My goodness, what a different Cleveland Cavaliers team we witnessed Wednesday night following two inspiring performances back in Cleveland in Games 3 and 4. As triumphant as they were at home, they were equally flaccid away from the confines of Quicken Loans Arena.
Just like we saw in the first two games of this Eastern Conference Finals series, LeBron James had little support from his teammates, who completely fell apart in Boston.
James himself wasn’t at the top of his game, but he still managed 26 points on 11-of-22 shooting, 10 rebounds and five assists. Everyone in a Cavs jersey not named LeBron James managed to convert a combined 20-of-52 from the field.
In particular, starters Tristan Thompson, George Hill and J.R. Smith were practically invisible. The three of them combined to score 10 points on 2-of-14 shooting, adding just seven total rebounds and four assists.
It’s pretty astonishing to think that a change of venue could have this much of an impact on how one team plays. But clearly, the Cavaliers are helpless to stop the bleeding away from home right now.
During the first two games the Cavaliers played in Boston, they hit on 14-of-57 from behind the arc. Wednesday night, they weren’t much better, hitting just 9-of-34 three-pointers.
Turnovers have been a huge problem as well. They turned the ball over 24 times the first two road games in this series and then coughed up 15 more in Game 5. James himself turned it over four times in the final quarter.
The team’s defense has been awful away from home in the conference finals as well, and the Cavs have been out-rebounded in all three games in Boston, too (124-139 in total). This speaks to effort more than anything else, which is why so many Cavaliers fans get so upset when they see their team finally turn it up.
LeBron James has clearly run out of steam after carrying his team throughout much of the playoffs. Now he and his teammates will not only have to win two games in a row to advance to the NBA Finals, but they’ll have to somehow figure out a way to reverse this nasty trend of abysmal play in Boston.
It’s not impossible or inconceivable that the Cavaliers could muster up the strength to get the job done at home Friday night to even the series back up at three games apiece. But it seems like a foregone conclusion — based on everything we’ve seen from this team on the road this postseason (barring the Toronto series) — that another trip back to Boston would end in tears for this Cavaliers team.
If we’ve learned anything about LeBron James over the course of his magnificent career, it’s that you should never count him out. He’ll do everything in his power to make Game 7 one to remember (if it gets that far).
We just don’t have any faith that his teammates have what it takes to match his intensity and find their inner lion when it matters most.
In short, the Cavaliers appear to be doomed. There will be no fourth straight NBA Finals appearance for this franchise, which in all likelihood has also seen the last of James in a Cleveland jersey, with free agency looming and a plethora of attractive suitors vying for his attention.