LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves back in the position they have been the last 3 years in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors: down 0-2 after two losses in Oakland.
In 2017 they ended up losing the series in 5, while in 2016, they miraculously came back from a 2-0 and then 3-1 deficit to win the series and the NBA title.
So how will they fare in 2018? Most would assume this series is all but over, but the Cavaliers may have a better chance than you would expect.
While Game 2 made it abundantly clear that in addition to having more star power, the Warriors role players are likely superior to the Cavaliers role players as well, but that can and usually changes depending on who is playing at home.
For instance, the Warriors are now 10-1 at home with a net rating of +16 while shooting 50% from the field in those 11 games. Conversely, on the road they have gone 4-4 in eight games and shot 45% with a net rating of +0.37.
The Cavaliers have been a poor road team throughout the playoffs with a record of 4-5 and a net rating of -10.4 points. At home, they have been 8-1 with a net rating of +8.7.
The Cavaliers and LeBron James have been very good at home since being blown out by the Pacers in the 1st game of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, winning eight straight in Cleveland by an average of 12.1 points and the role players have come alive in front of their home crowd.
While it is clear from the first two games of this series that the Warriors are far more talented, deeper and tougher to defend than the Cavaliers, the Cavaliers have the best player in the world possibly playing at a higher level than any other player at a moment in time in NBA history and that gives them a chance to protect their home court and send this series back to Oakland 2-2.
Cleveland was one free throw, one less bad call in the final few minutes or possibly one boneheaded mistake from J.R. Smith from being tied 1-1 in this series and clearly outplayed the champs in Game 1.
The Warriors came back and played their best game of the playoffs in Game 2, shooting 58% from the field (over 60% from their usual rotation players) and still didn’t pull away from a Cavaliers team playing an average game and an average LeBron James performance until the second half of the 4th quarter.
The chances that LeBron James is actually able to lead his team back from a 2-0 deficit to beat one of the greatest teams in NBA history four times in five games are extremely low, but with a team that has shown an ability to protect their home court and the best player in the world playing the best basketball of his career, there is still a chance that the Cavaliers can drag this series to a Game 7.
As we have seen in the recent past, all bets are off in a Game 7, and the Cavaliers probably have the best Game 7 performer in NBA history.
While we likely will be seeing the Warriors hanging their 3rd championship banner in four seasons in the near future, don’t stick a fork in the Cavaliers yet, we still have some basketball to play.