Sunday, June 03, 2007
Cleveland 98, Detroit 82
Hey, this "playing basketball in June" stuff is pretty sweet. As a franchise, the Cavs are 1-0 in the month of June. Cavs fans, these are uncharted waters and I'm not really sure what I should be doing (all I know is that I can't stop grinning like a god damn fool- it's really all I'm capable of right now). The Pistons hadn't lose four straight games all season.... and yet, here we are.
Larry Hughes, pick the team you want to be traded to, because Cleveland has a point guard. And he answers to Boobie. Daniel Gibson hit all five of the 3s he took and led all players with 31 points. That's right, the Cavs beat the Pistons by 16 in a close out game and LeBron didn't lead Cleveland in scoring. Oh, by the way, Gibson's 31 points came on just 9 field goal attempts and at one point he scored 24 of the 30 Cavalier points (not quite "Video Game James", but rather unreal to say the least). Gibson lined up at the charity stripe an astonishing 15 times in Game 6 and he made 12 of 'em. So he can shoot from the outside AND get to the line? Ya, the Cavs can stop looking for a point guard to compliment James...
LeBron was pretty good too. The was a reason why Gibson was able to get good looks from down town and it might have something to do with that 48 point onslaught in Detroit. LeBron didn't drop a historic game but he 'ended up' with 20 points, 14 boards, 8 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals (does anyone else have to keep reminding yourself that he is just 22? Ya, me too). He set his teammates up early in the game (5 assists in the first period) and there was nothing the Pistons could do after that. His shot wasn't dropping (just 3-11 from the floor) but he attacked Detroit's defense and got himself to the line 19 times (making 14). When the Cavs spread the floor (with shooters) LeBron has a much easier path to the basket (and he is a willing passer, I'm not sure if you saw Game 1...) and he can be much more aggressive.
For the second game in a row, only three Cavs scored in double figures. And for the second time in two games, it was James, Gibson and Z who put up those double digits. I'd be a happy camper if only these three guys shot the ball (with an occasional Gooden baseline jumper thrown in here and there).
The guys I am happy for: LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Austin Carr and Joe Tait. Obviously, LeBron deserves the vast bulk of the credit; he single handily beat Detroit in Game 5 and without James, none of this is even possible (also, thanks for riggin' that lottery David Stern, we owe you one). He's endured a lot of (petty) criticism and he's silenced everyone out Then there's Zydrunas... Big Z has been here forever; the big fella could've easily retired years ago (after roughly 1,236,893 foot surgeries) and no one would've thought any less of him. But he fought his way back, persevered and kept working on his game (like how he developed that ridiculous(ly ugly) hook shot this offseason after fizzling out in last year's playoffs). With all that has happened to him this year (plus the fact that he has stepped it up in the posteason), you couldn't help but smile when LeBron jumped into his arms after the final buzzer (BTW- Z finished with 11 points and 12 boards).
Then there is Austin and Joe. I've ripped on Austin a lot this year (and I love the guy, but he can't do color commentary. He's much better in the studio) but the man loves his Cavalier basketball. He's called Mr. Cavalier for a reason and I hope he's enjoying this. Finally we come to Joe Tait. I'm not sure I'd be a Cavs fan (or at least not as big of one) without Tait. The guy is best radio basketball announcer I've ever heard (and it's not even close). Joe has been involved with this franchise since the beginning (I cannot even fathom how much bad basketball he's witnessed over the years) and I am thrilled that I'll be able to listen to him broadcast from the NBA Finals. It's unfortunate that with all the technology these days (plus the delays and all that) that we're no longer able to 'turn down the TV and turn on Tait' because that is the perfect way to take in Cavalier basketball.
How about Coach Mike, eh? Of course, we all knew we'd see a fourth quarter lineup of Gibson, Jones, James, Donyell Marshall and Anderson Varejao. Is his offense sometimes unbearable? Yes. Does he make 'young coach mistakes'? Yes. Is he perfect? No. But you know what? He's been here two years and he has a playoff record of 19-10 and he has the Cavs in the NBA Finals. If I would've told you in the summer of 2005 that the Cavs would be in the Finals in two seasons, I think we'd all take that.
LeBron has matured. Everyone is going to be talking about how vocal he was in Game 6. And I love that. But have you been seeing his defense? He is giving the maximum effort at the defensive end and he completely took Tayshaun Prince out of his game (16-65 for the series). I have no idea what's going to happen in the next round, but if he is this focussed, watch out.
I was a bit worried this game might go down as "The Clock". We had a 21 minute break between the first and second quarters as the entire arena basically stopped working. The scoreboard went out, the jumbotron went out and the 24 second clock went out. Nothing like showing up for the big game... The break obviously affected the Cavs and it really took the air out of the arena (the Cavs had a 6 point lead after one period and the crowd was loving it). Plus, half of the Cavs' offensive plays don't even begin until James gets the ball with 7 seconds left; every time the announcer said "10 seconds" players just starting rushing their shots and the level of play suffered. Things got turned around by the third quarter, but for a little while, it seemed like another weird Cleveland sports moment was going to loom over this game (and possibly cost the Cavs the win and the series).
The Pistons did not keep their cool. Chris Webber and Rip Hamilton picked up technical fouls early (Pavlovic and Varejao seem to annoy people) and Rasheed Wallace went insane late. Wallace fouled out early on in the fourth quarter after wrapping up James and throwing him to the floor. Wallace then proceeded to go off on a tirade and got the pleasure of watching Boobie nail 3s from the comfort of his own locker room. However, I can't blame Wallace for being angry too much- Varejao drew an offensive foul (and Rasheed's fifth) the play preceding Wallace's sixth. And let me tel you, that offensive foul was terrible; Varejao flopped like Employee of the Month. Though I won't exactly shed any tears for the Pistons; I am thrilled that I won't have to see Chauncey Billups or Rip Hamilton fall down anytime they come near one of Cleveland's big men for awhile (I'm also glad I won't have to see Doug Collins's hair or anymore more commercials for Tyler Perry's House of Payne).
Speaking of Billups, how much money did he take off the table with this series? Not only did he make some poor decisions and screwed up crunch time but he even missed his free throws. That is not good for his wallet (and is definitely not the type of crap you want to pull during a contract push).
I'm not sure why Bill Russell was there handing out trophies, but I approve. Look, anytime that guy is in the state of Ohio (or near the state of Ohio, thinking about the state of Ohio or thinking about being near the state of Ohio), I want him speaking with LeBron. He told LeBron and the Cavaliers they're now representing the entire Eastern Conference and he wants them to make him proud. Yes, listen to Bill Russell. This can only help things.
When am I supposed to stop smiling? Cause I don't want to. I really have no idea what the next round will hold for this team; everyone is going to pick the Spurs, even though the Cavs are 2-0 against San Antonio this year. As well they should. I'm not sure I can pick against the Spurs... but here's the thing, they are basically like Detroit only more emotionally stable. Let's go down the Spurs' roster (and compare it to Detroit's) shall we? LeBron just utterly destroyed Tayshaun Prince- there is no reason to think that he'll wilt against Bruce Bowen (who doesn't have the length to bother James- and no one has the strength to deal with him. I wouldn't put too much stock in Cleveland's regular season record against the Spurs this year (2-0 BTW) but I definitely don't believe that 2-0 number accurately reflects the team matchup properly.