The Cleveland Cavaliers have been nothing short of dominant during their run through the first half of the 2009 NBA Playoffs. Sure, you can point to the opposition, but the Cavaliers earned the right to play the #8 seed. Remember, when the Cavs drew the Pistons, many thought it could be a tough road to hoe, a first round series agaisnt a Detroit team that had alot of pride and experience. Detroit had both of those, but the Cavaliers blew them out of the building 4 straight nights.
Next, it was the Atlanta Hawks, who had played the Cavaliers tough 3 out of 4 times, even making life difficult for LeBron at times with their length. Atlanta had just shut down, for the most part, one super-star in Dwyane Wade, and experts figured little had to be done to change their defense in preperation for James. Three more blowouts, and the Hawks find themselves where Detroit was a few weeks ago, lost, searching for answers, about to get swept out of the playoffs. Perhaps, only now, are people starting to get the sense of just how good this Cavaliers team is, and how focused LeBron James is to win a Title this year.
You can look at the per-game numbers for James, as Brian Windhorst does today, and be staggered by what you see --
Think about that. As much as LeBron handles the ball, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 4.6-1!!! Every number, with the exception of assists, has gone up from the regular season, while James has only averaged 1 more minute per game. That could be the most important stat of all with every team struggling through the post-season with the exception of Denver.
It hasn't been all LeBron, however. The Cavaliers as a team are allowing less than 80 points per game. There have been few letdowns, and teams are being forced to play perfect basketball for long stretches to avoid getting blown out of the building. How good has the Cavaliers defense been? To date, the Cavaliers have allowed 78 points per games. In second are the Miami Heat, who allowed 9.5 more points per game than the Cavs. It isn't even close.
The Cavs also lead the playoffs in opponent shooting percentage at just under 41%. It may start with LeBron, but it ends with defense, and the best defensive team in the NBA has gotten better in the postseason.
Perhaps what gets overlooked is just how hot the Cavaliers have been, not just during the playoffs, but all the way back to the All-Star break. With the 7 wins this post-season, the Cavaliers are 33-5 since the Break, 42-8 in their past 50 games. The team is on a roll, and has been on a roll for a long, long time.
There is still a long way to go, obviously, and the most importante game of the season to date comes up tonight in Atlanta. The lay-off between Rounds 1 and 2 had little effect on the Cavs, and no matter who they play in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs know it is going to be a much more physical series, especially for LeBron. Any added rest the Wine and Gold can acquire while Boston and Orlando slug it out would be welcomed, I'm sure.
It doesn't hurt, however, to stop and smell the roses every now and then and enjoy the endeavors of what might be the best Cleveland sports team ever.