Archive for April, 2009

Giving Out Grades: Hipster Grifter Edition!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

 

Well, who else is going to get bored waiting for the Hawks and Heat to finish up their business? At least we all have Celtics/Bulls. Holy crap. Well, here are the grades for our first completed series, with a few random grades thrown in there as well:

INC:

JJ Hickson, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Pavlovic, Tarence Kinsey: this year’s cuts from the 8-man playoff rotation. Good contributions, guys. Stay loose. 

F-: 

Rasheed Wallace. Don’t accuse of Rasheed only trying in a contract year; when Rasheed decides to stop giving a crap, he goes all-out. There are no mitigating factors. Either he’s going 120% or 0%. This series was the latter. 

Tayshaun Prince. How old is Tayshaun? Younger than Bruce Bowen, right? Wasn’t he the younger version of Bruce Bowen?

Laker fans chanting “M-V-P” starting in the first quarter and never really stopping. This is the single most annoying trend in the history of man. Does it stop when LeBron wins the award? At least Miami saves it for actual important moments in the game, or when Wade’s made an impressive and-1, or something. Also, chanting “U-Tah Sucks!” to a clearly overmatched team was classy. You know Jerry Sloan and the people of Salt Lake City-punks to the core. 

Kevin Garnett’s borderline tourette’s act, or American Psycho act, or whatever you want to call it. It’s not hustle. It’s being a punk. The league should have cracked down on it after TNT cameras slo-mod KG CLEARLY screaming “f****ng f****ts!” during the Cavaliers series last year, instead of doing absolutely nothing or refusing to acknowledge it. I’m sure they would have reacted the same way had Brian Scalabrine been caught saying the n-word in slow-motion. Hopefully the Ben Gordon picture is enough to get something done. Look, there’s nothing wrong with being passionate. I like it. But kids are watching this guy play and learning that that’s what being a leader is. Middle-school kids are going to start behaving like this on the court because they think that’s what it means to be competitive. If he can’t help himself, than he should get professional help or get off the bench. I’m absolutely serious. What would you do if a guy in your office had to run around the office and scream “F***ING P***IES!” at invisible people for five minutes before making a presentation? And that’s not even televised. This is really not coming from a Cavs fan-believe me when I say I’d be saying the same things about Ben Wallace if he was doing this stuff.

D:

Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson: Neither broke 33% from the field. Not so good for your shooters off the bench. 

Chris Paul. EPIC UNHERALDED MVP-WORTHY SEASON FAIL.

Joe Johnson. Can we please shut up about how underrated he is? He’s a poor man’s Iggy. 

C: 

Hawthorne and Dark Blue. If you haven’t heard, Jada Pinkett-Smith is a doctor who BREAKS the rules…FOR HER PATIENTS!! Move over, Twin Peaks! And on Dark Blue, we have a cop who DOESN’T PLAY BY THE BOOK!! And you know what? I have no problem watching these ads like 5,000 times over the next month. However, if Meet the Browns and House of Payne commercials start routinely playing during the same commercial breaks, I will probably develop an alternate personality to cope. If recaps start getting written in film noir style by someone who refers to himself as “Barney,” don’t be worried. It just means I’ve lost my mind. This also may happen if Shannon Brown continues to be a difference-maker. 

Zydrunas Ilgauskas. 44% is too low for a center-we’re settling for that outside jumper waay too much. 

Andy Varejao and Delonte West. Both did their things defense and toughness-wise, but neither made the kind of offensive impact we’re going to need in later rounds in either production or efficiency. 

The Spurs. They’re gone. The every-other-year dynasty is over. I feel alone and confused. This is a brave new world the next couple of rounds are going to craft. 

B:

Carlos Boozer’s impending free agency. Are you excited? I’m excited. Anything can happen. I said this on SLAM, but right now I can see anything from “signs one-year tender with verbal extension promise with whoever gets the #1 overall pick, gets them to pass on Griffin for Rubio, fires up 25 shots a game and puts up a season 28/14, then bolts before they know what hit them” to “comes in to sign contract, calls in fake bomb threat, changes numbers on contract while everybody flees the building.” How perfect is it that Kari Ferrell is a Jazz Fan? Boozer will probably hire her as his agent. 

Mo Williams. Curiously absent in two games, absolutely unstoppable in the other two. Weirdest stat of the ever: he didn’t break 60% from the line this series. 

Dwyane Wade: Remember, if he goes nowhere near the basket and tosses 4 airballs in a corner, it’s not a choke. It’s back spasms. 

Dwight Howard: I’m not sure what I’d be more concerned with if I was a Magic fan: that Howard’s two biggest games of the series have been in losses, or that everyone’s favorite Christian is 3rd in the league in techs and got suspended from a playoff game for breaking someone’s face. Or is this the mean streak Yao Ming never got?

A:

LeBron James. Shot over 50% from the field. Averaged 32/11/7.5. 80% from the line. Dominant defensively flashed post moves. And you know what? He really didn’t even have it going all that much, as the 17% from outside the arc shows. He just overpowered that team. There’s still a plus past his current level of production. That’s scary.

A+: 

Cavaliers fans. The home-court is an absolute nightmare. This we knew. But turning THE PALACE into a neutral zone? Absolutely amazing. This crowd is a legitimate sixth man. And they definitely take this team to another level. Someone’s going to have to come through LBJ and this crowd if they want the trophy. Good luck.

Recap: (12) LeBroomed.

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

 

 

Overview: The Cavs simply overpowered the Pistons for a sweep, repeatedly getting to the line offensively and shutting down their starters on defense. The Cavs will now wait a week for their next-round matchup while the Pistons contemplate the end of an era.




Cavs-Related Bullets:


The broadcast team mentioned it during the contest, but games like this really are a testament to how LeBron James really is. It really didn’t seem like he had it going, especially not from the perimeter, and he never really strung together a hot streak of jumpers. In fact, at one point he missed 9 of 10 shots from the field. But even when LeBron doesn’t have his game going the way he’d like it to, he does so many things other than scoring that he completely controls the game. 


Look at the final line-36/13/8/1/2 on 56.25 TS%. His scoring and assists accounted for 54 points, or 54.5% of the Cavs’ total offense. 


How did he control the tempo of this game? He got out into transition at every opportunity and caused the turnovers that got the team out on the break on that end of the floor. He crashed to the basket over and over and over and over again, getting himself to the line and knocking down those free throws. And, as always, his passing was on-target and kept everyone involved and the defense on its toes.


Now, a key thing to remember is that if LeBron played like this in the playoffs last year, he would have shot about 35% and the Cavs would have scored something like 38 points. The difference is the backcourt, who was just as deadly as LeBron, getting a combined 36 points and 9 assists to LeBron’s 38 and 8. When they’re opening up the court, making passes, moving the ball from side to side, and driving the lane, the defense can’t set up a wall. And if you don’t have a wall set up, there’s no way to stop LeBron from getting to the basket without fouling, especially when your two best defenders are playing at 30% due to injuries and effort. 


Defensively, the Cavs were just bone-crushing. People not named Stuckey, Bynum, and McDyess went a combined 5-22 from the floor. Only Jason Maxiell had any interest in taking it to the basket strong and getting free thows. Rasheed and Tay are just not there. Hamilton isn’t good enough to do it himself, or close to it. Kwamir is not giving you much to hope for in terms of a backcourt of the future. 

This game felt more like an execution than a coronation; there’s a strange lack of pleasure in taking this team that was once a juggernaut, that handed LeBron his first playoff loss and bore witness to his greatest triumph (so far.) Ben Wallace was wearing our colors. Chauncey is on fire a thousand miles away.

The once-raucious Detroit crowd was chanting “M-V-P” for LeBron instead of “DEE-TROIT BASKET-BALL,” the tale of how the Pistons leading the league in attendance but having to send e-mails to Cavalier season ticket holders to fill their seats for the playoffs, a stark reminder of how Detroit’s infastructure has crumbled around it while Allen Iverson and his $13 million dollars can’t be bothered to be in the building. Those facts, tossed off in the third quarter, stirred up more emotions than anything happening on the court. 

This is a skeleton of a team playing, and a Cavalier team that was in no mood to give them any sort of life, mercilessly executing, rotating, and going to the basket instead of losing any kind of focus. The indelible image of the series for me will be LeBron’s dunk after putting the spin move on Will Bynum, with Rasheed standing not two feet away and just watching-Detroit getting beat because of its lack of talent on the first defender and its apathy on the second defender.  

What should have been a rubber match for these two teams after 13 of the hardest-fought playoff games in recent memory was, thanks to one team being on the good side of a salary dump and the other team being on the wrong side of one. 

And so this rivalry, the only real one of the LeBron era, ends with a wimper, and it’s onward we go to the Hawks or the Heat. For all the talk about us being too goofy, this was the team that took care of its business in the first round. 

Recap: (13) What doesn’t beat you makes

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Overview: With the offense stalling considerably, the Cavaliers were able to outlast the Pistons through a stifling defense and a gritty 25/11/9 line from LeBron James in a defensive struggle that harkened back to the Cavaliers-Pistons battles of old. 

Cavs-Related Bullets: 

Offensively, this was not a pretty game by any means. All of our new offensive wrinkles that are supposed to give us looks beyond LeBron driving the whole were pretty much fail. LeBron was 2-12 from outside the painted area. Mo and Delonte had a combined TS% of 11%. 

LeBron was struggling, especially in the third quarter. His jumper wasn’t going and he was forcing drives, especially after making 4 absolutely gorgeous passes in  a row in the third quarter that weren’t finished. When that happened, he resorted to trying to drive one-on-five against a Piston defense that was waiting for him, and it didn’t work so well. In the fourth quarter, he just went to the early pick-roll with Andy and cut through a lazy Piston defense.

Mo and Delonte were absolutley unable to take any pressure of LeBron. We need the backcourt to step up if we’re going to create offense and make it pretty. It’s that simple.

Z hit some midrange jumpers early, but the law of averages caught up with him and he finished with 13 points on 13 shots. For all the mishaps he’s made in this series, Michael Curry is absolutely right when he decides that leaving Z open for a jumper he makes 43% of the time is better than a LeBron drive to the hole or open Mo three. As much as Hubie Brown is my hero, idol, and general God among men, he needs to stop perpetuating the myth that leaving Z open from 18 feet is death. On one play, Mo came off a pick and LeBron slashed to the basket. Z’s man came to help and clogged the lane, leaving Z open for a J. Z made it, and Hubie chastised the Detroit defense. If they don’t leave Z open, that’s a LeBron jam. He’s the safety valve, the plan B. 

When everything breaks down, we always have our defense. Two Pistons in double figures tonight, and neither managed a TS >50%. It’s hard to lose when you do that. And LeBron, our best defender and the #2 in the DPOY race, had an off-game on the defensive end of the floor, over-helping and getting beat baseline occasionally, although he did manage two blocks and three steals. That’s like the Lakers hanging 120 with Kobe going 6-17. 

Gotta love Z’s point guardin’ skills, leading a break and making a beautiful high-post dish for the Cavs’ first bucket of the game. 

JOE BEAST IS HERE. 19 points, a three, cleaning up the offensive boards, doing everything. When he catches it down low, he knows how to score even if his momentum isn’t towards the basket. That’s just fantastic. 

The difference between our off-game and the Lakers’ off-game was fourth-quarter execution, which was due in no small part to our superstar stepping up while theirs struggled-we showed we can win, handily, with absolutely nothing going our way offensively. 

Alright, let’s get this fourth win and be done with this thing before the week is over. That way, we can just relax and watch Hawks-Heat, which is shaping up to be a bona fide humdinger. If anyone would rather play the Heat in the next round, make yourself known. Although I’m still not looking past the Pistons. The series is over when the series is over. If nothing else, it continues the fact that the Cavs have never lost a first-round series in the LeBron era.

Stock Up, Stock Down: Now Featuring Upsets!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

 

Stock Up: 

Chauncey Billups, who has the highest PER of anyone in the playoffs and is absolutely annihilating the Hornets by himself right now. The Hornets’ only chance was that they were supposed to have the best player on the floor.

Home-court advantage- the Jazz and Mavericks looked like completely different teams tonight with their own crowd behind them, which goes against some of the mythology-shattering early in the first rounds.

The Celtics. “Just by the way, everyone, we’re the champs here. If it takes an absolute blowout on the road to remind you of this, we’ll do it. We’re the two seed, screw this evenly matched noise.”

Rajon Rondo. Not only is he having the best fantasy playoffs in the history of ever, but if he’s off that team, they’re not nearly as dangerous. 

Erick Dampier. Hey, if you back it up…

Courtney Lee. Wow. Rookies are not supposed to be that.

Dwyane Wade. Do we realize that that was his first playoff win since he won the championship? Even so, impressive stuff. You can’t sleep on Wade.

Carlos Boozer. I’m not mad anymore. Andy/Ben is better for this team and what it does in its current incarnation. This is another post and some serious soul-searching, but I’m just not mad anymore.

Stock Down:

The Lakers and Kobe Bryant. Not stringing together 48 strong minutes of basketball. I realize the on/off switch, but it really should be on for the entire playoffs. And 4/25 from the field and a crunch-time egg is just not something you want to have happen. The trump card for this team is that we assume Kobe can go super-Kobe and take the game whenever he chooses to turn it on-the question is whether he’s picking his spots or just isn’t that guy anymore. Tonight was an argument for the latter, but he still terrifies me to no end. He’s not done until his team loses four. It’s hard to try and brush off a guy who can kill a team by raining in perfectly defended 22-footers at any time. It just is. And the Lakers losing on the last shot on a night when Kobe goes 4-25 against a fantastic home team terrifies me more than it should. I just want the Lakers to be dead. I don’t breathe easy until it happens. I don’t care if they go down 0-3 with Kobe going 2-84 for the series. They’re alive so long as the ball’s on the court.

Chris Paul. ‘Cmon, Chris. I’ve been talking you up as having the most underrated great season of all time all year. He had the second-best regular season in the LeBron era this season. And now Chauncey is absolutley cremating him on both ends of the floor. Way to make me look bad-you’re even giving the ridiculos Deron debate fuel.

Tony Parker-after the last game, I said that home-court wouldn’t make Tony Parker any slower. Well, apparently he did. There’s no way you should follow up a dominating performance by not showing up.

Dwight Howard-you want to be a legit MVP candidate? Don’t disappear in playoff games. Even on his absolute worst day, Kobe was making the game his and had an impact down the stretch. I’m sorry, Mrrs. Q. Rock and McCann, but there’s a clear other level Howard could get to in his career. There isn’t for LeBron, Kobe, Paul, and Wade. When Howard makes the jump and is a nightly force offensively, then it’s a discussion. Until then, he’s a bridesmaid.

Recap: (14) Really? Is this all we have to be concerned with?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

 

Overview: Behind a stifling defense and sparkling performances from James, West, and Williams, the Cavs manhandled the Pistons into submission through the first three quarters, only to give the Pistons a breath of life by getting outscored 17-32 in the final quarter. The final outcome, however, was only in any sort of conceivable peril for a fleeting moment.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

More of LeBron just wanting to destroy everyone. 17 free throws means that they can’t stop him from getting to the basket and he doesn’t want to stop going. This was a bit of an uglier game than game 1, and LeBron was ugly-effective, getting to the line over and over again. He was also mixing it up, judiciously going to the post and refraining from shooting midrange jumpers until the fourth quarter, with two of his three misses from that range coming on the Cavs’ final two possessions. Add that to the 13 rebounds, and this game was all about LeBron James just physically overpowering a team with nothing approaching an answer for him. 

Delonte and Mo were great tonight as well; the open threes and layups weren’t there as much, but they had their dribble-drive and midrange games going, Mo was anything but gunshy after a weak debut, and Delonte was scrapping as always, fighting offensive boards out of much bigger hands. 

The main concern here is the second unit. One field goal off the bench is probably not going ot cut it, and there was some serious hemorraging of points when the second unit got out there. 

Do I worry a little bit about that last run giving the Pistons confidence heading into their homecourt? I chalk that run up more to Will Bynum being about the only person on that team giving a crap right now, so I’m not going to freak out about it or anything. 

I don’t think you can say this series is in the fridge until we get one in Detroit-I mean, you can say it, and you might even be right, but it doesn’t do much. Think of the last two times we met this team in the playoffs, when they beat us twice on their floor and thought they were coming to Cleveland to mop up. Is the talent gap between the teams much, much, wider now? Yes. But Karma is a bitch. So I’m not going to get too cocky. Hell, I’m not going to believe these Pistons are dead until the clock reads 0.00000000 on the fourth win. I’ve spent too many nights awake because I think I can hear “Deee-Troit BASKET-BALL” somewhere off in the dark recesses of my mind. 

Bullets Of Randomness:

How awesome is it that Will Bynum fills the role everyone thought AI would flourish in all year, and they’re still not very good?

LeBron finished 2nd in the DPOY voting, and judging by how Detroit’s perimeter players have done so far, he looks to be backing it up. 

See you after we get done with our first game in Detroit in a little while. I keep feeling like something kinda cool happened during our last playoff game…

 

That’s Joe Smith Rapping. And you thought I was going to post the 48 video. Clearly, this is much greater. Enjoy this forever.

Two Quick Things That You Should Know

Monday, April 20th, 2009

This doesn’t fit into a full post, but I feel it deserves mention: If you don’t think John Hollinger performs a valuable service, you’re dumb. It’s that simple. 

Checking his playoff stats page, I noticed something that jumped off the page a wee bit: LeBron James had an absolutely fantastic game against Detroit, and as such his PER currently stands at 48.64. That you’d expect. However, Hollinger has added two new stats, the latter of which is a combination of PER and minutes played to give a rough estimate of “wins added.” LeBron’s wins added is the best after one game at .8. Now, if we remember, LeBron has played one game. This would seem to me that LeBron, by himself, did 80% of what would have been expected from our team to get a win. I don’t think this stat is perfect, but that’s impressive either way.

I realize I may have left you dissatisfied with this post, so I give you the single greatest commercial of all time.

Me and my friend were watching TV one day, talking over the commercials, and then that came on. We replayed it at least 10 times and were on the floor, tears coming out of our eyes, when it was done. I’m not sure if it’s actually great, or was just the perfect thing at the time. But let it be known that someone at Six Flags has a finely tuned sense of the absurd, which makes me both happy and extremely sad.

That’s all for tonight. Mike Brown is the coach of the year. The Celtics refuse to die. Rajon Rondo is an intelligent mega-polymer. The Spurs are a Silver Gleaming Death Machine. See you tomorrow.

Report: Mike Brown Named Coach of the Year

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Three quick points on this one:

1. Other than Most Improved Player of the Year, which is a completely nebulous and pointless award, Coach of the Year is definitely the most vaguely defined of the major awards. If I had to give it a working definition, I’d go with “coach of a team who surpassed its expectations the most.” That makes a bit of sense, but in a way it’s tricky. Phil Jackson, who dealt with major injuries, figured out the perfect way to use Lamar Odom, shuffled his rotations throughout the year to maximum effect, and found a way to work Shannon Brown, Josh Powell, and DJ Mebenga into his rotation effectively, not to mention successfully dealing with maybe the most infamous ego in sports? You get no votes, because everyone knew your team was going to be really good. It’s a cliche, but this award could have gone to at least seven or eight different candidates and I wouldn’t have  a serious qualm. And while the fact the voting ended up being a landslide is surprising, you certainly see the reasoning; when in doubt, which is at the core of this voting, go with the guy with the most wins, and the Cavs certainly didn’t have overwhelming talent.

2. Congratulations to Mike Brown, obviously. From working games, I can tell you he’s a good guy who respects the media and has his head on his shoulders-he essentially wrote the beat story after the Laker game of the top of his head before anyone asked him a question, and he was courteous and charismatic. 

More so, he’s a testament to hard work; he’s not some ex-player or know-it-all college guy with a lecture circut and self-help book in his pocket, but a guy who worked his way up from the bottom, in the video room trenches, and learned the game the right way and stuck to his principles without ever having his ego go Larry Brown. 

And of course, imagine trying to be successful when you start off as being clearly more expendable than your 21-year old star who supposedly works for you. Not the easiest balancing act to pull off.

3. For the second year in a row, the coach du jour is a guy who was maligned for years; last year it was Doc Rivers (although he tecnically didn’t win coach of the year), and this year it’s Mike Brown. In a way, MB’s emergence is even more amazing than Doc’s. Doc never helmed a competitive team; Mike Brown’s teams have outperformed their record in the playoffs every year he’s been a full-timer, and everyone still thought he was a terrible coach. That offense he was running was just god-awful and stagnant, and it was there for the world to see as LeBron James ran pick-and-roll into waiting defenses again and again and again. 

Now it turns out that Larry Hughes made everything stagnant, and that with competent point guards and some offensive talent around LeBron James, as well as a new assistant he wasn’t afraid to delegate to, Mike Brown can orchestrate the 3rd-most efficient offense in the league (basically tied with the Lakers) without sacrificing the defense and tempo his teams have always hung their hat on. The great thing about this coach of the year award is that it stands as a testament against the idea that coaches are successful or unsuccessful completely independently fromt heir circumstances-the award is an attack on ego-driven “my way is the RIGHT WAY and I can win games from the sideline” philosiphy of coaching. For a humble and quietly effective coach like Brown, it fits.

Stock Up, Stock Down: The First Edition

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

 

Note from the Grand Viceroy: I’m going to try and get at least one post per day up during playoff times. If a more substantative idea does not strike me, the post will be a “stock up, stock down” post. Today is the beginning of this experiment. All orders are vaguely decending.

Stock Up:

Chauncey Billups. 36 points on 19 attempts (95% TS) and 8 assists is as good of a line as you’re going to find in these playoffs, and he was the “intangibles” guy in the MVP top-10. 8-9 from deep? Are you kidding me? Detroit better do something with his cap space. 

HOT DONALD. It took a while, but Donyell Marshall finally did something to help the Cavaliers. (I kid-Donny actually buried big threes when we beat the Nets over our finals run. Donyell Marshall-secret playoff assassin.) Still, that is the most random and hilarious player to pull a Kenard (IF YOU WATCH THE WIRE OR ARE PLANNING TO AND ARE NOT DONE-MAJOR MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT WATCH THAT.) that I could have dreamed up before this playoff run.  That’s just fantastic.

Iggy. I’m not sold that he can be the best player on an elite team, but he’s teasing that he might get to that level. His athleticism is ridiculous-he was the only guy to finish inside better than LeBron this year. He’s always had a nice stroke when he can set his feet. He’s starting to put it together. If I had to name a poor man’s LeBron, Iggy might be the guy in terms of being able to play a somewhat similar game and be effective. And contested step-back Js to win playoff games on the road are not easy to pull off, ever.

BIRDMAN. Fun to watch on absolutely every level. Not only is he giving the type of production that absolutely every team in the NBA could use off their bench and having a good time doing it, he might have a VH1 dating show in the next 5 years.

Shannon Brown. Whereas Donny’s emergence fills me with mirth and warm feelings, Shannon drilling threes and flourishing makes me want to throw things at less substantative things. Was he not trying? Were we impatient? Can we just not develop young guys? Did we really give him a chance? Is it just a question of system? All this makes me nervous for JJ. And it had to be the Lakers. The freaking Lakers.

The Freaking Lakers. Remember how I semi-lamented LeBron taking over yesterday’s game and would have felt just a little more comfortable with a manhandling from the #1 to the #12 guys on the Lakers? That’s what the Lakers did today.

Josh Smith. There aren’t a lot of guys who can completely change a game not through skill, discipline, or the ability to control the tempo and flow of the proceedings, but through sheer shock and awe. With a back-to-back alley-oop and breakaway dunk, I saw Josh Smith do that today, leading the Hawks to an easy victory despite lackluster Bibby+Johnson performances. The fact that he may or may not be familiar with basketball makes this all the more awesome. 

Yao Ming. Going perfect from the field? Good. But what puts him on the list is keeping a straight face when asked “what type of meditation techniques” he was looking as he sat on the bench before the game. They forgot to ask Dwight Howard that one before today’s game. 

Trevor Ariza. Why is it never mentioned that the Magic gave him away last year? That trade may have dramatically changed the fates of two elite teams, especially with Vujacic losing his shot this season. And nobody acknowledges this ever happened. He’s really good.

Stock Down:

Dwyane Wade. It’s too early in the series to start making any sort of serious judgements, and everyone has off nights, but having as many turnovers as field goals is not a great way to start the playoffs.

The Heat. For all the talk about Wade-centric vs. supporting cast having to step up, a truth seems to have emerged:  when absolutely everyone on your team has a terrible game, you’re probably going to get blown out. This is why I get paid the big bucks.

David West and the Hornets’ supporting cast. The Hornets are perhaps the thinnest team in the playoffs. That means David west cannot go 4-16 from the field.

You know how some things are really weird at first, and you think you’ll never get used to them, but after a while the thing doesn’t even stick out anymore and you just accept it? Kenyon Martin’s lips tattoo is not one of those things. 

“5-hour energy” and similar products. I had a community service thing at 4 in the morning this Saturday. I decided to stay up all night so as not to try to function on 2 hours of sleep or something like that. I took something called “Redline power rush” which promised 7 hours of sustainable energy without a crash. What happened is that I was legitimately high for 45 minutes, pacing back and forth, randomly twitching, and not blinking, then I had a massive crash and wanted to die peacefully instead of have to be awake another second. I ended up sleeping for three hours and waking up for the Cavs game, the first quarter of which I thought was a dream. 

USI UMENYIORA, YOU HAVE BETRAYED MY TRUST.

Recap: (15) Dominance is a state of mind, and a point differential.

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Overview: In the first game of their playoff run, the Cavaliers beat the Pistons handily behind 38/8/7 from LeBron James. While the Pistons hung around until the fourth quarter, their last lead of the game was when the score was 2-0.

Cavs-Related Bullets: It’s no secret that our offense has utterly failed us in playoff exits past, when defenses with the talent and drive have been able to put “walls” up on LeBron James and expose his lack of a perimeter game and supporting cast. THE question of this post-season run is whether or not the Cavaliers can carry over their offensive improvement from the regular season into these playoffs.

Speaking to that goal, I’m not sure how I feel about tonight’s game. The final score says blowout. But if you take out the leading scorers (LeBron and Stuckey), then the Cavs scored 64 points on 56 attempts while the Pistons scored 64 points on 60 attempts. That’s not a great sign; at some point, the supporting cast WILL have to step up, so when they essentially play dead even with the no. 8 seed, it’s troubling. 

A lot of this comes down to Mo Williams, who played passively much of the game and finished shooting only 5-14 from the floor and 2-7 from three. A lot of that is the breaks of the game; he missed two wide-open threes just off the top of my head, which would have given him 16 points on 14 shots and everyone’s happy. Besides, as we’ll get to later, this wasn’t Mo’s night to be aggressive and be setting the tone, as he usually does in the first half, and he was making the dagger jumpers late. Although the question now must be asked: what is with the double sleeves? That’s a lot of sleeve. 

Delonte went 5-8 from the floor for a 12/5/5 line and defended well the whole game. You go to war with Brother Redbush.

Also continuing to be a rock in the playoffs: Joe Smith, spacing the floor with 13 points on 11 shots (and a three!)

Z wasn’t hitting the midrange shots or getting many post-ups run for him, but he got his 10 boards and made 4 assists from the high-post. 

But I’m just getting the bad stuff out of the way early because these playoffs terrify me constantly. Tonight was about LeBron James. 

There are two possibilities for how LeBron will keep from hitting his scoring efficiency “wall” in tough playoff series; his supporting cast steps up and makes it impossible to constantly double James and put a wall between him and the paint, or LeBron steps his game up to a level we weren’t aware existed and just trancends all that is rational and powers directly through any mortals who would dare oppose him. Tonight was an argument for the latter scenario. 

From the opening whistle to when he sat down, LeBron was absolutely relentless. He was looking to get to the basket at every possible opportunity in the half-court and blowing right by his man. He was looking to get out in transition at every opportunity. He was firing laser-beam passes with either hand when they doubled him. He was forcing contact and getting himself to the line. He was making hard cuts off the ball and finishing at the basket. He was in full on loot, pillage, and destroy mode, and sending a clear message to anyone watching that he fully intends to take the championship by force this season. 

Most frigteningly of all for the rest of the league, LeBron flashed a midrange and a post game tonight, going 6-9 from midrange (although a few of those were unorthodox floaters and runners) and posting Aaron Affalo whenever he got the opportunity, getting easy looks from about 8 feet and flashing an absolutely ILLEGAL spin move to beat him at one point, although he couldn’t finish. LeBron went 8-10 in the first half, and I was most excited about one of his two misses. We’re used to LeBron scrapping and MacGuyvering in the playoffs, or feeling out the game and pouncing when he feels the time is right. Tonight, he made the game his, and never gave the Pistons hope. 

Bullets of Randomness:

Feldman was all over this in our preview chat yesterday: Tayshaun Prince is not the same player anymore, especially on defense. LeBron was blowing by him absolutely every time with nothing resembling resistance.

Not feeling Rodney Stuckey as a future all-star. He’s not a playmaker, and isn’t a good enough all-around scorer to justify choking off the offense. 

LeBron was nice, but I would like to mention that today is Derrick Rose day. Holy Jesus. Not even LeBron was making a playoff impact at that age. Against the best defensive guard in the league. 7-8 from midrange. Got to the line 14 times. Holy living, breathing Jesus. And he might not be one of the top 10 young stars in this league right now. It’s just a great time to be a basketball fan. As for Paul Pierce, I hope this shows that even though he was clutch as it gets on the biggest stage last year and got his ring, he didn’t fundamentally change as a human being. These things even out more often than not. Can we please stop spouting the Calvinistic ideal of “clutch” play, where you’re either born clutch or you’re not? The breaks of the game are the breaks of the game. 

Just 15 more of these.

Heads Up: Playoff Preview Chat at 4PM ET

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Hey folks, today I’ll be having a preview chat/throwdown with Dan Feldman of Piston Powered. I think it’s at his place, and the time is 1 PT/4 ET. Stop by, it should be fun. See you then.