Archive for February, 2010

Mike Brown Can Coach an Offense

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

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I try not to rant in published form. I actually like the media, believe it or not. I don’t even have any real beef with the dreaded mainstream media.

However, there is an issue I believe that it’s time to speak upon. The “Mike Brown can’t coach an offense” meme has become tiresome. It’s lazy, it’s not based on analysis, and it’s something that people say because everyone else seems to be saying it.

I understand where it comes from, to be certain. Mike Brown is young, and this is his first head coaching job. He started out as a video coordinator. He sounds unassuming in interviews. He will often grimace and spit in a cup during games. Like Stan Van Gundy, Mike Brown takes a lot of undeserved flak because it doesn’t look like he should be a good NBA coach.

There’s also some factual basis behind the criticism of Mike Brown’s offense. The Cavs have always been a defense-first team since Brown took over. They don’t play fast. Their sets are often basic-looking, especially when LeBron starts holding the ball. And during Mike Brown’s first few years on the bench, the Cavs were not a good offensive team despite the fact they had LeBron.

In the last two seasons, things have changed. The Cavs were a top offensive team last season after they revamped their backcourt and gained significantly more offensive firepower. Much of the coaching credit for this improvement was given to Jon Kuester, who Brown named his “offensive coordinator” before the season. In the off-season, Kuester was named the head coach of the Detroit Pistons, and the offense was handed to Mike Malone.

Under Kuester, the Pistons have the 26th best offense in the league. Under Brown, the Cavs have the third best offense in the league. The only two teams with a better offensive efficiency mark than Cleveland are the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets, who make much more of an effort to push the ball than the Cavs and don’t play defense anywhere near as well.

In fact, if you take offensive rebounding out of the equation, the Cavs look even better offensively. The Cavs are only 21st in offensive rebound rate, but second overall in TS%. When you consider that the Cavs are a bottom-three team in free-throw percentage, which isn’t a reflection of how well the offense is designed, that number looks even more impressive.

Meanwhile, offensive guru Flip Saunders’ team is currently 22nd in offensive efficiency. Kuester’s team is 26th. Don Nelson’s team is tied for 17th. Rick Adleman’s team is 16th. Mike D’Antoni’s squad is 15th. Phil Jackson and Tex Winter’s team is 11th.

What I’m saying when I say that Mike Brown is good at coaching offense:

I’m not saying that any of the above coaches are bad offensive coaches. I’m not even saying that they’re not great offensive coaches. It’s the idea that a great offensive coach has the power to single-handedly make a good offensive team that I have an issue with.

I don’t know how well Mike Brown would do if he was given a set of five random players and told to construct the best offensive sets. That’s never been his task. Mike Brown has always had LeBron James on his team. His job is not to impress NBA junkies with the most intricate offensive sets. It’s been to figure out a way to use the players he has to put the ball in the basket. He’s done that very well.

In The Blind Side, (the book-I haven’t seen the movie) Michael Oher’s high school coach had been at a small Christian school for some time. His teams had never had the biggest, fastest, or most skilled players. To compensate, he had one of the most complex and wacky playbooks in his league. He loved trick plays, and would run them regularly.

Then he got Michael Oher, a left tackle so much more athletically gifted than every player in the league it was barely fair. After a few games, the coach cut his playbook down to exactly one play. They would run the ball to the side of the line that Michael Oher played on. Every single play. They ran a running play called “gap” every time, and the team immediately experienced success.

Mike Brown has been in a similar situation as a coach. When LeBron James is on your team, Occam’s Razor is your friend. It’s not just understandable that the Cavaliers don’t run a variety of intricate sets for a number of possible players. Doing that would actively harm the offense. Relying on LeBron James is predictable. It’s predictable because not relying on LeBron James would be stupid.

What should the Cavs be doing more of to “mix up” their offense? More pin-downs for Anthony Parker? Put Anderson Varejao in the high post and try to cut backdoor? The idea is that doing this would free LeBron up for more easy baskets. The issue with that theory is that NBA coaches are smart. They know the ball is going to LeBron at some point. Running intricate stuff to try and get the defense to leave LeBron alone is more often than not going to mean he gets the ball at the top of the key with 9 seconds on the shot clock instead of 18.

Yes, LeBron does hold the ball at times and completely stagnate the offense. This is something that is going to happen with a player of LeBron’s caliber. It even happened during the All-Star Game. Since LeBron is having one of the greatest statistical seasons in history, I’d say the good is outweighing the bad with those type of situations.

Mike Brown has also done a good job of complimenting LeBron’s talents with his sets. Brown loves to use back-screens to catch teams overloading on LeBron and set up shooters. Delonte West, Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, and Daniel Gibson have all had their career-best mark from beyond the three-point line either this season or last season. The Cavs are also very good at cutting to the rim when LeBron has the ball and the weak-side is freed up. LeBron’s assists set up almost four shots at the rim per game, as opposed to just under two assists per game leading to mid-range baskets.

The Cavs have also become adept at getting LeBron James the ball on the move to the rim, where he’s unstoppable. The best example of how the Cavs do this is the play where Mo Williams runs a screen-and-roll, James gets a back-pick, and receives the ball at full speed from Mo, who is drawing the defense by going baseline. (Here are some visuals of the play.)

Because of plays like that, 47.7% of LeBron’s shots at the rim have been assisted. That’s a higher percentage of assisted dunks or layups than Wade, Carmelo, Kobe, or Chris Bosh receive. 48.1% of Kevin Durant’s shots at the rim are assisted, which only beats James by a hair. The Cavs aren’t running complex sets, but they’re doing what they should be doing to take advantage of James’ effect on a defense without taking away from his impact.

All of this means that the Cavs have done a great job getting shots from the most efficient areas on the floor. The two most efficient shots in the NBA are shots at the rim and three-pointers. The Cavs lead the league in FG% at the rim, and trail only the Suns in three-point percentage. Additonally, only two teams have a higher proportion of assisted shots at the rim than the Cavaliers. (The Cavs are dead-last in proportion of assisted threes, which is almost entirely due to how many three-pointers LeBron shoots off the dribble.)

Meanwhile, mid-range shots are the least efficient shots on the floor. The Cavs take very few of those. They’re in the bottom three in attempts from 10-15 feet, and only five teams take fewer shots from 16-23 feet. The Cavs are also in the top-five in free throw rate. The goal of an offense is to get as many shots as possible from the most efficient spots on the floor. That’s what the Cavs have been doing.

It’s true that the Cavs have LeBron and no other team does. That doesn’t mean the coaching staff should get no credit for having this good of an offense. Kevin Durant’s team is currently tied with Wade’s team for 17th in offensive efficiency.

If you think LeBron is that much better than Wade or Durant, please identify yourself now so you can recuse yourself from last year’s contrarian “Wade for MVP” bandwagon or this season’s “Durant for MVP” bandwagon.

LeBron is better than either of those players, and does have a better supporting cast. Still, I haven’t seen one “Scott Brooks can’t coach offense” comment in my time. Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough, but it seems to me that Mike Brown takes far more heat for how he runs his great offense than Brooks takes for running his below-average one.

How Mike Brown Became a Bad Offensive Coach:

On that note, let’s take a look at some of what Mike Brown had to work with outside of LeBron when he got his reputation as a bad offensive coach. Here are the most-used rotation players outside of LeBron in Mike Brown’s first full season as a head coach, by order of minutes played:

1. Eric Snow

2. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

3. Drew Gooden

4. Damon Jones

5. Larry Hughes

6. Sasha Pavlovic

7. Anderson Varejao

8. Alan Henderson

That was the rest of his rotation. You tell me how to run offensive sets that don’t have the defense loading up on LeBron with that bunch. Give that question to Mike D’Antoni, Tex Winter, and a team of MIT scientists, and what would come back would still likely be a variation of “give LeBron the ball and pray.”

You could go on like that for a few seasons. Instead, I’ll do this. It’s true that some players have played worse after coming over to the Cavaliers. There are several possible explanations for that. However, if Mike Brown’s offense is such a wasteland, shouldn’t there be players who have improved after escaping his offensive purgatory? Let’s see.

Players whose production has radically fallen off, stayed almost exactly the same, or who have flat-out retired after leaving a Mike Brown Cavalier team:

Alan Henderson*

Ira Newble

Flip Murray

Larry Hughes

Drew Gooden

Eric Snow

Sasha Pavlovic

Damon Jones

Luke Jackson

Zendon Hamilton**

Martynas Andriuskevicius

David Wesley

Scott Pollard

Dwayne Jones

Wally Szczerbiak

Kaniel Dickens

Billy Thomas

Cedric Simmons

Devin Brown***

Tarence Kinsey****

Joe Smith

*Just about matched his Cavalier averages with the 76ers.

**Played 46 minutes for the Cavs in 2005-06. Was named Zendon.

***Was matching his Cavalier averages with the Hornets this season before he was traded

**** (tears)

Players who played slightly better after leaving a Mike Brown Team:

Mike Wilks

Stephen Graham

Players who experienced significant improvement after leaving a Mike Brown Team:

Shannon Brown

A lot of those players were veterans or guys getting a cup of coffee with the Cavs. But a lot of those guys were guys who played major roles for the Cavaliers and then failed to catch on with other teams when they got there. If Mike Brown is so bad at using the talent he has available to him, why haven’t other coaches been able to do anything better with the players that weren’t very good for the Cavaliers?

Shannon Brown is a success story, but he was very young when he was on the Cavs, never showed he could do what the Cavs wanted when he did get a chance, and was the young piece that made a hugely beneficial trade work. And don’t forget that the Bobcats had a chance with him before the Lakers did.

To some extent, the old adage is true. At the pro level, players win games and coaches lose them. Up to this point, Mike Brown has lost fewer games than any other NBA coach. Even if he struggles to keep getting it done with Shaq out, it’s time to start giving him some credit for that.

Shaq to Have Surgery On His Thumb

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

According to the Cavs, Shaq will be getting surgery on the thumb he injured in the Celtics game. This is less than good. Getting Z back now becomes much, much more important for the rest of the regular season. According to Windhorst, the surgery means that Shaq’s regular season is pretty much over.

Hopefully, Shaq would be back in time for a potential playoff series. However this shakes out, this is going to be a major obstacle for the Cavs. Really a bummer because of how well Shaq has been playing lately.

Heads-Up: I’ll Be on College Radio Tonight

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

The other week, a young radio host named Michael Perloff sent me a message asking if I’d appear on his sports radio program at Brandeis, and I said yes. I’ll be on at 12 PM EST tonight (9 PM PST), and I’m looking forward to it. If you’re in the Boston area, tune into 100.1 FM; if not, go onto wbrs.org to listen in. Let’s do our best to give Michael a great show.

Links To The Present: February 27th, 2010

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

-Brian Windhorst says that Antawn Jamison is learning the defensive system. Now that’s happy news.

-From Mr. Windhorst’s twitter account, the Cavs are bringing in a hand specialist to take a look at Shaq’s thumb tomorrow.

-Phil Jackson is not a fan of the notion that Z could return to Cleveland.

-Michael Jordan has purchased the Bobcats. I am afraid of that team.

-Finally, The Lost Ogle, which is the strangely enthralling Oklahoma City version of Gawker, took my request for the 1990s video of the week. I am far more proud of this than I probably should be.

That’s about all I have for tonight. Hey, it’s the weekend. Have a good one, campers.

Recap: Cavs 126, Raptors 118 (Or, It Was Cavalier Basketball In The Sense That The Cavs Were Playing)

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Overview: In one of the most offense-heavy Cavs games in recent memory, the Cavaliers were able to pull out a 126-118 win over the Raptors in overtime. LeBron James led the way with 36 points on only 17 shots. The Cavaliers made three straight three-pointers at the beginning of overtime to break the game open.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-The defense. It was not good. Some of the reasons for this are understandable. The Raptors are a very good offensive team. The Cavs did not have Shaq or Z to protect the middle. Jamison is still learning the system, and had to play nearly the entire game.

Then there was Mo Williams’ defense, which has become an issue. Jarrett Jack should not be getting 24 points on 14 shots. What makes it worse is that only six of Jack’s points came from outside the paint. He was abusing Mo. I don’t know if it’s the shoulder injury or if Mo has just always been a bad defender, but this cannot continue.

Mike Brown is a more patient man than I am. He stuck with Shaq in the starting lineup and Shaq turned it around. (He really couldn’t have benched Shaq, but still.) He stuck with JJ and JJ turned it around. Now he’s sticking with Mo and hoping he figures it out. I assume his DNP-CDing Boobie to get Mo’s confidence up, but it’s hurting the defense right now.

-Gotta love LeBron in attack mode all night long. When he made a move, he was looking to take the ball to the basket. LeBron was only 2-8 from outside of the paint. He was 8-9 from inside the key, and 15-16 from the line. That’s being aggressive. Throw in nine assists against only one turnover, and I’d say LeBron had a pretty good day at the office.

-The Cavs gave up 29 or more points in three of the four quarters in regulation. Sometimes, it was Reggie Evans working the Cavs down low. Other times, it was Hedo Turkoglu doing his thing. After that, the Raptors would start hitting tough outside jumpers. And then Jarret Jack would work Mo Williams. And so on and so forth until the Raptors scored 111 points in regulation. Not what Mike Brown wants to see on the defensive end.

-Let’s talk about the stretch run. With just under two minutes to go, LeBron went for an off-balance dagger three with the Cavs up one. It missed badly. After that, LeBron stopped settling. He drew a foul on the next possession and knocked down the free throws. On the next Raptors possession, Hedo got Mo on a switch and drained a clutch three over him.

LeBron tried to force a drive the next time down, missed, and Hedo put the Raptors up two with a nice tip slam on the resulting break. LeBron got the ball out of the inbounds play and immediately put in a layup. Jack drew a borderline blocking foul on Mo the next time down, and the Cavs were down two with 17 seconds to play.

At this point, the Cavs were tired. Varejao had fouled out. The Cavs were thin up front. It was a back-to-back. Some people were expecting LeBron to let the clock run down, go for the hero three, take the 35% chance of a win and get some rest if it didn’t fall.

As it turned out, LeBron took all of four seconds to tie the game with a layup. Parker played some nice defense on Hedo and forced him into an off-balance three. Parker missed the game-winner, and after that it was time to play free basketball.

In overtime, the three pointer saved the day. LeBron won the tip, the ball got to Mo in his favorite spot, and he casually drained it. Next time down, LeBron found Mo in the corner for another three. After that, LeBron found AP for yet another three. On the next possession, AP played hero himself, up-faking his man and hitting a 17-foot banker to put the Cavs up 9 with about a minute and a half left. Game over. Three-pointers and LeBron James are the great equalizers.

-Leon Powe looked solid in there tonight, even if he was getting out-Powed at times by Reggie Evans. He’s built like a tank, he fights for everything, and he can finish inside. I like him. Could put together an Ultimate Jawad-type campaign if Shaq misses real time.

-Oh, Mo Williams, how conflicted I am about you. Sometimes you kill the defense. Nobody outside of LeBron can change the game offensively like you can. But late in the game, it was Mo nailing the big threes and saving the game. Hopefully Mo improves his defense, because his offense is crucial. I wish this were football.

-Hickson on the floor without LeBron: bad idea. JJ got worked on defense, and has no idea what to do on offense when he’s asked to create. JJ had a team-low -9, but that was more about the team using JJ in the wrong spot than JJ having an off night.

-When Jamison’s on his game and cutting, he looks like Varejao with skills on the offensive end. That’s an awesome proposition. I continue to remain skeptical of his jumper, but he got five points on five jumpers tonight, which is passable.

-42 minutes for Parker and 0 for Boobie? Really? I don’t mind AP, but I’m not sure what Boobie’s done wrong.

-Alright, that’s about all I have for tonight. See you guys tomorrow.

Preview: Cavaliers at Raptors, February 26th

Friday, February 26th, 2010

(Quick cultural anecdote: I absolutely LOVED the rendition of the Canadian National Anthem that the jazz phenom girl did at the Olympic opening ceremonies. Every both of my Canadian friends HATED it. When I asked them why, they said that the fancy/American Idol rendition of the song made it impossible to sing along with and ruined the spirit of the song.

This struck me as a completely alien concern, because of how used to our National Anthem getting American Idolized every possible way at every possible sporting event. In fact, the harder some big-time singer is trying to bend the anthem, the bigger the event feels. Apparently it’s the opposite for Canadians, based on literally multiple accounts. Any American/Canadian readers care to chime in on this? Also, I love the Canadian anthem.)

Anyways, to basketball.

I don’t have time for a proper preview. No Bosh for Toronto, no Shaq for the Cavs. Toronto’s been able to exploit Shaq at times during the first two meetings, so matching up with Toronto’s mobile bigs might actually benefit the Cavs in this game. The other thing to watch will be to see how Cleveland reacts to a back-to-back. Might see some Powe tonight because of that and no Shaq or Z.

Finally, I apparently jumped the gun by blogging the report that Z had decided to re-sign, as David Aldridge is now reporting that Z’s agent is denying that Z’s mind is made up. My apologies. I’m in the live-blog thunderdome tonight, so let’s have some fun.



Report: Ilgauskas to Return to Cavaliers

Friday, February 26th, 2010

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Via the twitter of Windhorst, Michael Reghi of WKNR 850 is reporting that Z will return. If this report is true, it doesn’t come as much of a shock to anybody, but it is a big relief. I do feel a little weird about the Cavs exploiting this loophole in the trade system, but I’d feel much, much worse if the Cavs didn’t get Z back for a possible title run. I’m looking forward to the big guy’s return.

Links To The Present: February 26, 2010

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Who's the bully now?!

1.) The absolute turning point in the game came in the third when LeBron hit a stationary spot up three with Marquis Daniels right up on him.  LeBron’s three cut the Celtics’ lead to six and I remembering noting, “here it is, game over.”  Terrible feeling. -Celtics Hub

2.) But as good as the small lineup may look — and with Hickson playing with such vigor, it looked very good — it is a not a way to play all the time. -From BW’s Beat Blog.

Charley Rosen Agrees: For sure, Shaq is most effective against the likes of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum — post-up, muscle-up guys who look to score. But against more “ordinary” NBA bigs, Shaq is a liability.

3.) I was wondering if D-Block would get called back now that the big thumb-thumper is out.  Question Answered.   Btw, really cool tweet from Fred McLeod last night: To show how tight these guys are…biggest smiles in the locker room for: Darnell Jackson’s 34 and 12 in Erie tonight…

4.) WFNY analyzes the main obstacles in the East.

5.) There was a funny moment in the TNT studio last week.  Kenny Smith was raving about LeBron always playing well and then he corrected himself after saying LeBron was the best player in the league by adding “after Kobe Bryant”.  Charles Barkley smirked at him and said “He’s [LeBron] the best, you can just say it.”  TD of WFNY is a big Kenny Smith fan.

6.) Not nearly as good as “who wants to buy some DVDs” but I thought this video of Z and LeBron was interesting.

7.) The Clippers have some interest in LeBron.  Jason Fleming of HoopsWorld doesn’t see it:

What does all of that mean? It means if the Clips want to have the cap space to sign LeBron James this summer, they better hope the salary cap number comes in at over $55 million. According to all reports – and of course none of this is locked until the end of June – that’s just not going to happen.

8.) Bill Simmons feels Dallas is the sleeping giant in the “LeBron sweepstakes”.  He even puts down the Vegas Odds of LeBron’s destination in today’s marathon chatOk… Cavs (5-2)… Bulls (5-2)… Knicks (7-2)… Mavs (5-1)… Clips (10-1)… Nets (12-1)… Rockets (25-1)… Lakers (25-1)… Celtics (100-1)

I have 2 immediate thoughts on this:  1.) LeBron and Derek Rose would not be a great fit.  Both need the ball to be effective and D Rose doesn’t shoot well from outside or play off the ball much.  2.) I do worry about the lure of Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson.

9.) Great Piece by Noam Schiller debuting for Both Teams Played Hard:  Jamison also finally gives the Cavs another player that can create offense in late game situations, taking the load off of LeBron and making the Cavs less predictable. Mo Williams should also benefit from this move – he will get more open shots with a player who can score in the post and seems much more fit to be a number 3 option on offense.

10.) The LeBron PER watch is ON! As many of you know, the single greatest statistical regular season since the league started keeping track of turnovers belongs to His Airness with a PER of 31.89 in 1987-88.  LeBron is at 31.83 right now, he’s starting to limit turnovers despite increased usage (Feb has been his lowest TO/g this season) and with Shaq and Z out, you can bet LeBron’s going to have to be even more productive.  In addition,  the Cavs are in a dog fight for best record in the NBA -  there are plenty of reasons to think LeBron could set the record.

11.) Windy’s pre-game blog is up:  Those facets have to be part of the attack, the Cavs cannot stick to hoisting 3-pointers on the road. That is the big temptation without playing without a post player to dump to.

Recap: Cavs 108, Celtics 88 (Or, No Truth to Rumors of Mo’s Demise)

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Overview: The Cavs bounced back from a tough first quarter and outscored the Celtics 60-32 en route to a 108-88 victory on Thursday night. Mo Williams added 19 points in the victory, including some crucial threes in the fourth quarter.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Starting with the first quarter. I thought things were going to get ugly for a few seconds there. Full disclosure: Rajon Rondo gives me the Howling Fantods. When he’s not on his game, the Celtics seem quite beatable, and even old. When he is on his game, the Celtics are terrifying. When the Cavs and Celtics met in the 2008 playoffs, it seemed Rondo was running the show when the Celtics won and invisible when they lost.

The Celtics certainly went as Rondo went in this one. In the first quarter, Rondo accounted for 12 of the Celtics’ 14 field goals. The Cavs had no answer for him at all.

Rondo pick-and-rolls seemed to be exploiting every one of the holes in the Cavs’ defensive system. When Rondo drove hard, Mo Williams was giving up the paint far too easily when Rondo took it right at him. Antawn Jamison’s pick-and-roll defense is a work in progress, and he got caught in no-man’s land a few times. We’ve come to learn that Shaq works on defense when the helper is good about sending people into him. When he’s hung out to try and forced to move laterally, it can get ugly. The Cavs’ lack of a true backup center appeared to hurt them again at the end of the first quarter, with the Celtics scoring eight of their 10 points in the final four minutes of the first on shots at the rim or free throws.

The good people at ESPN stats and information tell me that the Celtics ran the pick-and-roll 18 times in the first half. They were 3-4 on shots that came directly out of the pick-and-roll, and the play directly accounted for three assists. Overall, the pick-and-roll was directly responsible for creating 12 Celtic points in the first quarter.

-In the second quarter, the Celtics got out of their offense a little bit, with Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson hitting some low-percentage shots to start out the quarter. Even though those shots went in, they ended up doing more harm than good, and the Celtics started to get away from what was working for them. The Cavs also had more length and athleticism out on the floor. Delonte, Jamario, Varejao, and Hickson were all tremendously effective on defense, and did a great job getting the Celtics out of sync offensively. Shaq spraining his thumb actually did help out the Cavs’ defense in this one, as the Celtics are currently much more effective playing offense outside-in with dribble drives and transition hoops than they are playing inside-out. In the second quarter, the Celtics only got one field goal attempt out of the 13 times they ran the pick-and-roll. They missed it.

-In the second half, everything was going the Cavs’ way. In the third quarter, the Cavs were attacking every single possession. Of the Cavs’ 23 points in the period, five came on jumpers. The Celtics didn’t get many jumpers either, but not by choice. The Celtics made two jump shots in the entire second half. There was no balance and no spacing for the Celtics. Normally, that’s when they’d look to Paul Pierce to bail them out, but they didn’t have him for this one. It was all downhill from there for the Celtics.

-And then, in the fourth quarter, Mo Williams. For those of you wondering why Mo was allowed to find his sea legs while Boobie was relegated to the bench, it’s because Boobie can’t do what Mo did in the fourth.

Halfway through the fourth, Mo hit three straight corner threes to put the Cavs up 10. One was off a perfectly executed corner dive, with Mo setting up behind an Anderson Varejao flare screen, setting his feet, and calmly draining it. The other two were of the “My name is Mo Williams, and small objects occasionally orbit my privates” variety. Both times, Mo got the ball in the corner, saw the defender closing out, and calmly drained it through a shooting window not much bigger than a penny.

And after the threes…the return of my favorite play ever. Mo runs a pick-and-roll with Hickson on the left side of the floor, LeBron gets a back-screen. Mo goes baseline and hits LeBron with a pass while he’s going to the basket at full speed. Easy layup. Cavs up 12 with five minutes to play.

There was one last play that put the icing on the cake. LeBron was dancing around at the top of the key against Ray Allen, and it looked like he was about to try the dagger three. Then LeBron stopped playing around, blew past Allen, and went into the teeth of the defense and drew an ugly foul. That’s the extra gear you might not see against most teams. LeBron wanted to win in The Garden.

Other notes:

-HICKSOMANIA WILL NEVER DIE. Wow, Hickson was awesome tonight. His athleticism and length was exactly what the doctor ordered at LeBron. He’s also starting to pick up Andy’s ESP swag with LeBron. The Celtics had no answer for him whatsoever. A +27 for Hickson on the night, and his impact was obvious to anyone watching the game. I am really, really glad the Cavs kept him. And yes, I was inches from giving up on him not that long ago. This is why bloggers don’t coach teams. At least not this blogger.

-Delonte West with a vintage Delonte West game. Only seven points, but eight rebounds, five assists, and a steal and a block. Not to mention a huge three in the fourth quarter when the Cavs were up one. When Mo and Delonte play well, the team plays well. Delonte had a+27 to match Hickson’s, and again it was obvious that he was changing the game.

-Andy did a helluva job filling in as a center. One of three Cavs in double figures, Andy made great cuts and ran the floor. He also stood his ground on defense, contesting everything at the rim and getting three blocks. If Shaq’s thumb is going to keep him out, hopefully Andy can play center this well for a while.

-Jamison didn’t have his best game, but I continue to love how good his hands are and how good he is with those weird flip shots around the basket. It’s one thing to hear about it and see a few times a year, and another thing to see him doing it on the Cavs.

Bullets of Randomness:

-Rajon Rondo got noticeably worse as the game progressed. He also played 45 minutes. I know Nate’s new, but let Rondo breathe every now and then.

-I know Ray Allen’s only shooting 35% from three (same percentage as LeBron; stop shooting threes, Ray!), but does he ever miss a three when he has a good look and his feet are set? I’ve never been able to shake the notion that he’d shoot like 60% from deep playing next to LeBron.

-Welcome back, Leon! Our Links Editor, Tom, has already claimed him as his Tarence Kinsey. Mine was Danny Green, but now it’s probably Telfair. For those of you new to the site, a “Tarence Kinsey” is defined as a player who you like much, much, much more than you can possibly rationally justify because of something you like about the way he plays the game.

Alright, that’s what I’ve got for tonight. Feels good to have a road win over the Celts, even if they didn’t have Pierce. Tomorrow, Canada. Let’s see if the Cavs can get their momentum past customs.

Preview: Cavs at Celtics, February 25th

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Now I want to try and throw a car. That right there is a pregame song.

Relevant Statistics:

Pace: Cavaliers 93.2 (25th) vs. Celtics 94.0 (22nd)

Offensive Efficiency: Cavaliers 108.7 (4th) vs. Celtics 104.6 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: Cavaliers 101.2 (7th) vs. Celtics 99.1 (1st)

Notes:

As you can see, rumors of the demise of the Celtics D have been greatly exaggerated. Moving the ball and getting some scoring will be critical if the Cavs want a win.

I haven’t seen enough of KG since he’s come back from his knee injury. If he’s anywhere near 100%, his mobility and length will make him a nightmare for Jamison. If he’s moving as badly as I’ve heard, Antawn could give him fits out on the perimeter.

Rondo is not the guy you want to be facing if you’re trying to get your shot back. He does tend to over-help, so Mo might find himself free for some open threes.

Perk vs. Shaq will be fun, but not pretty.

No Pierce for the Celtics tonight, which is a huge break for the Cavs. If it gets close, they just have to trap Rondo hard on the pick-and-roll, recover to Allen, and dare someone else to beat them.

Nate Robinson, when he’s on his game, is a grown-up Marcus Thornton. Watch out for him.

Storyline to watch: Leon Powe making his Cavs debut against his former team.

Recommended Reading:

Celtics Hub

Celtics Blog