Phil Jackson: Cavs Can Come Back From 0-2, Just Like Jordan-Led ’93 Bulls
Man, the NBA Playoffs are a trendy little exercise. First the Warriors were declared dead when they went down 3-1 to Oklahoma City. My Twitter was full of rude and gloating messages from Thunder fans who objected when I dared to write that the series was far from done.
Now the Cavaliers find themselves in a similar predicament in the conference finals. Down 2-0 to the Warriors, facing the next game at home, with everyone already delivering their eulogy. They need someone to stand up like The Blackfish in Sunday's Game of Thrones: "While I'm standing, the war is not over."
That someone obviously has to be LeBron James, and Phil Jackson thinks it's possible.
Jackson coached the 1993 Chicago Bulls when they came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Michael Jordan led that four-game winning streak, scoring 53 in Game 4 alone. Jordan had taken criticism when it was reported that he was up late gambling the night before Game 2. Jordan took the criticism personally, and it was game on.
Jackson, to the New York Daily News:
"It did something to Michael Jordan. You learned something about pulling the cape of Superman. It's not a good idea. He was a man possessed after that. I think it's going to take something for LeBron to step into that. Put his cape on and say, 'I'm going to have to take over a lot of this series, doing the things beyond my level or my normal capacity.' He's been a team player up until this point, but I think he's going to have to step beyond that."
Four problems with that assessment:
* The Bulls had a better coach. Chicago had a working system in '93, and a coach who was good at making adjustments and assessing opposition weaknesses. Jackson was one of the greatest coaches ever. I'm not saying that Ty Lue is terrible, but he's no Phil Jackson.
* Jordan had a much better supporting cast.
* The Cavs are playing a 73-win team, capable of winning three straight from the very talented Thunder. The '93 Knicks weren't nearly as good at the '16 Warriors.
* LeBron lacks the fire to do this. You could tell when he started downplaying the Warriors matchup before the Finals began, saying that it wouldn't impact his legacy and the like. I happen to think that in his mind he's already back in Miami.
Meanwhile, Shaquille O'Neal agrees with Jackson that the Cavaliers are not necessarily done. NBATV:
"It's difficult. They have to do things well. Their two superstars have to put up big numbers. Even if you're ahead of Golden State, no lead is safe. You have to out-hustle them, outwork them, outplay them, and you can't allow teams to beat you five times in a row on the simple plays. You can't let guys set screens, slip screens and get five or six easy baskets."
That's what's been frustrating LeBron so far -- when the Warriors do the little things on offense to get easy baskets. You can see it in James' body language when that happens. It's like he's given up. But no, it's not over yet. It's easy to create that narrative, because that's when NBA fans and the media love to do. Perhaps Bernie Sanders can warg into LeBron on Wednesday and make this a series again.
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