The Cleveland Cavaliers, lifted by a huge first half from LeBron James, began the second half of Game 2 against the Celtics with a seven-point lead. This was a vast improvement over the circumstances they found themselves in during Game 1, when the Celtics had put the result out of reach by the end of the first quarter. So if there was ever a time for the Cavs, as a team, to stand up and give Boston a fight, to snatch a needed win on the road, to make it clear that this series wasn’t going to be a four- or five-game jog for their opponents, the final 24 minutes of last night’s game was it. They had a seven-point lead and every reason to fight like hell to protect it.
Instead, they folded like chumps. Like absolute chumps! The performance the Cavs gave during those last two quarters was one of the most pathetic runs of postseason basketball I’ve ever seen. These clowns scored 39 points in the half, shot 3-of-17 from three, committed eight turnovers against seven assists, and lost the damn game by 13 points. They did all this while looking like they’d rather be eating lightbulbs than playing basketball. The whole half was full of ghastly defensive possessions like this one:
And this one:
And this one:
That’s five professional NBA players in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals playing defense with all the urgency and effort of five guys smoking cigarettes outside of a bar. And then, to provide the final flourish that every great on-court meltdown needs, J.R. Smith went and committed a crime:
My question is: How the hell does this happen? I understand that the Cavs were a poor defensive team throughout the regular season and that bad habits can be hard to kick; I understand that their trade deadline haul, which once looked like a potential season-saver, has turned to ash; I understand that playing basketball is difficult. What I don’t get is how any team, even one that is perhaps not very good and has advanced much farther than it deserved to, can’t muster enough effort to at least look like they care during the most crucial 24 minutes of their season.
The Cavs should be well beyond this. They had their first-round fight against the Pacers and came out stronger for it. They absolutely humiliated the top seed in the conference while rounding into what appeared a truly dangerous form, and now they are somehow humiliating themselves to the same degree. It’s a weird thing to watch unfold, and it’s hard not to conclude that the players are just sort of sick of each other, the organization, and themselves. They look like they want this all to be over as soon as possible, and after watching last night’s second half, I do too.