The Cavs and Hawks are 30 minutes away from tipping off Game 2 in their playoff series, and I think, with five wins in the books for the Cavs this postseason, it’s time for me to share some thoughts on this postseason. I’ve been holding back so far in fears of jinxing things, but I’ve got too many things to share about Cleveland.
First off, as pictured, LeBron received his much-deserved MVP trophy Tuesday before Game 1. It probably shouldn’t have been his first -- I feel like he should have won in 2006 and maybe even in 2008 -- but it was, giving the Cavs a rare trifecta. They’re only the fourth team since the ABA-NBA merger to post the outright best record in the league, have the coach of the year and the MVP. That’s no guarantee of a championship though, as only one of the previous three teams to do so won the title -- of course, that team was the ’95-96 Bulls.
Now, I’m not saying this team is comparable to that team, which won 72 games, but maybe its time to start giving them their due as one of the great teams in league history. All season long, the Cavs were grouped with the Celtics and Magic as the “Big 3” of the Eastern Conference, but Cleveland finished the regular season four games clear of Boston and seven games up on Orlando. They even finished a game ahead of the Lakers for the best record in the league, becoming just the 12th team to win at least 66 games. Now, they’ve started the postseason by winning five consecutive games all by at least 10 points. They’re just the third team to do that in NBA history (and the first of those 12 66-win teams).
Because of the way the Cavs have been winning, there hasn’t been much talk about them. In the first round, while they were dispatching the overmatched Pistons, the whole NBA world was focused on the exciting Bulls-Celtics series (and rightfully so), and now, for some reason, there are more experts talking about the Nuggets “dominance” rather than the Cavaliers. Well, the the Cavs are the only team with a 0 in the loss column in the playoffs, and they haven’t even been seriously challenged yet.
Don’t forget, two years ago, an inferior Cavaliers team started 6-0 in the postseason and reached the NBA Finals. Now, this team is already 5-0 (and a much better 5-0) and looks to be on the same path to the Finals, while their supposed top opposition (Celtics, Magic, Lakers) are all embroiled in tough series.
Some other random nuggets (no, not Dahntay Jones) about the Cavaliers dominance so far in this postseason:
-LeBron James is averaging 32.4 PPG and 11.0 RPG in the Cavs 5 wins. The last player to average 30-10 for an entire postseason was Shaquille O’Neal, who did it in the Lakers championship runs in 2000 and 2001. The last non-center to average 30-10 and advance beyond the first round? Well, you have to go all the way back to Elgin Baylor in 1963!
-Along the same lines, only one player in NBA history has averaged 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for an entire postseason. Not surprisingly, that was Oscar Robertson, also in 1963 (apparently defense was optional for, well, much of the early 60s in the NBA). LeBron is currently averaging 32.4, 11.0 and 6.6.
-LeBron’s PER (a measure of overall efficiency) is an absurd 41.72. For some perspective, the regular-season record is held by Michael Jordan, at just under 32. The playoff record is 38.95 by Hakeem Olajuwon, but that came in 1988, when the Rockets were knocked out in 4 games in the first round. The record for someone that played more than one round is held by George Mikan, who posted a 33.58 (or more than eight full points below LeBron) way back in 1954!
-The Cavs have never lost a best-of-seven series after winning Game 1. And the last team to win a series after losing Game 1 by at least 25 points was the 1985 Lakers. And, sorry Hawks fans, but Joe Johnson is no Magic Johnson.
Look, I’m not saying the Cavs are a lock to win the NBA title. They’re not, and will probably be challenged in the Eastern Conference Finals (and the NBA Finals, assuming they get there). But I’m saying they’re doing some special things, and shouldn’t be ignored just because they’re not playing a ton of overtime games or drawing blood in every game.