Surprise, it’s LeBron & Cavs, not Steph & Warriors, on perfect playoff run
It was the hottest topic of the playoffs: Could they really do it?
Could the Golden State Warriors run the table and go a perfect 16-0 in winning their second straight championship?
Why not? After all, they’d just taken down one of the NBA’s most iconic records, winning 73 games to top the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ mark.
If anyone could top the 2000-01 L.A. Lakers, who went 15-1 in winning their second straight title, it had to be Steph Curry & Co.
There were plenty of staggering stats besides the 73 wins to back them up: the Warriors’ record 1,077 3-pointers (including Curry’s record 402), Draymond Green’s eye-popping plus-minus stats — the Dubs outscored teams by 1,070 points when he was on the court — and their record 54-game home win streak, among others.
But then the injury occured, with Curry going down in the first round, and the Warriors followed with their first loss. They’ve dropped a game in each of their next two series to sit at 9-3 in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have steamed through the East in a 10-0 start, joining the Lakers (1989, 2001) and San Antonio Spurs (2012) as the only teams to do it.
"I don’t think it feels like a streak," James said Thursday night after beating the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the East finals. "It feels like we won one game, we won the next game. We’ve taken one step at a time."
And they’ve looked a lot like the dominant Warriors in doing it. Just look at the numbers.
The Cavs broke the NBA record for 3-pointers in a game by knocking down 25 in Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks. They’ve hit 20 or more 3s three times in 10 games this postseason. By comparison, the Warriors set a record by doing it seven times over the 82-game regular season.
The Cavs are shooting 44.7 percent on 3’s (148 of 331) in the playoffs, better than the Warriors’ 40.7 percent (146 of 358). The Cavs and Warriors are 1-2 not only in 3-point field goal percentage, but also in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage.
The Warriors’ offense in the regular season, averaging 112.5 points per 100 possessions, was the second best in the past 30 years. The Cavs’ offense in the playoffs, averaging 116.9 points per 100 possessions, is the best in the past 30 postseasons.
Dominant from distance, now LeBron and the Cavs are dissecting the Raptors up close. FOX Sports’ Dieter Kurtenbach reports that all of James’ 17 makes in the series have come in the paint. "Seventy-three percent of LeBron’s shots have come from inside of five feet, and he’s made 90 percent of those attempts," Kurtenbach wrote.
James has scored 20 or more in his past 20 playoff games. He seems poised to push through the Raptors and return to the Finals. Then, the Warriors? Or an Oklahoma City Thunder team that manages to knock off the champs?
Either likely will be facing an unbeaten Cavs team — unless Toronto turns things around dramatically — playing better than any Cavs team before it, and better than any playoff team in three decades.
In that scenario, would the best team in the West bring the Cavaliers back to earth after their run through a mediocre East? FOX Sports’ Andrew Lynch thinks the Cavs could open as the favorite against either team.
If the Cavs remain unbeaten, with LeBron four wins from delivering Cleveland its first team championship since 1964, that would be the dominant storyline. Even against the Warriors.
Suddenly, people would legitimately be asking if the 73 wins and the all the eye-popping history that accompanied them will be enough to stop the Cavs. Or even slow them down.