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.

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3 Responses to The Morning After

  1. Graham says:

    I think you have to start looking at the leadership of the players – read: LeBron – when looking at these lackluster spurts of play. Its the players that lack all intensity and urgency, and this is the f@cking playoffs. LeBron should demand this team get after it, but it seems the team actually might be getting their cues from LeBron. I'm sick of blaming Brown for often indifferent attitudes from the team. The strategy at times were bad, and that's on Brown. But not these guys showing little to no heart for an entire game at home in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

  2. still can't handle looking about that loss.

  3. davemanddd says:

    obviously, just like in the loss in the ecf to orlando last year, this series is going to be about matchups and how each team is able to exploit their advantages and minimize their weaknesses. we have already seen the celtics go right after the cavs weaknesses on the defensive side as mo williams just cannot even slow rajon rondo down, let alone stop him. the c's have also made it a point to make jamison play defense against kg or get burned and so far jamison has been burnt to a crisp. then, when jj was in the game, boston immediately went to the taller ragweed wallace who just shot over the top of jj and he couldn't do anything to stop him. what a revolting development that was.speaking of revolting, watching shaq throw up brick after brick from 3 feet or less is just beyond stupid as it plays right into the hands of the celtics. memo to mike brown, stop forcing the shaq issue and run some damn pick and rolls with lebron and antawn or have lebron being the one posting up down on the block where nobody can stop him. the way i see it, anytime ragweed is in the game, the cavs need to counter with z who has the length to neutralize sheed, unlike jj.second of all, i would start shaq, jj, jamison, lebron and mo and put worthless anthony parker on the end of the bench. that way shaq can go one on one with perkins, jj against kg, jamison on pierce, mo on ray allen and lebron on rondo. then, when lebron needs a break, let brother redz come chase rondo around for awhile while z goes up against sheed, j-moon can then go up against tony allen and varejao can take on big's the matchups i'm tellin' ya, the matchups. you gotta win the matchups. right now, boston is winning all the matchups and it's time to adjust. do you hear me, mike brown???

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