Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Boston 96, Cleveland 89

That is now two games they've blown in Boston. With 3:39 to go in the 2nd quarter, the Cavs held a 43-29 lead. They were playing great; James had 23 points, Wally was hitting open looks and the defense was absolutely amazing. This was the high point of the night, as Boston made a run and the Cavs only led 46-43 going into the half. Things were never the same. (I don't even want to talk about the first 20 minutes, I can't stress enough how good they looked. They were so good and then so bad).

If Mike Brown's halftime message was "turn the ball over and stop playing defense," the Cavs heard him loud and clear. The Cavs did not look ready for the start of the second half. They turned the ball over 3 straight possessions and they allowed the Boston crowd to get back into the game (they were completely silent the first half). After scoring 23 points on a variety of shots, LeBron was just 1-3 in the 3rd (all three attempts were jumpers). It was infuriating how flat they were to come out. They let Boston build a 10 point lead and they could never get enough stops to really make a dent. They went into the fourth trailing by 9, 72-63 (for those scoring at home, that's 43-20 run since the 3 minute mark in the 2nd).

Rajon Rondo killed 'em. Rondo scored 6 points in the big run to end the first half and put up another 10 after halftime. His 6 points came on two treys (which you'll let him take) but the bulk of his points in the second half came off of drives where he just did whatever he wanted. His drives got him points and they led to wide open shots for his teammates.

James had a good game, but it wasn't complete. LeBron finished with 35 points, 5 assists, 3 boards and 4 brutal turnovers. He scored 23 of his points in the first half and only had four baskets after halftime. James did get to the line, making 11-13 freebies, but both misses came late in the fourth, and both were within the last 3 minutes (and he could've gotten to the line at least four times). Obviously, he had a good game with 35 points, but the Cavs could've afford to have James go passive in the third quarter. For whatever the reason, he stopped attacking in the 3rd period and the Cavs never recovered.

Some coaching issues. The offense was amazing in the first half; LeBron was getting the ball on the move and the Cavs spread the floor really well. In the second half, everyone stood around and LeBron received the ball outside the 3pt line. That's a problem. Also, I hate the fact that they didn't foul, down four, with 45 seconds left. I understand the logic behind not fouling (4 point game, a lot more than 24 seconds left) but you have to maximize your possessions. The Cavs ended up forcing KG into a tough shot as the shot clock went off, but the Celtics grabbed the rebound. But even if the Cavs get that board, they just wasted half of what was left of the game. There's less than a minute left and you need multiple baskets, I don't understand why you don't stop the clock. Especially against the Celtics, these guys haven't exactly stepped it up in crunch time (even in Game 5, they made some dumb turnovers late), put the pressure on them.

Boobie got hurt. Gibson wasn't really a factor in the game (2 points, 1-4 FG), but he left late with a "shoulder contusion". I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it looked to me like he dislocated his left shoulder (and trust me, I've dislocated my left shoulder multiple times while playing basketball, I know what that looks like). They definitely could've used Gibson's tenacity and shot making ability down the stretch.

Z was a non-factor, but I'm not really sure why. Ilgauskas got just 26 minutes of court time and shot 2-5 for 6 points and grabbed 7 boards (which was tied for the Cleveland high). Z played great defense in the first half, but like everyone, it suffered a bit after halftime. However, there was a long stretch in the second half where Z sat on the bench and Varejao and Joe Smith kept A) getting open looks near the rim B) getting to the foul line and C) missing their free throws. Z might've been a better fit for this situation, as the back up bigs finished just 3-10 from the stripe (as a team the Cavs were just 28-41 for 68%, but non-backup bigs were 25-31 for 80%).

3 point shooting wasn't much better. The Cavs were just 3-18 from behind the arc and all three makes came in the first half (2 by Wally, 1 by West). While some of these were good looks (Szczerbiak missed a wide open one that would've cut it to 5 with 1:38 left) many were not. LeBron missed all five of his attempts and Gibson missed both of his.

Both Pierce and Garnett got it going. KG finished with 26 points, 16 boards, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. He was magnificent, hitting a ton of jumpers (in the first half they were contested, in the second half, notsomuch). Pierce scored 29, but I was unimpressed for the most part. A lot of his points came at the foul line (10-11) and the bulk of those freebies came at the end when the Cavs were fouling intentionally. Don't get me wrong, Pierce played well, but he shot just 8-19 and he took a lot of bad shots.

Delonte West played great and was the only one to show up in the second half. Basically, the Cavs can thank West that this game didn't turn into a blowout. West had 11 points in the final period and finished with 21 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 boards. His defense forced some steals late in the game and he forced the issue and got to the line, making 10-13. He needs to shoot better from the floor (just 5-12) but I thought he played a great game overall.

and finally...

They blew this one, there's no way around it. They let a 14 point lead turn into 3 at halftime and then they didn't show up for the second half. What kills me is, Boston can be beat. They're good, but they aren't that good. If the Cavs would've played the second half with half the energy o the first half, they would've had a really good shot to pull this out. Even as is, if they make their open looks and don't screw up with under a minute, they have a great chance. They could very easily have this thing won by now; they let Game 1 slip through their fingers and they then blew a 14 point lead in Game 5. Game 6 is do-or-die and I'm fairly confident that the Cavs can pull it out. The key is keeping the game close; Boston doesn't execute well, they do better when they have a lead. But if it's close, they'll tighten up (even in Game 5, the Cavs cut a 9 point lead with 2:35 down to 4 with 45 seconds by forcing some turnovers).


The Other Ben said...

Its time for Del Harris to get a perminant seat next to Mike Brown on the bench

Erik said...

Everyone in Cleveland is going to say the Cavs blew this game. I'm going to say water found its level.

I have a hard time believing the Cavs were going to be able to control the Celtics for 48 minutes on their home floor, to the point where they were going to be able to impose their will on the game. It was kind of like the national title game this January when OSU jumped out to an early lead, but you knew who was the better team and who had homfield advantage.

Boston is a great second half team at home and an even better fourth-quarter team. The Cavs are just plain inferior when they play the Celtics at home. They just can't play on the Celtics' level at crunch time.

We can talk all we want about missed chances, turnovers, etc., but that's pretty much a staple of any Cavs game at the offensive end. When they win, they find ways to overcome that. But there simply is no answer for 29 from Pierce, 26 from KG and 20 from Rondo.

I'm now anticipating the Cavs will win Game 6 on Friday and lose Game 7 on Sunday.

It all comes back to what I've been saying all along: Want to get back to the Finals, maybe win a title? Win more games during the regular season next year. Get that 1 or 2 seed. There is no doubt in my mind the Cavs would win this series with homecourt advantage, but alas, that's the key missing ingredient that is going to send them packing for the offseason at the end of this round.

Ben said...

meh, yes and no.

Boston is the better team and they are good at home. However, you don't go from 14 up to 14 down by simply facing a better team. If Boston had made the comeback and the Cavs kept their intensity going, I'd tip my hat (and give them credit, they stepped up and the Cavs didn't). But they came out soooo flat in the second half and I can't simply swallow the "Boston's a better team" excuse.

I still say the Cavs win Game 6.

graham said...

I thought Boston came out and took this game, as opposed to the Cavs blowing it. Garnett played great, Rondo played above his head, and Pierce also showed up. However, Cavs missing that many FTs surely shows they missed an opportunity to a degree.

I'm naturally concerned about game 6 but if they can win, anything can happen in game 7.

Boobie being out really hurts our odds though.

It's weird though: Cavs lost 2 games they should've won, which is shows they really shouldn't advance....if that makes any sense.

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