I’m not sure what’s more mind-blowing – LeBron James casually pouring in 46 points against the Indiana Pacers last night, or the Cleveland Cavaliers still almost losing despite this.
After James scored the first 13 points in Game 2, helping his team to a 16-1 advantage, it wasn’t crazy to think the Cavs had the contest in the bag. Instead, a drastic lack of help from his supporting cast left the game up for grabs until the final seconds.
Frankly, the most upsetting aspect in all of this is how little help James is receiving from the Cavs’ newest additions. Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson were each acquired to inject some youth and bench scoring into a Cleveland lineup which, at the time, looked old and ineffective. So far this postseason, all these three have achieved is making the team younger.
If the Cavs are going to finally start looking like a playoff threat, they need Hood, Nance and Clarkson to step up in a big way.
I hate to break it to the rest of the Cleveland roster, but James can’t always be on the court. I’d like to believe he’s not on board with having to exert himself as much as he did last night this early in the postseason either. However, he’s averaged 42 minutes across the first two games of this series, and the team needed every one of his 46 points to pull off a win against a Pacers club most expected Cleveland to handle with ease.
The Cavs’ offensive struggles aren’t solely due to a lack of performance from their trade deadline acquisitions. At the same time, what these three have been offering so far is anything but helpful.
Nance looked solid in Game 1, but seemed to disappear last night, only taking one shot in 24 minutes. Clarkson, who had been one of Cleveland’s most consistent bench scorers in the final stretch of the season, has a combined eight points in two games. Hood has only provided momentary sparks before fading out of games.
To be fair, none of these guys were expected to be Robin to James’ Batman. At the same time, the expectation was they’d each be able to make consistent contributions on a nightly basis.
Right now, this isn’t happening. As a result, Cleveland’s offense has looked toothless whenever James isn’t involved.
For some reason, Nance has often appeared timid in the opening games of this series. While he’s had his moments, he isn’t making the same impact he showed in the regular season. Nance is a matchup nightmare on the pick and roll. However, either by his choosing or the coaching staff’s, he isn’t being utilized this way at all so far.
Again, though, Nance has at the very least made some contributions in this series. The same can’t be said for Clarkson and Hood.
The former looks alarmingly off his game. Since his arrival to Cleveland, Clarkson has been a consistent spark plug, providing instant offense off the bench. Right now, he’s been playing as though he’s intimidated by the playoff stage. Taking just ten shots in two games, Clarkson is showing an apprehension to shoot unlike anything we’ve seen from him.
Equally tense has been Hood, who inexplicably looks more shaken by the postseason lights than Clarkson and Nance.
Despite being the only one of the three with playoff experience, he’s instead looking as though this is his first go-around. The longer he has the ball in his hand, the more anxious Hood appears. Early on, he’s been shooting with confidence. However, as soon as the misses pile up, Hood disappears, instantly becoming a liability.
Again, none of these three players were supposed to carry Cleveland through the postseason. However, there’s a difference between not taking games over and not showing up at all. For the most part, the latter sums up what the Cavs are receiving from their young guns.
While heading to Indy with a tied series is far better than being down 0-2, Cleveland won’t last long if Herculean efforts from James are needed just to earn a close victory. The longer guys like Nance, Clarkson and Hood are non-factors, the shorter the Cavs’ postseason experience is going to be.