Don’t Hate the King

With the Cleveland Cavaliers losing the first two games of the NBA Finals by a combined 48 points, everyone has already written their eulogies and buried the Cavaliers. It’s crazy how fast things change in the NBA. Not too long ago, the Warriors were down three games to one to the Oklahoma City Thunder and everyone had prematurely punched the Thunder’s ticket into the NBA Finals.

LeBron has climbed out of an 0-2 series hole before and can do it again. In 2007, the Cavs lost the first two games on the road to the Detroit Pistons, and in Game 3 of that series, King James scored 32 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and shot 57% from the field. He then went on to average 31.3 points for the rest of the series and the Cavs went onto win that series and advanced to their first NBA Finals.

James was only 22 at the time and some say carried the worst roster in NBA history into the Finals. Now, at 31 years of age, the two-time NBA champion has a much more talented roster, and I’m not counting him out just yet. We have seen LeBron with his back against the wall before.

As the series shifts to Cleveland for Game 3, things are about to get a little easier for Cleveland. Like most teams, the Warriors are a much better team at home than on the road. Golden State went 39-2 at home this season and outscored their opponents by 14.4 points per game. So the fact that they won the first two games at home is not surprising. However, down the stretch of the regular season, the Warriors outscored their opponents by only 1.4 points per game and were blown out twice by the Thunder in OKC in the Western Conference Finals. On the flip side, the Cavs are a much better team at home than on the road. They are 7-0 at home this postseason and have outscored their opponents by 20.9 points per game. So if the Cavs can do what the Warriors did and protect their home court, they can make the Finals a best of three game series.

Just last year against this same Warriors squad, LeBron averaged 36 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists while becoming the first player in NBA history to lead both teams in all three categories in the Finals. This year, James is almost averaging a double-double again (21-10-9) but is taking fewer shots and drawing much fewer fouls. LeBron cannot go down deferring to his teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who were absent in last year’s NBA Finals. With their subpar play, they may as well be absent, and with Kevin Love getting concussed in Game 2, his availability going forward is in question.

To even up this series or even get back into this series, LeBron needs to play less like Magic Johnson and more like Michael Jordan. LeBron needs to attack the basket and shoot the ball more like he did in last year’s NBA Finals. When he does this, he becomes the most dangerous player on the court. As the most unselfish superstar I have ever watched play the game of basketball, LeBron rarely changes his style of play, but it wasn’t long ago when his former team the Miami Heat were facing elimination down 3-2 in Boston when LeBron put on his cape and carried the Heat to a 98-79 victory, all while scoring 45 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to force a Game 7 which the Heat won. Oh, by the way, James finished that game with 31 points and 12 rebounds, which propelled him to his first NBA Championship. The following year in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, and down 3-2 again, James scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to help carry the Heat to a 103-100 overtime victory to force a Game 7, which the Heat ultimately won as well. In Game 7, James finished with 37 points and 12 rebounds, helping the Miami Heat win back-to-back NBA Championships.

I know tonight is not an elimination game, but it may as well be. No team in NBA history has come back from a 0-3 deficit, so if the Warriors are victorious tonight, it’s pretty much curtains for the Cavaliers. LeBron knows the history of the game and is well aware that only once in the last 30 years has a team come back from an 0-2 deficit to win the series. Ironically, it was the 2006 Miami Heat, where his close friend and former teammate successfully rallied his team back to win the Finals.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers to end the city’s championship drought, James will have to lead the Cavs to four wins out of the next five games. That will be a tough task considering Golden State has not lost more than two games in a row all season long. One thing that I can assure you is that James will do his part. But one man alone cannot defeat a team that just recorded the best regular season record in NBA history and is looking to go down as the greatest team ever. One player that must get better is Kyrie Irving. He has assisted on just 13 points in the first two games of the series, and LeBron has taken just one shot off a Kyrie Irving pass. For the Cavs to be successful, that has to change.

Every year, the NBA Finals becomes open season on LeBron James. Besides being the most unselfish superstar I know, he is also the most criticized. People don’t even give him credit for the 2013 Championship because Ray Allen knocked down the biggest shot. Nobody remembers how LeBron brought them back up until that shot. When talking about Michael Jordan’s Finals career, nobody mentions the shots John Paxson and Steve Kerr knocked down for the Bulls. Or even the Ron Artest three-pointer that helped seal Kobe’s fifth ring. I’m not here to criticize those guys, but nobody ever mentions that Kobe went 6-24 in that Game 7; that’s a story for another day. LeBron needs to use the criticism as motivation.

Like the saying goes, “In Northeast Ohio, Nothing is Given, Everything is Earned. You work for what you have!” For the Cavs to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy, that is exactly what LeBron needs to do. #DontHateTheKing #REPRE23NT

Elie Neufeld is the founder of DHTK. DHTK’s clothing line integrates brand affiliation with positive athlete role models and an active lifestyle that pursues excellence in mind, body and spirit. Sign up for the DHTK email list to stay up to date with sales, promos and free giveaways.


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