"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Monday, June 6, 2016

NBA FINALS: MAYBE I WAS WRONG ABOUT THE CAVALIERS

Cavs on the Ropes: For a team that rolled through the first three rounds of the playoffs with only a pair of losses, the Cleveland Cavaliers look woefully ineffective against the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs have now dropped seven consecutive games to the Warriors over the last two seasons, five of those in the Finals. Lebron and Company look out of synch and unprepared for a team that they probably figured to be facing from the beginning of the season. Perhaps it's just a poor matchup for the Cavs, or more likely the Warriors, as the Jazz found out when trying to defeat Jordan's Bulls in the '90's, are just a more complete basketball team. Whatever the reason, it's clear that the Cavs need to make some significant changes to the way they're approaching this series.

I've watched every game the Cleveland has played in the postseason, and the way they have run their offense against the Warriors is markedly different than what they were doing in their other series. There isn't nearly as much ball movement and the Cavs aren't reacting very well when the Warriors collapse defensively on Lebron James. There seems to be a lot standing around instead of moving without the ball, and Kyrie Irving in particular seems tentative on offense. The other key piece to their offensive puzzle for much of the playoffs has been JR Smith, who has mysteriously disappeared against the Warriors. I don't know if he missed the flight to the Bay area or just decided to extend the week off that Cleveland enjoyed prior to the Finals. It doesn't really matter what happened in Oakland, but he has to show up in games three and four at home for his team to have any chance in this series.

Can the Cavs make this a competitive series, or is Golden State just too good?  If they return to form, perhaps. One area of success for them has been the ability to limit the production of the Splash Brothers, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the rest of the team has stepped up, whether it's Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston or even Leandro Barbosa and Harrison Barnes. The Cavs have almost no production from their bench, which makes JR Smith's contributions even more critical if Cleveland is to put up any kind of resistance to what appears to be a juggernaut of a team that has won its last five playoff games. At the beginning of the playoffs, I picked the Cavs to win the title, thinking that they had developed the game and the chemistry to defeat whoever came out of the Western Conference. It looks at this point as if I either overestimated Cleveland or underestimated the power of the Warriors.

If the Cavs do fail to bring the city of Cleveland their first professional sports title since 1964, a streak of 146 total competitive seasons that is the longest of its type in sports, there will be ample speculation about the future and legacy of Lebron James to easily fill the commentary void that generally exists between the NBA Finals and the beginning of the football season. Considering that Tyronn Lue had about half a season to implement some changes and the fact that the Cavs still made it to the Finals the past two seasons, I'd like to see them make a couple of tweeks to their personnel and give James one more shot at bringing that trophy to his home region. But professional sports is a fickle and sometimes unforgiving business where recent results matter and knee-jerk reactions to disappointing seasons abound. I can't even pretend to be able to predict what kind of off-season moves might result from a win by the Warriors in four or five games. But if the Cavs come close again, and at this point the series is still a long way from being over, maybe this Cleveland team stays largely intact and gets another shot next season.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and SmashwordsTune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.