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At long last, the NBA playoffs are on the horizon beginning on Saturday with first-round action on the agenda. (Visit the Wolf blog for NBA Tips and Betting Predictions)
For LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the grander picture pushes much further than just the first round with the primary focus honed in on making it to a third consecutive NBA Finals on their quest to repeat as the NBA champions.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James has much confidence that the Cavaliers can get the job done in the playoffs.
I mean, you have to keep in mind that they have already done it once ;)
Cleveland’s level of play over the last few weeks heading into the playoffs doesn’t exactly evoke an unwavering belief that the team can accomplish that lofty goal. They were anything but dominant over the last 24 games of the regular season holding a 10-14 record while dropping six out of their last 10 games including losing their last four contest pushing them two games behind the Boston Celtics for the No.1 seed.
In fact, the Cavaliers had a 6-10 record in the month of March marking just the second time in James’ career that his team has lost double-digit games in a single month while also ranking last in the league in defensive efficiency over that span. The last time that occurred to the four-time league MVP was back in November 2003. On top of that, they racked up fewer wins in March than the Brooklyn Nets, who finished with the worst record in the NBA.
Much of these issues have stemmed from their struggles on the defensive end of the floor finishing the season 20th in points allowed (107.2), 16th in opponent’s field goal percentage (45.8), 28th in opponent’s turnovers (12.0) and 22nd in defensive efficiency (108.0 points give up for every 100 possessions).
The Cavaliers experienced a heavy dosage of these defensive woes in the final 24 games of the season allowing 100 or more points 19 times including seven occurrence in the last 10 contests. This was highlighted by letting a 26-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter slip in the overtime loss to the the Atlanta Hawks.
These are significant defensive problems that could become their Achilles heel, however, James doesn’t seem to be too concerned likely banking his aspirations on the Cavaliers strong postseason play over the past two seasons.
For the most part, Cleveland has coasted through the Eastern Conference portion of the playoffs over that span holding a 24-4 record. This includes winning their first 10 postseason games last year while sweeping the first two series.
That said, the Cavaliers’ first challenge will be taking on the Indiana Pacers led by All-Star forward Paul George, who averaged 23.7 points per game in the regular season. Indiana is hitting their stride heading into the playoffs having won their last five games, but held a 1-3 season record against the Cleveland.
With James and the Cavaliers’ focus remaining on taking the process one game at a time, it doesn’t draw any level of doubt that they can’t make it back to NBA Finals for a third consecutive time for a likely another matchup against the Golden State Warriors, who have won 16 out of their last 17 games entering the playoffs.
Think LeBron is right and the Cavs are going to go all the way?
Put your money where your mouth is and back the Cavs to become 2017 NBA Champions before the markets close, the season is over and you are left wondering how you missed out so badly.