Game three. Get the win on the road here, and the Cavs get some serious breathing room. First road playoff game for this year’s Cavs squad. If they want to win comfortably, they need to defend like they did in game one and execute on offense like they did in game two. Only doing one might not cut it in a hostile building. Let’s see how long Shaq can stay on the floor and what adjustments the Cavs make on Noah.
-Keep LeBron James frustrated. LeBron got his points in game one, but had a hard time finding consistent success in half-court situations and never settled into a passing groove. If LeBron’s on his game, the Bulls might not have enough talent to keep up with Cleveland.
-Pray the threes don’t fall. The Bulls did a good job collapsing the paint, but left the Cavs’ shooters open beyond the arc. The Cavs missed most of their looks in game one. The Bulls have to hope that trend continues.
-Do a better job containing Mo Williams. When Williams can’t get anything going off the dribble, the Cavs become much easier to stop. In game 1, he was able to get to the spots he wanted to get to.
-Get Derrick Rose to the line. Rose had to work for every one of his points in game one. He needs some easy baskets in game two if the Bulls want to have any chance of putting up points.
-Attack the Cavs off the dribble. It’s not a perfect plan, but the Bulls have to at least try to make Cleveland’s bigs move their feet instead of settling for deep twos.
-Get Luol Deng going. Not sure how, but it’s hard to win with your best wing going 5-15 from the floor.
What Cleveland Needs to do to win:
-Keep playing defense. The Cavs had a dominating defensive effort in game one. If they can keep that up, they’re in great shape.
-Get LeBron James going, especially in the half-court. Not the hardest thing to do in the world, but something to focus on.
-Use Shaq inside early. The Bulls can’t stop him without fouling. That could mean lots of time in the bonus.
-Make threes, as discussed above.
-Get something out of the two-guard spot. Delonte and AP both need to step up their efforts on the offensive end.
-Don’t let up. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 40-point lead. You do not want to take ANY chance of the Bulls stealing home-court. The Cavs say they’re hungrier than ever before. They should show it by leaving no doubt if they get up big.
-Don’t let Noah get you out of your game. This isn’t a time for vendettas, cheap fouls, and harmful techs. The Cavs have bigger goals than the Bulls in mind this post-season. Let it go and play the game.
-Use Mo to free up LeBron. The Bulls defend LeBron well in ISO situations. They can’t stop Mo off the dribble. Use Mo’s penetration to get LeBron some catches on the move and easy baskets. Wouldn’t mind seeing the playoff debut of the Decoy pick-and-roll/Kraken tonight. (Darn you, Shaqken. I had a good Kraken thing going.)
I may be doing some Daily Dime Live tonight, but I’ll also be contributing to the live-blog at Cleveland.com. I’ll definitely be there pre-game, post-game, and maybe during halftime, with some DDL sprinkled in during commercial break. See you there.
Pace: Chicago 95.5 (12th) vs. Cleveland 93.5 (25th)
Offensive Efficiency: Chicago 100.8 (28th) vs. Cleveland 108.8 (4th)
Defensive Efficiency: Chicago 102.6 (10th) vs. Cleveland 101.5 (7th)
Chicago’s problem is that they can’t score. The only way they have to get the ball to the basket is by having Derrick rose drive, and they don’t have any real three-point threats or a post presence. Because of this, their offense is built around 16-23 foot jumpers; no team takes more shots from that range than the Bulls do. Since those are the least efficient shots in basketball, it’s not a great mystery why Chicago sucks at offense.
Shaq comes back into the starting lineup today. We’ll see how that goes. I worry that the Bulls might have an easier time getting the mid-range shots they like with Shaq sagging into the paint all night, but the shots the Bulls like are bad shots.
Chicago’s only real chance in this series is to frustrate LeBron James and have Derrick Rose absolutely go off. Mo Williams isn’t much of a defender, and the Bulls’ rotations have given LeBron in the past. At the end of the day, though, LeBron is on a completely different level than Rose, and he’s rested and ready to show that.
Cavs can’t get caught up in trying to work Shaq in until they get a VERY healthy lead going. The first round might seem like it’s going to be a party, but the Cavs are four losses away from going home. If they remember that, they should be fine.
Some additional notes, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:
How important is this game for Chicago? The Cavaliers are 7-0 in best-of-seven series in which they won the first game. Only one other franchise has won as many best-of-seven series as the Cavs without losing one after taking a 1-0 lead: Portland (8-0).
The Cavaliers finished the season with 20 more wins than the Bulls (61 to 41). In the history of the NBA playoffs, there have been 25 best-of-seven series that have featured opposing teams that were separated by 20-or-more wins in the standings. The team with the fewer wins won only of those series (Golden State vs. Dallas in 2007).
The Cavaliers ended the regular-season with a four-game losing streak. In the history of the NBA, only one team has won the league title in a season that ended with a losing streak of at least four games: New York in 1969-70 (ended season with a four-game losing streak).
The Bulls have defeated the Cavaliers in each of the five post-season series that the teams have played. Only one other current team has played as many as five series against an opponent without losing one: Lakers vs. Denver (5-0).
LeBron James averaged 29.7 points, 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game during the 2009-2010 regular season. Only two other players in NBA history have averaged 25 points, eight assists and seven rebounds per game in the same season: Oscar Robertson (six times from 1960-61 through 1965-66) and Michael Jordan (1988-89).
James led the Cavaliers in total points, assists, steals and blocked shots this season, marking the second consecutive season he has led his team in each of those categories. No other player has led his team in points, assists, steals and blocked shots in the same season more than once.
The Bulls made the playoffs despite suffering through a 10-game losing streak during the regular season (February 27 through March 19). Since the NBA instituted the current playoff format in 1983-84, only four other teams have reached the postseason despite having a double-digit losing streak during the regular-season: Portland in 1985-86 (12 straight), Sacramento in 1995-96 (11 straight), Phoenix in 1996-97 (13 straight) and Toronto in 2001-02 (13 straight).
Mike Brown has recorded 272 regular-season wins in his first five seasons in the NBA. Only five other head coaches in NBA history have registered as many wins as Brown in their first five seasons in the league: Phil Jackson (295), Pat Riley (286), K.C. Jones (280), Billy Cunningham (279) and Larry Costello (272).
Brown has a 16-4 (.800) career record in first-round playoff games as a head coach. That is the highest career winning percentage in first-round playoff games for any head coach since the current playoff format was instituted in 1983-84 (minimum: 15 games).
Shaquille O’Neal has appeared in 203 playoff games in his career. That is more than the combined total of the players on the rosters of two 2010 playoff teams: Portland (157) and Oklahoma City (91).
Chicago was 5-10 (.333) on the road against teams that finished the season with a .600-or-better winning percentage this season. That winning percentage was much higher than the league’s winning percentage in those games (.250).
LeBron and the rest of the starters likely won’t play for the Cavs. It’s a possible ECF preview, except it’s not. Expect the Magic to take the game, and expect the Cavs to make sure the Magic don’t get the satisfaction of beating the “real” Cavalier team. Open thread.
Pace: Toronto 95.5 (12th) vs. Cleveland 93.3 (25th)
Offensive Efficiency: Toronto 108.4 (6th) vs. Cleveland 109.1 (2nd)
Defensive Efficiency: Toronto 109.8 (30th) vs. Cleveland 101.0 (8th)
-Looks like LeBron and Varejao are going to play, but Delonte will sit with back spasms. I like resting Delonte; he hasn’t looked like himself in the past two games. Also, Boobie should play!
-This game is very important for the Raptors, who are clinging to the final playoff spot in the East. This game means nothing at all to the Cavs. I’d like to see them take care of business so that they can stay sharp. Also, I’d rather see the Bulls than the Raptors in the playoffs, personally.
-Chris Bosh will test Andy in his first game back. That much we know.
My time is short. Cavs looking to avenge their LeBron-less loss. Stop the Bogut/Jennings pick-and-roll. Make Jennings beat you by taking it at the basket. Watch the LeBron-LRMAM matchup. Read Bucksketball and Brew Hoop. Open thread.
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