With a chance to bring Cleveland its first major sports championship in more than 50 years, the Cavaliers have started the 2016 NBA Finals about as embarrassingly as possible, losing the first two games by a Finals-record 48 points.
It’s been ugly.
“I feel bad for Cleveland and I feel bad for LeBron, but this is a Cavaliers team that was a mirage, that was an illusion, and it turns out the Warriors are the reality,” CBS Sports columnist Bill Reiter said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “And a lot of that is the Eastern Conference and just how bad that conference remains. The Cavaliers were a force int terms of three-point shooting in the Eastern Conference throughout the postseason. They’re shooting 27 percent from the three-point line against the Warriors. They held opponents in (11) of their 14 games to fewer (than 100) points. The Warriors obviously have had no trouble scoring. Go down the list, guys. It’s almost like that run through the Eastern Conference was a run through some kind of minor league NBA.”
Phil Jackson said this week that LeBron James must play possessed as Michael Jordan did in all those Finals in the 1990s. But even if James goes off as he did last year, would that matter?
“I mean, it would help,” Reiter said. “Do I think Cleveland can win the series? No, I don’t. I think they’ll be really fortunate if this goes six games. But guys, we did see last year LeBron James basically do what you just described – go off for 37 (points), 13 (rebounds), nine (assists), and play great defense. The guy is capable of being better than anybody possibly can be on the face of the earth. I do think it’s a little perplexing that LeBron James, when talking about that idea of being possessed, was put off toward that, was basically nay-saying it. No, I don’t think LeBron being so-called possessed is going to make a huge difference in this series, but if that’s not going to do it, nothing is and you might as well throw up the white flag now.”
The city of Cleveland, it seems, already has.
“It’s really dejected,” said Reiter, whose wife and in-laws are all from Ohio. “I was here last year for the series too, and obviously the Cavs ended up losing. But last year, there was a lot of hope. There was a sense of, ‘We have LeBron. He’s doing amazing things. Let’s see what happens.’ I’m not going to say that I have surveyed the entire city of Cleveland, but I’ve been here for a few days and I talked to a lot of people. There’s frustration, fair or otherwise, of Kevin Love and his perceived toughness. There’s frustration, fair or otherwise, with his perceived lack of defense, which is probably somewhat accurate. And there’s even some frustration – maybe a lot of frustration – with LeBron James, which is probably unfair, but that’s what it means to be LeBron. He is viewed quite unfairly by the standards we all judge him by and the standards he’s set for himself. People here are frustrated with what they view as perhaps him choking out a little bit early and putting that white flag up. That can all change if they win tonight. Winning cures all things, at least temporarily. But for the moment, down 2-0 and the way that they’ve lost, I have never seen Cleveland Cavaliers fans so dejected and so down – and that is saying something.”