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.
Archive for May, 2010
First off: I rarely do this, but here’s a Cavs-Celtics piece concerning how Rondo did his damage in game four. Basically, the Cavs are going to have to limit transition opportunities if they want to stop Rondo, and game four was a perfect storm of transition opportunities.
Anyways, onto anxiety and potential misery. I want to get all of this out of the way while the series is still tied (for the record, I do still the the Cavs will probably win this series), so I’m a step ahead of the fire and brimstone if they do lose. The Cavaliers are two losses, only one of which has to be at home, from losing this series. The series has been more or less dead-even so far — both teams have won semi-tough games at home and blown their opponent out on the road. Sometimes LeBron has looked unstoppable; other times, Rondo has controlled the game. There is a very, very, very real possibility that the Cavaliers are not going to win this series. Here is what I believe will happen if they do. Keep in mind that I am not saying any of these things are right or wrong. It’s just what I believe will happen.
-There is a high likelihood that LeBron James will leave. Not only has the team had trouble winning any game that LeBron did not dominate, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a core in place at the current moment. Shaq and Antawn Jamison aren’t getting any younger. Mo Williams, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, and J.J. Hickson are the supposed under-30 “core,” and they certainly haven’t been setting the world on fire. LeBron will take a long, hard look at a team that can potentially provide him with a true running mate or running mates, as well as a fresh start. As always, I have no idea if LeBron’s already made up his mind one way or another. But you have to imagine losing this series will influence his decision.
-LeBron will get the reputation as the next Karl Malone/Dan Marino/Charles Barkley, whatever of sports. The dissenting opinion on LeBron will officially become the conventional wisdom on LeBron. Maybe it will be even worse, because only Marino had a chance to be considered an all-time great the way LeBron does. He will not shake this label until he does win a championship.
The list of MVPs to have never won a championship is very short. The list of two-time MVPs to have never won a championship is even shorter. LeBron does not want to be on that list. He is now in his prime. His team has had the best record in basketball for two consecutive years. Fair or unfair, it will be on him if the Cavs do not pull this off. You will see the op-ed headline “no more excuses for LeBron,” likely more than once.
-Mike Brown’s future will be up in the air. If LeBron leaves, he might as well stay, because teams without superstars win with defense. Also, they’re not going to find a big-name coach willing to take the Cavs job if they don’t have LeBron. If he does stay, they may make a desperate shake-up with the coaching staff — public pressure will be too overwhelming. I think Mike Brown has done a great job during his time in Cleveland. But players win games and coaches lose them, and the Cavs are losing some games they shouldn’t be right now.
-The front office will desperately search for an upgrade at the two-guard position. Anthony Parker and Delonte West have not been getting the job done, and the team clearly could use more backcourt production. Ray Allen’s name will be tossed around. He will ultimately likely sign with a team other than Cleveland.
-The team’s focus will be called into question. LeBron’s leadership will bear the brunt of that criticism. Before the playoffs, the team insisted it was much more focused than it was in previous seasons. So far, that claim appears to have been a crock of s**t. The Cavaliers have the talent to win it all and they are failing to get it done. Nothing pisses of fans and journalists more than this. They will swarm on this team like piranha going after a fallen horse. To some degree, they will be right to do so.
-Mo Williams’ ultimate value to a contending team will be called into question. Since the Cavs owe Williams 8.5 million dollars in the 2012/13 season and a rebuilding team won’t want him, they will not have any way to address those concerns.
-Z won’t get a ring.
That’s what I can come up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s more. So yeah, I’ve been a little stressed. If the Cavs go down to Orlando, fine. That’s a great team. If the Cavs put up a good fight, that’s a team I’m proud to be a fan of. Same thing goes for whatever team comes out of the West. But this series? Losing this series would be a killer. It would be a letdown of the highest order. I don’t want that to happen. Let’s all hope the Cavs come out kicking ass and taking names on Tuesday.
The Celtics locked in on defense in game four, holding the Cavaliers to 40% shooting en route to a 97-87 win. Rajon Rondo had one of the best games of the playoffs, leading all players in points, rebounds and assists. LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 22 points on 7-18 shooting from the field.
Easy baskets were the story on Sunday. The Cavaliers didn’t get easy baskets; the Celtics did. Boston made a concerted effort to push the ball at every opportunity, even on made baskets. The strategy worked, and the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 23-7 in fast-break points.
The Cavs didn’t did a decent job on the defensive glass, but they could not get an extra possession to save their life. They managed to get all of three offensive rebounds in 48 minutes. What’s more, none of those rebounds led to second-chance points. Most of the 50-50 balls in the game went to Boston. The Cavs were able to force 12 Boston turnovers, but negated that advantage by turning it over 17 times themselves. Thanks to offensive rebounds and turnovers, the Cavs ended up getting nine fewer field goal attempts than the Celtics did. That’s a tough way to win in the playoffs.
All game long, it seemed like the Celtics would build a lead in the blink of an eye, the Cavs would scratch and claw to get back in the game, and then the Celtics would go on another run. The Cavs would get it close, then they’d miss a close shot, the Celtics would push the ball, and the lead would go from five to seven.
Not only did the Celtics tighten the screws on defense, but the Cavs couldn’t make an outside shot to save their lives. They made seven shots from outside the paint all game long. Three of those were contested jumpers off the dribble. That’s four assisted jump shots in 48 minutes. One good drive-and-kick a quarter is not going to get it done against this defense. Some of that is on the shooters. Some of that is on the Cavs’ playmakers not looking to set them up with good looks. The Celtics didn’t hit from outside on Sunday either, but they were getting enough easy baskets to make up for it. The Cavaliers were not.
The Cavs were attacking in the fourth quarter. The problem was that the Boston defense was packing the paint and waiting for the Cavaliers to come to them. When the Cavs got into the paint, there were green jerseys all around, and a missed layup or a turnover was generally the result.
The Cavs cut the lead to two points with 4:22 remaining. Here are some highlights of what happened next:
-The Cavs doubled Kevin Garnett in the post, who found a cutting Tony Allen on the weak-side to push the lead to four.
-With the Cavs down four with three and a half minutes remaining, LeBron got KG on a switch and went to the top of the key. The Cavs tried to set up some back-screens to free up Mo Williams for a jumper or give Jamison a lane to drive through, but the Celtics rotated beautifully. When the help came on LeBron, the only open Cav was Varejao, who tossed up a brick from mid-range. Good defense by the Celtics + horrible offensive decision-making by the Cavs = 0 points on a crucial possession.
-After a Varejao free throw cut the lead to three, Rondo got into the paint and made an absolutely beautiful bounce pass to Pierce, who was lurking on the baseline. Great play by a great player.
-With the Cavs needing a stop to stay in it, KG got the ball in the post and Parker came over to double. He missed the shot, but with Parker out of position, Rondo slipped in for the offensive rebound and drained a floater. Ballgame.
-Not a great performance by LeBron. I’m not sure if “lack of aggression” is the right diagnosis — he didn’t really settle for jumpers unless the clock was winding down, he was 4-9 at the rim, and most of his seven turnovers were from attacking the paint when he didn’t have an opening.
He didn’t have his outside game going, his shooters weren’t making shots, he wasn’t getting the ball on the move, and he was forced into help when he did drive. About the only thing he could have done is try to take over the game by posting up or going to a mid-range game in isolation, which are the weakest parts of his game. He definitely came up short in this game, but I’m not sure that it’s for lack of trying. He’s not going to be able to shoot like he did in game three every game, or most games. All five Cavs on the floor at a given time have to make an effort to mix it up so Boston can’t sit on LeBron’s drives like they did in the fourth quarter. To recap, I agree LeBron was weak tonight, but disagree with the sentiment that he could have flipped the switch and taken the game over if he wanted to. Give the Boston defense a lot of credit for the job they did on LeBron on Sunday.
-Love Jamison working off the dribble — he was able to find holes in the Celtic D a few times with that drive off the pick-and-roll, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Would have loved to see him make a jumper, get an offensive rebound, and attempt more than two free throws.
-Shaq was much more good than bad tonight. He got in there, made some tough baskets, got the Celtics in foul trouble, and even knocked down free throws. He forced things from the post a few times, but he was much more involved off the ball than he’s been. Actually, the interior passing in general was good by the Cavs tonight. The problem was they couldn’t keep the floor spaced.
-Anthony Parker and Delonte: 3-14 from the floor. After making tough shot after tough shot in game three, Delonte went 0-7 in game four. Really, really not good.
-Well, Mo Williams got his first threes of the series and managed to get in the paint a few times. He still had a bad game. He absolutely, positively cannot get loose against Rondo on the perimeter, even when he uses a pick — it really seems to be having an impact on the Cavs’ ability to run their sets. Freaking Rondo.
-The Cavs gave up five layups in the five minutes Hickson was on the floor. They also gave up three points on free throws. Both fouls were committed by Hickson.
Bullets of Randomness:
-Rondo’s biggest adjustment was to go hard to the hole and look for contact instead of waiting for the driving lanes to be there. He wasn’t making that many buckets in the half-court, but he got to the line over and over and made his free throws. That and the Celtics’ effort to push the ball is what allowed Rondo to go off like he did. Also, he had more offensive rebounds than the Cavaliers did. Good lord.
-Even on a night where he went 8-21 from the floor, it’s beautiful to watch Ray Allen play offense. He’s so good running the offense off that pin-down — he can score the ball from any angle going to the basket, and his passing is vastly underrated. Sometimes I wonder what he’d do if he looked to run the offense and drive more in the half-court and only go for the jumper if he was really and truly left open — he could have a TS% of 65.
-Shaq and LeBron were the only Cavaliers to outscore Tony Allen. He brought a lot of energy, but his big game is a clear indication of how lazy the Cavs were about watching the weak side. The Celtics should not have been able to get away with Perkins, Tony Allen, and Rondo on the floor at the same time offensively.
Alright, that’s about all I have right now. Biggest game of the season at the Q on Tuesday. Get ready.
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.
The Cleveland Cavaliers got off to a great start on Friday, opening up a double-digit lead against the Celtics six minutes into the game. They never looked back, executing on both sides of the floor en route to a 124-95 victory. The game set a record for the largest victory for a road team in Boston. LeBron James scored 21 points to set the tone in the first quarter, and finished with a line of 38/8/7 for the night.
“My impression of the fight? Shane’s gonna come out and hit Floyd in the mouth, and Floyd is gonna sprout a tail, grow wings, draw fangs and claws and turn into a Dragon in the ring; And he’ll start spittin’ fire balls.”
– Naazim Richardson, before the Mayweather-Mosley fight
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers got hit in the mouth hard on Monday. They couldn’t get stops on defense. They weren’t running their offense or making shots. LeBron was unusually passive. All of that led to the Cavaliers getting embarrassed on their home floor.
On Friday night, LeBron and the Cavaliers responded. LeBron knew what the stakes were, and he set the tone by playing aggressive and putting the Celtics in a hole right out of the gate. He looked for his mid-range jumper early and made every shot he got a look at, going 5-7 from outside the paint in the first quarter. When he got transition opportunities or saw that Boston’s help wasn’t in place, he went hard to the basket for the basket or free throws. At the end of the first quarter, LeBron had 21 points and the Celtics had 17.
A lot of times in the regular season, the rest of the Cavs would take their foot off the gas pedal when LeBron had a huge scoring start, particularly if he was doing it from outside. On Friday night, the Cavs matched LeBron’s intensity on both ends of the floor. Shaq looked for deep position early and got some points inside. Antawn Jamison made a runner or two, but most of his points came from going right to the front of the rim and accepting contact.
On defense, the Cavs played Anthony Parker well off of Rajon Rondo, packed the paint, and made Boston work for all of their baskets. Boston couldn’t hit a shot from outside, going 4-14 from outside the paint in the first quarter. Between LeBron going off, their shots not falling, and the whistles not going their way, Boston completely unraveled.
It was all downhill for the final three quarters. LeBron stayed in the game until there was 6:50 remaining in the second quarter; by that point, the Cavs were up 18. The Celtics started making some shots in the second and third quarters, but they couldn’t stop the Cavs from running a layup line and hitting nearly all of the outside shots they did end up taking.
By the time LeBron left the game with 5:40 left to play, the Cavs were up 30. A statement game. A rout. A massacre. An embarrassment. Call it what you will. The most important thing about game three is that it was a win. The Cavs have home-court advantage back, and have a great chance to pounce on Boston this Sunday and take a 3-1 lead back to the Q.
-LeBron James. Wow. He completely controlled the game from the opening tip. It wasn’t a timely scoring explosion or beautiful shot — it was LeBron completely and overwhelming the Celtics from start to finish.
After all the talk about the elbow, this might be as well as I’ve ever seen LeBron shoot from the outside. He lined it up, found space, and knocked it down like it was a layup. When the lane was open for a pass or a drive, he took it. But mostly he just went to the perimeter and drained shot after shot. There’s nothing any defense can do about that. Unreal. Absolutely unreal. When the team needed him to step up, he was completely dominant. That’s why he’s a two-time MVP.
-There’s Shaq! Deep position, strong finishes, went to the offensive glass aggressively. This is exactly what he needs to do when he’s out there. When you weigh 325 points, you should never be “settling” for shots.
-Gritty game for Jamison. His outside shot wasn’t on, but he did a great job of working off the ball and getting tough baskets inside en route to 20 points. And even though KG had his best shooting night of the series, Jamison made him get his baskets on post-ups and outside jumpers rather than layups. It’s fine to give up points, just not easy ones.
-Mo’s still waiting for that first three of the series, but boy did he make up for it by attacking off the dribble. I’m not sure why the offense isn’t getting him the shots he likes; that said, give props to Mo for putting his head down and going to the basket rather than try and force himself into the offense.
-AP and Delonte: 25 points on 9-11 shooting from the field. That’s huge. AP knocked down all three of his looks from deep, and Delonte couldn’t miss a pull-up jumper. I will say that I didn’t love the way Delonte was stopping the ball and settling for jumpers. Hard to argue with results, though.
-31-34 from the line! 31-34 from the line! 31-34 from the line!
Bullets of Randomness:
-Paul Pierce, you cannot score against LeBron. You are old, slow, and extremely crafty. LeBron is young, freakishly fast, and also crafty. It’s not going to work out. Please keep trying, though.
-Give Mo and company credit for chasing Ray Allen all night and preventing him from getting easy looks. The Celtics were waiting for the Cavs to get lazy and allow open looks from deep all game long, but it never happened. Great defensive effort on Friday night.
-Nate Robinson took 10 shots in 13 minutes.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Great win, but remember it only counts for one game. The Celtics are a home win from tying this series up again. The Cavs didn’t listen to the people who said the sky was falling after game two; they can’t listen to the people who say they’re invincible now. There’s a lot of work to be done before this series is over. If the Cavs buckle down and play the full 48, they can do it. Until later, folks.
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.