By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Say what you want about Stephen A. Smith, but the guy does not hold back when he fires off his flamethrower takes - especially when it comes to the NBA. In the case of the Cavaliers' Game 2 loss to the Celtics on Tuesday night, Smith deserves credit.
Because even if you can't stand him, there's no question that he's one of the nation's most prominent basketball voices. He had a chance to make excuses for LeBron James, to bloviate about his neck issue during the game. Instead, he went in the complete opposite direction.
"What you saw from the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight in the second half was an absolute embarrassment," Smith said in his latest rant, which you can watch above. "[The Cavs] were an absolute disgrace in the second half. They gave a lackluster effort. They played no defense whatsoever. And when you take into account the fact that your starting backcourt of J.R. Smith and George Hill were out-scored 41-3 by Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown, that tells you all you need to know."
He told it like it is when it came to LeBron's night, too. Despite scoring 21 in a scorched-earth first quarter and finishing with 42 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists, LeBron joined his Cavs teammates in the second-half vanishing act. It was perhaps the most underwhelming, inconsequential 40-point triple-double you'll ever see.
"LeBron went ballistic in the first quarter, but after that disappeared for the most part," Smith said. "I don't care about the triple-double, the 42, 12, and 10. In the second half he wasn't himself. You're plus-260 pounds. Most of the dudes that are going up against you are undersized and cannot hang with you. And for some reason, he spent the vast majority of the game after the first quarter shooting fall-away jump shots. That's not going to cut it. You're going to need more from King James.
"It's not his fault, but you do need more from [LeBron], considering the level of ineptitude that you're getting from everybody else, and you didn't get it from anybody. It was an embarrassing effort by the Cavaliers in the second half."
Smith does make excuses as far as LeBron's supporting cast, but who's to blame for that? LeBron is the de facto GM of the Cavs and the roster underwent almost a total makeover at the trade deadline. And now these guys, save for Kevin Love, are barely showing up.
Credit is due to the Celtics, who are playing much better team defense and making many more plays when it matters. They most certainly Want It More™ than the Cavs do.
But Stephen A., despite his frequently off-the-reservation diatribes, is spot-on here. The Cavs aren't showing up when they need to. And amazingly, it could end up with the Celtics muscling their way into the NBA Finals.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].