Monday, June 11, 2007

San Antonio 103, Cleveland 92

... and it wasn't as close as the final score makes it look. Sure, the Cavs were only down 8 with about five minutes to go, but the Cavs were down by at least 20 for a good chunk of the game. They made a late run to cut it close (same as Game 1) but simply ran out of gas.

LeBron picked up two fouls in the first three minutes. He finished the game with three fouls. When Mike Brown sat LeBron with nine minutes to go in the first quarter, I expected it. And for the first six or so minutes, it wasn't a total mess. With to go 3:49 in the first, the Cavs trailed 16-13 and by 1:21 they were down 28-13. They were fighting uphill from here on out.

When the Cavs look bad, they look really bad (also, the Spurs are kinda good). The Cavs won 50 games, they won the Eastern Conference crown but when they have a bad game, it's not just bad, it is mind numbingly awful. With LeBron out, we got to witness Larry Hughes hoist terrible jumpshots, Z plod through the key for ugly hooks, Eric Snow doing Eric Snow-type things and Sasha Pavlovic getting owned on his drives towards the hoops. Are all these players that bad? No. But they all had terrible games. At the same time. While LeBron was on the bench. Great.

The lack of rebounding hurts the most. The Cavs have been outrebounded in both games so far. They gave up 13 offensive rebounds in Game 1 and cut that down to 12 for Game 2 (little things!). The Spurs are a tough team to guard offensively as it is, the Cavs can't be giving San Antonio second and third chances and expect to win (or even be close). This means everyone has to box out and crash the boards, not just the big men (and Daniel Gibson). Anderson Varejao led the Cavs with 10 boards, LeBron had 7 and Drew Gooden had 6. No one else had more than 4.

I thought we had all agreed that Larry Hughes and Eric Snow wouldn't share court time. Honestly, this should never happen. Especially if LeBron has to sit. This means that both your guards can't shoot, so it's pointless to just feed Z, because he's going to be doubled and hounded because they'll simply let the guards shoot. Also, I'm not sure which scenario angers me more: those possessions where Snow holds the ball until there's 10 seconds left on the shot clock (practically guaranteeing a rushed shot) before starting the play or those Hughes just runs down and shoots a pull up for no reason. Both are sweet.

It is time Daniel Gibson starts. Actually, it's past time. Does Brown not want to make the switch because of egos? What that says about the Larry Hughes signing? Doesn't want to upset the chemistry of the team? I'm out of ideas. All I know is that Gibson scored 15 on 6-12 shooting while Hughes dropped a 0-5 for zero points (and this is after Gibson had 16 compared to Larry's 2 in Game 1). It isn't secret that the Cavs usually make these nice offensive comebacks while Gibson is on the floor and Hughes in on the bench. Now let's cut to the chase and play Gibson from the start. Blame it on Hughes' injury for all I care, just put the best players out on the floor (and the injury does play a part, especially defensively. Hughes can't stay in front of anyone right now, let alone Tony Parker).

To a surprise to no one, Tony Parker is killing the Cavaliers. 30 points..... on 13-20 shooting! For the series, San Antonio's PG is shooting 58% from the floor. That is ridiculous. The idea is to make Parker shoot jumpshots. But he's simply too fast and I'm not sure the Cavs have an answer for him. Hughes is too slow, Snow is too slow, Gibson is quick but not sound defensively and the Cavs are having LeBron guard him for long stretches of time. That's what we want... LeBron chasing Parker around... But there is no good answer here. Parker is going to be a handful for the entire series.

Free throws hurt. The Cavs shot 19/29 for 65% while the Spurs hit 21/26 for 80%. This has to improve if the Cavs want to win a championship (be it this year or in the future). They can't keep tossing away free points. LeBron was just 7/11...

The bench wasn't awful. For the most part, the bench showed up. Gibson had 16 points, Varejao had 8 and 10, Jones hit a couple 3s and Eric Snow was solid. Marshall looked shaky, again. Whenever he puts the ball on the floor he is a charge waiting to happen.

Coaching questions. Did you think about bringing LeBron back in before the end of the first quarter? Why is Larry Hughes starting (the game and the second half)? Can't you find more minutes for Drew Gooden (24 minutes)? Do the Cavs have any trap or press defenses? If so, when are they used, because I would've liked to see some pressure on the Spurs' guards during the fourth quarter comeback. Why haven't we seen any of Scot Pollard and his 6 fouls?

and finally....

I'm still not worried (well, kinda). I'm just waiting to see how the Cavs look and perform at home. The Cavs have shown signs of life here and there (they scored 29 and 30 in the third and fourth, respectively) and they need to put together a complete game effort. I wouldn't be surprised to see if Z and Pavlovic come out with better games; both players can seem to get overwhelmed when a situation turns sour. Hopefully the Cavs defensive and rebounding efforts will be energized simply by having a home crowd to feed off of; I can take bad shooting (I've seen that all year) and I've seen them win with bad shooting nights. But if the defense and rebounding fail to return, the Cavs will get swept.


Erik said...

It is indeed time for Hughes to take a seat. I know the "Laura" Hughes jokes will keep coming from certain people, but honestly, Hughes has proven his manhood by sucking it and playing through pain to win a title. He's hurting the team now. Parker is just abusing him.

Having said that, I think it will be Snow and not Gibson who starts Game 3. Brown isn't ballsy enough to experiment with rookies in the starting lineup down 0-2 in the NBA Finals.

Besides, at least Gibson gives them some sort of change of pace off the bench. If Gibson is moved into the starting lineup, the Cavs would be left with basically no scoring coming off the bench. Not saying they can't get back into the series with the bench scoring six points per game, but ... well, it's not a good thing.

I personally think it's time to get Drew Gooden a little more involved. He has been pretty quiet since about Game 5 of the Pistons series. But against Detroit, his mid-range jumper was falling and he was a walking, talking mismatch for the Piston frontcourt.

Against San Antonio, the only thing I've noticed him doing is futily slapping at either the ball or Tim Duncan's arms as he gets beated time and time again for rebounds.

Can't the Cavs utilize Gooden the way the Spurs utilize Duncan? As in, start feeding him the ball around the free-throw line for pull-up jumpers we all know he can make? Or am I missing something?

It just seems to me that if you can't get through the San Antonio defense, maybe your tallest players should be shooting over it. And not Z, who at the moment, has Hughes/LeBron fallaway syndrome. Seriously, Z is bending so much on his jumpers he looks like an antenna going through a car wash.

Erik said...

*Sucking it UP, I should say. Man, you miss one word typing and everything goes to pot...

Ben said...

I agree with getting Gooden involved, to an extent. SA can run the offense through Duncan because he has things called "passing skills" which Gooden lacks. He definitely deserves more minutes and touches, at the very least have him play Marshall's role, but a few feet in (Gooden is money from the baseline).

Hughes is getting abused and I wouldn't mind Snow starting (though I really don't see how much difference it makes. Snow is not a fast person).

Also, both Pavlovic and Z should be much better at home. Both were rushing and forcing shots.