Recap: Big games are better when both teams care, but I’ll take this.

April 12th, 2009 by John Krolik

 

Overview: In a game where there was nothing at stake for Boston, Cleveland came out with aggression and rained sulfur on a Garnett-less Boston team, absolutely blowing them out for all four quarters.

 

SPECIAL EDITION MEGA-POST ABOUT A BLOWOUT THAT REALLY WASN’T THAT EXCITING!!!!!!! (I suppose I figure this is the last time the Cavs will play truly meaningful basketball for about a month or so, which is why I find myself over-analyzing this game to a ridiculous extent)

The Psychological Component:

This game pretty much showed the difference between being on the winning side and the losing side of a rivalry. Just like we were able to sleep pretty easily at night when the Wizards took advantage of us not giving a crap and won their championship game, Boston’s not the team who has something to prove in this rivalry. 

They have their spot locked in. This game doesn’t matter to them. And they could care less about bragging rights or posturing. They’re wearing the rings, and they’re the champs until someone beats them in a series. 

For us, it’s different. Not only are we still fighting for home-court advantage and the home-court record, but Boston is much more than a game to us at this point. Everyone came out hungry. We want to send a message. We didn’t want to beat them; beating the Celtics without KG on our home-court is what was expected. We wanted to leave no doubt. We wanted to bet them so badly that it went beyond any possible hedging factors. We wanted it to be too much to brush off. 

I can’t say what type of impact this is going to have-I don’t really think it affects how a series shakes out one way or another. If/when these two teams go at it, they’re both going to be confident, prepared, and on top of their games. A regular-season blowout isn’t going to change that dynamic. 

The X-and-O type stuff dynamic, on LeBron and the key to his struggles against elite defenses:

LeBron-simply phenominal. There are games where he just sets a tone right out of the gate and completely imposes his will, and this was one of them. He established his jumper, found seams, and got the team involved by setting everyone up and getting them going. An absolutely flawless quarter of basketball. 

In terms of his scoring, LeBron set a blueprint for how to be successful against the great defensive teams that have always kept his scoring efficiency in the playoffs way too low. 

LeBron is a good long-distance shooter-even very, very good. Taking more of his threes off the dribble than any player in the league except for Steve Nash and Dwyane Wade, LeBron shoots a respectable 34% from deep. What’s really scary is that LeBron started the league in a horrible slump from deep, and has shot over 40% from three since the all-star break. 

I don’t really need to tell you how good LeBron is at getting to and finishing around the basket, but if you need a number he converts 72% of his shots from that area. 

The midrange game is really the one hole in LeBron’s offense-as I’ve gone on and on about on this blog, he’s really not comfortable with any sort of pull-up moves in the 12-18 foot range, prefers to go full speed and attempt to finish every drive instead of balancing and settling for a tear drop or mini-jumper, and doesn’t really have post moves he likes. He shoots 37% on his midrange shots. (That is bad, but not quite as bad as it seems- only Jameer Nelson shot better than 50% on midrange jumpers this season. Kobe Bryant, for example, is at 44%.)

So, just to illustrate what I’m talking about here, here are LeBron’s effective field percentages based on what type of shot he’s taking:

3-point: 34% (51% effectively); post-all star break 40% (60% effectively)

Midrange: 37%, 37% effectively

Layup/Dunk: 72%

So it’s 60%/37%/72%. If you can force LeBron to take shots from midrange, you are literally cutting his effectiveness in half. 

(While not to this degree, this is true on the team level as well; midrange shots are easily the least efficient shots in basketball.)

LeBron’s tendencies towards the “extreme skew” is ultimately a good thing, but there is a tradeoff; it’s very hard for an individual, without an offense running effectively, to get layups/dunks or three-point looks. The midrange game still exists because of this. I’m going to leave this topic as it is because I plan to do a much longer post on this thesis, but for tonight what’s important to note is that every one of LeBron’s field goal attempts tonight were either in the paint or from beyond the three-point line. 

 

This was able to happen because we were at home, winning the entire way through, and in a good rythym, which allowed LeBron to be confident and hit his initial three-pointers. LeBron also got an open three-point look and a resounding dunk thanks to two drive and kicks by Mo Williams. That’s huge. Mo is what we haven’t had in the playoffs before, and if we want to keep LeBron’s offense from getting stalled we’re going to have to establish Mo initiating plays and LeBron moving off the ball early in playoff games. 

What we also got was a lot of rebounds and turnovers that allowed us to get out onto the break. LeBron on the break leads to extremely good things. This we knew. 

And of course, the heat-checks are the heat-checks. If we’re up by 20, by all means make some highlights. Lord only knows how he can hit those shots. 

What we saw tonight from LeBron was 29 points and 7 assists on 90.6% True Shooting. And it happened with maybe one dribble-drive for a layup. The rest was all the jumper falling, getting out on the break, and him moving off the ball. The more we can do that, the more we keep defenses from setting up a wall against LeBron, and that’s when our offense becomes unstoppable.

The Rest of the Stuff

Boobie Gibson’s shot is coming around!

We shot a better percentage from deep tonight than they did on free-throws. That’s a good sign. 

Really, this Celtics team did not come out hungry. No Rondo pick-and-roll magic, Pierce wasn’t doing his chess-game routine and getting to his spots, Allen was coming hard off curls or looking for the pull-ups. It wasn’t the Celtic team we know and hate. 

Steph Marbury passing up a wide-open layup to throw a (not that cool) over-the-head pass to noted punk Bill Walker, who bobbled it and got STUFFED BY WALLY SCZERBIAK, may have been the absolute pinnacle of my life. It just doesn’t possibly get better than that. Interesting: Wally and Ben did not get legit run tonight. With Ben, it’s injury rehab. Why bench Wally as he’s shooting this hot? It worked, but I’m confused. 

Mo Williams: 5-8 from 2-point range and 6 assists tonight, which I love. If we’re going to crack Boston’s defense in the playoffs, he will need to be more than a shooter. 

If Ray Allen doesn’t get suspended for openly elbowing Andy in the junk, I’ll be pretty mad. It doesn’t get more blatant or dirty than that. I am ALWAYS on the side of the players in heat-of-the moment stuff and don’t try to nail guys, but that was way, way, way over the line and can’t be permitted at all. A double technical was not at all appropriate, and hopefully it gets reviewed. 

 

My MVP venting of the night: Wade dropped 55 and 4 assists (63 total points) on a comically bad Knicks defense in a game that means absolutely nothing for that team. It will be made into a big deal tonight. It’s a pretty number. Chris Paul put up 37/9/17 (71 total points created) with 1 turnover and 86% TS in a game that matters to them for playoff positioning. You can’t play better than that. There is not a level above that. That’s maybe the best box-score line of the SEASON. The leads? 

“Wade explodes for 55″

“Paul, West give Hornets edge over Mavericks”

Well, that’s all for this one. Definitely enjoyable. 1 game from clinching best record in the league-we could do it tomorrow. See you then.