What the Cavs Need From King James
*Photo via USA Today
Lebron James hasn’t had much difficulty defeating the Chicago Bulls when they’ve faced in the postseason. His old Miami Heat teams have taken out the Bulls en route to finals appearances in the past. In each of the other times LeBron had faced Chicago his team had lost Game 1 and gone on to win out the series. It would seem it couldd happen again, after the Game 1 loss to the Bulls followed by a win in Game 2 . However these are not the same Bulls he has faced in the past, this Bulls team has Pau Gasol, a much improved Jimmy Butler, a deeper bench and a healthy Derrick Rose, or at least a semi healthy Rose. This go around it is LeBron’s team who is short handed in the series, with Kevin Love out for the postseason, J.R. Smith suspended for the first two games and Iman Shumpert dealing with an injury. With the Cleveland Cavaliers shorthanded LeBron needs to do his best Michael Jordan impersonation like he did in Game 2, and continue that for the rest of the Cav’s postseason run. We all know LeBron fancies himself more of a Magic Johnson than Jordan, he is one of the most unselfish superstars this league has ever seen, his ability and willingness to find open teammates is part of what makes him so great.
However with this group he is going to have revert back to his first playoff stints in Cleveland, where everyone knew he was driving to the hoop and it was just a matter of seeing if the opponent could stop it. Granted, he has a much better supporting cast than those early Cavs teams, but this cast isn’t as strong as LeBron’s Miami teams who was playoff tested. This is more apparent now with Kevin Love out. The proof is in the results of Games 1 and 2, Game 1 LeBron tried to get everyone involved, giving up the ball more than he should. It resulted in LeBron scoring just 19 points and committing six turnovers as the Bulls blew out the Cavs. Jimmy Butler deserves some credit for the defense he played on James in Game 1, but in Game 2 when LeBron started off aggressive, he helped the Cavs get out to an early lead that they never relinquished. Even though he shot 13 of 29. he still racked up 33 points and set the tone from the start. His teammates are not playoff battle tested, and the ones that are can’t be solid contributors for a long stretch of time, so he needs to take the lead and have everyone follow him. His teammates want him to be aggressive and take a high volume of shots, they said as much after the Game 2 win.
When LeBron sets the pace early and attacks the hoop it makes defenders pay extra attention to him, which allows him to take advantage of his playmaking ability by kicking it out to a man who will be more open because of his aggressiveness. If LeBron goes into headband mode the rest of this series the Cavs have a good shot to beat the Bulls and eventually advance to the finals.