Here we go. First game of the regular season. Some things to watch out for:
-The way the Celtics played last night, they look like a terrible matchup for this team. Miami tried to play the kind of swarming defense you have to imagine the undersized Cavaliers will be playing, and Boston calmly picked it apart with ball movement, Rondo diving into the lane when he had space, and quality three-point shooting. They’re an extremely patient team offensively — 78 of their 88 points came from the paint, the three-point line, or the free-throw line on Tuesday.
– Defensively, the Celtics are just scary. The more the Cavaliers can push the break instead of facing their half-court defense, the better. Hey, maybe the Cavs can run Shaq off the floor.
– If Shaq beats up Andy inside, doesn’t settle for hooks, and makes a major impact on the game, I will throw something.
– Gotta find Pierce on the break, gotta keep Rondo from grabbing long rebounds and stopping the break, can’t lose Ray Allen in the half-court.
– This is J.J.’s first game as a key piece — I can’t shake the feeling Kevin Garnett is not the guy he wants to see.
Alright, open thread. Let’s start this season off with a bang. I won’t be doing the Daily Dime Live because of class, but check back here later tonight for the recap. It’s time.
Well, here we go. It’s a three-game series, and the Cavs are down 0-1. They’re 48 minutes away from tying this series up and going back to Cleveland for the deciding game. It’s not over. At least not yet. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not ready for LeBron’s last game as a Cav.
This game can be won. The Cavs have the talent. They won easily in Boston not that long ago. If they believe they can win this game, they can do it. LeBron says he knows what the stakes are. He needs to play like it, now more than ever. This entire team needs to hit the boards like their pride is on the line. No sloppy turnovers. Every possession could mean everything. Play defense on everyone, for the full 24 seconds, and get the ball if they miss.
Limit transition opportunities. Contest KG’s catches. Try to stop Ray Allen from getting it going. Hope Pierce doesn’t have one last bullet left in the holster.
On offense, play aggressive and confident. LeBron needs to come out early attacking and make the game his. Guys need to shoot when they’re left alone, and know when to reset when they don’t have the looks. Use Shaq to get in the bonus, then play matchup ball. Delonte’s gotta provide a spark. A lot of things need to go right. They can. The Cavs have won 67 games this season. They need two more right now.
A loss will hurt. If the Cavs go down fighting, I can take it. This team needs to play with pride. They need to play like they want another couple weeks of this. I do. I’m sure all of you do as well. This can happen. It is not over. But it needs to start right now. Not next game, not next quarter, not next possession. This is it. Having your back against the wall isn’t an excuse to quit. It’s an opportunity to leave everything out there. Any iota of effort this team doesn’t give will stay with them until their graves. 48 tough minutes, or a lifetime of infamy. It’s their choice.
Regardless of what happens, I love this team. I’ve loved watching them. I’ve loved talking about them. I’ve especially loved writing about them. It’s been a great journey. Let’s keep it going.
Here we go. Biggest game of the season. Whoever wins this one is a game away from a date with the Magic. LeBron and the rest of the team has to come out aggressive and get that crowd going. Shooters have to get it going and keep that defense spread. Slow Rondo down by limiting transition opportunities — limit turnovers, hit those boards, and watch the long rebounds. Also, hustle at every opportunity. I have no idea what’s going to happen tonight, but hopefully it’ll be the Cavs with the 3-2 advantage when the final horn sounds. Have fun, everyone.
Here we go. Game four. We know that each of these teams are capable of blowing out the other one. Cavs can’t wait to attack in this game — like they did in game three, they have to come out of the locker room aggressive. They should also be ready for Boston to do the same.
Continue to play off of Rondo, give token full-court pressure, and pack the paint on him. Hope Paul Pierce doesn’t return to the land of the living. Chase Ray Allen wherever he goes.
If LeBron has it going from outside early and Shaq is working in the post, that’s great. If not, the Cavs have to be patient and not allow themselves to get discouraged. As we all know, no lead is secure in this series — every single possession counts.
Alright, it’s gametime. Check back here for the recap later.
Here we go. Win a game at the Garden or go home. Some things to watch out for:
It would be really great if the Cavs were aggressive on both sides of the ball early. They’ve fallen behind by double-digits in each of the first two games. That’s unacceptable for one of the best first-quarter teams in basketball. Cleveland’s good late and Boston will blow leads, but the Cavs can’t count on a comeback. They need to play every possession like it’s the fourth quarter.
LeBron’s gotta be more aggressive early. I don’t know if it’s the elbow or what, but the Cavs are going to be in big trouble if he doesn’t come out and set the tone.
Stop Rondo. Slow Rondo down. Do the opposite of everything that has been done against Rondo so far. The Cavs have to hope he comes back to earth in game three.
Mo Williams has to get going and hit some threes. He shouldn’t force anything, though — just run the offense, go to his spot, and trust that the ball will come back to him.
Jamison needs to get some inside looks on pick-and-rolls, weak-side cuts, and post-ups.
Yes, KG’s only shooting 42% for the series. But he’s getting way too many easy baskets. If he gets his points on turnaround jumpers and 20-footers, that’s fine. No layups.
Shaq needs to make hooks or get the quick hook.
Hickson’s played good enough offense to get himself in the rotation for this series. He needs to step it up on defense and the boards to get his team a win.
This would be a great game for Delonte to find what he’s been missing for much of this season. This team desperately needs more toughness and guys willing to drive the ball at the rim.
Here we go. Doesn’t get much bigger than this. Cavs have to play every possession. This series and this season are still far from over. That said, the time for this team to step up is right now.
Alright, game two. Game one was fun, but if the Celtics leave Cleveland with a split they’re going to be more than satisfied. This is a very, very important game. Here are some keys:
-Rondo Rondo Rondo Rondo. I’m not sure what the adjustments will be, but I’m sure we’re going to see them. Give him more room on the perimeter and challenge him in the paint. Give him a wall of bodies. Do something. Rondo cannot be allowed to control the pace of the game.
-If LeBron came out looking to be aggressive and took it to the paint early because his elbow was bothering him, I hope it still feels that way. Can’t settle for jump shots against this defense.
-Cavs defense needs to swarm like they did in the second half of game one. The Celtics will turn the ball over if enough pressure is placed on them.
-Frontcourt needs to play better. Shaq needs to know when the post-up opportunities are there and when to toss the ball back out. Jamison needs to work off the ball and look for easy layups and jumpers before he starts trying to twist in those floaters. I’d say he should try posting up, but KG can hold his own on an island against Antawn.
-Please, please, please let there be plenty of Rasheed/Big Baby minutes and Pierce ISOs. I love those.
Now is not the time to get fat and happy. It’s time to close out the series. Ride LeBron’s insane play, try Shaq early and give him the hook if he’s not effective. Take the threes if they’re there, but look to get a good shot on every possession. Contain Rose, win the battle on the boards, keep a body on Noah. Try to get something out of Delonte and Varejao.
The series is Cleveland’s for the taking. Time to play a strong 48 and get it done.
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.
Nate Smith is an Associate Editor. He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and moved to NE Ohio in 2000. He adopted the Cavs in 2003 and graduated from Kent State in 2009 with a BA in English. He can be contacted at email@example.com or @oldseaminer on Twitter.
Tom Pestak is an Associate Editor. He's from the west side of Cleveland and lives and (mostly) dies by the success and (mostly) failures of his beloved teams. You can watch his fanaticism during Cavs games @tompestak.
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