Tuesday, May 29, 2007
It was nice to have Hughes start. I'm sure it kept a little bit of the pressure off of Gibson (and the Cavaliers) and he bought some time for the bench. The more Hughes is out there, the less we see of Eric Snow and Damon Jones (though I'll give Jones some credit too- he can't guard a soul right now, but he didn't kill the Cavs either). Larry hit his first shot but you could tell he just didn't have it (he wasn't limping all the time, but it came and went), the Pistons started running him through screens and he couldn't keep up. And when Hughes took the first three shots of the third quarter (none of which I'd label as 'good') his time was up.
About that third quarter. To a surprise to absolutely no one, the Cavs were terrible in the third quarter. 15 points (their second best third quarter showing in the series! They've given us 14, 13 and 16 point quarters in the first three games, respectively). Maybe they need to be sprinting out of the halftime talk, maybe they need to be doing hyper layup lines to warm up- I dunno. If they could've put together a competent third quarter in one of the first two games, they'd have a lead in this series (or maybe even be done?) and they can't afford to have another clunker in Game 5.
But the fourth quarter was money. The crunch time lineup? Gibson, Pavlovic, James, Gooden and Z. Hmm... guards who can spread the floor, big men with good jumpers and polished post moves to go with a superstar swingman who can get to the rim and enjoys sharing the ball... there might be a reason why this lineup works. This should be the Cavs' crunch time lineup from here on out (and all of next season, etc). These players give LeBron the most space to work with and can hit the open spot ups if left open. I can't believe it's taken this long to see this five, but I don't care how we've gotten to this point- just keep this going.
When did Drew Gooden become clutch? Did I miss something? How the hell did this happen? For the second game in a row, Gooden hit some major jumpers down the stretch (and a key free throw to put the Cavs up 88-83 with 1:15 to go- oh, and this was after he intercepted a Billups pass meant for Wallace). Gooden finished with 19 points (on 8-14) and 8 boards and a hard foul on Rasheed that seemed to fire up the Cavs (and the fans). Now let's see if he can take his game on the road; Drew is averaging 15 points and 7 boards in Cleveland and just 5 and 3 in Detroit. The Cavs are going to need his production, because he can give James that same pick-and-roll option (as with Varejao), but actually has the polished moves to finish (or pop out to shoot a J, which Anderson can't do).
Oh ya, that LeBron guy. 25 points, 11 assists and 7 boards (slacker!). He attacked early, he attacked late (but not in the third) and his aggression led to baskets for himself (like a dunk that Rasheed wanted no part of) and his teammates (he got Marshall an 'and one' chance with a nifty behind the back pass in traffic). Though the big story, at least for me, is that LBJ hit two key free throws with 0:04 left to put the Cavs up four and seal the victory (and you could tell how thrilled he was when those went down. Hamilton tried to psyche him out but it didn't matter). It sure is nice to be seeing TNT showing LeBron highlights with a giant 'CLUTCH' pasted across the screen. When LeBron attacks like this he is basically impossible to guard (hitting ridonkulous 23 foot fade-aways doesn't hurt).
Golden State had Jessica Alba, we get Geraldo Rivera. Fantastic. Cleveland definitely got a raw deal when they were handing out celebrity bandwagon fans.
Hey everyone, come see how good I look. I'm just gonna state the obvious: the Cavs play great defense. Look, there's a good reason that the Pistons aren't hitting on all cylinders at the offensive end (and it's not because they aren't trying). It's the Cavs' defense. This is a team that plays solid defense and rebounds extremely well; people are acting shocked that Detroit isn't scoring at will against the Cavaliers. Brown is taking the ball out of Chauncey's hands and not letting Billups control the game. Sure, Billups had 23 points in Game 4, but he shot just 6-16 from the field and had 5 turnovers; this isn't an aberration, this is by design.
Pavlovic wasn't exactly money out there. Sasha seemed a step slow for the first 75% of the game. He was guarding guys, don't get me wrong (it wasn't like he was getting lost out there) but the extra pressure just wasn't quite there for the bulk of the game. However, when crunch time came around, Sasha was into Tayshaun Prince's jersey and you could tell he had that extra step back. Sasha was just 2-7 from the floor (1-2 from beyond the arc) and finished with 5 points (but he two point FG came on a break away with six minutes left to give the Cavs a three point lead that they never relinquished). Sasha attacked for awhile, but kept getting his shot blocked and you could tell he backed off a bit.
Sometimes I take a look at Detroit's big men and start to worry, then I realize it's no longer the 90s. This must've been on the days where Antonio McDyess's knees felt good. He was abusing the Cavs (and Donyell Marshall on a sick up-and-under move) during that wonderful third quarter; scoring 8 points and dishing out an assist or two; the Cavs are lucky that he can only go around 20 minutes a night, because I'd hate to see what he'd be able to do if he was healthy. McDyess finished with 12 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 24 minutes.
Z wasn't good, but he wasn't bad either. His post moves are OK, but he's favoring the middle of the lane too much. The defenders know exactly where he's going and he's making it hard on himself by not mixing up a few baseline drop steps or fade aways. He's been active on the defensive end and been getting himself some open spot ups (plus, I'll take the Webber-Z matchup any day) but he could be more effective if he varied his moves every now and then.
This all seems familiar. Stop me if you've heard this before, the Cavs get down 0-2 in Detroit, come home to Cleveland and even the series. Then they go to Detroit for Game 5 and win. Can the Cavs do it again? Can they win three straight against the Pistons? I think they can. The Cavs have held the lead at halftime for every one of these games thus far and had wide open looks to win in the games at the Palace (hell, if Marshall and Hughes make their shots, we're waiting for the Spurs to wrap things up). If the Cavaliers can actually put together four good quarters, they should be able to win Game 5.
Monday, May 28, 2007
This was the LeBron we saw last season. Aggressive, focused and worthy of all the hype. LeBron started the game off with a dunk (which got the crowd involved early) and he never let up. LeBron was hitting step back 3s, fade aways and throwing down dunks over Rasheed Wallace- in short, he was unstoppable. When he plays this way and he's making those shots (step back 3s?!), it doesn't matter who's guarding him or who he's playing- he is unstoppable. LeBron had the type of night that makes you think to yourself "Oh yeah, that's why he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school". LeBron poured in 32 points, dished out 9 assists and grabbed 9 boards (and he led everyone in each of those categories).
Larry Hughes got hurt. He only received 22 minutes and scored 6 points (and actually, he made both his field goals and both his free throws) before hurting his foot. Hughes came back for a little while, but was obviously limping which forced Brown to sit him. I'm not sure how many Cavs fans complained...
Larry injury forced Brown to do something absolutely crazy: he played Sasha Pavlovic and Daniel Gibson at the same time. Not that Brown went into this willingly; he had Damon Jones chasing Chauncey Billups around for a little while before relenting and putting in the two young guns.
And they responded. Gibson had a break out game, scoring 9 points and playing some great defense on Billups and (surprisingly) Tayshuan Prince. The Pistons went right at Gibson and he held his ground. They even had Prince attacking Boobie in the post and Gibson stopped him. Gibson also opened up the floor at the offensive end and nailed a huge 3 with 4 1/2 minutes to go in the game. Meanwhile, Pavlovic threw in 13 points and 5 assists without turning the ball over once.
Brown went with the offensive lineup down the stretch and it paid off. This shouldn't come as too big a shock to anyone, but a lineup with Gibson, Pavlovic, James, Gooden and Z is pretty hard to defend. Everyone out there has a solid offensive game; they can shoot, they can score inside and oh, they can open up the floor for James. There are no one-dimensional players in this five (you know, big men with polished low post games and guards who can spread the floor AND make it). It may have taken a Hughes injury for Brown to finally turn to this group but to his credit, he kept these guys out there even after Hughes felt good enough to return. I just hope we see more of this lineup down the road.
You know, at some point this is a trend. Chauncey Billups was 4-14 and had 5 turnovers. He's averaging just 13 points and almost 6 turnovers a game. He shot just 33% against the Cavs this season. There might be a reason why he keeps having bad games against the Cavaliers and it may just have something to do with Mike Brown's defense.
How about that bench? Gibson's 9 points were the only offense from Cleveland's bench bunch. Varejao took some bad shots, Marshall and Jones missed their 3 balls while Eric Snow never got off the bench. Gibson and Varejao are the only bench players with any confidence right now (and Varejao used that confidence to throw up a running left hand hook shot) but it would really help a bit if Marshall could find his shot (the crowd actually groans when he comes off the bench. That's not a good sign).
Gooden and Z played well. Zydrunas had 16 points on 7-14 shooting (he also hit a clutch jumper late) while Gooden added 12 points (though he had some shots which... let's just say I didn't care for). Both guys grabbed some big boards down the stretch, though neither had more than 7 for the game. Both guys are playing with a high level of confidence, but it is really noticable with Ilgauskas. He is not afraid to take big jumpers late in the game anymore (you couldn't say that last season).
So, LeBron really prepared himself. Read the Daily Dime, LBJ showed up to the game three hours early, was shooting jumpers before the camera crew set up and he *gasp* turned off his cell phone. So you're telling me that when you take out distractions, work on your and are focussed on basketball that you play like that? Let's do this 'show up early and turn off the cell phone' stuff more often. (I don't want to sound too harsh on LeBron, but showing up 3 hours early and turning off your cell phone seems like a no-brainer thing to me. Don't get me wrong, I love this but this is something that I can imagine Bird and Jordan doing every game).
Should the Pistons be worried? Ya, they're up 2-1 in the series and if they win Tuesday, this is pretty much over. But the Cavs had wide open looks that would've/could've/should've won each of the first two games. The Cavs could very easily be up 2-1 or even 3-0. The Cavs have shown that they can hang with the Pistons and that this is going to be a fight. I really think that the offensive lineup we saw Sunday night could prove to be the difference in the series.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
More last play. I have a few problems with this sequence besides the no-call. Donyell Marshall is on the court and not only that, he's camped outside the 3pt line. This is terrible coaching. The Cavs are down one point; they don't need a 3, they need any type of basket. Marshall didn't just set up for the trey, he sat there even after the first miss.... your power forward didn't crash the boards!!! You want a shooter in that corner? Fine, I'm OK with this (this is why God invented Daniel Gibsons). But when you're down one and you need a basket, your bigs should be, oh I dunno, near the rim.
Brown must've given another "all the puppies are dead" halftime speech. May I suggest changing up the halftime routine? I don't know what goes on in there, but may I suggest adding strippers? The Cavs had a 50-38 halftime lead. With 2:40 left to play in the third, they held a 54-53 lead (and those two baskets came on desperation shots from Pavlovic off of broken plays). The Cavs came out flat, took six (actually over six) minutes and two timeouts to score four points (the aforementioned Pavlovic broken plays) and Brown didn't make a substitution until there was 5:20 left in the period. This was brutal to watch and quite frankly I'm surprised that all my windows and televisions are still intact.
More Brown. For the second game in a row, Brown used his timeouts early and didn't have any late. I can understand why he felt the need to use them, but he could probably save a timeout or two if he had his team prepared to start the second half.
Does Hughes have some incriminating photos of Mike Brown? At this point I really don't know how Brown can justify playing him. Gibson played marvelously all game (9 points, 4 boards, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal) but Brown went with Hughes during crunch time (I think he went with the "You Always Play Your Starters at Crunch Time" rule). Larry manages to do things that no other Cavalier could ever dream of getting away with. For instance, Hughes came in with 7 minutes left in the game and immediately committed two terrible turnovers (and the second TO was one of his "hold the ball for 20 seconds and do something stupid" classics). I guarantee that if Drew Gooden came in and immediately made two bonehead plays Brown would have no trouble calling him back to the bench (actually, Brown will probably with every player not named LeBron). Also, Hughes faded away on a wide open 7-foot jumper that could've won the game.
Z did not play well. 3 points and 7 boards does not a good night make. It looked like he was almost too eager to play well. He got good (some really good) looks early on, but simply missed shots. Was I expecting 22 points again? No. But 10-16 shouldn't have been out of the question.
Why did LeBron stop attacking? In the first half LeBron would make his moves quickly and decisively and not allow the Pistons' defense to set up. He scored 14 points and the Cavs held a lead. In the second half he walked the ball up, held onto it and basically allowed Detroit to pack the lane (of course Brown did nothing to stop this and everyone just stood around). He needed to make his moves faster and force the issue.
I'm going to make myself available to the Cavaliers. Not as a player or even as a coach (I'm not that useful). I'll just sit behind the bench and scream at Brown to put Gibson in. That's it, that's all I'll do. It's almost as if Brown forgets that Gibson is on the roster. We'll go a few games with the offense sucking and then Coach Mike will throw Gibson out there and whatayaknow, Gibson hits some 3s, the floor opens up and the offense looks that much better. It boggles my mind that Brown used the shooters in the second quarter to get a big lead and proceeded to wait over six minutes to make a sub in the third when the offense was failing (and that sub? Anderson Varejoa. Awesome). Gibson has deserved minutes all season long and he proved in Game 2 that he can handle the pressure and intensity of the Conference Finals (offensively and defensively- he blocked Billups twice).
Hey Detroit, you guys do commit fouls every now and then. I swear to God, they are complaining after every single play (and it doesn't matter what happens, they could've gotten and call and they are still bitching). But hey, maybe it works...
Cavs fans: don't use the refs as a crutch. Did they blow? You bet they did. But they blew some calls Detroit's way as well (Gibson traveled, Hughes traveled, Billups was fouled a few times). A lot of people are going to focus the last couple series, where Detroit took the lead and the Cavs missed their chance to win. Did Wallace shove Varejao to get free for his last shot? Ya, probably. But Varejao added some acting and when you flop as much as Andy does, you're not going to get every call (and there's also a 'boy who cried wolf' issue in there as well). The refs sucked major ass, there's really no denying it -BUT- they didn't cost the Cavs the game. You can't play a second half like that and expect to win- especially not in the Conference Finals.
Gooden, thanks for showing up. 4 points and 1 rebound from the starting power forward. Ouch. They really could've used Gooden too; at least he might've been able to put a body on Jason Maxiell. Maxiell killed the Cavaliers all night long, scoring 15 points and getting a ton of hustle plays that energized the crowd. Someone needed to put a body on him, and Drew Gooden could've/should've been that guy.
I'm still somewhat cautiously optimistic. Here's the deal: the Cavs have had some really terrible stretches of basketball. Just gawd awful. They look completely clueless, they'll stop doing simple things like moving, boxing out and playing guys who can shoot the basketball and Larry Hughes will shoot 2-9 and get 38 minutes. Yes, the Cavs are down 0-2 and these haven't exactly been confidence boosting games... BUT the Cavs are this close to being up 2-0. The defense has been there, the offense has showed signs and LeBron hasn't had a 'good' game yet. They had good chances to win both games, even playing as poorly as they did. Obviously, Game 3 is the big game. The Cavs need to get over these tough losses and defend their home court. If they do that, they still have a (very very) good chance of taking the series. If they lose one of the two upcoming home games, they're sunk. It's pretty much that simple.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
adding... Portland has to take Oden, don't they? Team Oden with rookie of the year Brandon Roy and go from there.
And poor Boston fans. I guess they'll just have to suffer through watching the best team in baseball and dealing with Tom Brady throwing the ball to Randy Moss....
Monday, May 21, 2007
LeBron didn't score very much, but he was strong elsewhere. We're going to hear about this for a couple days, but I don't particularly mind. Yes, is 10 points too little? Of course. But if Donyell Marshall hits his wide open 3 with 5 seconds to, no one is talking about LeBron's lack of scoring (instead we'd be hearing about a Jason Kidd type performance and we'd be seeing replays of his rebounds, assists, steals and blocks). LeBron finished with a 10-11-9 stat line, which is at once both encouraging and discouraging- it's great that he's playing a complete game, but 10 points ain't gonna cut it. Somehow LeBron ended the game with zero free throw attempts. I'm not sure how that worked out, but if I'm Mike Brown I am livid. Was LeBron overly aggressive? No. But he was hacked most of the night and there was not a whistle to be heard. Hell, Rip Hamilton tried to intentionally foul LeBron on a break away, followed by Billups hacking the crap out of him and yet they called the ball off of LeBron. Seriously? I thought the NBA wanted star power and treated LeBron with kid gloves?
Free throws (and lack thereof) killed the Cavs. They were just 11-17 (64%) while the Pistons shot an impressive 12-17. Pavlovic missed the two he took, Hughes was 5-7 and Snow and Varejao were each 1-2. Pavlovic, Hughes and James all could've gotten more freebies, though this was a rough game and you probably could give Detroit an extra trip (or two) to the stripe.
The Cavs are going to have to switch up Hughes and Pavlovic on defense. I love Pavs and he works his ass off, but he can't stay with Hamilton all night. Hughes is quicker than Sasha and would be a better fit for guarding Rip. And I think Pavlovic can do just as well against Billups as Hughes did, mostly because the Cavs are really pressuring Chauncey and making him get rid of the ball (one-on-one Billups is too strong for Hughes. If it ever comes to that, Pavlovic could body him up much more effectively). Hamilton led all scorers with 24 points on 11-21 shooting.
Z led the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounds (22 and 13). It was great to see Z have a big game, as he struggled in the playoffs last year (though he played well against Detroit in the regular season). Ilgauskas should be able to have his way with Webber for most of the series; C-Webb does have the size or athletic ability to really challenge Z on the block. Hopefully the Cavs can exploit this matchup throughout the series.
About that last play.... A lot of people are going to have a problem with Marshall getting the last shot. I can understand the frustration and I sympathize to a degree... but I really didn't have a problem with it; Marshall got a good look from a spot he was comfortable with, it wasn't a bad shot. However, the replay shows that LeBron could've (and should've?) had a clear shot at the rim; Rasheed didn't rotate quick enough and James probably could've gotten off a decent looking layup. However, Marshall was wiiiiiiiiide open. That shot falls and the Cavs win that game (IF they hold on Detroit's possession) and everyone is talking about a LBJ triple double Game 1 upset.
My only beef with that last play is the fact that Z wasn't on the court. This makes absolutely no sense at all. You need two points, your big man has been hitting shots all game, he's the best offensive rebounder in the NBA (at least tip man) and you have him on the bench? I'm not saying Z would've made a difference, but I see no reason why a guy who crashes the boards and can hit open J's is on the bench when you need two points.
Eric Snow and Larry Hughes shouldn't be sharing court time. Hughes wasn't too bad (4-13 shooting) but unlike previous games, I thought he mostly took good shots. As for Snow, at least he tries. He tried to attack the hoop and the Pistons' D but he missed a few layups (they were tough ones, but still...) and got his shot blocked/didn't get a whistle. Teams leave Larry open all game and they blatantly double LeBron with Snow's man. Neither of these two are completely useless, but having them out there together is.
Whatever you're doing at halftime, stop it. The Cavs came out flat in the third period and Detroit rattled off a 7-0 run to take a one point lead. In the first half, the Cavs had always held a slim lead with the Pistons playing catchup. The Cavs had trouble in the third against the Nets and this trend is beginning to trouble me. They wasted a great first half by coming out unprepared to start the second half. Maybe Brown gives terrible speeches, I dunno. But it's time to try something different.
Should we be encouraged or discouraged? Encouraged: the Cavs shot 37% from the floor, 64% from the stripe, 1-10 from 3 point range and LeBron scored just 10 points and didn't get to the a single time and yet the Cavs just lost by 3 in Detroit. Discouraged: Z had 22 points, Billups was shut down (7 TO's), Webber was in foul trouble (and was useless on defense), Detroit's bench was a non-factor, the Cavs grabbed 18 offensive boards (and out rebounded the Pistons 49-41) and yet they still lost. I dunno, both strains have good points and bad. Myself? I'm somewhat encouraged. LeBron didn't score, Hughes and Pavs didn't shoot well and the Cavs had a chance to steal a game with one shot a the end. Was it a great game? Lord no. But it wasn't a bad one either. If the Cavs give that kind of defensive pressure every game, they'll give themselves a very good chance of winning this series.
So a couple posts ago I mentioned the Cavs' court and how it was raised much higher than their benches.
I'm not sure everyone knew what I was talking about, so check out these videos. The first is from Game 5 in Cleveland and the second is from Game 6 in Jersey.
The benches in New Jersey are on the same level as the court, while Cleveland's benches are substantially lower.
This seems extremely risky to me; you're basically courting injuries in general and busted ankles specifically. Has the court been like that all season? Do other teams do this?
I already think that these guys have to deal with too much commotion by the court (with the courtside seats and the rows of photographers right underneath the basket) and I'm amazed more players aren't hurt.
Who knows, maybe that little step up is Cleveland's way of giving their players an extra reminder to stay on the bench during altercations.
[Update] copied from TrueHoop (emphasis added)
"I was watching the Cavs-Nets Game 5 and near the end of the game Jason Kidd and LeBron James dove after a loose ball near the Cavaliers bench," writes Benjamin Cox. "When Kidd slid on the ground, he actually fell off the court. What I mean is, Cleveland has its court raised up or at a different height level than their benches. You actually have to step up from the bench in oder to get on the court." The Akron Beacon-Journal's Brian Windhorst emails an explanation: "When they built the Q in 1994, they actually messed up the sight lines if you can believe it. People in the first rows could not see the player's feet. Part of this was the insistence of having courtside boxes, a relic from the old arena that they don't have anywhere else in the NBA. So they literally had to raise the court up about 10 inches. It has been that way for 12 years now. This year, actually, there was an entire new court built and its height above the concrete floor was lessened somewhat. There are other arenas in the NBA that have raised courts, but none to that degree and none where the bench is so much lower."I have no idea how I've never noticed this, I've seen (and been to) countless of Cavs games at Gund Arena/The Q (and I still have the ticket from its opening night, with a picture of Brad Daugherty in a jersey he never wore) and Game 5 was the first time I noticed it.
But can I "believe" that they messed up the sight lines? I live in Cleveland, where our rivers catch fire and we can't even run a 10K without messing it up.
So yes, I can believe it.
First, I'm going to just copy-paste a comment I made over at Yaysports (conserve my writing!):
It's almost completely useless to make predictions with this Cavs team. Cause honestly, you never really know what team will show up.I don't want to say that what the Pistons do won't matter, but the big thing will be what the Cavs allow the Pistons to do.
Will it be the team that feeds the big men, makes good cuts, plays the young kids and has a LeBron James that's motivated and takes the ball to the hole?
Will it be the team that ignores the big men, stands around, overplays the veterans and has a LeBron James that takes less shots than Larry Hughes?
That first team can beat anyone in the league, in any arena. That second team loses gets spanked by New Jersey at home in a closeout game.
There's no rhyme or reason to which team shows up. There's been big games where LeBron and co. kick ass and there's been big games where they fail to show a pulse (they also have failed to show up versus crappy teams as well, so we can't just say good defenses slow them down. They lose to the Knicks all the time).
The Pistons are going to try to impose their will on the Cavs, which basically means they'll want to make LeBron give up the ball. They'll try to make the rest of the Cavaliers beat them.
The issue will be how much LeBron allows this to happen. This doesn't mean that LeBron simply needs to force shots, but he shouldn't be willing to give the ball to his teammates. Make the Pistons make you give the ball up (if that makes sense). He needs to force the issue (like the first quarter of Game 6 vs the Nets) and force the Pistons to go all out on defense.
A lot also depends on if Larry Hughes and co. can make shots. If Hughes gets hot and/or takes good shots the Cavs are much harder to beat. If Hughes plays like he did in Game 5 (just taking the open shots the Nets gave him) the Cavs will be in trouble (Coach Mike must realize if Larry 'has it' much quicker in this series, we can't have games of 3-17. If Larry's shot isn't falling Brown must insert Gibson or Pavlovic in order to take those shots).
As for the defensive end, as long as the Cavs play smart (fight through picks!) and give a solid effort, there shouldn't be too much of a problem. The Pistons are tough to guard, but when they want to be, the Cavs are a good defensive team. I'm not saying that the Cavs are going to shut down Detroit, but they should be able to hold their own.
So... a prediction... IF the Cavs give a solid effort every game and IF they play the right way then I think they can beat Detroit in six or seven games.
But from what they've showed me all season (bad losses and a lack of effort as recently as Game 5).... I hope I'm wrong, but I say the Pistons win in seven.
Friday, May 18, 2007
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.
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.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
- The Cavaliers out-rebounded the Nets 45 – 39 including 15-7 in offensive rebounds. In the Cavs nine playoff games, the Cavaliers have out-rebounded their opponents by an average of 8.4 rebounds per game.
- scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out five assists. He has now scored at least 20 points in 21 of his 22 career playoff games.
- scored 16 points on 6-8 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. Ilgauskas has averaged 15.2 points and 10.2 rebounds during the playoffs.
- Daniel Gibson scored a playoff career-high tying eight points on 3-7 shooting.
- The Cavaliers allowed only six points in the fourth quarter. The six points allowed marks the fewest points allowed in a quarter in the postseason by the Cavaliers in franchise history. The previous low was eight points (at in the fourth quarter on 5/7/93).
(speaking of dumb official Cavalier stuff, why is the court raised at The Q? Did you see the play where LeBron hurt his ankle going for the lose ball? The players' bench and the court are two different heights. What the hell are they thinking? Are they trying to get people hurt? How is this a good idea?)
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The crowd, thanks for showing up guys. Jesus tap dancing Christ, do you guys even give a shit? Cleveland hasn't been to the Conference Finals since 1992. '92! Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance- you know those guys. The Cavs "glory days". The high point of the franchise. How are you not excited for this? The crowd was listless from the beginning and they stayed that way for the entire game (I can't blame them for the whole game, at some point the team should give you something to cheer about). And I'm extremely disappointed by the lack of Mikki Moore booing. This is a guy who flops, takes cheap shots at players and looks like a mule. Can we not heckle him? I'm pretty sure my dead dog was louder than The Q tonight. Disgraceful. This is what happens when you price out average fans. Or maybe Cleveland fans just suck ass. All I know is that I'm ashamed of the performance put forth.
Coach Brown, what the hell are you doing? First of all, he said that he didn't feel he needed to give his team a big rah-rah pep talk before the game. This is a team that has coasted all year and Brown really felt that he didn't have to get them pumped up? Really? That is just dumb. As for game management, I have so many questions: How do you not get at least one technical foul? How is your sports coat still on and not torn up? What does Larry Hughes have to do to get himself taken out of the game? Why is Donyell Marshall shooting so much? Why is Donyell Marshall playing? Why no post plays for Z? Why did Z sit so long in the second half? Why no angry timeout during the Nets run to start the third? Why not keep Eric Snow in late (instead of Hughes), can Snow really shoot worse than Hughes (3-17 for the game)? Why did Gibson sit so long? Look, all I wanted is for the team to show some life. If the players don't, it's up to the coaching staff to recognize the situation and sub in some players who are going to try. I loved having Snow and Gibson out there, but they should've been in earlier and oftener(?) (Gibson especially, cause at least he can shoot and help cut into the lead). As the coach you have to do something to send the message your club that this is unacceptable. At the very least, ride the hot hands. Get Hughes to stop shooting get Z the ball down low (one of 'em was 3-17 and the other was 6-8, you figure it out).
That game was terribly officiated. Just to be clear, in no way shape or form am I blaming this game on the refs. The Cavs lacked heart, hustle, talent, brains, brawns, stamina, energy, toughness, savvy, style, substance, tacos, heart, hustle, talent, dexterity, love and skills in Game 5. They stunk it up, there's no denying it. But the refs were not good at all. I really don't know what's a foul at this point. LeBron drives on a fast break, gets tripped and there is no call. James and Sasha can get knocked to the ground and there are no calls. Richard Jefferson falls on the ground, rolls around there's no travel (but there was a kick ball way after the fact). Sasha Pavlovic fouls Mikki Moore on a fast break, goes for the ball, with no shoving or head contact and he gets a flagrant foul. The Cavs were called for a myriad of offense fouls early on and it changed the way they conducted themselves afterwards (if you don't think that affected the offense, you're kidding yourself). Again, should the Cavs and LeBron have fought through it? Hell yes. But they received no favors from the zebras this night.
72 points. There is no reason that should happen. Ever. Larry Hughes: 3-17. LeBron James: 5-14. Drew Gooden: 2-7. Sasha Pavlovic: 3-8. Donyell Marshall: 0-7. Daniel Gibson: 3-7. Zydrunas Ilgauskas: 6-8. Go back and look at those numbers. I'll wait. Done? Good. Can anyone guess what I wanted to see? Post play? Maybe? Zydrunas was the only starter who looked like he gave a damn out there and he only got 8 shots (and he sat from the 4 minute mark in the third until the 7 minute mark in the fourth. So... angry...). I just don't understand what's going on. Z can take anyone on this Nets team (and he's shown it) and yet Brown stands by while Hughes jacks up jumper after jumper. Meanwhile, James is extremely tentative in driving the lane with authority (possibly because of the threat of cheap charges) and the Cavs find no way to open up the floor. Yes, James was doubled all night and the lane was packed, I'm aware of this. But he has to go down firing. If the Cavs are going to lose this way, I'd like to see him shoot the ball 25 times. Would it have worked out? I dunno. All I do know is that I expected more from him and the rest Cavaliers during a closeout game at home and they didn't deliver.
At some point you guys have to guard Mikki Moore. Moore only had 14 points (on 6-12 shooting) but I'm pretty sure that he didn't have a hand in his face all evening. He took his time shooting wide open jumpers. And what's deal with allowing Bostjan Nachbar three 3s in the first quarter FROM THE SAME EXACT SPOT. It's one thing if they just let him shoot treys without running him off his spot. That's bad, but maybe the Nets had good ball rotation or something. But allowing the guy three wide open jumpers from the exact same spot is inexcusable. My brother calls him the White Donyell Marshall- he has no off the dribble move and all he does is shoot jumpers; run him off his spot! The Nets 'only' shot 48% from the floor, but that includes a fourth quarter where they made just one field goal. Before that they were shooting around 60%. Ugh.
If Larry Hughes starts next season on this roster, I'm going to go insane. 7 points on 17 shots. I'm done. I've had enough. I can take the 3-17, I really can. I knew coming in that he couldn't shoot. But he was supposed to bring other things, right? Skills like defense, rebounding, some PG ability? Right? Anyone? He gets lost on defense (when Carter drive and Z show, Larry has to rotate to Moore/Collins. He doesn't). He doesn't box out (Kidd simply runs towards the lane while Hughes stands there. I know Kidd is a great rebounder, but at some point you just have to locate him and attempt to box him out once the shot goes up). He doesn't handle the ball well (part of this is due to the Cavs sorry state at the point, but it doesn't excuse the complete lack of an entry pass "skill". My lord, can we try bouncing the ball?) He can't shoot, he won't drive (cause he can't finish) and he missed two 'crucial' free throws that could've cut the deficit to 14 with 6:52 to go. Plus he eats babies. Alive.
Great, back to Jersey. In the best of situations, no one wants to go to Jersey. But to play Game 6 after you blew Game 5 at home? Ouch. I'm on the edge of my seat just waiting for this game. The Cavs-Nets series has everything: apathetic home crowds, stars coming up short in big moments, terrible shooting (the first field goal of the final period came with 5:09 to go) and awful officiating- it really is the battle of who could care less. When the best part of this series is the ongoing Sasha Pavlovic-Mikki Moore feud, you have a problem. Eastern Conference basketball! Whoo hoo!
The single most disgusting NBA development of the past few years? The flopping. Slowly, regretfully, inexplicably, the sport is morphing into soccer -- as exemplified by Kirilenko's swan dive near the end of Tuesday's Jazz-Warriors game that fouled out Matt Barnes, or Kirk Hinrich's perfectly designed flopparoo to draw Chauncey Billups' fourth foul in Detroit Tuesday. I blame the influx of European players for this trend because flopping has always been an acceptable part of soccer; they grew up watching that crap and understood that it could work in basketball as well, especially if you have a group of largely incompetent referees calling the action. So it started a few years ago, it's gotten worse and worse, and now, it's affecting the overall competitiveness of these games.Exactly.
Here's the problem: Because we don't have any anti-flopping rules, it behooves defenders to fall backward every time a low-post player lowers his shoulder, and it behooves them to slide under airborne players and plant their feet for a charge (even if they might end up breaking the guy's neck in the process). Not to keep bringing up the pickup basketball analogy, but geez ... can you imagine if somebody pulled this crap during a game among friends? The prevailing reactions would be, "What the hell are you doing?" and "If you do that again, I'm gonna sock you." But because the NBA refuses to do anything about the flopping, it's evolved into a savvy defensive maneuver.
Look, I like Anderson Varejao as much as anybody, but if it wasn't for his his penchant for drawing charges, he'd be basically worthless (and I know he's a good energy guy and rebounder).
Simmons' pick up game example is spot on (and this is what I've been mulling over for awhile). The reason the charge is there is to stop players from running people over. It's not to allow guys to undercut the ball handler in mid-air just because "he got there first".
This really bugged me last season during the first round of the playoffs. Both Gilbert Arenas and LeBron would drive the hole, but guys would simply get in LeBron's way to draw charge (and since he's huge, they flopped and drew them). Arenas would drive recklessly to the hoop, literally jump into defenders and draw a block (D.Wade does this too).
Taking a charge isn't a good basketball play, it's a good way to win a basketball game. When you take a charge you aren't going for the ball or to make a play, you do it for the sole reason of making the ref call a charge.
There's been talk of making a flopping rule or calling a foul on the flopper, but that is stupid. That'll just slow the game down and lead to more foul shots. You want to curtail flopping? Stop letting them get away with it.
If Varejao is guarding Tim Duncan in the post, flops when Duncan makes his move and the Duncan gets an easy dunk because Varejao is on is ass... guess what? Varejao might stay on his feet more often.
And to make things easlier, how about instead of letting old men ref games played by world class athletes, we hire young men to do it. You know, people with good motor skills and reaction times. This could solve a lot of problems.
I will say that I disagree with Simmons on one point. He says that flopping has become popular due to the influx of European players into the league. I disagree.
I blame Charles Oakley.
I may not be able to prove this or find any video, but Oakley was the first player that I remember who would run to a spot, cover his groin like he's setting a pick and simply stand there waiting for contact. And he'd get away with it. He made it easy for refs to see that he wasn't moving and he was in position for the charge. Again, was he making a basketball play? Nope. But it worked. Now everyone does this.
....it sucks that the Spurs are essentially rewarded for their guy causing the whole thing.
THAT SAID (and this is a big THAT SAID), the reason we italicized the thingy up there in blue is because the spirit of the law was followed.
It doesn’t matter if Stoudemire and Diaw weren’t coming to fight or getting ready to throw punches. If any of you have ever been in a fight situation, then you know that having extra hands standing by to support you fires things up just a little more.
All of a sudden three guys “got your back” and you can get a little more shovey, a little more pushy, a little more mouthy, and you’re that much closer to a fight breaking out.
It escalates things, and that’s what the “spirit of the law” is for. It’s supposed to prevent the fight from happening in the first place, not punish people for getting in a fight. It worked - those guys scurried back to the bench, and it stopped things from escalating further and getting out of hand.
The NBA did the right thing in this situation - argue all you want about how it makes the series worse (and it does), it’s not fair to the Suns because they didn’t start it (and they didn’t), and that the rule needs to be revisited (it might), but there’s no doubt that Amare and Boris running out there (and Amare was running aggressively) was going to push things to another level.
If you watch the tape, Stoudemire (who has been chippy all series) runs out to the court and gets pulled back by teammates and coaches.
If Stoudemire and Diaw had taken a step on the court and then immediately jumped back then I think Stern could've let it slide. But they, Amare especially, went toward the action. This is what the rule is there for.
Does it suck that the Spurs are gaining an advantage? Yes. Does it suck that Stoudemire is missing a game? Yes. But I'm not sure what the other option is here. "Well, the Spurs are gaining an advantage so I guess I'll suspend Tony Parker just to even things out." Stern and the NBA followed the spirit and the letter of the law.
Could you imagine the uproar if Stern decided not to suspend these guys for obviously breaking a rule? With Utah moving on? We'd be hearing a whole bunch of crap about small markets, how no one wants to see a Jazz-Spurs WCF and how Stern wants the Suns to move on (high scoring team, flashy, Nash and his MVP's, etc).
He had no other choice.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
LeBron James was asked before Game 4 on Monday why he chose not to sign teammate Ira Newble's letter to the Peoples Republic of China asking for the government to step in and ease the conflict in Darfur, Sudan. China is Sudan's biggest oil customer. James and teammate Damon Jones, both of whom have signature shoes sold in China, decided not to sign the petition.I'm a bit mixed on this. On the one hand, James is just a 22 year old kid who never went to college, what the hell does he know about the world? But on the other hand, this isn't something that is too difficult to get behind. Hmmm, genocide, yay or nay? And having a name of LeBron James' stature on that petition could really lend more weight and attention to things.
`Just basically not having enough information,'' James said. ``That was the main concern, not having enough information about what's going on. At the same time, I do respect my teammates' opinions and things like that. I have to have a little bit of extensive knowledge to make a decision on something.''
But hey, the Chinese buy sneakers too.
Who had the more disappointing fourth quarter, LeBron or Vince? This was like a tutorial on how to not finish basketball games. For the most part James was passive (he found the open man, but often that man was Eric Snow) and when he did drive, he missed his free throws (2-6 for the quarter). Carter had 10 points in the final period (James had just 4) but it was a quiet 10. Carter made just one field goal the entire period (the Nets had three field goals for the fourth and none came after the 7 minute mark), shot 8-10 from the line (I'm not sure why he deserved at least four of those freebies) and, with a chance to tie the game, he couldn't get off a shot and turned the ball over. Carter finished with 25 points, but Pavlovic and Snow made him work for it.
But LeBron's second and third quarters were spectacular. James scored the Cavs first 8 points to start the second and finished with 12 for the quarter. In the third period (which was the crucial period in Game 3, at least IMO) James scored 10 points and cashed in some triples midway through the third (his jumper looked sweet in during that stretch). James finished the game with 30 point, 9 boards and 7 assists.
I hate Mikki Moore. The guys bitches all the time, flops, holds Z (who he absolutely cannot guard) and he decked Pavlovic on a fast break. Moore did end up having a nice game (so he's 1/4, good for him), scoring 25 points. That foul earned him a flagrant, though somehow one of the refs called a charge at first (um, did you miss the part where Moore simply shoved Sasha? Or the part where Moore was out of position?). Pavs got up bitching and he and Moore jawed at each other, but only Pavs got the T. So to review: Pavs gets decked and the Nets get a free throw out of it (cause no double technical). Makes sense to me.
I love Bostjan Nachbar. Seriously, I am thrilled whenever he enters the game. He was 1-7 on Monday and he can't guard anyone. He's averaging 6.7 ppg and shooting 42% for the series. And yet the Nets keep playing him. I love it. To top it all off, he had a huge game on the last night of the season to beat the Bulls and propel the Cavs to the 2-seed. Thanks Bostjan!
Pavlovic played well. He only scored 9 points (but he only shot the ball seven times...) but it was his defense and attitude that stood out to me. Sasha was trash talking with Vince Carter for most of the fourth quarter (even giving Carter some shit after Vince missed a freebie) and his defense on Carter has been superb the entire series (to the point where I find myself questioning the wisdom of the late game Eric Snow defensive subs).
The Cavs won the rebounding battle, but barely. The Cavs had a 43-41 edge on the glass and they actually lost the offensive rebound battle 9-5. Ilgauskas and Gooden both had double digit boards (Z also chipped in 11 points for double-double) while James had 9. Only Kidd had a double figured rebound total for the Nets (though he had a ridonkulous 17) and no one on the Nets starting front line had more than 4.
Hey TNT, nice halftime analysis. Seriously, what the hell was that? I know Shaq was in town and it's all fun and games. But as much as I love TNT's studio show (and I do) can you talk about the close, contested playoff game going on? I know its painful having to cover Cleveland sports, but can you just humor me? That'd be great. Also, Dick Stockton is old and senile.
What goes up, must come down. Kidd's 17 rebounds are very impressive, but his shooting came back down to Earth Monday night. Kidd had been shooting roughly 9,032,232% from 3 pt range but he shot a Larry Hughes-esque 1-7 from down town. So that's why the Cavs left him open the past 3 games...
Speaking of Hughes... damn. 19 points (yay!). 36% shooting (boo!) One assist (boo!). One rebound (boo!). 43 minutes (boo Mike Brown!). Did Larry hit some big shots down the stretch (again)? Sure. But he opened the game by hoisting jumpers. This bugs me because A) because Larry can't shoot and B) because the Nets aren't exactly a strong team inside. I don't mind if he shoots, I just want them to be good shots. For the second game in a row Hughes led all Cavaliers in field goal attempts, with 19. This means in the last two games, Hughes has taken 39 shots (making 16) and dished out 2 assists. And look, I know James is the Cavs big play maker and all and I know that assists aren't always the best indicator of passing... BUT Hughes plays a ton of minutes and he has the ball in his hands a lot but there's no reason for your 'point guard' to play 87 minutes in two games and notch just 2 assists. This should never happen. 87 minutes. 2 assists.
Finish them. End it. The Cavs must finish the Nets off at home on Wednesday. The Pistons are going to take care of the Bulls on Tuesday night and the Cavs can't afford to play extra games while the Pistons rest up. The Cavs failed to close out Detroit at home last season, let's hope they take care of business this time around. And Cleveland fans? I want you guys to be loud and I want Mikki Moore to hear it. Is that too much to ask?
Monday, May 14, 2007
...adding, no recap tonight. I am exhausted, I actually only watched the fourth quarter and I don't want to fake a recap (I tried watching the first half but I'm falling asleep). There'll be more tomorrow, hopefully before 9.
(also, what's up True Hoop?)
Saturday, May 12, 2007
The start of the halves killed them. This was a problem during the regular season but it hadn't reared its head thus far in the postseason. Well, it came back to today. The Cavs started the game by spotting the Nets a 15-4 lead and they also offered New Jersey a 8-0 run to start the third. The third quarter run especially hurt, because it undid all the hard work they put in erasing the deficit before halftime.
The two stories the media will focus on will be the rebounding difference and the lack of big plays from Pavlovic. The Cavs only had 5 offensive rebounds (after having 20 and 19 in the first two games, respectively) and they were out rebounded by a score of 43-30. As for Sasha, he didn't have a particularly strong game (though no Cavalier exactly stood out) and he finished with just 8 points on 2-5 shooting. I definitely could've used more shots from Pavlovic, he didn't exactly get a whole lot of plays called for him. (And can we please, please, please get past this "offense is my defense" crap? The Cavs played on national TV a billion times this year. And the quip was mentioned then and in every playoff game so far. Basketball fans know Pavlovic- and if you're watching Cavs-Nets at 5pm on a Saturday, you're not a casual fan. We don't need this story anymore. End it. We're done. Sasha may have to say something even more dumb just to get this to stop).
More rebounds. No Cavalier tallied double digit rebounds. Not one. Z paced the Cavaliers with 8, LeBron had 6 and Drew Gooden had just 4 (ya, um... that won't cut it). You could tell Jersey was mindful of the boards and they had everyone crashing the glass; often you'd see Z, Varejao or Gooden fighting 4-on-1 for a board.
One of the refs (I'm pretty sure it was the guy with the black eye, who I think is Ron Garretson) did not give the Cavs a decent call all game. Z's tech, that rebound that went off of Kidd yet it went to the Nets and a late game LeBron drive (where he was mugged by Collins) with no whistle to be heard- Black Eye Ref was involved in all of 'em. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming this game on the refs or saying there was a bias or anything (the Cavs were sluggish, the Nets were hot and the Cavs didn't play defense or rebound- they deserved to lose) just that when Garretson had a borderline call to make, it didn't go the Cavaliers way. I just want to get that off my chest. That guy sucked. Take that Black Eye Ref!
Why is Eric Snow in the game when the Cavs are losing? You're down 14 points, the offense is under performing and Brown brings in Snow, Marshall and Varejao- talk about instant offense. Plus, Snow always comes in for Pavlovic (God forbid Larry Hughes logs under 40 minutes), who has been playing good defense on Vince Carter anyways, so it's not like Snow is providing that much of a defensive upgrade. The Cavs had multiple possessions where Snow held the ball until the shot clock was at 13 and then handed the ball off (that is fantastic clock management). This is maddening to watch.
Speaking of fun to watch, how 'bout Larry Hughes? He would face guarding Kidd but not actually looking at him, he let Carter get behind him on a break away (after Hughes shot and missed) and he had 4 turnovers to go with his usual shaky decision making and shot selection. Larry Hughes took 20 shots. Two. Zero. That is a lot. Especially since LeBron had 16, Z had 7 and Pavlovic had just 5. That's right, Z and Sasha combined doesn't equal Hughes. Do we wonder why this game was ugly and almost unwatchable? Larry had 20 shots, 4 turnovers and 1 assist. That is good point guarding.
Speaking of the offense: who are you afraid of on New Jersey? I guess I'm just confused on the lack of inside game today. Take the ball to the hole! There's no one on the Nets who is even remotely intimidating and yet the Cavs were content to shoot jumpers all day. And when they did go to Z (or LeBron) on the block, no one cut. No movement, a ton of jumpers... let's just say it was a joy to watch.
The defense wasn't completely shot, until the end. I thought the Cavs were halfway decent on the defensive end, at least early on, but New Jersey kept making jumpers (I mean, Jason Kidd was 5-6 from downtown, I'm sorry, that is ridiculous). A lot of New Jersey's early offense was on jumpers but as the game wore on, the Cavs gave up more and more easy/second chance/inside baskets (again, they used all their energy staging two comebacks and eventually just gave way).
LeBron's streak that we learned about last week has ended. That whole consecutive 20 point games to start a playoff career streak ended with LeBron only notching 18 points (I know, I'm crushed...). He wasn't as aggressive as I'd have liked him to be (again, Hughes should never end up with more shots than LeBron) but he did pass the ball well (finishing with 12 assists). As far as I can tell, James took just four shots in the fourth quarter and three of them were 3s- not exactly efficient.
How soon before Mikki Moore punches Anderson Varejao? Next game? Game 5? Moore can get pretty worked up (he was too anxious on a couple rebounds and received two offensive interference calls) and Varejao can get pretty annoying. There's been some posturing and jawing so far, so I wouldn't be surprised if Moore becomes the guy who finally clocks the Wild Thing.
It's only one game. Were the Cavs ever actually really in it? Even though it was just 2 points at halftime, it never really seemed like they were. You knew Jersey was going to be pumped up coming home and you have feel (at least a little) pleased that the Cavs were within striking distance despite playing so poorly (again, LeBron had just 18 points and Hughes had 20 shots- this game could've/should've been worse). If they win on Monday and grab the split, they can close out at home and Game 3 is nothing more than a small blip. But if they lose Monday, they'll be getting themselves into a long, contested series (which they certainly don't want, because Detroit is efficiently and brutally dispatching the Bulls).
Friday, May 11, 2007
Newble has started collecting signatures from teammates and from other players in the NBA and will present an open letter in a few weeks to the Chinese Government and to the president of the International Olympic Committee to protest China's role in the Sudan. The letter will also be posted on DreamforDarfur.org.
"It's a protest to wake people up," Newble said. "China has the 2008 Olympics and that's an event that will have the attention of the world. It'll be known that many NBA players are expressing their concern about this issue. China has a large NBA fan base. This will definitely get their attention."
Newble would not reveal names, but he said many of his teammates have either signed the letter or they are undergoing further study before making a commitment to the protest. Newble also said this is not a boycott of the Olympics and the protest is not sanctioned by the NBA.
"I don't have a specific number of signatures," Newble said. "Any signature from an NBA player will make a difference. Obviously, the more All-Stars that sign will have a greater impact. But I'm just trying to get as many signatures as I can and bring attention to the travesty going on in Darfur and hopefully change China's current policy."
The protest is directed at China because the Chinese government is the chief buyer of Sudanese oil and the Sudanese government uses proceeds from those sales to fund weapons (some manufactured by China) for the Janjaweed militia. China has used its veto power on the U.N. Security Council to stop efforts by the U.S. to introduce peacekeepers to protect the civilians.
Newble seems like one of the more socially conscious players (Branson Wright often goes to him for current event quotes) and this is definitely a good thing.
There really isn't much activism or social awareness in professional sports and I applaud Newble for speaking out (speaking of athletes with opinions, here's an interview with Charles Barkley).
I really wonder if Newble's gotten LeBron to sign the petition (as LeBron comes from Michael Jordan school of not pissing anyone off- though it's not exactly risky to come out against genocide, angering China when you want to be a "global icon" by the Olympics is a different matter).
[Update] Welcome True Hoop-ers! Come back and visit
Thursday, May 10, 2007
This series is awesome.
I'm not really sure what else I can say. The offense is spectacular and the defense is gritty. These games are at once fast paced and physical. If you can't get into this series, just stop watching basketball.
Last night's game was awesome. We're going to hear a lot about Derek Fisher and his remarkable story (I've always hated Derek Fisher the player. Mostly because he always hit those big shots for the Lakers. And he flopped. All the time) and we should. But Derek Fisher would've been a footnote if Golden State could've simply hit their free throws down the stretch. Baron Davis, Jason Richardson and Mickael Pietrus all missed crucial freebies down the stretch in regulation. This game shouldn't have gone to overtime. But it did. And Utah prevailed.
The Jazz have a series lead of 2 games to 0 but they should feel fortunate that they won both games. Golden State played them tough and now the series shifts back to Oakland. I fully expect the Warriors to take care of business at home.
Utah is up two games, but I'll be shocked if this thing doesn't go seven.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Dear National Media... look, I know that the Cavs haven't exactly had the most taxing of playoff opponents thus far... but they're 6-0. They haven't lost a game since Easter. I know it's not as sexy as Steve Nash getting his face cut open or a 45 year old pitcher signing with a sub-.500 team, but LeBron James hasn't lost in a month. You'd think this would be news.
Can Sasha get a little respect (and can we get rid of that "offensive is my defense" quote? God Damn is that annoying)? He got two terrible whistles (both while going against Vince Carter- one was a on a play were Sasha literally did nothing wrong and another was a block/charge call that happened to include Carter's shoulder) and he notched another by retaliating and knocking over a flopping Moore on a pick (I say retaliation because Moore had set a blatant moving screen the possession before and Sasha fought through it pretty hard). Even though he ended up with five fouls (though he stayed out of trouble early on), Sasha played extremely well at both ends of the court. He hassled Carter on the defensive end (just 10-26 shooting for Vince) and made Carter work defensively (Sasha had 17 points on 7-13 shooting).
The Cavs didn't exactly get any 'home cooking' tonight. On the same play where Moore illegally screened Pavlovic, Collins set a screen on James that involved the hooking of arms and holding (and this wasn't initiated by LeBron). Plus their bigs are holding Z every time down the court (off rebounds mostly but also on pick and rolls). I'm not saying that this was on purpose or that there's any malice in these calls- but they didn't do the Cavs any favors (here's a few more: the Nets had 24-second violation that wasn't called (luckily they missed) and James blocked a shot that was called a goaltend).
Hey Larry, just because they give you the shot, doesn't mean you have to take it. I don't want to rag on Hughes too much; he hit a big shot late in the game, played some nice defense and grabbed 7 boards. However, he took some absolutely terrible shots. These were, of course, jumpers. That weren't in the flow of the offense. That weren't good looks. With a lot of time left on the shot clock. Hughes finished 4-14 (which isn't as bad as it seems, he started 2-8 so that means he finished 2-6...).
The foul shots need work. Hughes was hot at the line as well, going 3-6 from the charity stripe. James was just 9-13, Z only 5-7 and Sasha was just 2-4. This needs to improve (but fortunately for the Cavaliers, the Nets shot 64% to their 60%).
The Cavalier bigs are playing really well. Z had 13 points and 9 boards (3 offensive), Gooden had 10 and 14 (3 offensive) and Anderson Varejao showed some signs of life by chipping in 6 points and 6 offensive boards (9 overall). Hell, even Donyell Marshall grabbed 2 offensive boards (one of which led to his only 2 points). There is no reason why this should not continue.
Look TNT, this offensive rebounding edge isn't going to go anywhere. People are acting like the Cavs' giant edge on the glass is some weird thing that is just now happening ("the main reason that the Cavs are ahead is due to their second chance points"). This isn't some fluke thing like Ira Newble getting hot or something ("the Nets are only down 3, but Ira Newble hit 18 shots in a row, they're in pretty good shape"). The Cavs are the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA. This isn't a quirk. This is by design. The Nets best rebounder is their point guard, are we really surprised that the Cavs own the glass?
Speaking of TNT (though every network does this)... Show the game! I'm sick of these baseline cameras and sideline shots. Just show the game from the normal view. I like to be able to see the entire court when I watch a game. At least they don't have that camera on a string thing that ABC has (is it a string? Is on some kind of track? I hate it).
Go read a book. Go outside. Go read a book outside. You'll have the free time as the Cavs don't play again until Saturday. Which makes sense because you have that extra travel day in there... and that other extra day for... um... it takes time to get to Jersey. I initially thought that the extra day was so they can showcase the Vince vs LeBron matchup. Nope. They have the rarely seen and rarely effective 5:00 PM start time. That'll reach a lot of viewers...
I don't buy it.
Make Your List of the Best Post-Up Centers in the NBA... and then notice that none of them even made it to the second round (unless you count Tim Duncan as a center, which is totally fair). ESPN's David Thorpe emails on the changing face of the NBA, in which speed kills:Interesting (I like how San Antonio is winning because they have the greatest power forward ever, but the Suns simply "won with no center" as if having one of the greatest point guards ever doesn't help them out), and I'll make my own list:
- Dwight Howard lost.
- Shaquille O'Neal lost.
- Yao Ming lost.
- Golden state won with no bigs.
- Utah won with two power forwards -- one a great three-point shooter and the other a multi-skilled scorer.
- The Nets won with a center who averaged three points a game.
- Phoenix won with no center on the roster.
- The Spurs won with the best power forward in history.
- The Bulls won with a center who can't score and is 6'9.
- The Pistons won with an aged power forward, and another power forward who is a three-point shooter.
- Cleveland won with a legitimate center -- but one who is best as a faceup guy.
Think about that. And then think about at the upcoming NBA draft, and the raging Greg Oden vs. Kevin Durant debate. The conventional wisdom is that all things being equal, you take the big man. Thorpe looks at what's working in the NBA these days and asks: why?
- Allen Iverson lost.
- Carmelo Anthony lost.
- Tracy McGrady lost.
- Cleveland won with it's bigs playing well.
- Utah won with a great low post power forward.
- Kobe Bryant lost.
- Dirk Nowitzki lost.
- The Spurs won with the best power forward in history.
- Dwyane Wayne lost.
- Paul Pierce never made it.
- Joe Johnson never made it.
- Kevin Garnett never made it.
The reason you go with Greg Oden over Kevin Durant everytime is because quality big men are much more rare than multidimensional swing men (which is the reason the Blazers took Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan- they had Clyde Drexler (they also made the Finals a couple times, so its not like they set back their franchise)) they make the game much easier for their teammates (we all see how good the Cavs offense looks with multiple touches for Z and Gooden- and they aren't even that good).
Look, I can name a ton of (past, present and future) multi-talented ("next Jordan") Kevin Durant-like swing men: LeBron, Kobe, McGrady, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Jerry Stackhouse, Grant Hill and Vince Carter. I'm not saying that these guys aren't good or hard to find or that I wouldn't want them on my team- these are all fantastic players.
However, I can't exactly rattle off the names of a half dozen Greg Oden-like (re: low post) centers: Tim Duncan, Yao and Shaq. That's it. And you noticed that Duncan and Shaq have seven rings between them, right? Compared to All-Star caliber centers, insanely talented swing men are a dime a dozen. If you want to sell jerseys and draw new fans, you take Kevin Durant. You want to win titles? You take Greg Oden.
As for the list low post players that didn't advance in the playoffs, lets dive in shall we?
- Dwight Howard is physical freak who is extremely raw at the offensive end (plus he's really young and it was his first postseason).
- Shaq is old (and by the way, won the championship last season).
- Yao lost to a team anchored by a traditional low post power forward (Carlos Boozer).
- Golden State beat Dallas precisely because A) the Mavericks' centers are crap at the offensive end, B) Dirk has no low post game and C) because Golden State matched up extremely well in all areas (offense, defense and coaching). Also, Dallas can't pass.
- The Suns simply beat a bad Lakers team (and they have the twice reigning MVP and people like their chances this year because Amare Stoudamire returned).
- The Spurs handled a run-and-gun Denver team pretty easily in the first round (and they just beat the Suns in Game 1).
- The Bulls beat an over-the-hill Miami team with an injured D.Wade and are getting smoked by Detroit because of the lack of inside game.
- The Pistons are dangerous because all five of their starters can play effectively on the low block. (Ya, Rasheed likes to bomb 3s, but when the going gets tough, he'll go to the post and abuse people).
- The Cavs have won 5 straight playoff games (without having LeBron 'going off') because of the great low post play from Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgausksas.
But what did Dirk need to do in order to beat Golden State? Go down low (and hell, if Dallas had a center with just a little bit of offensive skill, they would've been fine). What can Tim Duncan and the entire Piston team do extremely well? Play on the block. Why are 3/4 Eastern Conference teams extremely inconsistent? Too much reliance on jump shots. What does LeBron need to add to his game to "take the next step"? A solid low post repertoire (Jordan had a great low post game).
Look, I'm not trying to advocate a return to those 'classic' mid-90's New York-Miami slugfests but don't get the idea that Oden and Yao are going to get run out of the league just because Golden State beat Dallas.
Classic low post big men are always going to be at least somewhat useful (and with the way they call charges these days, having a guy with a "go to" move that isn't a constant risk for an offensive foul is pretty valuable- but that is a different rant) and are much less common than swing men. The Cavs just drafted a "Kevin Durant" in 2003. There hasn't been an "Oden" since Duncan was drafted in 1997.
I'm not saying the right team shouldn't take Durant over Oden (the Bucks come to mind- pairing Durant with Redd and Bogut isn't a bad way to go about things) but "all things being equal" you take the big man.
Monday, May 07, 2007
LeBron had a dominant, quiet game. It wasn't like he imposed his will on the action, but he finished with 21-11-7. LeBron rebounded well, played good defense (he guarded Carter and Jefferson late) and, while he didn't shoot extremely well (just 8-21), he hit key shots late in the game. He wasn't overly flashy or breathtaking but he was involved with every aspect of the game. We didn't see him take Jefferson to the post (where LBJ dominated last time these teams met) but he at the same time, he didn't simply fall back on his jumper either.
Sasha's breakout game? Pavlovic had 15 points (though 12 came in the first half) and a key block on Jason Kidd (on a breakaway layup that would've cut the lead to 2) on his way to playing his most complete game of the postseason. Did he fill up the box score? Not really (0 rebounds and 2 assists) but he wasn't a walking turnover either. Sasha picked up some cheap foul guarding Vince Carter, but I would say that he was solid defensively for the bulk of the game. Hopefully his success on both ends of the court will be enough for him to snap out of his postseason funk.
Drew Gooden played great. Gooden hit key shots (basically abused Mikki Moore in the post) and hit the glass hard (6/14 rebounds were offensive). Drew outworked the New Jersey big men and he showed off his offensive skills as well. It wasn't his jumper either; Gooden looks very comfortable on the low block (to the point where it might not be a bad idea to run some set plays for him).
Speaking of the post: please learn to throw a post pass. Snow had a terrible pass to James, multiple people had bad passes to Z and Hughes threw it was away trying to hit Gooden on a repost. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea, but they have to make smarter passes to the bigs. The was some talk of the whole rest versus rust thing (New Jersey being tired while the Cavs were rusty) and I can see it a bit. Both teams had some head scratching turnovers and some brain farts on defense.
The Cavs destroyed the Nets on the boards. Maybe it was their lack of rest (though I blame their lack of quality big men), but whatever the reason, the Cavs destroyed the Nets on the boards. Cleveland (who's starting front court each notched double digits in rebounds- while no New Jersey big man had more than two) won the rebounding battle 51-37 and had 20(!!) at the offensive end.
Z cooled off. The big fella only shot 4-12 from the field but it was mostly off jumpshots. Which isn't all bad, but it would've been nice if they could have established him a big more on the block which, in addition to giving the Cavs offense another dimension, would've probably gotten Ilgauskas at least a few free throws (he had no attempts). Z got the bulk of his 8 points (6 of 'em) off of badly missed shots by Hughes and James (Zydrunas finished with 8 offensive rebounds, so he stayed active despite his lack of offensive production).
Larry Hughes was pretty good. Did he shoot a great percentage? No, of course not (7-20) but he did hit some key baskets (a jumper with 35 seconds left to push the lead to 4) and created some havoc on the defensive end (4 steals).
How about that bench? Not that anyone is really surprised, but the Cavalier bench didn't exactly wow anybody. For players combined for 6 points and 8 boards on 3-8 shooting. Not surprisingly, every starter played at least 35 minutes.
So who is supposed to feel good about this game? New Jersey had a single day to get ready, played in Cleveland, shot 37% and lost by just 4. Not a bad showing. But the Cavs hadn't played in 6 days, had to adjust to facing a team that dressed more than one good player and willed out a win despite shooting just 40% from the field, 29& from the 3pt line and a dismal 55% from the charity stripe. They didn't play their best, but they won their 5th straight playoff game (9th overall) to take a 1-0 series lead. Not bad.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Are we aware that the Indians have the best record in baseball? The just swept the Blue Jays. They're tied for the best home record and they are 9-1 in their last 10. Johnny Peralta leads the team in RBIs, Ryan Garko is getting playing time and teams are afraid to death of Travis Hafner. This is awesome.
Brady Quinn makes his Browns debut today. Unfortunately for rabid Browns fans, the mini-camp isn't open to the public. If Brady Quinn wasn't on the Browns, I'd be laughing really hard at this. The Browns also signed undrafted rookie RB Tyrone Moss from the U. Not a bad pickup.
Also, in case you haven't noticed, I'm all done guest-blogging at Yaysports. In case your interested (and I'm sure you're not) and too lazy to use the Google, here are the songs that I used for post titles:
The Libertines - The Boy Looked at Johnny(do I get to keep my rock snob credentials?)
Sondre Lerche - John, Let Me Go
The Fratellis - Whistle for the Choir
The Hold Steady - Massive Nights
The Mountain Goats - This Year
Reel Big Fish - Your Guts (I Hate 'Em)
Dispatch - The General
Dirty Pretty Things - The Wondering
God Street Wine - Wendy
Drew Gooden has averaged 14.5 and 10 and Z had 19 and 11 against the Wizards; the more the big men produce, the farther the Cavs will go. If the big men produce (and hit their jumpers) the more stress/pressure/double teams it takes off LeBron. I've made it known that I'd rather face the Raptors than the Nets. For now, the Cavs are preparing as if they're facing the Nets (which I think is a good idea, cause if they play Sunday, it's gonna be the Nets, if they have to wait til Tuesday, it could be anyone and you shouldn't overly concern yourself with Toronto until after game 6). I still think the Cavs will beat whoever they face, but it'd be quicker with the Raptors and I (and everyone else) figure that Detroit and Chicago will beat the shit out of each other for 7 games. However, part of me hopes that the Nets just end the series tonight just so the Cavs can stop mulling around; some rest time is good, too much time off is bad (though they're counting their blessings).