The Cleveland Cavaliers are one loss away from losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for the third time in the last four seasons.
They once again are trailing 3-0, but one Cavs player thinks the series would have unfolded a lot differently to this point if All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving wasn’t traded to the Boston Celtics back in August.
Here’s what that player told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic:
“17. The Rockets pushed them to seven games in the conference finals and even held a 3-2 lead entering Game 6. The Cavs are ‘this close’ to holding a 2-1 lead in this series. And as one veteran lamented after the loss Wednesday, ‘We’d be up 3-0 if Kyrie was still here. I have no doubt. Do you?'”
The Cavs being up 3-0 might be a bit of a stretch, but Lloyd’s point about Cleveland being close to a 2-1 series lead is a good one.
Cleveland absolutely should have won Game 1, but J.R. Smith’s costly blunder and a lackluster Cavaliers performance in overtime doomed them in the series opener. Game 2 wasn’t very competitive, but a major reason for that might’ve been the Cavs being so distraught from how Game 1 ended. Game 3 also was a very winnable matchup for the Cavs. They had a great start and traded leads with the Warriors throughout the second half before Golden State pulled away late.
Irving would’ve provided much-needed scoring, and 3-point shooting in particular, for a Cavs offense that’s been pretty inconsistent throughout the postseason.
The Cavs’ final return in the Irving trade, aside from the No. 8 pick in the 2018 draft, is Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Nance was OK in Game 1 and Hood was effective in Game 3, while Clarkson has been historically bad in this series. These guys haven’t come close to replacing Irving’s production.
Unless the Cavs hit a home run with the No. 8 pick, the Irving trade easily could go down as one of the worst moves in team history. The No. 1 weakness for the Cavs in the playoffs has been a lack of a reliable No. 2 option behind LeBron James — a role Irving filled extremely well in their three seasons together.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports