Friday, May 18, 2007

Cleveland 88, New Jersey 72

Question of the night: did they try? Yes folks, after getting embarrassed on their home floor in Game 5, the Cavs played hard for almost an entire game. LeBron set the tone in the first quarter, scoring 14 and getting to the line nine times. The Cavs scored 32 points in the first period and built a 53-38 halftime lead (the lead was 22 at one point).

But something went awry in the third period. Again. Mike Brown's halftime speech did the trick yet again, as the Cavs scored a dismal 8 points in the third quarter. A lot of people are going to point out that LeBron picked up 3 quick fouls in the third and had to sit for most of the period and this is what caused the Cavs offensive woes. Yes and no. Obviously, LeBron missing a large chunk of time didn't help anything, but the Cavs offense wasn't looking particularly sharp in the first place. The Cavs weren't lighting it up to begin with (you could tell it was one of those types of quarters) and when LeBron went out they just fell apart. When LeBron ht the bench Brown brought in Eric Snow, who was surprisingly ineffective against the Nets zone defense.

The Nets got hot in the third as well. We all knew they were going to make a run and it hurt that it happened while LeBron was out with foul trouble. Kidd scored 12 points in the third, notched 2 assists and practically willed the Nets back into the game. Although they whittled away at the lead, the Cavs never lost it and they held the advantage 61-60 going into the fourth.

For the fourth quarter, the Cavs went with an extremely complex offense. Brown countered the Nets' zone (finally!) by bringing out the shooters. Donyell Marshall, Daniel Gibson and Damon Jones (yes, Damon Jones) all played the bulk of the fourth quarter. Every offensive set was the following: James gets the ball and tries to penetrate and if the shot isn't there he kicks it out to a shooter. That's it. LeBron dribbles, Varejao sets a pick and the shooters stand there and wait for LeBron to find them.

The Nets stunk it up in the fourth. No one on the Nets stepped it up after their great third quarter. Not Kidd, not Carter and not Jefferson (to Vince Carter's credit, he stunk the entire game, not just the fourth). Kidd was great in the third but ran out of gas; he missed a ton of jumpers and a lot of free throws (so when are we going to read some 'Jason Kidd can't finish games' stories?). Jersey scored a Cavalier-esque 12 points in the final period.

I'm going to give Mike Brown some credit. It took him awhile, but once he found a lineup that worked, he kept with it. Brown's team couldn't figure out New Jersey's zone in the third, but Brown loaded the floor with shooters and rode them the entire fourth. Would I have liked to see a better effort after halftime? Yes. But he pushed the right buttons down the stretch and got the Cavs the series win (I really love the fact that he didn't feel obligated to put those starters back in).

The bench really (really really really) stepped it up. They got 35 bench points (which seems like 35 more than they normally get). Marshall hit some big 3s early on (3-3 in the first half) and gave the Cavs a huge lift. Gibson played with poise (he basically split the PG duties with LeBron in the fourth) and hit two big 3s in the fourth. Marshall ended up with 18 points (he was 6-10 from behind the arc) and Gibson finished with 8. Varejao and Snow contributed in their non-box score way; hustling, playing solid defense and just being pests. Damon Jones didn't score but he did play 12 minutes while not getting destroyed on defense, so good for him.

James played well... in spurts. He was awesome in the first quarter; he took control, demoralized the Nets and the crowd, scoring 14 points and shooting 9 free throws (making 6). Second quarter? Zero points. Third quarter? Zero points. LeBron stepped up in the fourth period, setting up teammates, running the 'offense' and hitting a couple 'nail in the coffin' shots.
Is it kind of disappointing that he started out with 14 and only finished with 23? Yes. And getting all your free throws in the first quarter isn't particularly inspiring either. But hey, he did what he had to do.

and finally...

This is what we've all been waiting for. The rematch. Cavs-Pistons Part II. The Cavs have had a relatively easy run thus far in the postseason. Washington was depleted and New Jersey had one player. The Pistons? They actually have a team filled with multiple talent players. This is uncharted territory for the Cavaliers. They can't afford any large lapses of focus/effort/offense this time around. Part of me wonders if this is what they've been waiting for the entire season- their shot at the Pistons. It seems that the Cavs have lacked that intensity this season, hopefully seeing Rasheed Wallace everyday will bring some of that back.


Erik said...

When Nachbar hit that three to beat the halftime buzzer, I could sense a third-quarter run coming for the Nets. Heck, when the Cavs went up by 20, I had a strong feeling that they weren't going to blow New Jersey out.

Part of that is due to the Cavs' fade-in, fade-out focus, and part of that is due to the fact that the Nets were too good to go down without a fight, and basketball is a game of runs anyway.

In the end, the game and the series went to Cleveland because the Cavs showed up in the fourth quarter and the Nets didn't. The same circumstance has existed in all eight Cleveland playoff wins to a greater or lesser degree.

Washington and New Jersey were really crappy at closing games out, while the Cavs have been pretty good at it.

It will be interesting (and possibly nauseating) to see what will happen when the Cavs play the Pistons, a team that is among the best at closing games out.

POJO_Risin said...

Yeah, the Pistons are daggers...

but sooner or later...those daggers have to dull...

starting with fucking Billups...

Ben said...

Billups looks like an orc from Lord of the Rings

Erik said...

By the way, has anybody noticed how everyone in the national media almost seem to be rooting for the Bulls?

ESPN, Fox Sports and all have features on "what the Bulls need to do to reach the next level."

Meanwhile, the Cavs DID reach the "next level" for the first time since 1992, and it's greeted with a shrug of the shoulders nationally.

What gives? Where's the love? Or is it LeBron penis envy again?

graham said...

Its not about the Cavs, but it has more to do with Bron IMO. I contend the sports media loves to build a guy up to tear him down, or at least be very critical of him. The media has turned on LeBron a bit in my mind.

For example, many say he's coasted. Really? How the f#&k would the media know that? Its pure speculation with no grounds for saying that. They say he can't close out games. Any Cavaliers fan who watches a lot knows LeBron can close out games, but like any other player in history, he doesn't do it every time. Instead, the media focuses on games which LeBron doesn't come through.

I don't get it, but the only thing I can think of is people like to criticize those at the top and LeBron is clearly one of the best in the league