It’s amazing to watch LeBron James cook in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The last time King James lost a series in the East Kendrick Lamar had not debuted, Snapchat was just an app synonymous with sending dick picks, and Donald Trump was a reality show star. LeBron’s dominance over the conference has made the East seem weaker than it actually is and these last two weeks have been the perfect example.
The Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors are decent and good basketball teams, respectively. Paul George, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry are olympians. Yet, they look helpless when faced with the task of taking down the king.
Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers handled the Raptors 125-103 to take a 2-0 series lead. Once again the defending champs were on cruise control. LeBron tallied 39 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks without breaking a sweat. Kyrie Irving added 22 points and 11 assists while Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson added nine points each, again with little effort exerted.
For the game the Cavs shot 54.7-percent from the floor and an unconscious 54.5-percent from three. In contrast the Raps shot 46.7-percent overall and a frigid 29.4-percent beyond the arc. They managed to win the rebound and turnover battle in addition to dominating in the paint (50 points down low compared to the Cavs’ 32), yet were not even close to making the Cavs break a sweat.
Watching them play the Cavs is like watching a little brother trying to take down his older brother. They exert so much more energy and get absolutely nowhere. For example, Jonas Valucanias was phenomenal off the bench in the first half. He got whatever he wanted down low and the Cavs were almost happy to oblige because DeRozan was ice cold.
That’s what makes good teams great. They almost fool you into believing you’re about to catch up to them when in reality they are leading you into a dead end. Despite Lowry having a solid night (20 points), DeRozan was dreadful from the field shooting 2-of-11 and scoring five measly points. He has a similar outing in Game 3 of the Raptors’ first round series against the Bucks.
The main theme in this “rivalry” (if you can still call it that) is the disparity in aggressiveness. In each of the first two games it has been the Cavs who have punched the Raptors in the mouth at the start. LeBron no longer waits to get into the flow of the game, but instead dictates it. He knows he can get to the rim whenever he pleases and that is exactly what he did.
Something happened after Game 4 of last season’s Finals with LeBron. The Warriors pushed him over the edge. They forced him to recognize that he is the best player ever and no one can touch him. Think it’s a stretch. Watch this and tell me when you have seen LeBron be this disrespectful to an opponent:
LeBron James just spins the ball right in front of Serge Ibaka and splashes the 3 in his eye 😅 pic.twitter.com/EfVqyFNJao
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) May 3, 2017
His statistical peak may have come in 2013, but we are witnessing his mental peak right now. The self-awareness is at peak levels and his dominance is the reason his squad has won nine straight playoff games.
The other reason is Kyrie who is quietly turning into a facilitator in his own right. In Game 1 he had double-digit assist for the first time in his playoff career. He followed that up with 11 more assists in Game 2.
If this is Kyrie’s leap from good scorer to good point guard the East may as well pack it up. You combine his scoring prowess with his handles and willingness to spread the wealth? That’s just scary.
Right now LeBron and Kyrie are 32-8 as a duo in the playoffs. LeBron and Wade finished 59-28 as a postseason duo with two rings. If the Cavs are able to get one more ring the argument can certainly be made that Kyrie was the better Robin to LeBron’s Batman. The way the Cavs look right now it would be hard to argue otherwise.