Author: Brett Pollakoff

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James

Kobe Bryant on whether Cavaliers are playing too much isolation basketball: ‘I don’t think it matters’


LeBron James led the league in isolation possessions during the playoffs before the Finals began, and the results, to that point, weren’t pretty at all.

James shot just 37 percent in those situations, and it was worth wondering if that style (along with its low frequency of success) would doom the Cavaliers against a Warriors team that had the league’s best defense all season long.

The trend has continued in the Finals, but Cleveland has managed to continue to win in spite of it. And Kobe Bryant’s analysis from afar is that the strategy can be maintained because of the opportunities it can create.

“I don’t really think it matters,” he said before Game 3, when asked if the Cavaliers use too much isolation in an interview with Sina Sports. “Because what you’re trying to do is, you’re trying to create mismatches. So if LeBron can catch the ball and face up, and command two to three guys, now you have spacing on the weak side. So it really doesn’t matter. If you have shooters and guys that can make shots that are comfortable catching and shooting without a lot of movement, then I think they can get away with it. They just have to keep the game close.”

This is mildly amusing, if only for Bryant’s propensity to take so many of his shots in these very same situations, often times forced, and with better options still available.

But James doesn’t have a whole lot of help offensively, and pounding the ball one-on-one while draining the shot clock to keep the pace of the game low (and the ball out of Golden State’s hands) has been a big reason the Cavaliers find themselves up 2-1 in the series.

LeBron admits to being upset by third-place finish in MVP voting

2015 NBA Finals - Game Three

Stephen Curry deserved to win the MVP this season. He was the best player on a Warriors team that put up a league-best 67 wins during the regular season, and more often than not, that’s how the award is decided.

James Harden had a season worthy of MVP consideration, too, so he came in second.

And the guy that most believe is the best player in the game today? LeBron James came away with the third-place finish.

After another stellar performance where he finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and four steals while playing 46 of the game’s 48 minutes to put the Cavaliers up two games to one in the NBA Finals, LeBron admitted to being upset by where he ultimately landed in the MVP race.

“Every day I step out on the basketball floor, D-Wade, you know me, I want to be the MVP,” James said, in a conversation with Dwyane Wade that aired on ESPN. “For my teammates, for whoever is looking to me as a leader. I can’t say that I wasn’t upset finishing third, because I know what I bring to the table. I know how much I work — on my craft, and every single night.

“I can’t say I was happy about finishing third, but I didn’t need that extra motivation.”

LeBron has something motivating him that’s allowed him to play at a level that even those closest to him have never seen. As for the MVP, some of that is voter fatigue, because it gets old recognizing the same player for his greatness year after year, and sometimes the voters look to find a reason why others are more deserving.

But as we’re seeing in these Finals, the real MVP (as Kevin Durant might say) is LeBron, unquestionably so.

Dwyane Wade on LeBron James: ‘I’m seeing a different focus and look that I haven’t seen’

2015 NBA Finals - Game Three

Dwyane Wade won two championships playing alongside LeBron James, and the duo took the Miami Heat to the Finals in each of the last four seasons.

He’s seen plenty of greatness out of LeBron, and he’s seen it up close. But he’s never seen his former teammate dialed in quite like this.

“Obviously I played with you for four years, and I’ve seen you in many different arenas,” Wade said to LeBron, during a postgame interview he conducted on ESPN. “Let’s talk about your mindset right now, Because I see a different LeBron. I see a different focus and look that I haven’t seen. And I’ve seen a lot.”

It’s something others have noticed, as well.

From Sam Amick of USA Today:

James, who tried to replicate the Miami Heat’s Big Three model in Cleveland only to find himself as the lone All-Star on this Kyrie Irving/Kevin Love-less group that has no business being ahead against the Warriors, is sharing messages of motivation at every turn.

Publicly. Privately. Those closest to him are struck by this fiery look that’s in his eye, a focus and will the likes of which even they have never seen and a selfless style that is so perfectly contagious.

Whatever is motivating LeBron at this point, it’s driving him to play at a level that’s enabled him to carry his team to an improbable 2-1 series lead over the Warriors in these Finals.