Archive for May, 2010

Links To The Present: May 6, 2010

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

“It felt good today,” said James, wearing a shorter black sleeve on the elbow than the longer, heavily padded one he has been wearing. “I was able to go through the whole practice and it didn’t flare up at all. That’s a good sign.” [LeBron James from Mary Schmitt Boyer's Article]

Brian Windhorst’s Cavs Diary is excellent. I wish he compiled something like this after every game.  Who knows, maybe he has and he’s waiting to see if the Cavs win the Championship so he can turn it into a book.

Not surprisingly, “fans” are still arguing over LeBron’s Jump Stop.  I have decided that over 90% of people that complain about LeBron just don’t like him and want to be contrarian or whatever.  The guy was given 90 Million dollars as an 18 year old and has almost uniformly been a good teammate, a good role model, and a good representative of the NBA.  Despite that, he might be  the most “hated” player in the league.

There are two ways to look at Game 2:
1) Boston was sort of fortunate to win; they turned the ball over 17 times, Cleveland, the 2nd-best three-point shooting team in the NBA, missed 17 of 21 three-pointers, and the C’s hit 9-of-19 from deep. You can’t reasonably expect that kind of three-point disparity again;
2) Boston turned the ball over 17 times and still won by 18 points on the road. And, sure, they were hot from three-point range and Cleveland was cold, but what are the chances Cleveland attempts 20 more foul shots than the C’s once the series moves to the Garden? [Zach Lowe - CelticsHub]

“One time, a guy had a wide-open layup,” the Cavaliers’ Jamario Moon said. “It was just him. I don’t even think LeBron could have gotten to it and blocked it. He was dribbling down the right wing and saw LeBron coming and he dribbled all the way through the baseline and brought it back up. That’s scary. If you can’t dunk it, I guess you might as well pull it out. Because when he does that, he can demoralize a team. It’s never just a little tap block; he tries to put the ball through the backboard.” [Jonathan Abrams - NYT]

“I have no idea what LeBron is going to do,” Rodriguez said. “There’s one thing clear… He’s on a championship-type team, where he has played the Finals, conference finals… I don’t know if he’s going to New York. I’d love for him to sign there because it’s on the Knicks’ best interests, but it’s going to be difficult because he’s on a championship team that has been totally built around him. And besides, he’s from Cleveland.” [Jorge Sierra - HoopsHype]

Tweets To The Present: (f0llow me @tompestak)

Austin Carr must have found somebody else’s ballot laying around and filled it out. RT @WayneEmbrysKids Mo Williams got an All-NBA vote! [Dan Labbe]

@noamschiller Yes. Cavs dealt with Rose, have to figure out how to deal with Rondo, and when they’re done with him, Jameer! Yay! [OutsidetheNBA]

A bunch of things that need to get better that have nothing to do with an elbow

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Lots of talk about the elbow today. Cavs: The Blog’s official position on the elbow is “screw the elbow.” Allow me to elaborate on this. I am not saying the elbow is or is not injured. It may well be killing him. All I know is that it was healthy enough for LeBron to go off in game one of this series, and I don’t think LeBron got healthier in between the third and fourth quarters of game two.

I may well be wrong about this. I am not a doctor. But here’s what it boils down to: if LeBron’s elbow is really, really hurt and keeping him at 70-80% or lower, the Cavs are screwed. No chance of a championship. It’s done. Not even worth worrying about, in a strange way.

The elbow is beyond everyone on the team’s control. Other things the Cavaliers are doing poorly are not. Here are some of the non-elbow things the Cavs need to improve upon if the Cavs want to make it out of this series, let alone win a championship:

1. Defense

Defense used to be this team’s backbone. Shaq actually improved the team’s interior defense for much of the year. LeBron was just made a first team all-defense selection. Varejao made the all-defensive second team. Mike Brown is a defensive wizard.

In seven games against the Chicago Bulls (#28 in offensive efficiency this season) and the Boston Celtics (T-13th in offensive efficiency this season), the Cavs have given up 100 or more points in three of their seven playoff games. They haven’t held an opponent to under 90 points since game one of the Chicago series. That is ridiculous and unacceptable. (By the way, Orlando has allowed 90 points once in five playoff games.)

It’s not just teams getting hot or exploiting a mismatch or two — the Celtics and Bulls have gotten way too many easy baskets. The Cavs are relying on their offense to bail them out instead of making life miserable for opposing offenses on every possession like they’re capable of doing. That’s not a winning formula, especially not for this team.

2. Lack of inside scoring

This team has become increasingly reliant on its offense, and said offense has become increasingly reliant on jump shots. That’s not ideal. The Cavs have surrounded LeBron with outside shooters, but they’ve left themselves without enough players willing to take the ball strong to the basket. Delonte filled that role last season; he’s been replaced by AP in the starting lineup, and isn’t nearly as aggressive as he once was when he is in the game. Many of Andy’s minutes have gone to the more jumper-inclined Jamison, and Varejao hasn’t looked aggressive when he is playing. No more settling for contested jump shots early in the shot clock. That goes for everyone. Run the offense, move the ball and take it strong every. Single. Possession. Of course, part of the reason there isn’t enough inside scoring is…

3. Shaq

He’s looked terrible. It’s one thing to be struggling against a post defender like Perkins. It’s quite another to have struggled against Chicago’s post defenders. I don’t know how healthy his thumb is, but he looks as out of rhythm in the post as he did at the beginning of the year. He needs to figure it out or sit down.

4. Failure to play the full 48

The pre-Mo Cavs kept the score close out of necessity and went to LeBron late in the game. Last year’s Cavs obliterated the teams that were worse than them, had LeBron bail them out against teams on their level, and got outclassed by elite teams, particularly on the road. This year’s teams plays to the level of their competition and counts on LeBron to bail them out nearly every night. They need to take care of business for the entire game if they want to beat Boston, Orlando, or whatever team comes out of the West. All the talk before the playoffs was about how the Cavs are in such a better mental place this season than they were last season. Well, last year’s team went 8-0 in the first two rounds. This year’s team is currently 5-2.

5. Play the game, not the scoreboard.

Getting a good possession is always the best option. This team seems to be ignorant of that. When they start a run, they go for the quick three instead of running the offense and continuing to do the things that started the run. It’s what kept them from putting away the Bulls in a few of those games, and it’s what happened when they began to threaten the Celtics in the fourth quarter of game two. Never stop attacking. Never stop looking for the best shot. Stop trying to be the hero.

6. Mo Williams

He needs to find a groove. He’s pressing right now. I will say that I feel like a lot of Mo’s struggles have come from Cleveland’s refusal to run their offense. Where have the back-screens been? Where have the corner dives been? They’ve run one or two scissor-cut plays. Where is the decoy pick-and-roll? Maybe Boston’s scouted their playbook, but they need to get back to going to Mo as a solid 2nd option on a given play rather than ignoring him and subsequently watching him try to force his way back into the offense.

All of those things and more are what the Cavs need to do to make it out of this series. Win in Boston or live in infamy. It’s about much more than the elbow.

Links To The Present: May 5, 2010

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Brian Windhorst’s Weekly Podcast

“Here is all that Cleveland has to do to put itself back in the driver’s seat to the Eastern Conference Finals: win one of the next two games in Boston. That’s it. Either Friday or Sunday. Lose both those games, and extreme panic will be entirely appropriate. Considering everything above however, this series should be OK for the Cleveland Cavaliers very soon.” [Jacob Rosen]

I tweeted during game 2 that everything LeBron does looks like a travel because he covers so much ground.  I received a few responses basically saying “yeah, but, that was a travel.”  I wasn’t sure at the time, it did LOOK like a travel on TV, or maybe it was just Nate Robinson flipping out in the background that sold me.  Whatever the case, there are probably more people out there posting comments that LeBron takes 4 steps on every play than there are people that recognize that he actually almost never gets away with traveling.  Fortunately, someone slowed it down to prove that, yes, it was a completely valid jump-stop.  #vindication

“James has no outside game because of his strained and bruised right elbow. Who even knew there was an olecranon bone to bruise until recently? Now we are all convinced the olecranon bone is connected to the King bone.” [Bill Livingston on LeBron]

“Just think, we’re still almost two months away from LeBron actually declaring and already the wooing has begun. We can only guess what will happen once summer actually gets here.” [ESPN]

So Danny Ainge Threw a Towel – Isn’t that Sort of Beneath a GM?

“No big man in basketball is better at switching out onto smaller players, and Varejao combines that skill with toughness in the post and solid work on the boards” [John Hollinger]

From Windhorst’s Twitter: Varejao, James, Perkins, and Garnett are all suffering some kind of injury.

Rumors that LeBron’s elbow is worse than advertised.

Tweets To The Present (follow me @tompestak)

“…when they [Cavs] stumble and have a loss, it’s heartfelt by me. And I’m not even on the team.” -Damon Jones (Shot Anniversary Today) [WayneEmbrysKids]

“Random note: the NBA’s top 13 in lowest opponent 3-point percentage all made the playoffs this year.” [Tom Haberstroh]

Notes and Errata: May 5th, 2010

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

wtf photos videos

-Got in late tonight because I was at Staples working the Laker game. While there, I had (roughly) the following conversation with a good friend who covers the Lakers:

Krolik: I can’t believe Pau got that tip-in after Kobe missed a playoff game-winner. All year long I’ve been hearing about how he doesn’t miss those, and when he does miss in the playoffs it gets tipped in.

Friend: Yeah, but he’s hit those his whole career.

-LeBron’s hit those too; you just don’t remember them because he got a layup or drew a foul a lot of those times. Not as dramatic.

-I feel like sometimes LeBron goes for that contact and doesn’t get it. Kobe at least always gets a shot up.

-(vague talk about game theory)

-The thing is, LeBron’s never proven he can hit those in big situations.

-What about game 2 in Orlando?

-Yeah, there was that.

-Or the end of game five in Detroit? See, you don’t remember it because it was a layup.

-I mean, Kobe had the one against Phoenix.

-That was a heck of a shot. LeBron had two game-winners in his first playoff series ever. (Krolik ends point before traveling gets brought up)

We both could have gone to our laptops and done research (both players, especially Kobe, have a great highlight reel of key playoff shots — not taking away from that) but he skipped straight to the crux:

-Okay, Krolik, gun to your head, who do you want taking that shot?

-Honestly? LeBron. Actually, reverse that. I’m not saying Kobe’s more likely to make the shot, but if LeBron misses everyone will talk about how I died because of how much of an idiot I was. If I die, I want everyone knowing that I perished for their wrongheadedness. If I go down, I want to take other people’s peace of mind with me. I won’t be able to argue probabilities once I’m dead. Plus, if LeBron makes the shot, everyone will say that the guy with the gun wouldn’t have taken my wallet if I picked Kobe.

-Man, Orlando looks good. I remember when the Cavs played defense nearly that well. That being said, remember what the talk was after the first two rounds of the playoffs last year.

-Yes, I have given thought to the fact Cleveland can’t defend points and will have to face the three best point guards in the conference if they want to get to the finals.

-Me and Jeff Clark feel more the same than different with regards to LeBron’s elbow. Although the “gate” suffix implies a scandal of some kind. I would try to give the elbow affair a better name, but it’s 3:35 in the morning and only I like my names for things anyways.

-The Jazz have no chance against the Lakers. LA shot 8-31 from outside the paint tonight and still won easily with the Jazz taking the ball to the basket every time.

-The good news is that the Celtics had a worse home record than road record this season. This series is far from over.

Alright guys, it’s late and I’m tired. Until tomorrow, everyone.

Links To The Present: May 4, 2010

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

“Last season, when the Cavs were facing a 1-1 tie agains the Orlando Magic, I was sounding the warning bells. It was mostly because the Cavs had played pretty well and were barely keeping their heads above water. The Cavs aren’t playing well, at all, so far in this series. They certainly didn’t play like a home team in the first two games and also didn’t play like the favorite that they are.” [Brian Windhorst's Beat Blog]

“His post play allowed the Celtics to establish an inside-outside balanced attack with Wallace and Kevin Garnett (18 points on 8-for-21 shooting) pounding in the paint and Ray Allen (22 points on 8-for-15 shooting) hitting from afar. Garnett hit only two of his nine attempts in the first half, but Rivers told his 6-11 power forward to keep attacking.” [Jodie Valade on Sheed]

“The pointless cliche is that a playoff series never really starts until one team wins on the other’s floor. But Boston has won here now, and the Cavs are losing this series, 1-1.” [Bill Livingston on the Cavs Lost Identity]

“But it was his offense — or lack of it — that was the real problem. Williams said the Celtics changed their defensive strategy after his 20 points in Game 1.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer on Mo Williams]

“Whether or not the widespread talk of their demise has added to the boulder on their shoulders, there’s no question that the playoff Celtics are very different than the regular-season Celtics. Either bored or coasting, they played middling .500 basketball over the final four months of the season. But now they’re on another plane, crushing Miami in five games and outplaying Cleveland for the better part of the first two contests.” [Chris Broussard's Daily Dime]

“Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo didn’t just outplay the league MVP Monday night, he outplayed the league MVP and the MVP of Game 1 of this series. ” [Chris Forsberg - ESPNBoston]

Jay Mariotti wrote an article about The Cavs and LeBron.

“Cavaliers coach Mike Brown finally snapped.” [Marla Ridenour]

Defending Dwight Howard for MVP… “By this logic, Dikembe Mutombo was a 5-time MVP. Good lord.” [Bill Simmons]

Tweets To The Present (follow me @tompestak)

“Anderson Varejao day-to-day with back spasms. LeBron to have a scheduled MRI on elbow before Game 3. That was set up last week.” [Brian Windhorst]

“At the Cavaliers complex, waiting for practice to end. Team was initially expected to have day off, but, well…104-86 changes things” [Rachel Nichols]

“Forgotten fact: Mutombo’s best block-reb #’s were better than Howard’s despite playing vs. much better centers. http://tinyurl.com/37ye2b” [Bill Simmons]

Recap: Celtics 104, Cavs 86 (Or, 11: That was not good.)

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

About To Fail

Overview: The Celtics destroyed the Cavaliers in the third quarter of game two, outscoring them 31-12 in the period en route to a 104-86 victory. Rajon Rondo tied a franchise playoff record with 19 assists, and six Celtics scored in double figures.

Game Summary:

Call it what it was: an ass-kicking. The Celtics got their first lead when they scored their first basket, and never trailed by more than a point. They put pressure on the Cavs all game long — in the third quarter, the Cavs cracked.

Let’s take a look at what happened:

I actually liked what was going on in the first quarter. The Cavs attacked the basket on every possession, and were doing a good job of collapsing on Rondo and making the Celtics get their points from outside. The problem was that the Cavs were missing easy shots while the Celtics were making their jumpers. LeBron missed a layup, Shaq missed a hook, and Mo missed some open threes.

When the Celtics had the ball, they couldn’t miss from outside. They went 7 of 9 on shots outside the paint in the first quarter, including two jumpers apiece from Rasheed Wallace and Rajon Rondo. Whenever the Cavs looked like they were going to take the lead, the Celtics answered with a jumper. Boston ended the quarter with a Rajon Rondo three off the dribble to push their lead to four. It was that kind of a start for them.

The Celtics pushed the lead to double-digits thanks to nine consecutive points from Wallace, Glen Davis, and Tony Allen to start the second. The Cavs kept the game close, but the Celtics kept making enough shots and getting enough easy baskets to keep the Cavs at bay. To be frank, the Celtics were the ones keeping the Cavs in the game at that point — turnovers and silly fouls by Boston hurt them more than anything Cleveland was doing at either end.

Total and complete meltdown in the third quarter. That’s the only way to describe it. The Celtics got three layups from Antawn Jamison’s unsuccessful attempts to front KG in the post. When it wasn’t a layup, it was an open three or a contested Ray Allen jumper, which is like an open shot for most players.

The Celtics were scoring at will, and the Cavs were unraveling. Too many quick jumpers and bad possessions. Andy picked up a T and a flagrant foul out of frustration. When LeBron tried to take it over and go strong, the Celtics started to swarm him and force turnovers. When the dust settled, the Celtics were up 23 and you could hear a pin drop in the Q.

The Cavs were able to generate some hope when the Celtics went into a prevent offense and got a 15-0 run going. It was too little, too late. With 1:14 left, the scrubs were in and the Cavs had officially been blown out at home. The road to the Eastern Conference Finals now goes through Boston. The last time the Cavs won a road playoff game against an elite team was game five against Detroit. That took two overtimes and LeBron scoring 29 of the Cavs’ final 30 points. Wonderful.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Enough with the elbow. Screw the elbow. First of all, the Cavs weren’t winning this game if LeBron had three healthy elbows. Second of all, LeBron is 48 hours removed from taking over a game. Third of all, LeBron didn’t play like he was hurt. He played like he didn’t have control of the game.

He was waiting for his teammates to get involved early, and tried to get the team back in it in the second. After the Celtics made their run in the third, it was too late. LeBron going to the basket is like a 100-mph fastball. It’s great early in the count. If the batter is thinking about the curveball or the changeup, there’s no way he’s going to catch up to it. You almost always go to the fastball on a 3-2 count. But no matter how good a fastball is, it’s going to end up in the bleachers if it’s a 2-0 or 3-1 count and the batter is sitting on it. That’s what happened in this game.

The Celtics put the Cavs in a position where LeBron going 1-on-5 was the only option. When LeBron tried it, they pounced. When LeBron is on, he controls the flow of the game and makes the defense guess what he’s going to do. With Rondo controlling the flow of the game, LeBron wasn’t able to do his thing. He needs to come out early and take matters into his own hands in game three. It’s as simple as that.

-Shaq sucked. He’s getting position on those hooks and they’re not falling. He’s not exactly making up for it on the defensive end, either. He looks like he did at the beginning of the season. If he can’t score when they single-cover him in the post, he shouldn’t be on the floor. -18 in 19 minutes for Shaq tonight. Right now, Shaq’s thumb is the much more significant injury than LeBron’s elbow.

-Mo was horrible. 1-9 from the field is not going to cut it, and he’s yet to hit a three in this series. Part of it is that the Cavs aren’t running their offense to set him up with open threes, but he needs to figure out a way to be effective without going off for 12 straight points after a dunk.

-Jamison was the second-best Cav on offense. He hit some threes and floaters on offense, and never looked out of his element. His defense was an issue, but I’ll take it over what Shaq, Mo, and Parker are giving you. When the second-best starter is someone the Cavs got for a draft pick a few months ago, there are issues present.

-Hickson and Varejao were the silver linings. Hickson continues to make crazy and-1s, and Varejao looked like himself. Andy was making cuts to the basket and getting layups and fouls; he played 21 minutes and was the only Cavalier to finish with a positive +/-. Of course, he committed a stupid flagrant, left the game with back spasms, and started to have a tantrum in the third quarter. That wasn’t controlled frenzy and playing the mental game; that was being a sore loser. I’ll take my victories where I can get them tonight.

-The Cavs shot 20 more free throws than the Celtics and made 11 more free throws than the Celtics. Splendid.

-How predictable was Delonte going hard to the basket with 1:39 remaining in a 16-point game? He never stops working out there. Also, that was his only basket in 31 minutes. I love his attitude, but would like to see him play better basketball.

Bullets of Randomness:

-I thought the Cavs did a much better job on Rondo in game two. He finished with 13 points and 19 assists. I, for one, do not welcome our new mutant point guard overlords.

-Pierce still can’t score on LeBron in isolation. Hooray?

-Seriously Rasheed, how were you not full of crap when you said you were saving it for the playoffs? Where the HELL did that come from?

-Man, Ray Allen is a great offensive player.

So here we are. Cavs have to win in Boston to keep the series alive. The Cavs can win in Boston; Boston isn’t a juggernaut at home, and the Cavs are better equipped to win on the road than they used to be. Still, this does not feel good. The Celtics still have to beat the Cavs three more times to win this series. The Cavs have a good chance to win every game remaining in the series. Time to get it done. Recent iterations of the Cavs haven’t won a big playoff game on the road in a long time. The Cavaliers have never won a championship. If they want one, they’re going to have to do some things they haven’t done before. It’s going to be a long couple of days, but this thing is far from over. Time to get it done.

Preview: Celtics at Cavaliers, May 3rd

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

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.

-Alright, gotta go. Get excited, folks.

Links To The Present: May 3, 2010

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

“LeBron has made it hard for me to coach all these other guys after him,” said Dambrot. “Not because of his talent, but he was such a great teammate, so unselfish. He respects his coaches. He just gets it.” [Terry Pluto on LeBron]

“The Most Valuable Player is the ultimate individual reward and James won it a second time, officially being presented with the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, on Sunday at a made-for-fans event. But while the Cavaliers star had to admit becoming just the 10th player to win the honor in consecutive seasons was quite satisfactory, the aura of the afternoon was sharing the wealth.” [Brian Windhorst on the MVP Ceremony]

I’ve always felt that because of LeBron’s incredible inertia, he does not get the same calls other wing players get.  Seems at least one person agrees with me:
1. I have recorded and watched all but one of LeBron’s NBA games since his debut at Sacramento on Oct. 29, 2003 (Anybody have a tape of Game 24, season 2?). What I’ve seen in real time and slo-mo is a player who repeatedly gets fouled in the act of driving or shooting without getting the call — never more so than during this season. Yes, he went to the line 773 times in 76 games, but, by my estimate, it could have been at least 850. His combination of strength and explosiveness actually works against him because opposition contact isn’t as obvious. [Dennis Manoloff]

“I love Akron to death,” James said. “Since I was a little kid, I always said I was going to find a way to put this city on the map. And I’m going to continue to do that.”  As James spoke after receiving his second straight MVP award Sunday at the University of Akron, you couldn’t help but think to yourself: He ain’t leaving. [Chris Broussard on LBJ's MVP Ceremony]

Love This Shirt

Boom.

Double Boom.

“Think about what this guy has to be aware of, and then for him still to get to the rim, or an open perimeter look. It’s just ridiculous that he’s not really waiting for Paul Pierce to make a bad move defensively; it’s that he’s waiting for Tony Allen or Kevin Garnett to make a bad move. And they’re guarding someone else!” [Kelly Dwyer - Behind the Box Score]

“Personally, I think it wore Pierce down. He had to chase LeBron everywhere and LeBron did the smart thing of trying to punish him in the post early. LeBron had 21 of his 35 points in the second half while Pierce went cooler than being cool. And this is where the Celtics have to decide how to defend the force of LeBron over the course of the rest of this series. They don’t have anybody to throw in front of James other than Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels. You definitely can’t play Marquis Daniels for extended stretches in this series. This doesn’t bode well for Boston. ” [Zach Harper on Game 1]

“Moreover, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to double LeBron on every catch (if possible with a small to keep the bigs at home). If a big man sets a screen for LBJ, then two-time James with the defending big, and rotate in the lane to prevent the screener from rolling hoopwards in a straight line. By any means, get the ball out of LBJ’s hands and force Williams or West or Jamison or anybody else to carry the offense for sustained periods of time.” [Charley Rosen's Game 1 Analysis]

“It was Brown’s good fortune to inherit James, then in his third NBA season.  But if Brown hadn’t created a defensive culture within the Cavs, it’s doubtful that his career win rate would be .663, or that Cleveland would’ve reached one NBA final and two Eastern Conference finals on his watch.” [Tom Krasovic  on The Cavs' Coaching Staff]

“Cleveland’s got cab drivers who speak English and know their way around town. Many of them remember when Jim Brown toted the pigskin for the Browns and when Rocky Colavito hit majestic homers for the Tribe. Cleveland has no pretense. Folks work hard and value their money.” [Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe on the City of Cleveland]

Some funny captions to pics from Game 1. (warning: R-Rated Language)

A friend of mine who is a fan of Cavstheblog was talking to me about Game 1 and he said: “Before MoDunk, I totally thought the tagline for the game recap would be: (Or, Mo Williams get his blank blanked all night long)”  I get the feeling Chris Broussard was thinking the same thing when he began the ESPN Daily Dime: “There’s no gentle way to put this: Mo Williams was being abused. Eaten up. Destroyed.”

Mike Brown got a kick out of Mo Williams’ Dunk. Also, anyone a little disappointed in the bench’s reaction?  I think it was because even after the dunk, the Cavs were down big in a playoff game.  Had the Cavs been winning, or the game even been close, I think JJ and Jamario especially would have really put on a show.

Tweets To The Present: (Follow me @tompestak)

“Seven voters didn’t back LeBron for MVP. Two gave him 3rd place votes. I will have their names by end of the week. http://bit.ly/ctS8xg” [Bill Simmons]

“I saw Shaq coming on stage and thought, “Oh no, Shaq’s going all finals 06 on us!” Then I saw the rest of the team.” [Colin Zvosec]

“I’m sure LeBron will be parking that 2011 Kia Sorrento right next to his Ferrari.” [CAVSWitness]

Notes and Errata: May 3rd, 2010

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

spider

-Rajon Rondo terrifies me very much. I remain afraid of Rajon Rondo. To read an essay I wrote about Rondo last season, click this link.

-Reading the CelticsBlog post-game thread, a significant portion of Celtics fans are blaming the refs. To the Boston fan community credit, they seem to be in the minority; most fans are blaming the Celtics going to Pierce late the game and Rasheed for the loss.

-LeBron’s second consecutive MVP award is official. He was seven ballots away from a unanimous vote. Two voters put him third. It is what it is. I would love to see the argument for putting Durant over LeBron, and would especially love to show the Dwight voters some of his box scores from games this year. Alas. Stephen Jackson getting a fifth-place vote was the comedy highlight of the ballot for me.

-I told you Kobe would bounce back. C.J. Miles and Wesley Matthews won’t challenge him like Sefolosha, Durant, and Green did.

-I still can’t believe Pau tipped that shot in to close out the Thunder. The Lakers find ways to win. It’s what they do. At some point, you have to stop calling it luck.

-Mike Brown laughing.

-So, who doesn’t think that Boston would beat Atlanta in a seven-game series right now?

-Finally got around to watching the first episode of NBA wives. Is it bad to admit that I’m kind of on team Royce? Also, I love the players’ ex-wives ripping on Matt Barnes’ fiance for thinking her marriage is going to work out. Poor everybody on that show.

-Alright, that’s all for tonight. Get excited for tomorrow’s game.

Recap: Cavs 101, Celtics 93 (Or, 11: Nobody said it was going to be easy)

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

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Overview: After getting steamrolled by Rajon Rondo in the first half, the Cavaliers buckled down after the break to earn a 101-93 victory over the Boston Celtics. LeBron James led all scorers with 35 points, with 12 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Mo Williams got hot in the second half and added 20 crucial points. Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 27 points on 7-10 shooting from the floor and 12-14 shooting from the free throw line.

Game Summary:

In the first quarter, both the Cavs and the Celtics got the shots they wanted. The Celtics made more of them. The Cavs were looking to take the ball at the rim, and weren’t wasting possessions as they sometimes do early in games. LeBron went into the post early and got himself some great looks, but failed to get the ball to go down. Antawn Jamison looked to drive, but his floaters didn’t go down either. The Celtics looked like the elite defensive team they’re capable of being; they rotated to counter every move the Cavs made and didn’t give up any uncontested layups. Shaq struggled to score in the post against Perkins, taking his hooks from outside of his comfort zone.

When the Celtics had the ball, it was the Rajon Rondo show. He got into the paint whenever he felt like it. Even when the Cavalier bigs were there to contest his shots at the rim, Rondo was able to finish with crazy floaters and bankers. When they collapsed on him, he found teammates. He even finished off the quarter with a three. Boston executed perfectly on both ends of the floor in the first quarter, and the Cavs didn’t make enough shots to keep up.

Boston was able to open up the lead in the second quarter. Delonte and the rest of the bench crew made some nice hustle plays to keep it close, putting the Cavs in position to make a run at the lead. Things didn’t work out that way. The Celtics went to Garnett in the post or Rondo off the dribble all quarter long; the Cavs had no answer for either. When they tried to leave Jamison on an island against KG, he scored in the post. When they brought doubles, he found the cutter. It wasn’t that long ago that KG was considered one of the best offensive players in basketball — as the second half showed, he can’t do it for a whole game anymore, but he’ll show you flashes.

When Rondo made a move, Cavalier misery ensued. That’s all there was to it. He is made of wingspan, quickness, and nightmares. I’m not saying that Rondo is as important to the Celtics as LeBron is to the Cavaliers — I’m just saying it’s closer than you think. Thanks to Rondo and Garnett’s relentless attacking, the Celtics were able to score 28 points in the second quarter, which was bad enough. What made it worse was that only two of those points came from outside the paint.

The Cavs came out attacking in the third quarter and looking to chip away at the lead. The problem was that they still didn’t have a good answer for Rondo. They switched Anthony Parker on him, but he was still getting into the paint at will. The Cavs were trying to get over the hump, but they weren’t getting the necessary stops. Even when they slowed Rondo down a little bit, the Celtics were able to hit shots from the outside. Things were looking bleak. The Cavs were 17 minutes away from dropping a home playoff game, and appared to be the mercy of Rajon Rondo.

That’s when Mo Williams threw down. After a Rondo bad pass, Mo pushed the ball to get a two-on-one break with Paul Pierce in between Mo and LeBron. Like he’s done so many times, Mo caught Pierce overplaying LeBron and went to sneak in a layup. Except this time he didn’t lay it up. For the first time as a Cavalier, Mo went up and threw down. In real time, I actually thought he’d gotten blocked. Mo dunking simply did not compute. After a brief moment of disbelief, the crowd realized what had had happened and went bananas. Before the dunk, the Cavs had been outscored by 11 points. After the dunk, they outscored the Celtics by 19. (Data courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information.)

Immediately following the dunk, Mo scored on each of the next four possessions to get the Cavs back into the game. The Celtics got flustered after Mo’s scoring explosion, giving up four straight free throws by fouling the defensive rebounder. The second of those fouls sent Rondo to the bench with four. The Cavs took advantage of the opportunity, taking the lead as LeBron hit a tough banker with time expiring in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers never trailed in the final 10:45 of play, but they never pulled away either. The Celtics were helping the Cavs out by going to Pierce in isolation over and over again instead of putting the ball in Rondo’s hands and attacking the basket — three years after the 2007 playoffs, they still haven’t figured out that Pierce has trouble scoring one-on-one against LeBron.

Cleveland would execute perfectly to get a score or a stop, then get greedy and go for a quick shot when they had a chance to break the game open.LeBron missed two free throws that would have put the Cavs up six, and Pierce came down and drilled a three to cut it to one. LeBron hit a three to put the Cavs up four, then bricked a step-back three after a Celtics score, allowing the Celtics to tie the game their next time down.

Shaq made a beautiful up-and-under move on Perkins to put the Cavs up two with 4:45 remaining. After Rondo went 1 of 2 from the line, LeBron tipped in his own miss to give the Cavs a three-point lead. With a chance to put the game away, LeBron and Mo both fired questionable threes that would have broken the game open. They were both open looks, but they took them very early in the shot clock when the Cavs should’ve run the offense and taken some time. After Mo missed a three with 23 seconds left on the shot clock, the Celtics got a fast-break chance off a long rebound and cut the lead to one. LeBron hit a floater, Pierce missed a game-tying three from the corner, and Shaq got a volleyball tip-in bucket to give the Cavs a five-point lead with a minute left to play. Perkins turned it over, and LeBron ran the clock and went for the dagger three with 22 seconds left. He got it. Game over. 1-0 series lead. Sigh of relief.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Great game for LeBron. I was a little concerned when he missed those chippies in the post. That concern had, to put it mildly, evaporated by the end of the game. He made big plays when the Cavs needed them, and he shut down Paul Pierce in the fourth. He looked to attack all game; only seven of his 24 shots came from outside the paint, and he made three of them. If LeBron taking 17 shots in the paint and making the jumpers he does take are a side effect of his elbow injury, I suggest he smash it against something before every game. He gets the MVP award tomorrow; this game was another example of why he’s getting it.

-Maybe Mo Williams’ best game as a Cavailer. If he doesn’t go off like that in the third quarter, there’s a good chance the Cavaliers lose this game. It’s as simple as that. Sure, he couldn’t slow down Rondo, but slowing down Rondo needs to be a team effort. The Cavs were outscored by 15 points in the eight minutes Mo sat.

-Shaq, Jamison, and Varejao need to do better than 7-22 from the field. Shaq had some moments late, Varjeao made some great hustle plays, and Jamison did some good things as well. But they need to do better job of putting the ball in the basket when the shoot it; all of them were guilty of forcing shots inside when the Celtics bigs had already made their rotations. This is an elite defensive team — the bigs need to recognize when the right play is passing the ball out and letting the offense re-start. Even if it doesn’t generate a perfect shot, I’d rather have Mo or LeBron taking a contested jumper with the clock running down than Varejao trying to get a full-speed lefty banker to go over a 7-footer with position.

-Great game for Hickson. He took some shots with a high degree of difficulty, and got them to go. I’d expect him to see some minutes in this series.

-Delonte looked like himself; his energy off the bench was a key factor in keeping the game close at the beginning of the second.

Bullets of Randomness:

-You know what the difference down the stretch was? Rajon Rondo isn’t the most experienced player on the Celtics. He’s not their locker room leader. He played the smallest role of anyone in the “big four” in Boston’s 2008 title run. He’s the least complete offensive player of the Celtics’ top players. He’s also, by a wide margin, their best offensive option against the Cavaliers. Down the stretch, all those cliches about what separates fourth-quarter baskets from first quarter-baskets clouded the Celtics’ thinking down the stretch. They’re having an alpha dog crisis. If they figure it out, they have a great chance of taking this series. If they don’t, they’ll be doing the Cavs a huge favor. Fortunately for Cavalier fans, the Cavs are not having an alpha dog crisis.

-Man, I’m glad Rasheed Wallace plays for the Celtics.

Alright, that’s all for now. Three more of these wins, and the Cavs will be halfway to a championship. Fun times.