What’s going on here? Just what the heck is this?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are suddenly tied 2-2 in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Celtics, this after losing the first two games of the series. This is not the first time a team has ever tied things up after dropping two games on the road, but this is a particularly confusing turn of events, and frankly I’m sick of the Cavaliers jerking me around like this.
Please try to recall just how shockingly pathetic the Cavs played in Game 2, when all five guys on the court spent most of the second half just standing around like they were waiting for a bus. They turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 13-point loss in that game, and looked doomed as hell. Doomed, I say! Not to be the Annoying Body Language analyst, but I think we can all agree that there are certain signs a playoff team shows when they’ve definitely quit, when they’ve acknowledged that the season has extended as far as it possibly can and that it’s time to go home. The Cavs showed all those signs in Game 2 while they let the Celtics spend 15 minutes lining up each open three.
And then Games 3 and 4 happened, and Cleveland looks like a completely different team. Last night was nuts—Cavs players were suddenly flying around both ends of the court and just straight up beating the Celtics with their pace and energy. Cavs were fighting through screens. Celtics shooters were getting mugged off the ball. Every rebound was contested. Kyle Korver—Kyle Korver!—was out there blocking shots.
There are plenty of basketball reasons for why the Cavs have been able to win these last two games. LeBron James being in must-win mode is the most obvious, and I’m sure Ty Lue could tell you all about what a huge impact Tristan Thompson, George Hill, and Larry Nance Jr. have made. But the biggest difference between these last two games and the first two seems to be that the Cavs suddenly give a shit. LeBron scored 44 last night and it felt like he was leading a team that belonged in the series; he scored 42 in Game 2 and it felt like a complete waste of his time.
Now, in the course of one postseason, the Cavs have gone from getting mostly outplayed by the Pacers and needing LeBron to rescue them, to looking like a true championship team against the Raptors, to looking like a lost cause beyond even LeBron’s reach in the first two games against the Celtics, to now looking like a team that has a real chance to go back to the Finals. This is maddening, and I can only predict that the Cavs will go on to lose the next two games by a combined 84 points.