By now you’ve already seen the news. After such a fantastic Game 1, we’ve been robbed of one of the key pieces to the series. But when it comes down to it, all we’re really missing out on is the pleasure of watching a player like Kyrie Irving. We haven’t lost the integrity of a great series.
Irving’s health was in question entering the series, but after nine days of rest, it looked like we were getting the best from Kyrie in Game 1. His strong 23/7/6 line alongside four steals and a pair of blocks jumped off the stat sheet, but so did his 44 minutes. Eventually the wear and tear caught up to him, and now we’ve seen the last of Irving’s brief Finals debut.
Maybe David Blatt ran him into the ground. Maybe it would have happened at some point either way. We’ll never know. The only certainty is that the Cavs uphill battle just got steeper, and it all falls on LeBron James to carry the extra weight.
The popular opinion is that Cleveland is done. That the Warriors take care of business, or dare I say, even sweep the Cavs. Although there’s no way I’d try to spin this as a positive, I’m absolutely in the minority when I say that this doesn’t change my stance on the series.
Now, I should preface this by saying that I didn’t think the Cavs were going to win to begin with. I picked Warriors in six. But I’m also sticking to that after hearing the news on Kyrie.
Irving was destined to be a glorified role player in this series from the beginning. Game 1 was all about LeBron. He ran the show. He may not be the starting point guard, but the ball is always in his hands and the offense runs through him. Sure, Irving scored 23 points, but JR Smith and Iman Shumpert can catch passes from LeBron and launch from downtown too. Yes, the steals and blocks were nice to see from Irving, but they’re rare. Matthew Dellavedova has consistently been a much better option than Irving defensively. Kyrie wasn’t being given much creativity, which means other players can likely chip in to give similar production.
No doubt Irving is the second most feared offensive weapon on the Cavs. But the point is, when your top weapon is LeBron, you don’t even need another one. You simply need players that can play their roles. LeBron breaks down the defense on his own each and every possession. Maybe Irving would get in the mix here and there, but for the most part the guards I mentioned (and maybe even Mike Miller and James Jones) can fill the voids. Three and D players – that’s exactly what LeBron wants to be surrounded by.
I would have loved to watch Kyrie and Steph matchup just like everyone else. But in my mind, the pleasure of watching them go head-to-head is all we’re really losing. As unfortunate and injury as it is, it isn’t going to effect the outcome of the series anyway. Kyrie is a damn good role player when you make him one, but the reality is that he was still a role player. The Warriors are going to win, and if they don’t it’s going to be all because of what LeBron James does.
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