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.
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.
Cross-posted at LeBrownstown.com