The Hooley, Tuesday, April 25

I know it's popular to take the Cavaliers opening round sweep of the Pacers as an end to all their troubles, but I'm just not at the point where I'm convinced it means anything other than the first step in a long process that's about to get much harder.

The Cavs 106-102 victory Sunday in Indiana moves them into the second round with the ease you'd expect of a defending NBA champion.

But do not be fooled into thinking that this means the rest of their trip through the Eastern Conference will be a cakewalk, or that it makes them the favorite to win another championship.

There are still lingering, bothersome questions about this bunch, starting with their propensity to fall into deep deficits or give away big leads.

The Cavs did the former in Game 3, trailing by 25 points at halftime before roaring back to win in the biggest comeback in NBA post-season history.

And they did the latter, blowing a double-figure lead in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Sunday, before recovering to win.

If you're looking to identify the fingerprints on both those wins that could easily have been losses, look no further than LeBron James.

LeBron isn't going to win NBA MVP this year, but you'll have to refresh my memory on the reason why.

In Game 3, he scored or assisted on 73 of the Cavs points, played every minute in a second half that Cleveland dominated and orchestrated the comeback with four reserves around him down the stretch.

That's right...the Big 3 the Cavs supposedly have, with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to help LeBron...it was reduced to a Big One and two spectators in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

LeBron and the bench outscored Indiana, 45-27, to grab the victory in a game the analytics said the Cavs had a 1.2% chance of winning at halftime.

In Game 4 on Sunday, you can probably guess who put the Cavs back in front after they lost their double-digit fourth-quarter lead.

Of course, it was LeBron, with a three-point field goal that looked a lot like the three triples he hit in the third quarter of Game 3.

Except James is such a basketball savant, he knows when to zig when the other team zags.

Aware that Indy would play him for the three-pointer, which he's shot this season at a better percentage than Steph Curry, LeBron did most of his damage in Game 4 on the inside.

His first seven field goals on Sunday were off drives or cuts. His go-ahead three was just his third shot outside the paint all afternoon.

Indy never figured James out, but then no one has.

LeBron's teams have won 21 straight first-round games, the longest streak by any player since 1984. And he's now swept 10 Best-of-7 playoff series in his career, the most of any player in NBA history.

His 10 sweeps trump Tim Duncan’s 9 and the 7 apiece from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

But even with LeBron, the Cavs still appear vulnerable to me.

Their sweep marks the first in the NBA since 1995 in which the winning team allowed its opponent to score 100 points in all four games.

So the defense they'll need to win a championship still isn't there.

And the Cavs four wins over the Pacers came by a combined 16 points, tied for the smallest margin of victory in a four-game sweep all-time.

It seems to me the Cavs are relying more on LeBron, not less, which might be smart, but it's not preferable.

He's going to need help going forward.

But thankfully, at least the Cavs know that when they turn to James, he'll seldom let them down.

If you want to know the difference between his superstar status and the supposed comparable ability of his contemporaries, look no further than Indiana's Paul George.

George is supposed to be a guy Indy, or the Lakers if he goes there, can rely on. But George is now 2-for-32 all-time on potential game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 15 seconds, including reg. season and playoffs, after missing badly on a three-point attempt to tie on Sunday.

So despite the defensive breakdowns and being lazy with the lead, the Cavs don't have one major problem that other teams can't be nearly as sure about.

At least Cleveland knows that when it puts out the 911 call to be rescued, LeBron is better qualified to answer than anyone in the NBA.

title

Content Goes Here