Some musings from the Cavaliers' Game 1 victory over the Celtics.
The Cavs sure are hard to beat when they have a second scorer (in this case, Mo Williams and his 20 points). Williams came out aggressive after halftime, even before his dunk, and attacked the rim (he got Shaq a couple of freebies). I like the fact that the Cavs kept going to Mo once he got it going (he went on a 10-4 run over a 2-minute span in the third quarter) but I hope know that they're allowed to run curls and screens for Mo even when he doesn't make four shots in a row. They need Mo to be aggressive and I feel far too often he gets lost out there with LeBron and Shaq dominating the ball. Mo (and Delonte and Antawn Jamison) isn't nearly as effective when he's made into a glorified spot up shooter.
The previous paragraph does not excuse Mo's atrocious defense on Rondo. I don't know that anyone is really shocked that Rondo dominated Williams for the entire first half (19 points, 8 assists), but it needn't be that bad. Though I do give Rondo some credit; he was making some tough floaters and high arcing bank shots and shot an incredible (for him, anyways) 12-14 from the line. To be honest, I'm totally fine with letting Rondo be the Celtics leading scorer. If he gets his, fine. It's when he attacks and gets easy buckets for the other guys (like Perkins and especially Ray Allen) that the Celtics are really dangerous. Plus, I gotta wonder how often Rondo wants to venture in the paint; he got knocked on his ass more than once (at least three times by Shaq, including a really hard foul late in the fourth) and I doubt he'll start most games 9-9 from the stripe.
It pisses me off that people are questioning whether or not LeBron is really hurt. First of all, the guy went to the locker room during a game in Chicago to get it looked at and he's gotten multiple MRI's (nevermind he rested the last week of the season). So he's getting unnecessary MRI's and leaving games to milk this thing? Really? In Game 1, I thought it was fairly obvious he was favoring his right elbow for most of the first half. He wasn't taking any jumpers and he was finishing inside with his left. He looked more himself in the second half (I agree with Barkley, I wouldn't be surprised if he got a shot at halftime); taking more jumpers, including a couple of dagger treys, and looking for contact inside. One silver lining of the elbow injury is that LeBron is hesitant to take jumpers, so he's being forced to attack the rim and post up (and it worked. Weird). James finished with 35-7-7.
And if there's a Cavalier player that's unquestionably under the weather, it's Anderson Varejao. He just looks a step slow. He played fairly well (4 points, 6 boards and a block) in Game 1, but he didn't have that boundless (re: annoying) energy that I'm used to. It's not like he's a liability so much as it's that he can't properly exploit the slowness/oldness of Boston's bigs.
Mike Brown scares the crap out of me. I feel like he went to Z before Hickson almost as if to make sure that his classic big lineup wouldn't work (and it didn't. Z's not hitting his jumpers. And I'm not sure how he'll find his rhythm at this point, with the yo-yo minutes and pressure situations). If there's ever a team where the Cavs need to go small and push the tempo, it's against Boston. The Cavs made a nice run in the second quarter with Jamario Moon, Delonte West and J.J. Hickson getting up and down the court (you pair those guys with James and Jamison/Varejao, look out). To Brown's credit, he adjusted to Rondo in the second half and the Cavs really upped their defensive intensity. I was shocked that Brown had Shaq on the court late in the game. Yes, O'Neal did get the go-ahead layup, but I don't think you needed to go back to him the very next play (especially with no movement from the other guys). Why Boston didn't foul Shaq (who had 6 points in the fourth quarter) is beyond me.
Actual conversation during the game:
Her - I agree with you that Kendrick Perkins looks like a turtle, but not as much as Pau Gasol looks like a llama.
Me - True, but Perkins has beak-like nose and kinda has a hump back, which is his shell.
Her - Ha. right.
Me - Plus he wears green, which is the color of most turtles.
The crowd at The Q is not good (and it hasn't been for quite sometime). I don't know if it's because Cleveland's a football town (seriously, the local media obsessed with the 4-12 Browns' 3rd round draft pick than LeBron's 2nd straight MVP) or that we're guarded after the Orlando comebacks or if they were just shocked to see the Cavs trailing the Celtics, but there needs to be more noise. There has to be more noise. Maybe Gilbert needs to steal an idea from the Bucks' Andrew Bogut (and give tickets to the 100 rowdiest fans you can find) but something has to change. True, the Cavs trailed for the bulk of the first half and much of the third quarter, but the crowd was no help and was simply nonexistent. I felt strongly at the time that they should've been more animated after Mo's dunk over Paul Pierce. Ya, they cheered and were happy but the place should've been going bonkers. Though in their defense, Cleveland fans aren't used to rooting for the team that's heavily favored. We're more comfortable with the scrappy underdogs.
Reggie Miller is awful. His color commentary is just painful to listen to, nevermind that he's often times wrong (J.J. Hickson has great hands? Really? Have you watched any Cavalier game this season?). I don't even know the nicknames he was trying to give Mo Williams but they too were bad. I will say that I'm amused when he finds a that the refs made a bad call but for whatever reason (fear of Stern or TNT or what) he won't just come out and say it.
The refs weren't good (I know, you're shocked). This could just be me, but I feel like we're seeing a lot more makeup calls this year. Whenever there's a terrible call going one way, the next play there's always some moving screen or pushoff that is now suddenly worthy of whistle. There were some questionable calls that went both ways (my favorite was when Antawn Jamison was whistled for letting Perkins jump into him, lose his balance and fall over. How Jamison could've prevented that is beyond me).
I love J.J.'s offense... but man, he's gotta box out. 12 minutes, 11 points, 5-7 shooting... 2 boards. He's great around the basket and really scored well, but he gave up too many offensive boards. Athleticism is great and all, but you gotta put a body on your man to effectively rebound (see: the ending of LAL-OKC Game 6). Hickson definitely deserves minutes but he's gonna have to improve the effort on the glass.
All in all, solid effort, good win. The Cavs (and the crowd) survived Boston's early punch, weathered the storm and pulled out a tough victory. It was nice seeing Mo get hot and Shaq score some points in crunch time (though I bet he's fouled the next time Brown tries going to him late in the game). LeBron's elbow is still a little worrisome (you can't tell me he wasn't favoring it in the first half) and I'm still not totally comfortable with Coach Mike, but I love what I saw at the defensive end in the second half.