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Cleveland Cavaliers Tie The Series 1-1

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Here was the situation the Cavs were in Sunday: They had to activate a player who was 2,400 miles away and in a hospital bed because they didn’t have enough players to even field an active roster.

So Kyrie Irving, a day after having surgery on his knee, was on the active list along with Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao, who were in suits on the bench.

Predictably, without Irving and Love, the Cavs have become an offensive disaster weighed down with stagnation and inefficiency. However, there has been a vital and breathtaking side effect even the most analytical minds working for the Cleveland Cavaliers probably couldn’t have seen coming:

The team has turned into a defensive juggernaut by replacing two players with spotty defensive reputations with two limited offensive players who have relentless defensive dispositions.

Yes, LeBron James is why the Cavs are headed home with the NBA Finals tied at 1-1 after a 95-93 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 on Sunday. James’ triple-double and 50 minutes of force carried them to victory after his 44 points in Game 1 came up just short.

But there’s no way the Cavs could have stayed competitive without the contributions of Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson – the less glamorous replacements for Irving and Love — who have stunned the Warriors with their smothering defense.

“It’s not cute at all,” James said. “If you’re looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, then that’s not us. That’s not us right now. Everything is tough. You know, we’re going to come in with an aggressive mindset defensively.”

The Cavs won despite shooting 32 percent from the field against a Warriors team that was fully healthy and playing at home, where Golden State had lost just three times all season.

They won because they hounded Stephen Curry, who was 0-for-8 with four turnovers going against Dellavedova — some of the most jaw-dropping stats you’ll ever see in the postseason. While Irving played a fantastic defensive Game 1, it’s no secret he’s often a target defensively and unlikely to be the centerpiece of Curry having a 5-for-23 shooting night, as Dellavedova was.

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