LeBron James didn’t mince words.
“I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” LeBron said. “It’s simple.”
If only it were that simple for him.
LeBron scored 40 points (to go with 14 rebounds and 11 assists), but Cleveland lost Game 5 of the Finals, 104-91, Sunday. Why? The other Cavaliers scored just 51 points.
That’s a low for LeBron’s teammates this postseason:
The last time his teammates scored so few was March 26, 2014. LeBron scored 38 in an 84-83 loss to the Pacers.
Before that it was Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. Again against Indiana, LeBron scored 29 in a 91-77 loss.
This is the 39th time LeBron’s teammates have scored so few points, including 12th in the playoffs. His record in those games: 5-34 overall, 2-10 in the playoffs
Why aren’t his teammates scoring more now? Here are the thee biggest reasons in order:
1. Kevin Love’s and Kyrie Irving’s injuries
They were the Cavaliers’ second and third options, and they’re sidelined. If those two were healthy, Cleveland’s scoring would be much more balanced. As is, LeBron has taken it upon himself to do practically everything.
2. Warriors’ defense
Golden State has spent a lot of time defending LeBron straight up, not helping off Cleveland’s shooters while still forcing LeBron into enough misses. When the Warriors have double-teamed, they’ve been very deliberate about when and how to do it. Essentially, they’re daring LeBron to beat them singlehandedly and not letting anyone else get going.
3. Remaining Cavaliers playing poorly
Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova are over their heads as No. 2 or even No. 3 options. It’s no surprise this group can’t put the ball in the basket enough. LeBron shot 15-of-34 (44%) Sunday, and his teammates were 17-of-47 (36%).
No. 1 isn’t changing. I suppose No. 2 could, but Golden State has been the NBA’s best defensive team all season. For the Cavaliers to win again this season, No. 3 will have to change.
Will LeBron’s teammates score more, enough to beat the Warriors?
Finding confidence there definitely isn’t so simple.