Ti’s Four-Point Play: Which NBA Teams Can Challenge The Warriors?

Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Cavaliers

No, this is not an oversight or error. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the least likely of these contenders to beat the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. It’s not about fit or matchups either. These Cavaliers don’t feel like a team that can win a championship.

Firing David Blatt midseason was just one sign of Cleveland’s shortcomings, but that moment summed up LeBron James‘ whole second tenure on this team. This team has only looked like a cohesive unit in the 2015 NBA Finals, when it was essentially the LeBron show.

But when Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are healthy, as they are right now, this team doesn’t seem to know what it is. Somehow through two different coaches the Cavs remain unable to use Love effectively most of the time. Irving’s health remains an issue, and he’s not the only injury-prone Cavalier either.

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Sure, they just beat the Tim Duncan-less San Antonio Spurs. This team will run over pretty much everybody in the regular season, but when the stakes are highest it’s hard to trust the Cavaliers. Mostly because in those situations, the Cavaliers don’t trust one of their own.

Many Cleveland fans will use that big win over the Spurs as evidence that Love is doing just fine. After all, he recorded 21 points in that game. Here’s the thing–he scored 14 of those points in the first quarter.

The Cavs don’t let Love run when the stakes are high. His points per quarter display that well enough. In the first quarter, Love scores five points per game. From there, the number steadily drops: 4.4 points per second quarter, 4.3 points per third quarter, and 2.8 points per fourth quarter.

A player making max money and lauded as one of a contender’s big three should probably make more than one shot in the fourth quarter of games. Compare Love’s points per fourth quarter to Irving’s or LeBron’s, and the difference is stark: Irving scores 6.5 points in the fourth quarter, while LeBron scores a whopping 7.8 points per game in the final period.

Until they can figure out how to actually use all three members of their big three, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have a very hard time hanging with the Warriors should the two teams meet in the NBA Finals.

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