The Cavaliers beat the Pacers, 117-111, in Cleveland on Monday to take a 2-0 series lead. That’s the good news. The bad news, if you want to call it that, is Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 37 points but had just two assists.
Can a team win an NBA championship if its point guard only passes twice a game?
“Well, here’s the thing: He’s not really your point guard,” NBA Radio host and HoopsCritic.com’s Brian Geltzeiler said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “LeBron initiates all the offense. (Irving is) a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. One of the reasons that this works so well for the Cavaliers with LeBron and Kyrie together is because LeBron is literally the perfect player to put next to Kyrie Irving because Kyrie doesn’t have to worry about getting anybody else involved. That’s LeBron’s job, and LeBron takes care of that. The Cavs got 99 problems; Kyrie Irving scoring, in my opinion, ain’t one of them. They need him to score. Their defense is awful.”
Cleveland led Indiana 96-78 entering the fourth quarter but allowed the Pacers to get within 113-109 in the final minute.
“This is a team that can’t sustain 48 minutes of solid defense,” Geltzeiler said. “Part of it’s mental, and part of it’s the fact that they just don’t have good defensive personnel on this team. They go to their bench and the defense gets incredibly weaker.”
Which, again, is why the Cavs need Irving to score.
“LeBron really is the de facto point guard,” Geltzeiler said. “He’s their point-forward. Everything runs through him, and Kyrie is playing the role he’s asked to play – and quite frankly, he’s good at it. He’s a heck of a scorer. If you force him to try to find people, you take away his scoring ability – and he’s not all that good at finding people. This is what he does, and they’ve kind of put him in a spot where he can play his A-game because of how well he and James complement each other.”
Still, Cleveland probably shouldn’t be struggling as much as it has in this series. It could easily be 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Thursday.
“They should have lost (Game 1),” Geltzeiler said. “Last year, their team had such incredible attention to detail. It was like a well-oiled machine. That ain’t this. The mental collapses on the defensive end of the floor happen frequently, and they don’t get it back. It’s really tough. They got a couple stops late in that game. They played a horrible defensive game. Think about this. They were a C.J. Miles jump-shot away from losing that game. They shot 39 percent from three and almost 54 percent from the field. How does that happen? That happens because you don’t guard anybody. . . . They will get by Indiana playing this way. I don’t know that they get out of the East playing at this fast tempo, throwing up threes and running up and down the floor. Their defense isn’t good enough, and they need to protect their defense by playing slower.”
Scott Ferrall and Geltzeiler both think that Washington could beat Cleveland in the conference finals. The Wizards don’t have Cleveland’s talent, but they make up for it in toughness.
“The Wizards are so versatile,” Geltzeiler said. “They can play big, they can play small, they can play slow, they can play fast, they’ll go bully-ball at you, they’ll run past you. You’re right about (Marcin) Gortat being violent, but you can’t talk about violent Wizards unless you refer to Markieff Morris, who was an animal in Game 1 (against Atlanta). There’s a lot of good things this team can do. The definitely, I think, would have a very good chance against the Cavs.”