In this roundtable, FTS' crew of writes talks Kevin Love's injury, J.R. Smith's suspension and how the Cavs matchup in the presumed second round matchup against the Chicago Bulls.
1. What was your initial reaction to the play where Love was injured? What about the Flagrant 2 foul that J.R. Smith committed?
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): I'm with LeBron James on this one. What Olynyk did wasn't a basketball play in my eyes, as he clearly stopped going for the ball. I don't think anyone can really say that Olynyk did it on purpose, but I do think it's fair to call Olynyk out for that play. A lot of players do rebound by grabbing onto other players' arms, but the difference is that other players don't pull on the arm in the same way Olynyk did.
When it comes to J.R., I'm of the opinion that his hit was more egregious than Perkins'. There was just no need for it and it ultimately put the Cavs in a worse position moving forward after moving Love. There wasn't a need for Olynyk's play, Perkins' shove or Smith's smack, but Smith's is the lone I had the biggest problem with.
Justin Rowan: (@Cavsanada): Vomiting blood? Seeing Love have his arm ripped off by Kelly Olynyk was gruesome and horrifying to watch. I immediately began to feel horrible for him as someone that's battled for so long to try and make the playoffs and was just starting to find his groove with the Cavs, to have it taken away by a bush-league play.
As for J.R. Smith... Frustration? It was an incredibly stupid play and I immediately recognized that he would be suspended and it would put the Cavs in an even bigger hole round two.
Mike Mayer (@MikeMayer64): As soon as the Love injury happened, I knew it was probably bad. You could tell his arm was not hanging correctly from his body, and it was pretty gross. It actually reminded me of the time I broke my arm just below my shoulder while playing dodgeball, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, not being a doctor, I was just really hoping that it would be the kind of thing he could come back from in a week or so. Apparently it is not that kind of thing.
As for J.R., I agree with Justin that it was stupid. Perkins had already delivered retaliation to the Celtics. And J.R. wasn't even retaliating against the guy who hurt Love.
David Zavac (@DavidZavac): Obviously this was different, but we've seen Love and other Cavs have close calls this year. I didn't panic. I should have.
Trevor Magnotti (@TMagnotti): My first thought was that Love either had a muscle strain or dislocation, and that got confirmed when we got the closer look at his arm that revealed what looked like an anterior dislocation. At that point I just hoped for no further damage than just the dislocation, which it appears is what occurred. For the Cavs, I wasn't worried about their play because I knew Boston wasn't talented enough to actually be able to capitalize on it, and that Perk was about to be unleashed in some capacity.
My reaction to J.R. was just that I've seen this movie before, and given that Crowder was injured, I was just worried the NBA was going to overreact and suspend J.R. for multiple games like this was similar to the Artest/James Harden elbow in 2012. Two games, however, is fine.
William Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): At first, I didn't know what to think of the Love injury. I knew there was a chance it was bad, given how quickly he left the floor. But it was a replay from a baseline camera that the ABC broadcast played at halftime that really made my stomach turn. The look on Love's face as he was running off the floor... he looked frantic, half-stunned, half-desperate for someone to fix him as quickly as possible. He's been bumped and pushed around so much during his career, he's used to little nicks and scrapes. As weird as it sounds, that look on his face made me believe this was much, much worse. As for J.R... you live with Earl Smith, Jr., you die with Earl Smith, Jr.
Aaron Perine (@Sumitlakehornet): I honestly took a second to process what had just happened. He ran down that tunnel like Forrest Gump. I knew it wasn't right because this was no half jog but like a "A-B" line straight to the locker room. I don't do well with bodily injury so I'm thankful it wasn't so painfully obvious that his arm was dangling.
J.R. gonna' J.R.; he is the kid holding the bat when the window breaks. In this case, the window breaking was the refs losing control of the game.
Kendon Luscher: I was a little shocked Olynyk wasn't called for at least a Flagrant 1 foul and that the officials didn't review it. But Game 4 was a badly officiated game all around, so as the game progressed, I understood. It wasn't that Olynyk didn't deserve a flagrant foul. It was that the officials weren't good at their job.
For Smith, he was caught in a string of coincidences that made his dumb decision to swing his arm back a whole lot worse. Crowder wouldn't have gotten hit in the face if he hadn't backed off of Smith just then. If he hadn't inexplicably crouched down after he backed up. Smith swung back to get Crowder off him, which was so stupid no matter what, and it just so happened Crowder was in the perfect spot to get knocked in the face. It was unfortunate for both Smith and Crowder.
Ryan Mourton (@Ryan_Mourton): I was shocked, it was really unfortunate. Then you watch it and look at it about 300 times, and it's like, "what the hell are you doing, dude?". I dunno, it's just unfortunate. Starting in Game 3, the officials really lost control of things, and a bad basketball team did the only thing it really could.
J.R., well, that was dumb. Jae was asking for SOMETHING, but that was unacceptable a way overreaction. Not very smart.
2. Love is now officially out for the entirety of the second round and Smith will miss the first two games. Should we consider the Cavs underdogs against the Bulls, assuming Chicago holds on to beat the Bucks?
CM: I think it's close. The Bulls are good and present some interesting style problems for the Cavs, but Cleveland has the best two players in this series and can create matchup problems for Boston in a variety of ways. Plus, Smith will come back in this series and that will help create the space that Kyrie and LeBron need to operate. I'll slightly favor the Cavs here, but I think this series is a lot closer than it was a week ago. LeBron and Kyrie should feast on the Bulls and that is enough for me to favor the Cavs.
JR: It's probably fairly even. Chicago definitely poses a lot of matchup problems. But at the same time, they're prone to stretches where their offense goes to crap and their defense isn't what it used to be. Jimmy Butler playing at the peak of his abilities would be a concern, but we haven't seen him sustain his peak offensive level throughout the whole season. So I'm not sure what Butler we will see. Any team with LeBron is tough to count out because he is capable of doing things no other player can, plus he still has Kyrie, a good supporting cast and home court. I give Cleveland a slight edge.
MM: I'd probably say it's a toss-up, and maybe still give the Cavs a slight edge because they have home court. But I'm definitely scared. The Cavs have enough talent to beat the Bulls without Love, but a lot of it is going to depend on whether or not David Blatt can figure out the best way to use guys in Love's absence.
DZ: I'll echo Mike. I think it's 50/50. So much shooting is lost, and I think Tristan Thompson is going to have to spend too much time guarding Pau Gasol. But LeBron James is phenomenal, Kyrie Irving has been phenomenal. The Cavs do not have a lot of depth, and it's taken a huge hit. I don't know.
TM: Nah. I give the Cavs the edge because I'm really not as worried about the Bulls keeping pace with the Cavs as I probably should be. The Cavs will likely counter the loss of Love, and Chicago's size, by playing a healthy dose of small-ball and trying to push the pace in transition. This has killed the Bulls before when the Cavs did it during the regular season, and it's something they've historically struggled to defend, especially when the opponent has a very good point guard to push in transition. I think heavy amounts of LeBron and James Jones at the four, especially when Smith gets back into the lineup, will negate that size factor that people appear to just be hammering with no consideration of how the Cavs might be built to counter that.
WB: The Cavs? Underdogs? Nah. If this version of the Bulls had their past defensive acumen I'd be quite worried, but Chicago doesn't play that way nowadays. They're more likely to try to make the series a track meet, and even without Love, I'll take LeBron and Kyrie in an offensive showdown over Butler and Rose. The one thing that I do worry about is entering the series with two functional bigs (TT, Moz) versus Chicago's talented, deep front line (Pau, Noah, Mirotic, Gibson). One of James Jones, Shawn Marion or (GULP) Kendrick Perkins is going to have to give David Blatt, like, 6-10 minutes of decent play in one of the big man spots.
AP: Nope. I am however coming off watching those Bulls give up a game to a Bucks team with like 3.5 shooters on the entire roster. Will it be harder? Yes. Can the Cavs still get this done? Absolutely. I'm riding with LeBron until someone gives me a reason to believe otherwise. It's time to unleash Mike Miller so I can do air guitar solos to "No More Mr. Nice Guy" in my basement. Honestly, his and JJ's contributions may decide this series. How are those words occurring in 2015?
KL: I go back and forth on this. Blindly, I would say the Bulls are the team to beat in the second round. I worried about how the Cavs would match up with the Bulls' big men before Love went down. I worry more now.
But I've also watched the Bulls play the Bucks, and they're just not scary. The Bucks are a fantastic defensive team and the Cavs are not, but if the Bucks had even a little more scoring talent, they would have beat the Bulls in five by now. I'm not sure if the Bulls have a higher gear. I think the Cavs will score at will on them. If the Bucks could convert turnovers to points at the rate the Cavs do, we'd be talking about how the Cavs might fare against the Bucks instead.
RM: NAH. The Cavs have the two best players in the series. It might be a push, but they probably aren't underdogs. The Bulls good offensive players can't defend a lick other than Butler, and they're banged up themselves. The Bulls front court is deep, but it doesn't contain any two way players.
3. How should David Blatt adjust the rotation to compensate for Love and Smith's absence?
CM: I would say shift LeBron down to the four and play both Mike Miller and Shawn Marion. When LeBron moves down to the four, I would play Marion and live with his inability to space the floor in an effort to have him defend either Mirotic or Butler. As for Miller, I'd play him at the two at least until Smith returns in Game 3 if only to create some kind of space. The last thing the Cavs want to do is let the Bulls pack the paint and a hypothetically lineup of Kyrie/Shump/LeBron/Thompson/Mozgov will clog the paint, as would almost any lineup that puts Marion and Thompson on the floor at the same time.
I'd also like to note that playing Matthew Dellavedova more is not the answer.
JR: My guess is that the best way to go would be having LeBron James play big minutes at power forward and having Iman Shumpert in to defend Jimmy Butler. Shawn Marion will likely need to see some minutes at power forward as well. He'll also need to determine whether or not Mike Miller or James Jones are capable of offering any offensive help. Jones is probably more likely to pan out than Miller, but both players historically have done a good job of staying prepared.
MM: I wrote about Miller yesterday on this very website, and I'd love to see him play a role. If he can find his shot, he would give the Cavs the best chance to space the floor. But basically, yeah, it all comes down to LeBron being willing to play the four more than he normally would. The problem with playing Tristan with Mozgov is that the lane will get bogged down. Putting a couple of wings out there with LeBron and Irving will give them the best chance to replicate what their offense looked like with Love.
DZ: Mike Miller should get 18 minutes, especially if LeBron James is willing to play small-ball four and guard fours. I'd like to see Shawn Marion get some run. But Iman Shumpert's minutes are going to get bumped up, as are Tristan's and Timo's. It's scary.
TM: See above. Lots of Jones/Bron at the four, dust off Mike Miller, and let Perk play maybe 10 minutes a game with the sole purpose of goading Joakim Noah into techs. I'm more concerned with how Blatt manages the adversity of the situation, especially if the Bulls start making things really, really physical, than I am with how the rotation will be affected.
WB: I'll echo the rest of the crew... hey, Mike Miller, now would be an awesome time to become 2013-14 Mike Miller again. I'm not even asking for PRIME Mike Miller. I'm just asking for a Mike Miller who can stay on the floor. Can ya help me out with that, Mike Miller?
AP: Mike Miller to the rescue along with the surprise re-emergence of Marion. But, it depends on which Miller and Marion we are getting. Miller is a bit of a security blanket for me as I always believed he would save our bacon at some point in the playoffs. LeBron to the 4 where he hopefully hasn't forgotten all that punishment he's inflicted for the last three years.
KL: There's no perfect answer, right? In the games J.R. Smith is out, I'd like to see Shumpert and Mike Miller start. James Jones has been a more reliable shooter this season, but even at his old, broken age, I like Miller's all around game better. He can rebound and pass better than James Jones, so go with that.
When Smith is back, I'd like Blatt to switch to Marion in the starting lineup. I know he isn't the best at spacing the floor, but he could help replicate a few of the things the Bucks are doing so well defensively. Not that the Cavs should change their scheme, but having Marion in there to swarm Rose and Butler on double teams would be cool.
Of course, ultimately, LeBron is going to play a lot of four. So the answer is playing both Smith and Shumpert at the wings to finish out the games. And I like that lineup a lot considering it's not like Love would have been more than a spot up shooter in the fourth quarter anyway.
RM: Did anyone say Mike Miller? Oh, everyone said Mike Miller. Yeah, he and/or Shawn Marion are gonna need to be big. Play LBJ at the four in long stretches next to Moz if Pau is in, and Tristan against everyone else.
4. Should the Cavs consider playing LeBron more at the four and playing small for most of each game until Love returns, if at all?
CM: I think so. I wouldn't play LeBron at the four the entire series, but I would play him down there a fair amount. When the Bulls go to Nikola Mirotic at the four, I would immediately counter by putting LeBron at the four and run a lot of Kyrie/LeBron PNR. But when the Bulls go big and Mirotic at the three spot, I would adjust and shift LeBron back to the three.
JR: Yes. I wouldn't do it all the time. But having spacing at the power forward position is essential to everything the Cavs do.
MM: Probably. They'll be able to put together a pretty solid attack on offense that way. It's the defense that worries me.
DZ: Most? I don't know. Kyrie/Miller/LeBron/Tristan/Mozgov could be okay. I think. But yeah, LeBron at the four is the best way to keep the Cavs offense functioning. Can Gasol make the Cavs pay for that? I don't know.
TM: Chris made this roundtable really easy for me to answer. Spreading the floor is the Cavs' best weapon against Chicago's size. It will be interesting to see how the Bulls defend matchup-wise with Love out, and particularly if they just keep sticking Jimmy Butler on him for huge stretches. But regardless, the Cavs should be able force the Bulls into some decisions they don't want to make defensively with small-ball lineups - especially if Miller or Jones wakes up from outside.
WB: Do they have a choice? It'll have to be part of the plan. Without Love, the rotation is reduced to Kyrie/J.R./Shumpert/LeBron/Mozgov with Tristan and Delly coming off the bench, and maybe Jones and Marion if they're feeling spry. There aren't a ton of options, so small-ball will have to be employed.
AP: Flying Death Machine 2: Electric Boogaloo? I mean the Bulls have been really turnover prone in the first round. With LeBron at the four, how exactly do you stop a Cavs team that kills on the fastbreak with or without Love jumpstarting the break with outlet passes? Small ball will be crucial in the series.
KL: Yup! And they'll probably look awesome doing it. This is what still gives me hope. The best stretch four in the NBA isn't Kevin Love. It's LeBron, and it has been since his Miami days. Love is irreplaceable from a depth and pure talent on the floor standpoint. But LeBron at the four is unstoppable when he's really committed to that role.
RM: I guess I answered that above. Yes. It would be a good idea. The Bulls don't play a power forward that should scare a small lineup. Hell, Jared Dudley at the four is confounding them.
5. Are you still picking the Cavs to advance to at least the conference finals? Why or why not?
CM: I'll take the Cavs because of LeBron and Kyrie. With those two, the Cavs should be able to outpace the Bulls offensively and while Love is vital to the Cavs' offense because of the space he creates, he isn't the reason the Cavs defense has been better the past few months. Provided Blatt hits the right buttons and the Kyrie/LeBron offense doesn't become too predictable, I'll take the Cavs in seven.
JR: Sigh, I guess? I don't know if I'd say the Cavs are the favorite in this series, given everything that's happened. But with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving having a week to mentally prepare for a shorthanded series, I think we'll see the absolute best both players have to offer. Home court will also work in their favor. So Cavs in seven.
MM: It's probably going to be a really close series. If Derrick Rose plays great, the Bulls will probably win. If he doesn't, then the team with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and home court advantage should be able to come out on top. So yes, I am picking the Cavs, but I think it goes seven games.
DZ: Why not? It's a coin flip but I'll take LeBron's team.
TM: Yup. When it comes down to it, even without Love, I just can't see the Bulls keeping pace with the Cavs offensively. We also know the Cavs have another gear of intensity than what they played against Boston with for most of the series. I don't think Chicago does, because they never have under Thibodeau. That I think is the ultimate deciding factor. Love and Smith being out gives the Bulls a chance; however, we've seen too many times with Chicago that LeBron James means that might not matter.
WB: Yes. I don't know why. I think they'll miss the spacing Love provides. I think that someone other than LeBron and Kyrie is going to have to step up and have a MONSTER series, but I don't know who can do that. I worry about the Cavs' defense handling all of Chicago's scorers. But LeBron is still in the stage of his career where I'd feel very stupid betting against him. Cleveland in seven.
AP: Le-Bron-James. Cavs in six. Love will be missed but, I've seen this movie before. Derrick Rose has a pretty good overall series, Jimmy Butler will get fawned over on the ESPN/TNT telecasts and somehow the team with the two best players will win. That means the Cavs.
KL: I have no idea. I tend to think that once things go bad, they'll keep going bad. But I JUST watched the Bulls lose two closeout games in a row to the Bucks. One of them at home. Maybe I'm underrating the Bucks, but the Bulls may not be that good. It's not like they aren't trying hard. I'll go Cavs in seven, but I'd believe any team in any amount of games at this point.
RM: Yes. They have the two best players, and I'm not sure the Bulls can score enough points, even with Kevin gone. They have one two way player on the roster, Jimmy Butler. I think it will be ok.