Now THAT’S how you win a playoff game. I’m sure some people will continue to write off this series as boring and uninteresting, or whatever….but that game was one of the more exciting games in Cavaliers Playoff history. You can read Rick’s thoughts on the game here, and make sure you check out the video that Scott posted here. What follows is my analysis in numbers and words.
-Another solid, but not great, game for LeBron James. 21 points on 7 of 20 shooting from the field, 6 rebounds, 13 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, and 1 “Sit yo’ a** down!” yelled at his mother. Hey, at least he didn’t degrade any minority groups like KG did. It’s encouraging that the Cavaliers have been able to win 2 games now without LeBron necessarily being the best player on the team. It’s encouraging because if the Cavaliers can continue to operate their offense in Boston on Wednesday night, and if LeBron wakes up to another road Game 5 monster of a game, the Cavaliers have a chance to win it and come home with a chance to clinch just like the past 2 seasons. Either way, it’s good to know that no matter what, Cleveland will be home for Game 6. A loss last night and Game 6 was not guaranteed. Now, it is, and worst case scenario if having to win that home game to have a chance to play in Boston for Game 7. Things could definitely be worse than they are.
-The Cavaliers’ defense is back into last year’s playoff form. Prior to last night’s game, Cleveland was 2nd behind only Boston in defensive Efficiency Rating at 99.3. Remember, in the regular season the Cavs’ defensive efficiency was 103.7, which was 11th in the NBA. After shutting down Boston’s offense again last night and holding them to just 77 points, that Efficiency Rating is sure to go down even more. In the playoffs, the Cavaliers are holding their opponents to 87.90 points per game, 42.5%FG shooting, and 36% three-point shooting. That’s the kind of defense that can take you deep into the playoffs.
-You hate to look back and say ‘what if’, but we knew that dropping Game 1 was a huge lost opportunity for Cleveland. It’s interesting that the Cavs had more possessions than Boston in that game and won the A/TO ratio margin, but still lost by 4. Cleveland was outrebounded in that game 43-41. Had the Cavs come down with just 1 or 2 more of those rebounds, this might be a 3-1 series right now. Looking back doesn’t do the team any good, because you can’t change it….but it’s still interesting to note.
-Speaking of A/TO ratio….last night the Cavs were at 24/7 while the Celtics were at 16/8. For the 2nd straight game the Cavs were well over 20 assists, and for the 2nd straight game the Cavs pulled out a win. In the regular season the Cavs were 13-5 when they had 24 or more assists. It just goes to show you how much more successful the Cavs are when they are operating an offensive and moving the ball around, as oppossed to having LeBron just dribble and drive by himself. The Cavaliers need to keep running this offense when they go back to Boston. It creates some easy baskets for Cleveland, which is something that helps exponentially when you’re on the road.
-Going back to defense again….I was upset with the Cavaliers’ interior defense in Game 3, and I said it was something the Cavs needed to work on for Game 4. Remember, in Game 3 the Celtics had 22 layups and 6 dunks. Well, in Game 4, primarily thanks to the tough defense played by Anderson Varejao, as well as the help rotation by LeBron and Joe Smith, the Celtics had just 17 layups and were 0-1 on dunks. That’s right, the Celtics didn’t make a single dunk the entire night. HUGE props to the Cavs interior defense for making the proper adjustments.
-I hate to say it because I love the guy, but another reason for the successful interior defense might have been the reduced minutes by Z. For all of the great things Z does for this team and the offensive spark he gives, his lateral movement is terribly slow and when playing smaller but quicker and more athletic bigs like Boston has, it can be tough on Z when he needs to make his defensive rotations. Not suggesting Z should be benched or anything, because that’s insane. Z was the best player on the Cavs in the first 2 games. I’m just saying its something to keep an eye on, and if the Cavs need to shut down the inside on defense in Game 5, don’t be surprised to see Mike Brown go back to the lineups that worked in Game 4….and Z wasn’t in those lineups.
-It’s interesting how close FT shooting has been so far in this series. Through four games, each team has shot more FTs in 2 games, and overall, Boston has shot 106 FTs while Cleveland has shot 104 FTs. I’ve seen a few places suggest that the league gives the Cavs an unnatural number of calls, but in this series, it’s really hard to find evidence of the officials giving preferential treatment to one team over the other. The numbers are just so even, and with LeBron content to shoot off balance outside jump shots, he’s also not putting the officials in a position to tip the scales one way or the other.
-Delonte West got off to another great start, but it was really unfortunate to see him have to miss so much time with an allergic reaction in his eye. He still managed to log 29 minutes of playing time, but after he initially left the bench to go to the locker room late in the first quarter, he was never really the same.
-How huge was the Cavs’ bench in this game? Well, in addition to outscoring Boston’s bench 36 to 17, look at the +/- figures for the Cavs’ bench: Gibson was +19, Smith was +17, Varejao was +15, and even Pavlovic ended up +1. The only Cavaliers starter to end the game on the plus side was LeBron, who was +15. Give credit to that bench for giving this game to Cleveland. It was a (somewhat) common belief that Boston’s bench was perhaps the best and deepest bench in the playoffs, but on this night they were simply dominated by the Cleveland bench.
What The Inside World Is Saying
“Last season in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, in the fourth quarter LeBron James came out of traffic and dunked over the top of Rasheed Wallace. Looking back, I felt the series sort of turned with that play, the Cavs were able to get that win and they never looked back. It is possible that LeBron’s dunk in the fourth quarter over Kevin Garnett could have that affect in this series. Maybe not, lots of basketball to go and the Celtics are a different team at home. However, he is starting to figure out where some driving lanes are and his shot is slowly coming around. We’ll see. Anyway, they must have showed that highlight six times over on the videoboard during the timeout after the play.” [Brian Windhorst]
“Basically, the Cavs are beating the Celtics at their own game. Boston had by far the best defensive stats in the league this year. They are dominant on the strong side of the ball.
But the Cavs’ defense, led by architect Mike Brown, got better and better as the game went on during Game 4. They got stop after stop in the fourth quarter. The most important matchup was in the middle where Anderson Varejao stopped Kevin Garnett in his tracks in the fourth quarter. He missed his two shots in the fourth and didn’t score a point.” [Bob Finnan]
“I decided to do some research on LeBron James in Game 5s. In fact, not just LeBron in Game 5s, but LeBron in Game 5s in a 2-2 series. In 2006 LeBron played in two such games. The first was an overtime thriller against Washington. LeBron went for 45 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists including the game-winner in overtime. Against Detroit he scored 32 points to go with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. LeBron has played one other Game 5 in a 2-2 tie and it was in 2007. Does 48 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists (oh, and 29 of his team’s last 30 points) ring a bell?” [Dan Labbe]
“You could have seen the dress rehearsal two-and-a-half hours before the game, in a nearly empty arena. Guarded by assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, James would dribble swiftly to the side, running the coach into a screen set by shooting coach Chris Jent, and then James would try to gratify Jent and make something, anything, from the outside. Sometimes in practice, James floated to the side in midair, and the shot missed. Sometimes, he went up straight, and the ball went through the net with a snap. This time, with 3:17 to play, he went up straight as a man who had dropped a bad habit and reformed. It hit nothing but net. The Cavs led by six, the one-possession tug of war was over, and the closing rush was on.” [Bill Livingston]
“Daniel Gibson came into the game shooting 3-of-10 (2-of-6) in 65 minutes where he seemed confused, not sure where to take his shots and afraid to drive. The coaches were demanding he be more aggressive, and he came through when he was needed (as Delonte West battled an eye injury). Gibson had 5-of-9 shooting for 14 points, compared to 12 in the first three games. Even more amazing, little Daniel had six rebounds — more than Paul Pierce (5) and Boston center Kendrick Perkins (3).” [Terry Pluto]
“The Cavaliers can call off the search party. Anderson Varejao has been found. The moppy-haired Wild Thing who the Cavaliers love so much for his passionate play, the one who plays physical defense with a balance of reckless control, appeared for the first time in these playoffs in Monday’s 88-77 Game 4 victory over the Celtics.
Combined with another solid effort from power forward Joe Smith, the forwards off the bench formed a 1-2 punch that knocked Boston’s Kevin Garnett off his game in the second half and supplied a steady dose of active offense.” [Jodie Valade]
“Never you mind Saturday’s run-away-and-hide win at home; games like that rarely tell the tale when it comes to success (or lack thereof) in the postseason. Last night’s grind-it-out kind of win is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cavaliers. Boston hung with the Cavs all night long, really testing the mettle of the defending conference champs — especially in the hectic, see-saw battle that was the 3rd quarter. To Cleveland’s credit they not only survived the their usual problem quarter but actually came out ahead on points (23-22!).” [Sons of Nev]
“Bolder Knowledge: When LeBron is Unleashed on Defense, This Is The Best Defensive Club in The League.
I’m serious. They’ve been absolutely destroying good offensive teams in the playoffs for three years running now, because LeBron unleashes himself defensively in the playoffs and MB is an absolute defensive savant, and when given time to prepare preps his team to take away strengths as well as anyone. He’s cut off Ray Allen’s air with double-traps off screens. He has unleashed the beast upon The Truth. He’s letting KG get his on the offensive end, trusting his bigs instead of over-helping and letting him get his teammates involved, which is what he wants to do. He’s made Rondo try to beat the Cavs by shooting instead of driving.” [Cavalier Attitude]
What The Outside World Is Saying
“Cleveland played a great game, from the coaching staff on down to the bench pluckers. That said, one turn of events that saw Boston in complete control of its destiny told anyone with half a mind that this wasn’t a game for the Celtics to pull out:
Two Ray Allen free throws made it a six-point game with about three minutes fifty left in the first half, and although LeBron James stayed on the bench for the rest of the half in foul trouble, the Celtics could only cut the Cleveland lead to two points, in spite of some of the most miserable half-court offense you’ve ever coming on the Cleveland end of the floor.
Only going +4 against a pathetic Cavalier outfit sans James over nearly a four minute stretch, yeah, that’s not what we’d call the stuff of champions.” [Ball Don't Lie]
“Despite the fact that the Green and White built their reputation on a best-in-the-league defense, Cleveland did most of the shutting downing last night, holding the Celtics to 38 percent shooting and only 12 points in the fourth quarter. And while Boston’s not-so-big-anymore three were getting blanked in that final stanza, King James (21 points, 6 rebounds, 13 assists) put his royal boot up the leprechaun’s butt, dishing four dimes, hitting the first of two game-breaking threes (Boobie Gibson hit the other one), and dropping an exclamation mark jam on KG that led an Associated Press writer to observe “The Cavaliers were awed by James’ stuff.” Which I’m sure is totally true, but probably a little TMI.” [Deadspin]
“Reasons NOT to panic:
- Home sweet home court.
- Yes, I still believe we are the better team until I’m proven wrong.
- Aside from the first quarter of game 3, the defense has been either good or great.
- Rondo, even on off nights, still does a lot of things right. He’s learning a lot.
- Ray Allen’s shot is starting to come around.
- Paul Pierce seems about due for a big game. (…any time now Paul)
- Kevin Garnett is still Kevin Garnett.
- The Bench is about due to step up, and they are more comfortable at home.
- None of the other teams in the playoffs are having an easy time of it.” [CelticsBlog]
“- The “Celtics can’t win a road game” storyline is warranted and slowly killing my enthusiasm. - There was a stretch in the 4th quarter where both teams played outrageous defense. Everything was contested and each team was forced to shoot jumpers they could not make.” [Green Bandwagon]
“I’m sick of seeing Doc laugh off bad calls with the referee when he disagrees. Doc needs to flip out and get thrown out of one of these road games. Do something to light a fire under the team’s collective ass!
Perk played 19 minutes and only had 2 points (both from the line) and 3 rebounds! Really Perk? It’s time to man up and play like the beast you’re supposed to be!
Leon plays only 6 minutes tonight. 6 friggin minutes? Why all of the sudden does Doc feel like he needs to get Big Baby involved? Leon hasn’t done anything to lose his minutes so stop messing around with the rotation. This isn’t the preseason!
Sam Cassell is absolutely useless if he isn’t knocking down shots. Tonight he was useless as he went 0-5 from the field. FREE EDDIE HOUSE!!” [BostonsportZ]
“-KG started strong (13 pts in first half) but took just four shots the rest of the game. Four shots in the second half of a close playoff game on the road? Inexplicable.
-Sam Cassell was awful and Doc Rivers is a moron for not recognizing it. Would it be a crime to give Eddie House some minutes? I realize you need offense when Rondo is struggling, but Sam was not the answer tonight. Everyone but Doc Rivers knew that.” [Red's Army]
What The Players And Coaches Said
“Tonight we came out and we did a decent job moving the basketball. As the game went along, especially in that second half, I thought we did a terrific job of moving the basketball. To end up with seven turnovers, 35 baskets and 24 assists against these guys, in a game like this, is pretty good. Our defense continued to get better as the game went along, and the crowd had a lot to do with it. I thought the crowd brought us energy.”
Our bench was terrific. Every guy that came off the bench really contributed in a big way. As the game went along, our guy (LeBron James) had the impact that he has and we’ve been seeing it all series that he’s going to impact this game in a lot of different ways. Tonight he impacted defensively first, on the boards second, hitting key shots, next and then finding guys for wide open looks last.” [Mike Brown]
“Even though that is my mother, you can’t have fans going after players like that. The Commissioner doesn’t care if it is your mother, I can’t afford her not to be at every last one of my games. I told her to sit down in language I shouldn’t have used. Thank God today wasn’t Mother’s Day.” [LeBron James]
“Big. We said that when we got home, that was what we needed to do; protect home court. Now we are looking forward to going on the road and getting a victory there.” [Daniel Gibson]
“We just wanted to show our appreciation to the fans, who helped us get these two games. It’s definitely not over (the series), but they were big for us in these two games. We did what we wanted to do and we have got a chance to go steal one over there and now we are going to try to do it.” [Wally Szczerbiak]