The Cavaliers lost 76-72 in Boston, falling behind 1-0 in the series. You know, in case you read this site and weren’t aware or something…
After a loss like that one it would be easy to play the what if? game. What if LeBron shot better than 11%? What if the team made more than 4 of the 18 triples they launched? What if Sam Cassell doesn’t channel his inner Robert Horry and make those key baskets in crunchtime? What if the ref had given Posey the foul he was obviously trying to give to LeBron on his last drive to the basket. What if the Cavs hadn’t missed another dozen lay-ups? Would this one have turned out differently?
Of course Boston can play What if? too. What if Pierce and Allen combined for more than 4 points? What if Cleveland shot their normal free throw percentage, instead of the nearly 85% they racked up at the line Tuesday? What if the Celtics hadn’t turned the ball over 21 times? But Boston won’t play What if? because they are sitting 1-0. Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Boston fans would be complaining that they should have won this one by more than 4…
I’d like to play a different version of What if? with you. After harping on the lack of offensive creativity for two years, I almost let Mike Brown off the hook. My initial reaction to this one was that it was on the players. Boston and Cleveland both played great defense. Most of the turnovers in the game were forced by that defense. There were at least 3 turnovers that were all on LeBron, his fault. (As an aside, do you realize that LeBron played his worst game as a pro, and yet was an assist and a rebound away from a triple double? Actually from a quadruple double, if you count the 10 turnovers.) I listened after the game to Barkley and Chris Webber rip Mike Brown for his lack of creativity, and I nearly felt like defending him, until Webber said something that made me get out of bed in the middle of the night, 3 hours later to write about it. I can’t get it out of my head.
Webber said that when Kobe Bryant gets the ball he is almost always in position to make a play. His point is that the offense is designed that way. Kobe doesn’t have to create every shot he takes. He doesn’t have to take someone off the dribble every play in order to get a score. And so here it is, my What if? question that has me wide awake at 2:00 in the morning- What if Phil Jackson was coaching the Cavaliers?
Do you think that Jackson could come up with something for LeBron, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Daniel Gibson? Can you think of the mis-matches that Jackson would create with LeBron’s unique skill set and freakish combination of size and speed? What would he do with Ilgauskas that can knock down a shot from 12-18 feet? Think he could find a way to get Gibson 15-20 shots a game? Ok, forget Jackson. What if Jerry Sloan was coaching the Cavaliers? Is it possible that LeBron and Z would be the next great pick-and-roll combo in the league? The point should be obvious. Mike Brown is a great defensive coach, but he can’t coach an offense. We hoped. We hoped that he would get better. We hoped that he would have learned from last year’s embarrassing NBA Finals. We read about your ‘hockey pass’ inspiration, and how you sought out offensive minds in the off season. Well, here’s an idea. Stop watching hockey games, and lock yourself into a film room with Phil Jackson’s greatest hits in it. Then lock Z and LeBron in the gym until they can run the pick-and-roll blind folded.
Listen to the post-game comments from Mike Brown. Yeah, there was praise for both teams’ defenses, and the usual ‘we were right in it until the end’ kind of stuff. He talked about having trust that LeBron won’t have another game like that in the series, blah blah. But he said more than once that they thought there should have been more whistles on drives to the rim. Why is that a big deal? Because Brown preached ‘no excuses’ for two years. He refused to allow himself or his players throw refs under the bus after a loss. And in this one he really didn’t have that much of a leg to stand on. Mike Brown was grasping for anything. He has no answer offensively. If LeBron isn’t superman, he doesn’t know what to do. If LeBron isn’t able to create his own shot, and shots for the rest of the team, they don’t score.
Can the Cavaliers win this series? Sure. You want a split of the first two games away from home. That’s the recipe. Does this put unbelievable pressure on the team to win Thursday? Yep, it sure does. And hopefully the players will be up to the task.