when being defended by Delly. His woes continued in Game Two as the Hawks` All Star point guard shot a horrible 5 of 16 from the field.
With the next two games set to be played at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, the good guys are already in a great position to sweep the series and march all the way to the NBA Finals. However, the Cavaliers are staring at a crucial decision and that is whether to use Kyrie Irving once cleared to play or bet on themselves by giving him the time off to rest until the NBA Finals.
Even before aggravating his knee in Game One, Irving was in obvious discomfort and it showed in the lack of lift on his shot and his inability to keep up with Teague and Schroder. Irving is still a great shooter and his mastery of angles and change of pace makes him a lethal offensive weapon regardless, but if his shots are not falling then he’s virtually a liability for Cleveland.
The two Cleveland wins have exposed the Hawks and it further validated LeBron James` presence. With an engaged James, the Cavaliers are able to gain serious advantage in any series and his versatility, coupled with unselfishness, allow his teammates to elevate their game with the looks that they’re getting from the four-time MVP. Iman Shumpert, J.R Smith, and Matthew Dellavedova are getting the confidence needed to get them through games.
Outside of The King, Coach David Blatt and the rest of the Cavaliers` coaching staff have molded the team into a totally different but still cohesive unit. Cleveland has transformed into becoming the league’s best defensive team in the postseason. The team was known more for its high octane offense but their defense started to catch up after those midseason trades and it has finally peaked at the best possible time.
The personnel are already in place. The coaching staff has finally got the team`s full attention. All things considered, the Cavaliers indeed have the luxury of taking on Atlanta without Kyrie Irving. His knee isn’t bound to get significantly better if he rests but it will be impossible to worsen its condition. The Cavs have their eyes on the prize and they must be extremely cautious and wise in handling Irving`s situation.