When a Switch Flips: Even Cavs Vets in Disbelief over Sudden Playoff
BOSTON — Kyle Korver likes to think of himself as a well-reasoned,
intelligent man. He believes in things he can see.
So this magical "switch" he'd heard so much about around Cleveland was no
different than other figments of imagination. Santa Claus, Easter Bunny,
tooth fairy, flip-switchers—they're all the same.
"I've always been told that it wasn't real, that there wasn't a switch that
can just be flipped on," Korver told Bleacher Report Thursday afternoon.
Korver brought this mentality with him to the court for the first
13-and-a-half years of his career. It's helped him carve out a niche as one
of the game's premier long-distance snipers, which is why, over the past few
weeks, he's been shocked to discover that he was wrong all along.
On Jan. 7, the Atlanta Hawks traded Korver to the defending champion
Cleveland Cavaliers. At the time, Korver thought he knew what awaited in
Cleveland. The Cavaliers were gunning for a second straight title. Their
star, LeBron James, was hunting the ghost of Michael Jordan.
This, Korver figured, would be one of the most intense and buttoned-up
basketball environments he ever entered. Instead, he watched the Cavaliers,
behind one of the weakest defenses in the league, drop 14 of their final 24
games, fall out of the No. 1 seed and enter the postseason tired, old and
"I was really concerned," Korver said. "But everyone just kept on telling me,
'Don't worry about it, we're all good.
"And it turns out they were right."
It's not just that the Cavaliers have run off nine straight wins thus far
this postseason, including an overwhelming 117-104 win over the Celtics in
Boston Wednesday night in the Eastern Conference Finals' opening game, that
has Korver reconsidering his belief in a team's ability to flip on a fake
light switch. It's the way in which they've devastated opponents like the
Celtics and Toronto Raptors, teams that ended the regular season looking like
Cleveland has actually upped its scoring this postseason—typically a time
where baskets are more difficult to come by—by about seven points per 100
They've also plugged up holes on the other end of the floor. The Cavs held
the Raptors to 100.9 points per 100 possessions in the second round, an
eight-point improvement from their regular-season mark.
"I mean these guys have been playing into the playoffs deep into June for
three years now. It's easy to get bored in the regular season," Cavaliers
guard Deron Williams told Bleacher Report. "The intensity isn't there game in
and game out. But now you've got rest, you're not playing back-to-backs, you
get to focus on one team and lock in on them. For a team like this, with this
many veterans, it sets up perfect for how we're built."
Like Korver, Williams, a 13-year veteran, was added to the fold late in the
season and grew concerned with what he saw.
"We didn't end the season well. It wasn't looking good for us," said
Williams, who was signed by the Cavaliers on Feb. 27 after being waived by
the Dallas Mavericks. "You know, I was nervous because I haven't been a part
of a team like this. I was like, 'I hope we can do it, I know we can lock in,
I've seen it for games.' But it just wasn't consistent."
As with everything in "Cavs Land," much of this turnaround is courtesy of
LeBron James. Over these nine games, he's played perhaps the best basketball
of his career. He's averaging 34.8 points—on 56.0 percent shooting—9.0
rebounds and 7.1 assists this postseason. He's left opposing coaches grasping
for ways to slow him down.
"It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league [four
years ago]," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after Game 1. "A
lot better. Just as you get older, you gain more experience, see more things.
I didn't think he could get any better after that, but he is."
But both Korver and Williams, the lone newcomers in the Cavaliers' primary
rotation, believe there's more to it.
"Really, I think, it's all on the defensive end, I think our offense, really
all season was great; just defensively we weren't very sharp, we weren't
where we needed to be," Korver said.
"The coverages that this team is best at...they take a lot of energy, they
take a lot of showing and blitzing and trapping, guys who play so long into
the summer every year; it's easy to lose focus on that, to play with that
The difference, according to Korver, is simple: In the playoffs there are no
games on consecutive nights. Also, teams have more time to develop and
implement game plans, and players have more time to absorb them.
So, does that mean Korver is ready to become a believer in proverbial
"The switch is certainly real here," he said. "But only here."
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