Saturday, March 07, 2009

Boston 105, Cleveland 94

Well, THAT didn't go well. Hmmm, I thought without KG the Cavs were supposed to win this game. Instead, they weren't even that close. That's not good. LeBron didn't have a good game, the bench didn't step up and the defense simply wasn't there. The Cavs were close for a stretch in the third (they even tied it up at 57) but Boston immediately went on a run and the Cavs never sniffed the lead again.

Not saying this is all on LeBron, but... James was 5-15 from the floor and finished with 21 points, 6 boards and 5 assists. He seemed to settle for outside jumpers, he started off poorly (missing an early breakaway dunk) and he just never seemed to find his groove. There'd be moments where he'd hit a big 3 and you'd think he's turning it around, but then he'd settle for 4 more jumpers and the Cavs wouldn't make a run. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce shot 11-22 and lead everyone with 29 points. There's a lot of blame to go around in this loss, but the fact of the matter is, the Cavs aren't going to win in Boston if LeBron has a poor game. They just aren't. Hell, they don't win in Boston when he has a good game, they can't overcome a 5-15 night against the good teams on the road.

Mo was pretty solid. Williams shot the ball extremely well, going 8-15 from the floor, 4-5 from downtown and making all 6 of his free throw attempts. Mo ended the night with 26 points, 4 boards and 2 assists. The scoring was good, but I'd have liked to see him get a few more assists, especially since guys were having trouble getting going. Mo's offensive game was pretty good, but he got burned more than once defensively (though he's hard alone in the regard).

Some of these stats surprise me. While watching the game, I would've sworn that the Celtics were killing the Cavs on the boards; it seemed like everytime the Cavs needed a rebound off of a stop, the Celts grabbed a long offensive board. But I look at the stats? Boston 36 boards, Cleveland 35. Hm. Also, the entire game I'm bitching about all the jump shots, but again, I see the box score and Cleveland has 38 free throws- they made just 26- (Boston had just 12, the same number as LeBron). Some other disconcerting stats: the Celtics shot 54% from the floor, they had 31 assists on 45 baskets (hence their lack of free throws, they just got easy baskets). Now, there were stretches where Boston was just making tough shots/the bounces went their way, but for the most part, the Cavs let them have whatever they wanted.

Somehow Leon Powe had 20 points. Seriously guys, what the hell? How the fuck does Leon freakin Powe go 9-11 from the field (wait, I can answer that, he's shooting the ball 3 feet from the rim every time down the court). Powe and recently aquired Mikki Moore gave Boston some great energy off the bench and the Cavs had no answer.

The Cleveland bench struggled. Joe Smith was mediocre in his first game (admittingly a tough first game), going just 3-8 from the field (kinda felt he had an ichy trigger finger) for 7 points while pulling down 5 boards. Wally was OK offensively (4 points, 3 boards, 2-3 FG) but got crushed defensively (Boston just went right at him, at one point he was guarding Paul Pierce- not good). J.J. Hickson looked like a rookie; he looked really nervous and seemed to be rushing things. And Boobie Gibson, well, he had a fairly empty 17 minutes of court time (3 points, 1 board, 1 assist), he's basically playing for his playoff minutes right now (he got burned on the defensive end as well).

The rest of the Cleveland starters did alright. Actually, LeBron was the starter that struggled the most. Z was 4-8 from the floor for 12 points (but just 4 boards from the big fella). Both Z and LeBron stepped in when Big Baby took Anderson Varejao down by his head on a layup (flagrant II), which I liked to see. Z seemed to be frustrated by the call and various Celtics for most of the game (he got whistled for some ticky-tack bullshit). The recipient of Big Baby's wrath, Varejao, had an alright game. He was really active on the pick and roll and finished 5-8 from the floor (and 5-9 from the line) for 15 points and 5 boards. And Delonte didn't score enough (just 5 points) but I thought he at least attacked the Boston D and didn't settle for jumpers. Brother Red was just 2-5 from the floor but had 8 assists and 6 boards.

and finally...

Forget about it, you get to face D.Wade tonight. Great. The truth of the matter is, Boston needed that game more than the Cavs did. If Cleveland wins, then they're leading the season series 2-1 with a game left in Cleveland (where Boston gets blown out). Neither the Cavs or Celtics have won in the opponent's building in something like the last 14 games. The Cavs are still in a good spot, but I'm growing more and more uncomfortable with these crappy games against good teams. But there's no rest for the weary, the Cavs get to travel back to Cleveland for a game rematch with the Heat. After Saturday's game, the Cavs go out West for a quick jaunt against the Clippers (Tuesday), the Suns (Thursday) and the Kings (Friday).


graham said...

Bad decision by Brown to focus on Pierce so much with the double teaming. It opened up everything for Boston's interior offense. They created an advantage for Boston that otherwise wouldn't have been there.
They're also gonna need Big Ben for the Celtics series if they plan on advancing.

LeBron wasn't himself, which is starting to become a recurring theme in some of these games against the NBA elite (Celtics 2x, Lakers, 2x, Magic), with the only big one being vs. the Celtics in Cleveland. I dont know if its cause they're so good on defense, the fact that we don't have inside threat for the opposition to deal with, or whatever else, but it ain't good.

I don't think this game matters much because its going to be a much different game in the playoffs, but damn, it highlighted some issues we have.

Erik said...

They made some bad decision, no doubt, and LBJ surely didn't look like LBJ, which is definitely a recurring theme against the best of the best. But I chalk this loss up to a lack of effort. Maybe that's on LeBron, too.

There is no excuse to let Leon Powe throttle you for 20 points and 11 rebounds. Certainly not with KG and Davis on the bench, allowing you to focus all your interior efforts on stopping Powe and Perkins.

The Celtics wanted to turn the game into a low-post wrestling match, at that's exactly what happened. Roker and his staff are going to need to make some adjustments to better position the frontcourt to handle low-post pounding in the playoffs. I think that starts with telling LeBron "These guys aren't going to let you out-athletic them, so you'd better out-muscle them instead."

We saw it against Boston, against Houston, and even against the Lakers: The teams that have the defensive capability to do so will try to take LBJ's explosiveness away from him. They'll deny him lanes to the basket, they'll deny him chances to create in open space.

When that happens, it's time to drop LBJ into the post and start banging bodies. The Cavs are a guard/wing oriented team that likes to run. Their offense is very finesse. But power and inside presence wins in the postseason.

For the playoffs, it's going to be time to start busting chops on the block and getting to the line, otherwise LeBron is going to keep having pedestrian games against elite competiton and the scoring load will fall on Mo's jump shooting. Mo is a good scorer and a good shooter, but that's not a recipe for success.