Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who invited Joe?

Would love to be the fly on the wall for this meeting:
Dwyane Wade has a big decision to make on where he'll sign this offseason. And before he makes his choice, he said he'll talk it over with fellow big-ticket free agents LeBron James and Joe Johnson.

Wade told the Chicago Tribune that he's not sure when the three players will talk, but they've been discussing their futures informally for a while now.

"[Free agency] has been three years coming," the Miami Heat superstar told the Tribune. "We've discussed it prematurely, at different times. [But] you don't know what guys are thinking and where they're going. I think we'll all sit down, and before one of us makes a decision, all of us will have spoken to each other and [listened to the] thinking.

"A lot of decisions [will be based on] what other players are willing to do and what other guys want to do. So it's not just a 'me' situation here. We all have to look and see what each other is thinking."

A source told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that the Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh also will join Wade, James and Johnson when they get together to discuss free agency.

No date or place has been set for the gathering, but the source said, "Bosh will definitely be there."

and what Mark Cuban did was tampering. Got it.

Have I mentioned that I can't wait til July 8th? Cause I can't wait til July 8th. All these rumors are killing me.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Coach Mike has been relieved of his head coaching duties:
The Cleveland Cavaliers have fired Mike Brown, the team announced Monday morning.

The Cavaliers had a midnight deadline Sunday night to fire the head coach or pay him his full $4.5 million salary for next season.

Cleveland was ousted from the playoffs two weeks ago by the Boston Celtics, who upset the NBA's top regular-season team in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert made the decision to fire Brown after an organizational review that began following the Cavs' exit from the playoffs.

While Boston throroughly dominating Orlando makes the Cavs demise look just a little less horrendous, this really shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. Brown was outcoached against the C's and after having back-to-back 60 win seasons with not even a Finals appearence, it was time to part ways.

Brown is what he is. He's a great game planner before the games (I think his early video work comes into play here) but he's never been good during the heat of battle, as it were. I love the work he did with the Cavaliers' defense and, besides from LeBron, that defensive mindset is the reason the Brown is the winningest coach in Cavalier history.

But the offense was his downfall. Now, I'm of the belief that LeBron (and his skill set) is much harder to coach (and play with) than people realize. The fact that the offense still had the same problems five years later doesn't speak well for Coach Mike. I can accept a terrible offense when Eric Snow and Larry Hughes are your starting guards. But with guys like Mo Williams, Delonte West, Antawn Jamison, Shaq, J.J. Hickson and Jamario Moon, the Cavs shouldn't have to work as hard as they did for buckets.

Lord knows who the Cavs will get to replace him. Coach K? Phil Jackson? Um, doubtful. The problem with firing Brown is that he's better than most of the coaching retreads available. I mean, the Sixers just hired Doug Collins (this guy was the Bulls coach for The Shot. He's old. and hasn't won. Anything). All of the coaches with rings (Championship Experience) currently have jobs.

Of course, speaking of The Shot, Lenny Wilkens is available (though I only want Lenny if he (A) owns a time machine and (B) brings the starting five from 88-89 Cavaliers with him).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Well, LeBron IS a Cowboys fan

Mark Cuban is gonna make a run at LeBron James:

In an interview this week posted on, Cuban expressed his interest in James as a free agent and said that the NBA star needs to play in a place where he trusts the organization.

If James does not reach an agreement with the Cavaliers by July 1, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

"Come July 1st, yeah, of course, anybody would be interested in LeBron James, and if he leaves via free agency, then it's going to be tough," Cuban said. "If he does like I'm guessing, hoping he will, which is say, 'I'm not going to leave the Cavs high and dry,' if he decides to leave -- there's still a better chance he stays -- then he'll try to force a sign-and-trade, and that gives us a chance."

Apparently, this could be construed as tampering (since LeBron is still technically a Cavalier until July 1st) but I don't feel like Cuban should get fined. LeBron's free agency is all over the news, so I image these guys get asked this all the time. And I mean, of course Cuban is going to make a run at Bron-Bron. Everyone should make a run at James. He's the back-to-back MVP! If you don't want that guy on your team, something is wrong with you.

Speaking of LeBron's free agency decision, here's a great piece on Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst (who sorts through about 300 LBJ emails a day). Really good stuff. Windhorst is the best (though he's accutely aware at how LeBron raises his profile).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Categorically False"

So you know the rumor that everyone is talking about? LeBron's attorney's are doing something about it:
LeBron James' attorney has fired off a cease and desist email -- finally denying the fast-spreading, and disturbing rumor of a sex scandal involving LeBron's mom and his teammate Delonte West.

TMZ obtained a copy of the email sent to -- the sports blog that first reported on Friday that LeBron's mother Gloria was allegedly sleeping with Delonte. In the email, Frederick Nance -- attorney for LeBron and Gloria -- says the report is "categorically false and per se defamatory." Nance adds, "No thinking person could possibly believe such rubbish."

The report -- which also spread as a viral email -- was supposed to explain the Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff loss to the Boston Celtics with this theory: LeBron finds out about Delonte and his mom before game 4 ... Cavs go on to lose games 4, 5, and 6 (and possibly LeBron).

The guys at terezowens tell us, "We think it's a little fishy that they waited almost 4 days to fire this off." They say they stand by their source, and they're consulting with their lawyers. The story is still up on their site ... for now.

UPDATE: We also spoke to Keith Estabrook -- a spokesman for the James family -- who told us, "I will not dignify this with a comment."
The rumor is probably false but I know a lot of Cavs fans who want it to be true. Why? If it's true, it would at least explain Game 5 and the Cavaliers' epic collapse to the Celtics.

Because, at the moment, all we have to go on is the fact that, for some reason, the Cavs (and LeBron especially) stopped giving a shit about halfway through the Boston series. We're still looking for answers why the Best Team in the NBA lost their final two home games by a combined 50 points. We want answers (and this makes a lot more sense than "LeBron bombed these last games on purpose so he could more easily leave the Cavs in free agency").

I guarantee, at some point in the future, there will be a book written about the 2010 Cavaliers and their epic meltdown.

And for what it's worth, barring anymore Delonte revelations, I fully support calling this latest Cleveland sports moment The LeBacle.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm Concerned

Can you really argue with this:

A source with direct knowledge of the Chicago Bulls front office's plans says the team believes it has the right players in place -- namely, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng -- to surround LeBron James when it makes its case with the free agent to-be on July 1.

But the source said there has been no discussion of bringing Kentucky coach John Calipari in with James as part of a package deal.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that according to league sources, basketball power broker William Wesley -- a friend of both James and Calipari -- has been quietly contacting NBA teams that have coaching vacancies and salary cap space about the possibility of bringing in James and Calipari together.

But the source with knowledge of the Bulls front office's thinking said that at no point has there been discussion about packaging Calipari to get James to come to Chicago. The source also said that bringing Calipari along to get James would lessen Calipari's status in the locker room, because he'd be seen as the coach who is there only because of James.

Another league source told the Tribune that another person, described as an "unknown Calipari connection," contacted the Bulls over the weekend.

I'm still hesitant to believe that LeBron wants to walk by a Michael Jordan statue every day going into work, but Chicago makes a lot of sense basketball-wise.

Can anyone really argue that Derek Rose would be the best teammate that LeBron has had in his entire career? That's not really a question, right? I mean, who would you say is the best teammate LeBron has had in Cleveland? Antawn Jamison? Mo Williams? Rose is far and away better than anyone on Cleveland's roster (plus, he's young).

(and for what it's worth, LeBron didn't grow up a Knicks fan. He grew up a Yankee fan, a Cowboys fan and.... a Bulls fan).

Obviously, I hope that LeBron stays. I've always said that his decision will come down to basketball reasons. The fact that the Cavs are coming off two 60 win seasons helps a lot. But then I see Bud Shaw making the case for James to stay:

Stay and he has the opportunity to reverse the sports fortunes of a place he claims to hold dear while still getting much of what any other non-Sun Belt city could bring.

The last seven years here haven't exactly been a sentence for him. Olympic gold, two MVPs, a NBA Finals, perennial All-Star berths, a book, a documentary, a movie, lunch dates with Warren Buffett.

Market size matters little in the capped NBA. James is just as big in China as he would've been had he spent the last seven seasons anywhere else. Kobe is bigger there. But that's about titles, not market.

This is not to say James can never leave here without being painted as a betrayer. Just that if he's the guy he keeps telling everybody he is, he'll decide the Boston series wasn't any way to go out.

Not for him. Not for his team. Not for the place he calls home.

It's home. He has unfinished business. The Cavs can pay him more. Be the guy who wins a championship in Cleveland.

Those are all good reasons to stay in C-Town. Hell, I agree with a lot of 'em.

But they aren't basketball reasons.

I've always said that LeBron wasn't going to go to the Knicks because of market size or the nightlife or any of that (and I still believe that's true). But on the flip side, I don't believe he's going re-up with Cleveland just because it's home or because they can pay him the most money. James will be judged on championships and the Cavs just got booted out in the second round. Not good.

For what it's worth, the Vegas odds on LeBron staying are 1-1 (the Bulls have the second best odds at 7-2). So ya. Sure, the Cavs have no one near the talent of Derek Rose (or Joakim Noah, to be honest) but the Vegas odds are in the Cavs favor! Vegas, baby!

It's gonna be a long six weeks.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rock Bottom

I'm hesitant to even post this but I'm going to because A) it's all over twitter and message boards anyways and B) it kinda/sorta makes sense.

The rumor? From a site called Terez Owens(?):Delonte West is sleeping with Gloria James (you know things are on the up and up if there's no paragraph break):
In what is truly a disturbing story, comes exclusive Terez Owens news that LeBron’s teammate Delonte West is sleeping with LeBron’s Mother Gloria James..Yes, this is the purported story coming from my source in Cleveland..My source explains the following.”My uncle is the general contractor at the Q and has been for the last 7 years. He’s good friends with a lot of guys at the Q, including some of the bigger boys in the organization and knows Dan Gilbert personally.My uncle has been told that Delonte has been banging Gloria James (Lebron’s Mom) for some time now. Somehow Lebron found out before game four and it destroyed their chemistry and divided the team. I am not making this up, I wish it wasn’t true but it happened. .” With Delonte West’s checkered past, LeBron can be none too pleased with his teammate and good friend hanging with his Mother… The Cavs definitely looked like a different squad from game 4 on..especially LeBron…coincidence, or did this really just happen? Maybe this is the reason LeBron’s leaving Cleveland..-TO
So there it is. This is all over the internet ("Delonte" is a trending topic on Twitter right now) and lord knows if this is true or how credible this is.

But here's the thing, it kinda, sorta makes sense.

If you listened to the Windhorst podcasts I linked to, he mentions how LeBron is just in an extended bad mood. That James is just in a funk and no one knows why. Well, this would certainly explain it, no?

Then there's the fact that both he and Delonte played horrible after Game 3 (and really, Delonte was awful). The Big Lead posts the following:

Rumor has it that LeBron found out before Game 4 which is where the entire series changed. Delonte West stopped playing as much and LeBron’s numbers fell of a cliff. Here are Delonte West’s minutes in the playoffs:

First Round vs. Bulls
Game 1 – 24
Game 2 – 27
Game 3 – 30
Game 4 – 26
Game 5 -31

Second Round vs. Celtics
Game 1 – 27
Game 2 -31
Game 3 – 29
Game 4 – 20
Game 5 – 9
Game 6 – 14

That’s a pretty noticeable drop off for a guy that played 42 minutes a game during last season’s playoffs. This season he played 25 minutes a game during the regular season for the 61-win Cavs. Why does one of the Cavs’ best players suddenly fall out of the rotation in the most important games of the season?

As for LeBron’s performance… Going into Game 4 against the Celtics, LeBron was shooting 55 percent and had scored around 32 points a game in the playoffs. In games 4, 5, and 6 he shot a combined 33 percent and scored just 21 points a game. He was standing around on offense and when he was trying, it didn’t look like the old LeBron James.

Suddenly, in Game 4, Delonte West stopped playing the majority of the games and LeBron James completely stopped playing like LeBron James.I assumed he was hurt worse than initially reported, but Danny Ferry says he won’t be having surgery.
Again, Delonte was just awful these last two games. In games 4, 5 and 6 he shot 1-12 and scored 8 points and his defense was horrendous (he was getting beat off the dribble by the likes of Ray Allen). He didn't look himself these past few games (he was quite tentative on the court).

Of course, it's just as likely that Delonte's minutes were yanked around simply because Mike Brown is a terrible coach (who's not fired... yet) and was just showing shit up against the wall to see what stuck (Boobie Gibson... did not stick).

Again, I'm hesitant to even post this, but if you're on Twitter or Facebook or any Cavalier message board, you're sure to come across it anyways.

I need a shower.

Worst Case Scenario

Only in Cleveland does it end like this.

In what's possibly the last possession of the LeBron James era, Anderson Varejao took a three pointer. (This was after the Cavs decided not to foul and extend the game. They quit).


It's hard to believe that the Cavs season ended this way. To Boston, of all teams. I was so sure they could beat the Celtics. This is shocking. And only two wins to boot. In the past two seasons, the Cavs had complete home court advantage yet have ended their year on the road.

LeBron's final line in Game 6 was 27-19-10 with 9 turnovers. He wasn't spectacular but he wasn't awful, either. His demeanor was still a bit off and I can't help but think he was hurt. Does that explain why he refused to post up? No. Does it excuse the passive offense (let's have Delonte or Anthony Parker try to create their own shot!)? Nope.

But you can't tell me that LeBron looked 100%. He lost the ball dribbling off his feet, he lost the ball on drives to the rim, he threw it away... his elbow isn't right. Was the effort totally there? No. Did he leave bullets in his chamber, as it were? Yes, I believe so. But you cannot tell me that his elbow wasn't a factor.

But the effort just wasn't there. Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao looked like they gave a damn. LeBron just didn't want it enough. They needed him to have a monster game and he only put up 27 points.

Yes, only 27.

(Does that make me sound ungrateful for poo-pooing a 27-19-10 effort? So be it. LeBron didn't give it his all. I know that sounds insane but it happens quite a bit (dagger threes!) and his stats are so good that people brush over it. He floated out on the perimeter, he didn't attack and left his teammates out to dry. They needed more from him).


Mike Brown. You had a good run. But there's no way you'll survive this. Nor do you deserve to.

The fact that Brown kept trotting out Shaq and Antawn Jamison just shows he doesn't get it. I don't know if he kept playing those guys because they're The Starters or because they were the New Acquisitions or what but neither big man deserved major minutes on Thursday night. They got lost defensively, they were awful offensively and they didn't matchup well.

But Brown kept trying to fit that square peg into the round hole.

How J.J. Hickson received 10 seconds of playing time was beyond me. Why Jamario Moon got just 7 minutes (all in the first half, unless I'm mistaken) is a mystery. J.J. started over 70 games this year and scored in double figures in games 1 and 2. You know LeBron's crazy dunk in Game 3? Moon threw him that pass.

Brown stuck to his guns, but shot himself in the foot.


As awful as Brown was, this is all on LeBron. If he has a monster game, the Cavs have more than a decent shot of winning. Instead, he was two points below his season average. Some peopel say he was greasing the skids to get out the door. I don't really buy that. This reflects so badly on him. For the first time, I actually think he deserves the criticism being leveled at him (lack of killer instinct, mostly).

I don't believe he threw the game (like some of my friends do. My phone went nuts for a little bit) to make his exit easier. But a lot of people do. Here's one of the Cavs "Insiders", Wine and Gold (FWIW I believe he's legit), posting on Real Cavs Fans:
If this wasn't Lebron's last game as a Cavalier, I will be the most shocked member of this forum.

I'll have much to say in the next few days, but what happened this series, I truly believe, was years in the making ...and this was just the final act of his Cleveland days.

You don't spend seven years with a guy, and all the sudden see another human being suddenly emerge about two weeks ago that you never saw befoere nor recognize.

One that now refuses to communicate with our head coach, asst. coaches, gm , or owner.

One that plays a game notches lower than at any time in seven years with us, with no tangible explanation.

Sumptin was up ....I expect this summer all the pieces will fall in place. But, as of now ...don't get your hopes up thinking that he's staying here, folks. This played out like this for a reason. We might not be able to fully understand it right now, because we aren't part of the equation that orchestrated it.

But, if being a guy that is very very skeptical when I see things that seemingly make no sense makes me a "conspiracy theorist" ..then throw that tag on me.

We just got played.
So ya. That's fun, right?

There's already rumors that James will end up in Chicago (Chad Ford says 3 GMs already told him it's a done deal!) and ESPN has been pitching New York and New Jersey throughout the postgame.

Right now, I'm giving Bron-Bron the benefit of the doubt and am blaming his elbow for his poor performance. I just can't imagine he threw a series (I mean, seriously?). That being said, something doesn't feel right (I mean, his agent and Calipari sitting together for Game 5?).

I dunno if LeBron will stay or go. At this point, I fully expect him to leave. I mean, James left his post-game press conference by putting on a Yankee cap (thanks, guy. Cleveland fans sure do appreciate it).

But I've made my peace with LeBron leaving.

The Cavalier organization has done everything in their power to keep James. And don't get me started on the "why didn't they build through the draft like OKC did with Durant" argument. The Cavs are coming off back-to-back 60 win seasons. You can't tell me this team had no talent (and everyone loved the Jamison pickup at the time, don't let anyone tell you differently).

If James wants to go play in Michael Jordan's shadow or go deal with the New York media every day, that's his choice. Good luck. But he didn't make Danny Ferry's job any easier by egging on the 2010 free agent hype and it was his lackluster effort that torpedoed this series.


Did it have to be against the Celtics? Seriously?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So, uh, big game tonight, eh?

Here's some reading material to get you through to the start of Game 6:

Kareem Adbul-Jabbar thinks LeBron would've benefited from college.

Adrian Wojnarowski has another solid (if a bit over the top) take:

What appeared to be a physical issue with LeBron’s elbow early in the Eastern Conference semifinals turned into something perhaps more perplexing, more troublesome: a mentally checked-out James, on and off the floor. When the Cavs needed him most in a humiliating Game 5 loss, James looked like he was in a sedated state, a trance, a thousand miles away. The reaction of Cleveland fans has been resounding and remarkable. There’s a sense of almost betrayal in their voices, a fear that maybe he isn’t just leaving them this summer in free agency, but that he’s already gone.

With James, who knows? Maybe this is one big rope-a-dope, a purposeful Game 5 pout to show everyone how he can hang a season out the window of a high-rise before plucking it out of harm’s way. Already, James and his inner circle appear ready to try to make coach Mike Brown the fall guy. Brown probably wouldn’t keep his job with a loss in the conference finals to Orlando again, never mind the semis against Boston.

Yet James needs to elevate these Cavs on Thursday and again on Sunday unless he wants to discover the wrath that came for great players until they won titles. As a superstar, an MVP, the burden of proof is on you. Boston is the worst possible hurdle for him now, a smart, tough and well-schooled defensive team with a history of controlling him. Privately, the Celtics hope James will try to do too much scoring in Game 6 just to silence the noise, because they know that a collapsing defense leaves gaps for teammates everywhere on the floor.

James has it in him to completely dominate these next two games, to transform himself from the maligned MVP into the triumphant conqueror of critics. What he refuses to acknowledge is that the immensity of his talent is a big part why people are apt to come down so hard on him. Still, circumstances have changed for him. There’s too much talent on these Cavs and too much of a cast for James to slip out of this series untouched. He loves the drama, loves the attention and it comes in Game 6 with a fury that he’s never witnessed in his life.

Whatever his issues now, his motives, give him this: He’s managed to make Thursday night one of the most-anticipated playoff games in years, maybe a decade, and that speaks to the power of his persona, the genius of his talent.

John Calipari could be the Cavs next coach, if that's what LeBron wants.

Dr. Jack Ramsay doesn't like the job Coach Mike is doing (and apparently Hubie Brown went off on Coach Mike on Jim Rome's radio show today, but I didn't hear it). Coaches rarely rip one of their own. Great.

Brian Windhorst is on today's B.S. Report (the 2nd half, at least). I highly recommend a listen.

Kelly Dwyer has an excellent post on LeBron:

If you don't think I understand the ridiculousness behind someone like me advising LeBron James, a man who has spent thousands upon thousands of hours in a basketball gym just in the years since I've discovered high-speed Internet, then you're off. I know how this comes off, and I don't like it.

But outside of NBA coaches, scouts, executives and Brian Windhorst, I think I've watched more hours of this guy playing basketball than just about anyone else I can think of. I've seen him succeed time and again, and have endured the painful result of having my credibility questioned when I point out that I've seen him succeed time and again, more efficiently and more effectively than any other player in the NBA.

But there are nights off, and there are NIGHTS taken OFF. And Tuesday night was, well, absurd. It was so unrepresentative of James' gifts and stature and abilities and production levels, that I don't know how to discount it even if he averages 45-12-12 from here on out and leads his team to a championship before signing a contract extension. That isn't to say I'm dismissing him regardless of the production or expecting the worst. It's only to say that, when you've seen someone act as weird as he has, it has to be considered as an option. However unlikely.

Joe Posnanski points out that the Cavs are a bit of an oddity compared to other Cleveland sports failures (with 60+ wins and the 2-time MVP, they're actually expected to win).

Michael Rosenberg thinks that Danny Ferry did a shitty job. Of course he does. Whatever. I still say Ferry did as well as he could with the hand he was dealt (if you want to blame anyone, blame Gordon Gund for keeping Jim Paxson. Who knew the GM responsible for the 17 win season that landed LeBron wasn't the right guy to build a championship team).

Terry Pluto wrote an open letter to Mr. James and has some pre-Game 6 scribbles:

2. So what will happen tonight? I'd like to be an expert and have some great insight, but the truth is I have no clue. You can tell me the Cavs will win by 12 or lose by 20, and I can imagine the game going either way. We really haven't had a close game in this series, so maybe that is what will be next. I'm not so shocked that the Cavs have lost three games to Boston -- I thought the series could go seven games. But to lose three games by an average of 20 points? Never dreamed that in my worst Cavs nightmare.

3. A few days ago, I wrote that the Cavs have a better team than Boston. Now, I'm being swamped with emails saying only a moron can make that statement. Or a homer. We'll, I didn't hear many Cavs fans insisting Boston was better when the Cavs were up 2-1 in the series. But a better piece of evidence is that had 10 "experts" pick the series. All 10 took the Cavs. These are national writers and broadcasters. Not a single one thought Boston would win? Why? Because they all thought the Cavs have a better team.

4. The Cavs are being outrebounded in the series (248-231), destroyed on the offensive boards (51-38) and overwhelmed in the past two games, 46-14, on second-chance "hustle" points. For the series, Boston has attempted 40 more shots. This screams that the Cavs need a guy who can rebound and hustle. It means they need more of Anderson Varejao, who has played about 20 minutes a game -- 6.2 points, 5.8 rebounds. I do sense his back is bothering him more than he wants people to know, but he's a guy who can help when Kevin Garnett gets hot. He can stand in front of a driving Rajon Rondo and try to draw a foul. He can give them an emotional jump, and he is second team all-defense this season.

Their rebounding has been atrocious and I think that's because Varejao isn't getting the run that he's used to (or that's needed).

Part of me feels that the worst thing to happen to the Cavs all series was Shaq scoring that hoop during crunch time of Game 1 (the up & under against Perkins to break the 90-90 tie). I feel like Brown is forcing O'Neal out there simply because he's Shaq and he's a Future Hall of Famer and of course he should be playing in crunch time and blah blah blah blah. The Cavs don't need Shaq. He had 21 points in Game 5 and they lost by 30. They won 66 games last year and went 21-4 this year without him.

Maybe Anderson Varejao is really hurt but they need floppy haired spark plug. He gets them extra possessions, he doesn't get afraid and he's a great help defender. They getting killed by Jamison and O'Neal defensively and Shaq only slows down the offense. Mo Williams has been awful defensively, but they can overcome his lapses if he's their only bad defender. But having Williams out there with Jamison and Shaq is asking too much. The two new bigs have been awful with their defensive rotations.

At the end of the day, I think the Cavs will come out and win, but like I wrote yesterday, I'm ready for absolutely anything.

Cleveland sports, baby! Never boring!

*Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts* *Think positive thoughts*

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rambling Cavs Thoughts Heading Into Game 6

(This goes a little long, so consider yourself warned).

- First, I implore you to listen to Brian Windhorst's interview on WKNR from Wednesday morning. It'll run ya about 20 minutes and his stuff on LeBron is quite interesting (short version: if the Cavs lose to Boston, it's all on LeBron, who is apparently quite moody, and if he leaves, that means he's a quitter. Kinda).

- I also recommend Windy's podcast at, also 20 minutes. Basically, what I take away from Windhorst is that there's something wrong with LeBron and no one knows what it is. No one. Not the coaches, not the players, not LeBron's friends and family. No one. So ya... make of that as you will. Windy also questions the mental toughness of LeBron, Mo, and Delonte (basically everyone but Shaq and Z). Awesome. That's a great sign.

- While Windhorst says LeBron's elbow isn't a factor (he says it's mildly injured at best and it doesn't explain LeBron's demeanor, energy, etc), John Bena at Fear the Sword says James is more hurt than we realize:
According to this unconfirmed rumor, a medical professional close to LeBron James is suggesting James is suffering from a torn ligament in his right elbow -
Lebron has a torn ligament in his elbow that should keep him out 6 to 8 weeks. He's trying to play through it and not complain, so the media doesn't know it's that serious. Before game 4 he had a shot in the elbow to numb it. You can only get the shot once every 10 days, so last night he couldn't do it.

I was also told that LeBron did the main damage to the elbow on the same play I had talked about a couple weeks ago right here. I'll re-post the video at the end to remind everyone.

What this means I'll leave up to you to decide. If true, does it forgive LeBron's indifference on and off the court? Does it explain away consecutive home blow-out defeats? Your call. What it does explain, at least for me, is the flat trajectory of LeBron's jump-shot. So much of a jump-shot comes from the elbow and forearm.

I don't know how much of this I believe, but it does make some sense. Something isn't right and it could very well be the elbow. I almost rather he be hurt (and not know how to play with an injury) rather than him losing his mental focus for whatever reason (free agency? pressure? Iron Man 2?).

- Despite brushing off the elbow concerns in the podcasts, Windhorst did offer up this tweet on Wednesday night:

LeBron also talked about elbow, hinting about plans, severity: "The elbow is an issue I'll deal with in the offseason."

"Deal with in the offseason". So is he hurt or not? Does this mean surgery? Can this count as an excuse?

- Kevin Arnovitz breaks down LeBron's Game 5 in this short video:

- I have to say that Bill Simmons' Retro-Diary was pretty entertaining and I agree with a lot of it:

7:21: Paul Pierce makes a free throw, then posts up Parker for an easy bucket on the next play. Cleveland made a huge mistake in Game 5: It overreacted to Rajon Rondo's monster 29-18-13 in Game 4, tweaked its defense to slow him down and allowed Pierce and Ray Allen to get going. I say "overreacted" because Rondo had one of the three greatest playoff triple-doubles in NBA history on Sunday. Pretty sure that wasn't happening again. Throw in his illogical rotations (41 minutes for Shaq and Ilguaskas?????) and the panic move of playing two guys who hadn't played all series (Ilgauskas and Boobie Gibson) and the only way Brown could have hurt Cleveland more in this game is if he clubbed LeBron with a tire iron during a timeout.

(Important note: The Cavs' biggest advantage in this series was/is athleticism. The Celtics can't match up with Hickson-LeBron-Moon-West-Williams or Hickson-LeBron-Varejao-Williams-West. In a Feb. 25 game in Boston, Hickson-LeBron/Moon-Varejao-West-Williams turned a 78-77 deficit into a 101-86 rout in just eight minutes. They blew the Celtics off the court. Tuesday night, Varejao played 17 minutes, Hickson played four and Moon played seven. It's illogical. It makes no sense. You could argue that Varejao should play 48 minutes a game in this series, and that Moon should be the one defending Rondo. Wait, why am I pointing this out! Um, keep playing Shaq! Twenty-one points in Game 5! Looked great!)

Ugh. (For what it's worth, I totally agree about Shaq. He's a defensive liability, he disrupts the offense and he scored a bunch of those 21 points once the game was out of reach. As Simmons point out, the Cavaliers went 21-4 without Shaq this season and oh, by the way, they also won 66 games last season sans O'Neal. Shaq isn't absolutely critical to their success versus the Celtics. Against the Magic? Yes. Against Boston? Nope).

- And finally, I've heard various people say (talk radio, internet forums, Facebook, etc) that this whole thing is just a stunt by LeBron so he can be the center of attention. That LeBron has such a big ego, he's playing this up (and, I guess, throwing games) so he can come back and be the savior in Game 6 and Game 7 (similar to him playing up his elbow injury).

First off, I think that's absurdly stupid. There's no way that LeBron is throwing playoff games.

Second, if that's true (which it's not... right?) then (A) that's actually kinda sad and (B) job well done, LeBron. You got me. I'm sucked in. Do you have any idea how many articles I've read today? How many discussions I've had with various people?

(Topics of discussion include, but are not limited to: Shaq bitching for minutes, Delonte not showing up, Mo Williams playing like a dog, no Hickson, no Moon, LeBron's elbow, LeBron not paying attention in the huddle, @LeBronsElbow LeBron not having the will to win or the killer instinct. Who's gonna stop Rondo? Should we call this The LeBacle or LeBromageddon? Did Antawn Jamison secretly suck and no one told us? Are you allowed to fire a head coach mid-series? How hurt is Anderson Varejao? Why is Mike Brown unable to make in-game adjustments? Could this could kill basketball in Cleveland? OMG John Calipari is sitting next to LeBron's agent! What jersey should I wear tomorrow for good luck? Was this LeBron's last game in Cleveland? Was this LeBron's last game in Cleveland?? Was this LeBron's last game in Cleveland?? Was this LeBron's last game in Cleveland?? Was this LeBron's last game in Cleveland??).

Ya got me, Bron-Bron. You win. I'm hooked.

(Also, anyone know what's it's like being "the co-worker/guy who works at the library/friend/dude on Facebook with the Cavs blog"? Lot's of Cavs small talk. Not that I don't enjoy it. Obviously. Heh.)

- My opinion? I literally have no idea where this series is going. I'm ready for anything. Is it possible that LeBron comes out and scores something stupid like 57 points? Absolutely. If he gets going, there's no one on the Celtics who can check him. But I could also see him hoist dagger three after dagger three while the Celtics sit back and let him shoot. The Cavs have every reason to believe they can win in Boston (they did, um, give the Celtics a 32 points thrashing not even a week ago) but it also wouldn't surprise me if they walked off the court with their tail between their legs.

However, the Cavs do have a distinct advantage heading into Game 6 (and I hate to say this): The refs.

Seriously, how bad do you think David Stern wants this thing to go the full seven? Every other second round matchup ended in a sweep. Which do you think the NBA would rather have on ABC this Sunday, Game 1 of Celtics-Magic or Cavs-Celtics Game 7 (which doubles as LeBron's possible last game in Cleveland)? I'm pretty biased, but I have my guess which the league office would prefer.

Now, I'm not saying that Stern would fix the game but I am saying that I'd be surprised if LeBron gets whistled for a lot of charges on Thursday. I mean, this is similar to Lakers-Kings 2002, no? Lakers went into Sacramento down 3-2 and then shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter (to the Kings' 9). Wouldn't be unheard of.

Hmm... I've seemed to have wandered off into NBA conspiracy theories. Am I over thinking this? It's possible I'm over thinking this.

LeBron James, needless to say, you have my attention.

Lord Help Us All

I actually agree with Adrian Wojnarowski:

No more excuses. Not now, not after this biblical bottoming out that pushes the Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink of an unthinkable collapse. And yet, after Tuesday’s ferocious failure of his professional career, the encompassing embarrassment of a 120-88 Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics, James dismissed his unthinkably poor performance with this colossal cop-out: “I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have three bad games in seven years, it’s easy to point them out.”

Who is he to be indignant after he gave a playoff game away? What’s he ever won to be so smug to the masses? That’s what drives the Celtics crazy about James. Eventually, he will understand his greatness isn’t measured on the hit-and-runs through NBA cities across a long season. It’s measured now, in the teeth of the battle, when a tiny guard, Rajon Rondo, has stolen his stage and nearly a series.

Somewhere, the whispers of the game’s greatest talents became a murmur louder and louder: James still doesn’t understand part of the price of greatness is inviting the burden on yourself and sparing those around you. He missed 11 of 14 shots. James didn’t score a basket until the third quarter. He was terrible, just terrible, and yet James couldn’t bring himself to say the worst home playoff loss in franchise history began and ended with him.

For all of James’ unselfishness on the floor, he can still be so selfish off it. They could’ve lined up the greatest players in the game’s history Tuesday night in the primes of their championship lives, and there isn’t one of them who would’ve deflected and deferred like the self-proclaimed King James. They would’ve been livid and they would’ve put it on themselves. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Tim Duncan and, yes, Shaquille O’Neal.

They had titles, and they would’ve mutilated themselves for public consumption. James is too cool, too stubborn and maybe too self-unaware. This is on me, they would’ve told you, and, I’ll get us out of this. They would’ve made sure teammates and opponents, fans and enemies understood. They would’ve made sure the whole world understood: This isn’t how an MVP plays in the playoffs. This isn’t how he lets a legacy linger in limbo. What you heard out of James was self-righteous: “I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out and be great and the best player on the court. When I don’t, I feel bad for myself.”

This wasn’t the night to feel bad for himself. There’s been enough pity for him in this series. As much as anything these past two years, the Cavaliers have taken on James’ persona: Entitled, arrogant and expectant that the sheer divine right of his greatness will win them a ring. Only, the Celtics are proud, old champions arisen out of the rubble and on the brink of closing out the Cavaliers on Thursday night at the Boston Garden. No one saw this coming on Tuesday night, the surgical removal of the Cavaliers’ hearts surrounded with a stunned silence that devolved into the debris of boos.


The Cavs live in fear of him, his moods, his whims, and it’s the reason no one ever tells him the truth: Hey ’Bron, you looked childish for refusing to shake the Orlando Magic’s hands last season. You sounded small grumbling about criticism for your wildly up-and-down play in this series. James walked out of the Q on Tuesday night and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever return as a Cavalier here.

Yet make no mistake: James has enough around him. This team isn’t perfect, isn’t assured of beating the Los Angeles Lakers, but it has no business losing in the conference semifinals – never mind failing to even compete. And, yes, as much as ever, this is on James.


James says the Cavaliers know all about what it takes, but he knows about winning in the regular season. This is a different time, a different game. Three bad games in seven years? He’s kidding himself. Now, he has a championship cast around him. Now, he’ll be judged. No one gives a damn what he did in the regular season.

Perhaps sooner than later, he’s going to get his coach fired for losing this series. Or the next to Orlando. He’s mocked Brown for acting too angry with the Game 2 thrashing, but the coach understood what James refused to acknowledge until Tuesday night: The Cavs have been wildly inconsistent in these playoffs and they’re nowhere near playing championship ball.

Across the regular season, James can play hard, let his talent take over and embark on all the side gigs that gobble his time.

This isn’t a part-time thing. Winning everything takes a single-minded, obsessive devotion. Michael Jordan had it. Kobe Bryant does, too. They didn’t want to win championships, they had to win them. They needed them for validation and identity and, later, they became moguls. LeBron James is running around recruiting college kids to his marketing company. He picks up the phone, tells them, “This is the King,” and makes his pitch to be represented in his stable. Think Kobe would ever bother with this? Or Michael? Not a chance when they were on the climb, not when they still had a fist free of rings.

LeBron James is on the clock now, and Game 6 in Boston could be for his legacy in Cleveland.
I concur.

But I also kinda sorta feel that we're overreacting. This series isn't even over yet and I'm writing things like:

However, at the end of the day, it still comes down to LeBron. He's the MVP, he's the Chosen One, he's the straw that stirs the drink that is the Cavaliers and he laid an egg in their biggest game of the season. Am I defending the other guys? Of course not. But as both Brian Spaeth and Bowers said, it wasn't like Michael Jordan started games looking to set up Horace Grant or tried to get Craig Hodges going. He dominated and the other guys followed suit. Even now, this series is still there for the taking but only if LeBron goes out and actually takes it.

I just don't know how badly he wants it.
Andrew at Waiting for Next Year writes something that I partially agree with:
I know this probably isn’t going to make me popular amongst the general populous of Cleveland, I am not going to let one series stain my perception of LeBron. I still remember in 2006 when Cleveland actually had a chance to beat a Pistons team they had no business even being in a series with. It was LeBron who put up 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists in a losing effort. Did LeBron not care then? Was he a loser then? Or how about Game 6 against Boston in 2008, an elimination game in which LeBron put up 32/12/6 to force a Game 7. Did LeBron not care then? Or even his epic duel with Paul Pierce when he put up 45 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Was he a loser who didn’t care then because his team still lost? Even just last year in the ECF against Orlando when he averaged 38.5 points, 8.33 rebounds, and 8.0 assists while his entire team crumbled around him. I guess that’s a player who can’t win and who doesn’t care and is ok with losing, huh?

You can call me a homer or whatever you want, but I know what LeBron is capable of and I’ve seen the competitive fire in LeBron. It was a cold statement when LeBron said that he spoils people with his game. He shouldn’t have said it. But he’s not wrong, either, and the reaction of the media and of fans alike is proof of this. People find it so incomprehensible that LeBron would actually have a couple bad games that they look to anything they can find to give them reason. Some people suddenly say LeBron has one foot out the door. Others say he’s doing this just to play with us so he can play the hero role in Games 6 and 7. Still others have implied that he’s doing this to get rid of Mike Brown (as if he couldn’t just say the word and get rid of Brown any time he chooses).

I’ll just say this. Something is wrong with LeBron right now. I don’t know if it’s his elbow, his relationship with the team, the coaches. Whatever it is….something is not right. If he can sort it out in the next couple days, this team is absolutely capable of coming back and winning this series. If not, we’re about to enter one of the most chaotic times Cleveland sports has ever seen. And for a lot of people, it’s easier to just write off LeBron and say “Screw him, he doesn’t care”. The truth and reality of the matter is deeper than that. Who knows what’s going on with LeBron, but I’ve seen enough out of him over the last 7 years to know he 100% cares and 100% wants to win. I hope whatever is wrong with him can be fixed before Game 6, and I’m not ready to give up hope just yet.

I agree about the previous playoff series. James was great. But those are different in one key aspect: there was no expectations. The losses to the Pistons and Celtics were feel good stories. I used to joke that the 2006 loss to the Pistons was the Greatest Second Round Loss Ever (and remember, the Cavs won Game 5 in Detroit to take a 3-2 lead).

The Cavs didn't handle expectations against Orlando (and LeBron handled the loss poorly) and they haven't held them against the Celtics. It just doesn't. If the Cavs go on to lose this series (especially in Game 6) how can this not taint LeBron's Cleveland legacy? Beating the Pistons three years ago doesn't make up for a 15 point, 12 jumper stink bomb at home.

At the end of the day, yesterday's performance was awful. No two ways about it. But if the Cavs lost 102-101 on a Ray Allen three, they'd still be in the exact same spot: down 3-2, heading back to Boston. They have to get past it, figure out what to fix (hey, play that Hickson guy who started 76 games) and move on.

They're still alive and there's still hope.

I think.

Even Joel Skinner thought LeBron could've been more aggressive

Wow. That was awful. Watching the Cavs get blown out like that, in what's practically a must-win Game 5 (at home, nonetheless) was simply horrendous. It's one thing to lose, but to lose by over 30 points...

I have a few thoughts on the game as well as the situation in which the Cavs and LeBron find themselves but they're quite a mess and often contradictory.

On the surface, I'm pissed off. The entire team didn't bring their A-game (or B-game or C-game) and LeBron's effort (or lack thereof) really stood out. I'm also sad and quite disappointed that LeBron's last game in the city Cleveland was a 30 point blowout where he was outscored by four of Boston's five starters. It's one thing to lose a playoff game at home, but at least go down swinging (at the very least could you seem pissed off or concerned in your post game remarks? At least act like you're mad you lost).

However, I'm also glad. Yes, glad I say. I nearly paid $150 for a ticket to Game 5, but passed because I really couldn't afford it. *Whew* Good call, right? Man, if I would've paid $150 for the pleasure of watching them lose to the Boston Celtics by 30 points, I don't know what I would've done, but it probably would've involved some type of murderous rampage.

I heartily endorse this open letter from Brendan Bowers of Stephien Rules:

Mr. James,

After the Heat won that title, and they argued Dwayne Wade was better than you, it used to make me angry. When they said you couldn't win the big one after that team of stiffs you took to the finals got swept by the Spurs, the ignorance of that comment made me laugh at the time. When you went for 40+ in game seven at Boston, and the Cavs fell short, I looked towards the airballs hoisted by Wally Szcerbiak and asked how much more you could do on your own. And last season, after your squad won 66 regular season games only to fall to the Magic in the ECF, I argued in hindsight that Orlando was a mismatch. But now, tonight, in a game where a statement from you was paramount, you might as well have been sitting next to your agent and Coach Calapari because you didn't even show up on the floor. This one tonight LeBron - a game 5 at home you had to have where instead you allowed your team to be blown off the court by 32 - this one is totally and completely on you. You might have one of the best marketing teams in the world 'Bron 'Bron, but not even they can spin this any other way...failing to compete or provide effort in arguably the most critical playoff game of your team's franchise history is now a part of your legacy. And whether you care or not, that's something you'll be taking with you wherever it is you end up going from here on out.

(read the whole thing).

Is it overstating things to lay this loss at LeBron's feet? Maybe, I mean, it's not like any other Cavalier looked comfortable against Boston's defense. But here's LeBron's final stat line: 15 points (3-14 FG, 9-12 FT), 6 rebounds, 7 assists and a +/- of -22. LeBron's didn't make his first basket until halfway through the third period (on a leak out/cherry pick) and he finished 1-12 on jumpshots (0-4 from behind the arc). My buddy (who did spend the $150 to see them lose by 30) sent me this text at 8:35: PM "3:37 in the first LeBron has yet to shoot... Are we concerned? Yes."

Bitch about the coaching or the other Cavaliers. Fine. But no one forced LeBron to play passive and settle for jumpers. Yea, you don't always make every shot, but LeBron shouldn't have only 6 shot attempts midway through the third period. That's all heart and desire. And that's all on LeBron. (Remember this summer when LeBron worked on his post moves? Good times).

But really, no one on the Cavaliers played well. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison each finished with 9 points and continued to get abused by their Boston counterparts (16 points, 2 boards and 7 assists for Rondo and 18 points, 6 boards from KG). Anthony Parker finished with 14 points but was forced to do too much (he should never be driving to create a shot with the shot clock running down) and Shaq finished with a very empty 21 and 5. Off the bench, Delonte had a bad game, Varejao was only mildly effective and J.J. Hickson and Jamario Moon combined for 11 minutes.

The only Cavalier who played like he gave a damn was Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Big Z (in what could've been his last game in Cleveland) came off the bench and scored 5 points (2-3 FG) to go along with 3 boards and 4 blocks. He hit his first jumper and converted a 3-point play at the end of the half to cut Boston's 9 point lead to six (50-44). In the second half, Coach Mike was grasping at straws and gave Boobie some run, hoping to find another spark but with little results.

However, at the end of the day, it still comes down to LeBron. He's the MVP, he's the Chosen One, he's the straw that stirs the drink that is the Cavaliers and he laid an egg in their biggest game of the season. Am I defending the other guys? Of course not. But as both Brian Spaeth and Bowers said, it wasn't like Michael Jordan started games looking to set up Horace Grant or tried to get Craig Hodges going. He dominated and the other guys followed suit. Even now, this series is still there for the taking but only if LeBron goes out and actually takes it.

I just don't know how badly he wants it.

(This is why I've spent the last 5 years bitching about LeBron's penchant for dagger threes, wasting the shot clock and complaining about lack of post moves. LeBron kept trying to hit that big trey to get the Cavs back into the game, but it never materialized. Hitting a step-back, fade-away trey looks badass when it goes in, but I'm pretty Doc Rivers and company will live with the results. When you wait to make your move until there's 6 seconds left in the shot clock, you've then put pressure on yourself to execute perfectly. If the ball gets tipped or you slip or whatever (not out of the question, Boston does have a good defense), you're now throwing up a bad shot to simply beat the clock (which you chose to waste). Did James ever once post up Ray Allen or Paul Pierce? Of course not).

The specter of LeBron's pending free agency hung over the entire arena like a guillotine on Tuesday night. With the Cavs heading back to Boston down 3-2, it's entirely possible that this was LeBron's last game at The Q. I've always said that I think LeBron will stay but if they bow out in the 2nd round with only two wins, all bets are off. I'm not going to say he had one foot out the door or anything like that, but I'm a little concerned that LeBron's only good game of the series came in front of Jay-Z and Beyonce in Game 3.

Maybe if the Cavs lose, LeBron is out the door. I won't say good riddance or anything like that; LeBron James is certainly the best thing to happen to the Cavaliers in their 40 year history. But I hope he's aware that Game 5 stays on his permanent record. If he bolts (effectively killing basketball in Cleveland, by the way) for a bigger market, this stink bomb will be his lasting legacy in his home town. LeBron has the skill set to be one of the all-time greats but he's not guaranteed anything, let alone multiple titles.

LeBron and the Cavaliers haven't figured out how to win as the favorite. They've played great when they've been overmatched with nothing to lose (like against Detroit in '06 and '07 and Boston in '08) but thus far have stumbled to play well with title expectations. (One of my issues with Coach Brown is that the Cavs don't have they're own style. Everyone loved Cleveland's depth because it allowed them to play any style they needed. They could go big, they could go small, they could speed up the game or slow it down. They could match up with anybody! But what's their best lineup? Why do they always have to be the ones adapting to the other team? You're the 60 win team, force opponents to play the way you want to play).

Winning is a skill that you have to learn. You can't take plays off, you can't let teams stick around and you can't give away games. LeBron and the Cavs do all these things, regularly. They gave away both Game 2 and Game 4 with bad turnovers and poor execution, but seemed unconcerned because they were only tied 2-2. At the start of Game 5, neither Paul Pierce (21 points, 11 rebounds) or Ray Allen (25 points) had played a great game. How long was that going to continue? These guys have won a title before and letting them hang around is playing with fire.

All that being said, despite the dire attitude, this series isn't over yet. Yes, the Cavs have put themselves in a horrendous position, having to win Game 6 on the road simply to force Game 7, but it's not impossible. It's entirely possible that the Cavs will win this series. I'm going to be interested to see how LeBron responds to the criticism he's going to receive over the next two days.

I wonder if Bill Simmons would say that Cleveland fans are at rock bottom:

You will have to be stripped of any and all hope, and then -- and only then -- will you see a light. That's the way these things work. When the Red Sox won those eight straight games in October '04, the beautiful thing was that streak went against everything I ever believed in. It was so improbable, and so ridiculous, that it somehow made sense.

Absolutely. If we are going to shed our baggage, it has to happen in exactly this way ... this ludicrous, preposterous way. And it's the only way.

The Cavs are down 3-2 and heading back to Boston is what could be LeBron's walk year. The Cavaliers look disinterested, Mike Brown looks lost, LeBron just mailed in a critical Game 5 all while Boston looks like they smell blood.

It's not over. They've dug themselves a pretty deep hole but they're not dead yet. LeBron still has a chance for a rebuttal.

Win-or-Go-Home. Let's see what ya got, Bron-Bron.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Game 4: Boston 97, Cleveland 87 (Series tied 2-2)

Hey, this Rajon Rondo guy is pretty good. To say that Rondo dominated this game isn't doing him justice. He recorded his fourth career playoff triple-double and it did in astounding fashion. Rondo ended up with 29 points, 18 boards (anytime you guys wanna box out, that'd be great) and 13 assists. His energy was fantastic; he beat the Cavs to loose balls, he attacked the rim (not fearing contact and getting to the line) and consistently pushed the ball down court. Rondo's offensive putback with a little over a minute to go basically sealed the game for Boston (giving them a 92-85 lead).

What happened to all that aggression and urgency? The Cavs were down 8-11 for most the game, made a run in the third (even took the lead on three free throws from West, his only contribution for the game) only to quickly get back down 8-11 during the fourth. They were consistently beat down court (by the likes of KG and Ray Allen, which is inexcusable) and after winning the rebounding battle in Game 3, they were killed on the glass by a 49-33 margin (though, that'll happen when you let a point guard get 18 boards). The Cavs routinely took a lot of time setting things up (lot's of holding the ball and surveying/probing the defense) and the Cavs didn't seem to feel any urgency until it was a 7 point game with under two minutes to play. For example, during crunch time, LeBron seemed content to waste 15 seconds only to set up Varejao for a long jumper. If you're relying on Anderson Varejao to hit a 22 footer to win a playoff game, you deserve to lose.

LeBron has to lead more (and take more shots). In the two Cleveland victories, LeBron took over 20 shots (22 and 24) and during their two losses, he took under 20 (15 and 18). If you just look at LeBron's stats (22 points, 9 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals, a block and um, 7 turnovers), you'd say he had a pretty solid game. I'm not saying he needs to do everything, but the Cavs aren't going to beat Boston if James is 7 points under his season average. I felt like LeBron wasn't attacking enough and that when he did, he didn't have a good idea of what he was going to do (though give credit to Boston's defense, they were fantastic). I don't know if his elbow was bothering him or what, but James has to look for his shot more often (especially down the stretch- I don't trust any of the other guys having to create their own shot).

For the most part, I liked what I saw from Antawn Jamison. Yes, KG has abused him in the post, but Jamison has realized that Garnett is extremely slow and doesn't have the foot speed to keep up defensively. Jamison finished with 14 points and 6 boards and routinely attacked the basket (especially when the Celtics over pursued on closeouts). Jamison shot 6-12 from the floor but missed all three of his treys and did not look comfortable down the stretch (though his one miss came after he got away with a travel and shot a 'wait, we're playing?' floater).

Let's pretend that Shaq is just a big version of J.J. Hickson, okay? Do the Cavs really need to be running plays for Shaq? Does he have to start every game by forcing a bad shot over Kendrick Perkins? When O'Neal is on the move and the Cavs are creating mismatches, he's really effective. When they simply throw it down to him and stand around watching him try to back down Perkins, he's not effective... at all (doesn't help that they just stand around watching him). Though I will say this in Shaq's defense: he gets Boston in foul trouble (O'Neal shot 11 free throws and made 7). It wasn't pretty, but Shaq finished with 17 points and 5 boards in 28 minutes.

Way to use the Cavs' athleticism to their advantage, Coach Mike. J.J. Hickson received 5 minutes and Jamario Moon got to play 3. Awesome. I know these guys didn't play perfect, but Anthony Parker is allowed to screw up all he wants (he bobbled the ball away a few times) and still get playing time, while Moon and J.J. get yanked at the first sign of trouble. A big (non-Rondo) reason that Boston won was because Tony Allen went 6-7 and gave them 15 points and 5 boards (similar to Sheed's 7-8 off the bench in Game 2). The Cavs are going to need their bench (all starters scored in double figures) and having Moon and Hickson combine for 8 minutes barely gives them a chance to make an impact.

and finally...

You can't really be surprised that we're all tied up at 2, but there are some concerns. For instance, the fact that the energy comes and goes is a bit disconcerting. Maybe the Cavs figured they won back home-court advantage in Game 3, so this game wasn't that important, but this loss means that they'd either have to clinch A) in Game 6 in Boston or B) a Game 7 (where anything can happen), rather at home in Game 5. Also, the series is tied at 2 and Paul Pierce has yet to have a good game (he's averaging 11 points on 32% shooting). I doubt he's going to go the entire series without having a big game. Game 5 is Tuesday night at The Q.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I'm sure LeBron is just playing this up. He's not really hurt. He just likes the attention... and getting multiple MRI's just adds to that attention, right?
Although his coach and Cavaliers teammates insist they don't see anything different about LeBron James' play in the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics, James is scheduled for another MRI on his bothersome right elbow this week, according to team officials.

It will be the second MRI James has had on the elbow. Last week, after the first-round series against Chicago was over but before the semifinals started, James had an MRI and was diagnosed with a strain and a bone bruise in the elbow.
Well shit. I'm not freaking out just yet, but I won't say that I'm not concerned. If you aren't at least a little concerned, then you must've started following Cleveland sports this season.

And if you weren't concerned before:

A source close to the Cleveland Cavaliers who wished to remain anonymous has admitted that LeBron James should not playing with his injury in its current state. Apparently, the damage is enough that the right arm of King James – perhaps that should be “King Richard III” for the nonce – is having great difficulty in carrying anything heavier than a basketball.

Now, the site is a European hoops blog and it's affiliated with ESPN's TrueHoop Network. So take that as you will (probably with massive amounts of salt). However, they do have ads for Who Shot Mamba? And hey, I was in that movie. So they gotta be trustworthy!

Look, I dunno if these guys are full of shit or not. They very well could be. But I do know that James keeps going back for MRI's and he played like crap during Game 2.

To say I'm interested to see how LeBron performs on Friday is an understatement.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Morning After

Some thoughts from around the web on last night's Cavs debacle:

Terry Pluto

2. Williams will take most of the heat, but West played an alarmingly passive game. In 31 minutes, he was only 1-of-4 from the field. He is the best defender of the three guards, but he had problems in his different matchups. The guards had to know that James was not 100 percent, that he was being swarmed on defense and they were going to be open. But they didn't go to their favorite spots, nor did they drive much. They were only 4-of-5 from the foul line in those 93 minutes.

3. It was great to see and hear Mike Brown fuming after the game, ripping into his players for lack of intensity, lack of defense, lack of anything that the coach considers trademarks for his team. It also was encouraging to hear him say that Williams must improve offensively and defensively. Finally, Brown said, "We gotta show up for Game 3 in Boston."

4. The Cavs guards didn't defend Allen running off picks to get open for his jumper. They didn't keep Rondo from driving to the basket any time he felt in the mood to do so. I would have liked to see more than seven minutes for Jamario Moon, who probably would have at least tried to defend someone.

Pluto really harps on the guards, but it's hard to fault him. They were awful. They all look scared of LeBron.

Brian Windhorst:
The Cavs are in a series, they are not in trouble. That is not to say they will not be in trouble if they continue to give the same general effort they have put forth in the first two games.

Last season, when the Cavs were facing a 1-1 tie agains the Orlando Magic, I was sounding the warning bells. It was mostly because the Cavs had played pretty well and were barely keeping their heads above water.

The Cavs aren't playing well, at all, so far in this series. They certainly didn't play like a home team in the first two games and also didn't play like the favorite that they are.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have played wonderfully for about six of the eight quarters. Rajon Rondo just had one of the best playoff games of his career. He's not going away anytime soon, but he just tied the all-time record for assists in Celtics playoff history. Sort of like Joakim Noah having a 20/20 game.

It is not even worth mentioning Rasheed Wallace. If he plays this way the rest of the way, the Celtics will probably win the title. He had a great game and after six duds in the playoffs he was certainly due.

This stat alone sums up what happened in this game: The Celtics had seven offensive rebounds...and 21 second-chance points. That is one of those 1-in-500 games stats that is part luck, part dominance and part unexplainable. But this stuff happens in playoff series, just look at some of Drew Gooden's career playoff games. Or, perhaps the finest example known to Cavs fans, Daniel Gibson scoring 31 points on just nine shots in Game 6 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Cavs have a lot to clean up but so many of their errors -- focus, intensity, aggression, preparation -- are fixable.
Exactly. Rasheed Wallace took eight shots and made seven. That's not gonna happen again.

The Cleveland Frowns
Everyone expected the Celtics to steal at least one game from the Cavs, so why wouldn't it have been yesterday's? "The zig-zag theory" is basic enough; "the team that just got the worst of it will be extra-motivated in the following game." So why wouldn't the zig-zag theory apply with extra force when "the team that just got the worst of it" spends the single day off between games stewing, strategizing and resting, while the other team is off having a super-special hometown MVP party? With the whole neighborhood there; the whole family there; the whole team there; LeBron all dressed up for the cameras in his newest best suit. The whole world was watching. LeBron even got to hear Magic call him the best player in the game. How exciting? How could such a difference in respective off-day activity not be significant?

Everything about the Cavaliers' play last night suggested that it was. Which is to say it wasn't one guy or even a few. Nobody didn't suck for the Cavs last night. The guards were dominated, the bigs were dominated, and LeBron turned in his most lackluster performance of the postseason. "Lack of urgency, lack of defense, lack of hustle, and lack of physical play." All telltale characteristics of a team that was short on rest.
The Cavs definitely lacked focus last night, whether or not it's because of their MVP celebration, I don't know. It certainly could've been a factor. However, I do know that they lacked focus throughout much of the season as well as during their first round series with Chicago and even Game 1.

Bill Livingston:

Twenty-five points behind at home in the playoffs, given the two-year wait to avenge the excruciating seventh game loss in Boston, is simply not acceptable. It would be a wake-up call, had not the same phone been ringing since the Chicago series began.

Afterward, an angry coach Mike Brown, his voice rising to an angry crescendo, ripped his team’s lack of urgency, lack of defense, lack of hustle, and lack of physical play.

He might then have ripped himself for lack of imagination. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the tallest overlooked man in town, had tried one (1) shot in the last five playoff games. With all the talk of how crowded Boston made the paint, Z is a “stretch” big man who at least deserves a look, however brief.

The NBA has awarded Most Valuable Player trophies since the 1955-56 season and only six members of the club have not won an NBA championship -- Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash -- and James.

This year is supposed to be different. “There’s no panic button,” said James, staunchly.

Perhaps, however, the Cavs believe there is an on/off switch. James said his right elbow was not the problem. “I don’t use injuries as an excuse. The elbow had nothing to do with it,” said James.

I'm not sure Z is the answer for the Cavs struggles, but the offense is definitely better with him in there (the pain IS more open, whether or not Z is hitting).

John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog:
Enough with the elbow. Screw the elbow. First of all, the Cavs weren’t winning this game if LeBron had three healthy elbows. Second of all, LeBron is 48 hours removed from taking over a game. Third of all, LeBron didn’t play like he was hurt. He played like he didn’t have control of the game.

He was waiting for his teammates to get involved early, and tried to get the team back in it in the second. After the Celtics made their run in the third, it was too late. LeBron going to the basket is like a 100-mph fastball. It’s great early in the count. If the batter is thinking about the curveball or the changeup, there’s no way he’s going to catch up to it. You almost always go to the fastball on a 3-2 count. But no matter how good a fastball is, it’s going to end up in the bleachers if it’s a 2-0 or 3-1 count and the batter is sitting on it. That’s what happened in this game.

Maybe the elbow was a factor (TNT sure seemed to think so). But LeBron's gimpy elbow doesn't stop Shaq from boxing out or make Mo Williams miss 8 of his 9 shots.

Chris Broussard

Pride had the Celtics -- one of the league's worst rebounding teams during the regular season -- hogging the boards Monday, outrebounding the Cavs by 11.

Pride had Garnett, who has become known as a jump-shooter the past few years, banging bodies with Antawn Jamison and J.J. Hickson on the block. Aggressive as an MMA fighter, he's taken an uncharacteristic yet welcome 41 shots over the two games, producing 18 points and 10 rebounds in each.

Pride had Allen shooting like he was a 20-something playing in Seattle. Shooting nearly 50 percent (24-for-50) from 3-point range in the postseason, he hurt Cleveland badly Monday, nailing three triples in scoring a team-high 22 points, including 10 in the decisive third quarter when Boston outscored the Cavs 31-12 to turn it into a rout.

Pride even had the beleaguered Rasheed Wallace -- who, quite frankly, had been playing like a stiff -- posting up and hitting 3s in scoring 17 points and turning all those who have rued the day he joined Green Nation back into fans.

But pride didn't perform solo. Rondo, who has conducted a clinic in point guard play at Cleveland's expense, fed the vets on most of their buckets.

Living in the lane and pushing the tempo at every opportunity, he's drawing multiple defenders and then finding his teammates for wide-open looks on the perimeter. Rondo matched his career high -- as well as tying Bob Cousy's Celtics playoff high -- with 19 assists. Unbelievably, he had 12 by halftime. Just as unbelievably, he had two more assists than Cleveland's entire team.

Simply put, he's giving the Cavs fits.

Effort effort effort effort effort effort effort.

Scott @ Waiting for Next Year:

Despite the Cleveland Cavaliers locking up home court advantage throughout the playoffs with roughly two weeks to go in the regular season, the Boston Celtics did everything they could to wrestle that advantage away in game 2 of the second round. Instead of capitalizing on Saturday night’s comeback win, the Cavs opted for low intensity and poor offensive execution for 42 of the 48 minutes. The result was a 104-86 loss on their home floor – only the second loss among the last 15 postseason games at Quicken Loans Arena.

For all of the talk surrounding the proverbial switch that had allowed the Cavs to simply kick up their intensity when needed, there was apparently a short in the wiring as the Celtics had their way with the wine and gold for what seemed like the entire game. If not for a fourth quarter run that would help save some face in the box score, the Cavs were well on their way to one of the worst playoff losses in the history of the NBA. Following the game, Mike Brown admitted that he is concerned with the defense.

“For 48 minutes, we did not play with a sense of urgency,” said Brown. “If we expect to win this series, we have to bring more than we did tonight.”

He better be concerned with their defense. They gave up waaaaay too many easy buckets inside. (Seriously, does Jamison know how to fron the post? He kept getting burned. Was he doing that on his own or was that planned?).

Jared Wade, Hardwood Paroxysm:

I have no idea what happened in the Cavs locker room during half time. But it didn’t work. 12 points in the third. Twelve. Uno. Dos. Unacceptable. Particularly when you, perhaps relatedly, give up 31 on the other side. I mean, Cleveland’s offense was hitting on zero cylinders all game long (91.5 offensive efficiency, 42.9% eFG%, 4/21 from three and 26/38 from the line for the game), but the third was particularly gross. And a lot of it came against Boston’s reserves given the team’s foul trouble. You can’t win a playoff game scoring 38 points in the second half. Not even at home. Not even after you watch the NBA MVP trophy being handed out to your captain before the game. This is not 1998 and Jeff Van Gundy is not hugging Alonzo Mourning’s leg.

This is my big issue with Coach Mike. While the Cavs usually start the game with energy (I believe they led the NBA in first quarter scoring, but I could be making that up), they're usually pretty crappy in the third period. They were unbelievably crappy on Monday night.

Matt Moore Hardwood Paroxysm:

The Celtics lowered the amount of plays they ran that were Isolation, P&R Ball Handler, and P&R Man. But they increased significantly the number of Post-Up, Spot-Up, Cut, and especially Off-Screen. They jumped their scoring percentage on Off-Screen from 16.7% to 63.6%. That’s a huge differential in motion offense. The Celtics essentially found success by producing more plays off of motion and not just lining up and going at the Cavs. Notice the scoring percentage drop in ISO. The Celtics actually lowered the number of transition plays they employed, but raised the scoring percentage by over 9 percentage points. And while they scored less in Isolation, they did lower their turnover percentage significantly. If you want an indication that this game could have been even more of a blowout? Spot-up shots, a bread and butter NBA play actually increased in frequency and lowered in scoring percentage for the Celtics.

These number jive with what we saw, where the Cavaliers defense essentially got lost whenever the Celtics pushed the ball. At one point Shaq looked a jumpshooter five feet from the basket, could very easily have pursued a close-out, and just sort of, “eh.”

I high recommend checking out the tables provided in the link.

All that being said, today is gorgeous outside. Abso-freaking-lutely beautiful. Terry Pluto always says don't let millionaires ruin your day and I whole-heartedly agree. Enjoy that sunshine, Cleveland. The series is tied 1-1. You wanted the Cavs to be tested in these first two rounds, well, they're being tested.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Game 2: Boston 104, Cleveland 86 (Series tied 1-1)

Well that sure sucked. The high point of the evening came when LeBron accepted his MVP award before the game; it was all downhill from there. The Cavs didn't defend (the Celtics shot over 50%), they were outrebounded (43-32), they didn't move the ball (17 assists to Boston's 30) and they couldn't buy a bucket from the field (28-70 for 40%), from three (4-21, 19%) or from the line (26-38, 68%). There was no energy, no sense of urgency and no creativity (let's throw it down to Shaq and watch him miss a layup, again!). What's scary is the fact that the Cavs shot more free throws (38-18), had less fouls (15 to Boston's 31) and won the turnover battle (15-17) and still managed to lose by 18, at home, on the night LeBron won his second MVP. Awesome.

The Celtics are too good to for the Cavs to screw around for three quarters. I get that LeBron likes setting up his teammates early in games and that the Cavs try to establish Shaq at the start of quarters. Understandable and even commendable. But you see how the Celtics are exploiting Rondo's (13 points, 19 assists) and KG's (18 points, 10 boards) matchups constantly? There's no reason the Cavs shouldn't do that with LeBron. Now, this is on LeBron too (not just Brown); he needs to lead and be aggressive and he has to establish a tone early on that isn't "I'll just turn it on later after you guys hit some shots." You can get away with that crap against the Bulls and throughout the regular season, but it isn't gonna fly against the Celtics. The Cavs made their late run (they got it down to 10 with 4:33 left) by attacking the rim and running the floor (and the run fizzled when they started chucking threes). There's no reason they can't do that for a full 48 minutes (seriously, Boston is a good defensive team, but they're slow. Attack them!).

Shaq was, um, ineffective. O'Neal finished with 9 points on 4-10 shooting with 4 rebounds (3 offensive) in 17 minutes. It wasn't pretty. He was missing shots at point blank range and giving up offensive rebounds at will. I'm not sure what Brown can do at this point. The Cavs are going to need Shaq in the next series, so he needs reps... but they need to get to win this series and O'Neal is killing them. What's maddening is that the Cavs just stand and watch when Shaq gets the ball and the Celtics aren't doubling O'Neal (because Perkins is really good post defender). So no movement, no drawing a second defender and lot's of missed point-blank shots. Shaq had 10 shot attempts to Mo's 9 (made one) and Jamison's 11 (made six). This should not happen... ever... (and especially not when he's shooting that poorly). Shaq isn't the second option (or 2a or 2b), he's option C or D.

It's everyone's fault, there's enough blame to go around. The effort was terrible (the Cavs tried... for about 6 minutes in the fourth quarter... after they were down 23), the offense was horrible (you're allowed to run plays. It's totally legal) and the defense was perplexing (Jamison kept fronting KG, with no help over the top and it led to three layups in Boston's big third quarter). Mo Williams went 1-9, Anthony Parker shot 2-7 and Shaq was 4-10. That's three starters combining to shoot 7-26. Wow. I'm blaming Coach Mike for the sloppy offense and terrible energy but he can't control who shoots well (and I don't know what he said at halftime, but it did not work).

But I will point a finger at Coach Mike. Yes, I have some issues with his sub patterns (just 5 minutes for Jamario Moon?) and the usual complaints with the offense (boring and predicable). But the Cavs have looked unprepared at the start of halves and their body language is just beyond awful (Mo, Parker and Delonte look terrified and too deferential to James). Brown was really animated after the game (which isn't too surprising, considering how they lost) but I would've loved to see some of that passion during the game. Get a tech or do something to light a fire under these guys.

I don't understand why Anthony Parker deserves minutes. You know how you can't measure some players (like Varejao) by their box score? I feel the same way about Anthony Parker (only negatively). Parker finished with 6 points, 1 board, 1 assists and 3 steals in 27 minutes. He had one turnover and two fouls. But that line doesn't do him justice. His one turnover was a terrible pass off an inbounds pass underneath their own hoop. One of his fouls was a weak push off a Ray Allen curl (and led to a three-point play). I don't like his defense (though it's not terrible) and I don't trust him at all on the offensive end (both of his field goals came in the first period and he can't create his own shot). I was completely baffled that he was allowed to play that entire third period.

Anderson Varejao is the second most valuable Cavalier. Andy has been playing with a bruised knee and it shows. His activity level is way down and to say that the Cavs miss his energy is an understatement. He's far and away their best help defender and he's also probably their best rebounder. Andy had a nice stretch the second period when worked the pick-and-roll with LeBron and got himself to the line (4-5 FT) but he ended up leaving the game early due to back spasms. The big injury story is LeBron's elbow, but Varejao's knee (and now back) may be a bigger concern.

For those clamoring for more J.J. Hickson, just so you're aware, the kid has a grand total of 3 rebounds in two games (31 minutes). Don't get me wrong, I'm all for J.J. getting more playing time, but you can't just concentrate on his scoring. And his scoring is great! He had 13 points on 4-6 shooting in just 14 minutes. He attacked the rim, he ran the floor and he got himself to the line (5-7 FT). All this is great. But he was murdered defensively (the Celts went right at him) and it's not a coincidence that Rasheed Wallace went off (17 points, 7-8 FG, 3-4 3pt) when J.J. was on the floor.

The refs were decidedly pro-Cavalier, but I'm gonna bitch anyways. The Cavs got some highly questionable calls in the fourth quarter (when they made their too-little, too-late push) and it's hard to argue with a 31-15 foul advantage and 38-18 free throw disparity. But man, Rajon Rondo is hard to guard as it is, but when you let them set illegal screens all night, it's practically impossible (seriously, they move nearly every time). Plus, Anderson Varejao was called for the first Flagrant 1 block in NBA history. Seriously, he helped baseline on Ray Allen, bodied him out of bounds and somehow earned a Flagrant 1 (Allen split the free throws and hit a trey the ensuing possession. Great).

and finally...

At the end of the day, the series is tied 1-1. Yes, they played awful but a 20 point loss counts the same as a one point buzzer beater (though getting out played/worked/coached in 3 of the 4 halves, at home, has to be a concern). They got their butts kicked and now they have to respond. They have to lose three more to get knocked out. They're OK. And it's not the worst thing in the world that series won't resume until Friday. Not only does the break give LeBron and Varejao time to heal up but the Cavs now have three days to stew and digest that crappy performance.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Random Thoughts from Game 1

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.