In the first round, the Cavs struggled to beat the Pacers in a series that went seven games. In the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Cleveland swept Toronto in four games. The big question is at what point did things really change for the team?
Our sports commentator, Terry Pluto, says it was winning game seven at home against Indiana where LeBron James scored 45 points. At that point, he believes the team really started to come together.
“One of the things I’ve noticed with LeBron James’ teams, at least with their runs through the Eastern Conference, they tend to get better as they go along," Pluto says.
He says they become more unified, and the coaching staff figures out who to play and when. Also, he says older players play better in the playoffs because they’ve got more experience.
One other factor is he feels the Cavs may have been scared of losing in the first round to the Pacers in what at times felt like a wrestling match.
On the other hand, Pluto says Toronto came at it with the perspective of trying to outscore Cleveland, which may have worked in the regular season, but with the Cavs defense working, the Raptors lost some of their confidence.
The “Other Cavaliers”
The Saturday Night Live skit humorously made the case that LeBron James was carrying the team, and everyone else was doing anything else but playing basketball. The skit didn’t air on the program but has now been widely seen on the internet.
Pluto says in the early part of the first round series against the Pacers, that was true.
“LeBron James scored 240 points in the seven games against Indiana. The next highest scorer was Kevin Love with 80," Pluto says. "There was some truth to that "Saturday Night Live" thing.”
As the team began to figure it out, Pluto says they began to believe in each other, and LeBron started to trust them more. The result was more of a team effort.
Who would give the Cavs an easier time?
“Philadelphia,” says Pluto, “because they’re a younger team and it’s the first time that group has been to the playoffs at all… They have more raw talent than Boston, but you can just see the stars in their eyes.”
Pluto believes if it’s a matchup against Boston, the Celtics will try to come out and play the Cavs just like the Pacers did, in a very physical manner with a lot of fouls and slow-down tactics: “little annoying things like grabbing a jersey or throwing an elbow, trying to dare the officials to keep blowing the whistle.”
Terry Pluto joins us every Wednesday to talk sports in Northeast Ohio.