No injury excuse this year Warriors are just better

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At least the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t suffered any major injuries.

That’s about the only way these NBA Finals could’ve started any worse for the Eastern Conference champs, who have been outscored by 48 points thus far, the largest point differential through the first two games in the history of the championship series.

After leading in the third quarter of the opener, the Cavs were outscored 30-21 in the fourth, getting taken apart by Golden State’s bench. Cleveland led by a bucket after one quarter in Game 2 before being outscored 91-56 the rest of the way. It was such a dismal performance that the words you never want associated with a team applied.

The Cavs looked like they quit. The fourth quarter became an exercise of running out the clock and the second-half finger-pointing became more of a source of entertainment than the action on the floor thanks to disgusted looks and obvious frustration with one another.

The question now becomes, how can you possibly back this team the rest of the way? Series prices after Game 2 have the Warriors at -850 and the Cavs netting you +600 if you’re of the opinion they can get things turned around at home and deliver Cleveland its first pro championship since 1964. How are the Cavs going to win one game, let alone four?

There doesn’t appear to be much of a future in these 2016 NBA Finals series futures. Coming in, I felt this series would go seven games, so this column should be about capitalizing on the opportunity to back the Cavs after a series low point, taking advantage of the odds and setting yourself up to get paid. Headed back to Cleveland, this should be similar to the shrewd call of backing the Warriors when they were down 3-1, which paid off handsomely for those with the foresight to toss a few bones on a team that had already made history.

Perhaps the Cavs can wear the Warriors down and take advantage of the lack of mileage they’ve had to invest to get to this point, making the seven games Golden State had to toil against OKC work for them in the long run.

All that can still transpire, but after a disastrous 110-77 Sunday night loss that disappointed the majority of the second-largest television audience ever to watch an NBA Finals Game 2, it’s foolish to believe this will be much of a series. The potential was there. LeBron James had a healthy group and the Warriors looked vulnerable, even surrendering a second-half lead in Game 1, but then the one thing that couldn’t happen followed.

The Cavs had to build belief in one another on Sunday. They had to leave Oakland with their heads held high, even if they fell 2-0. There’s no shame in dropping the first two road games of a series. The shame lies in how they lost, mentally checking out. The shame lies in the fact that from 9:30-10 p.m. ET, when the game’s viewing audience peaked with over 19 million tuning in, Golden State again imposed its will with its depth, shooting the lights out and exposing the Eastern Conference champions as inferior.

Two-time MVP Stephen Curry was on the bench in foul trouble when the Warriors pulled away. All we’ve figured out through the first two games is that Tyronn Lue’s team hasn’t figured out how they’re going to be competitive in this series. The Cavs have gone small and been destroyed, outscored by 49 while allowing 62 percent shooting from the field. They turned to 7-foot-1 Russian center Timofey Mozgov, who hasn’t played more than garbage time minutes since early April, just to see if he could be a weapon worth utilizing.

Channing Frye, who Lue made it a point to say had to play more during his Friday press conference, got in for only four minutes. Sure, he can’t defend anyone, but the Cavs haven’t been getting stops anyway. It just goes to show you how rattled Lue and his coaching staff are in their search for answers. Frye played a major role in the sweep of Atlanta and conference finals win over Toronto, yet has played just 11 minutes, taking two shots. He averaged 13.8 points in 19.3 minutes per game against the Hawks in the series where the Cavs looked their best, firing up 3-pointers and opening things up with a faster pace. Against the Raptors, he shot 63 percent and averaged 9.0 points per game. Lue hasn’t seen a way to get him out there despite other alternatives not working.

Among Cavs who took three or more shots in Game 2, only Richard Jefferson shot better than 50 percent, finishing 4-for-6. The rest of the group, LeBron included, combined to shoot 24-for-73 (32.9 percent) in an embarrassing display. James called his seven turnovers “uncharacteristic” and vowed to improve. Kevin Love entered the NBA’s concussion protocol after catching a Harrison Barnes elbow to the back of the head, but traveled with the Cavs back to Cleveland and should be able to play on Wednesday barring a setback. He may be part of a bigger lineup the Cavs could employ in an effort to take their Warriors out of their comfort zone.

Going big or small probably won’t make any difference at all. Teams that fall behind 0-2 are 3-28 in the Finals, and this column was supposed to tell you how the Cavs could be the latest team to make that kind of history despite entering Game 3 a 1.5-point underdog on their own home floor. In good conscience, I can’t see you how you ride with the Cavaliers going forward, even with one of the greatest players in NBA history in the mix.

Cleveland is overmatched, and it now looks more likely that the series ends in a sweep than it has of going the distance. Don’t bother backing a LeBron-led resurgence.

Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected]

About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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