Game One was a frustrating affair. If you are the kind of person who likes to pick at your scabs, you can follow our frustration in the live blog or you can read Rick’s thoughts after the game. What follows in my analysis in numbers and words.
-We start with LeBron in victory, so we’ll get him out of the way and start with him in defeat. That was the most miserable game I have ever seen LeBron play. Prior to last night, in games in which he played at least 25 minutes, only 4 other times had LeBron ever made only 2 or fewer FGs.
He actually did it earlier in the season….as in, game one of the season against Dallas. That night he scored only 10 points on 2 of 11 shooting from the field. Prior to that Dallas game, you have to go back to February 2004 to find the last time it happened. In those 4 games, the Cavaliers were, not surprisingly, 0-4. LeBron’s 2 of 18 was by far his worst shooting night, as the pervious high in FG attempts in games in which he made 2 or fewer shots was just 13. LeBron ended the game at -7. It was only the 2nd time in his career LeBron had 10 or more turnovers, the only other time coming in 2005 against New Orleans.
No matter how you look at it, this was the worst all around game we have ever seen from LeBron, and it was shocking to see. Especially in the playoffs, where LeBron has been such a primetime performer for the Cavaliers. I’m not a betting man, but I would bet that LeBron bounces back with a strong Game 2. For the Cavs sake, he’d better.
“What if Phil Jackson was coaching the Cavaliers?”
I like the question. It was tempting to not lay any blame for the game last night at the feet of Mike Brown. After all, on the Cavs’ last play, LeBron got the drive he wanted and he had a great look on the layup, and he just missed it. It happens. But to not blame Mike Brown at all for this game would be to ignore the sum of the parts of this game. With LeBron struggling to score, Brown was incapable of designing anything to get LeBron some easy baskets to try to get him jump started. There was no posting up, no moving behind screens, no penetrating by other players to try to get LeBron a better look…..none of that. Instead, the Cavs kept running headstrong into a brick wall, and it clearly wasn’t working. Furthermore, I know Z is older and the Cavs can’t give him too many minutes, but the decision to take him out of the game in the 3rd quarter after he had sparked the Cavs offense and given them the lead was a questionable at best substitution plan. Especially with LeBron sitting at the same time.
-Devin Brown registered a DNP-Coach’s Decision. My oh my has he fallen far from where he was just a month ago. You mean to say that Devin’s athleticism and ability to get to the basket on the drive wouldn’t have helped last night? It wasn’t worth giving him a shot?
-Same with Damon Jones. I know DJ would be a huge defensive liability against this attacking Boston offense, but I would have liked to have seen him at least given a chance to see if he could come in and do what he does best…..give the team instant offense and provide a spark with his shooting.
-The Cavaliers were 30.7% from the field. The ghost of Larry Hughes was alive and well last night.
-Boston’s A/TO ratio was 18/21 while Cleveland’s was 19/17. That should tell you all you need to know about the game. It won’t be winning any Miss Photogenic awards.
-The Cavaliers were outrebounded by Boston. 43 to 41. With the size and the propesnity for rebounding of the Cavaliers’ frontcourt and reserves, that number is unacceptable. Cleveland has been a better rebounding team than Boston all year long, and when you shoot below the Hughes-Line (its like the Mendoza-Line in baseball) there’s ample opportunities for offensive rebounds. Of course, there’s also ample opportunities for the opponent to get defensive rebounds, too, so maybe that had a lot to do with it. Either way, Cleveland has no chance if they’re going to let Boston out-rebound them.
-I said time and time again prior to the game that the West-Rondo matchup would be huge. And sure enough, early in the game, West wasn’t able to slow down Rondo at all and Rondo and KG started up a lethal 1-2 game with each other and they just killed the Cavaliers early. Credit to West and the rest of the Cavaliers defense for getting it together a little bit better in the 2nd half and limiting Rondo’s effectiveness in the late 3rd/early 4th quarter, but still…..they cannot allow Rondo to get into the lane that easy. It gave me Tony Parker flashbacks, and I hate those.
What The Inside World Is Saying
“If the Cavs play them this closely the rest of the series, they like their chances. If they lose all the close games, then they’ll tip their cap. Regardless of whether the Cavs shoot 31 percent, which is an all-time low in the playoffs, or shoot 50 percent, they were ahead by a point with 1:30 to go and down two with 20 seconds to go with the ball in LeBron’s hands. The Cavs’ offense was terrible at times but their defense was excellent for much of the game, especially their rotations and backside protection. This is why Mike Brown preaches the style he does, the defense enabled them to stay in the game when they were awful.” [Brian Windhorst]
“The Celtics are beatable. Yes, I picked Boston in 7 games, but that doesn’t mean the Cavs can’t win this series. Forward Kevin Garnett was sensational in Game 1 with 28 points and eight rebounds. But Ben Wallace fought him the whole game. That guy refused to back down from KG. When Coach Mike Brown took Wallace out of the game with under a minute to play, KG immediately attacked Joe Smith on the game-winning basket. Note to Mike: Leave Big Ben in the game during crunch time. Because of free-throw deficiencies, coaches like to take Wallace out at the end of games. But in this instance, he had to be on the floor.” [Bob Finnan]
“Yes, Boston is the NBA’s premier defensive team. The Celtics clogged the lane and also do a good job of patrolling the 3-point line. But if two or three green men are always chasing James, someone has to be open. We know James can get them the ball. Even in this nightmarish opener, James still had nine assists.
But the Cavs must spread out their shooters so that Wally Szczerbiak (5-of-14), Delonte West (2-of-10) and Daniel Gibson (2-of-6) can set up in their favorite spots. Yes, they missed some wide-open jumpers, but too often, they seemed to be scrambling around, not sure where they should go.
I’ll just say it once … it would be nice to get the ball near the hoop to the 7-foot-3 center maybe once or twice a quarter. They also seem to have forgotten the high pick-and-pop play with James and Ilgauskas.” [Terry Pluto]
“Paul Pierce was able to laugh about it afterward.
Pierce made just 2 of 14 shots and had six turnovers in the Celtics’ 76-72 victory over the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday night in TD Banknorth Garden.
Ray Allen went 0-for-4, going scoreless in an NBA game for the first time since February 26, 1997.
But Boston came out ahead where it mattered most — at the end — as the Celtics hounded Cavaliers star LeBron James into a 2-for-18 performance” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]
“All of you who claim James does not have any help better rewind Tuesday’s Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. The Cavs lost by four. James shot a miserable 2-of-18 from the field and had 10 turnovers but the Cavs were right there until the end.
James could not get it done on the offensive end but Zydrunas Ilgauskas came up big with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Wally Szczerbiak had 13 points in the losing cause. As a team, the Cavs shot 30.7 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range but they managed to scrap and claw until the end.” [Branson Wright]
“James finished with 12 points, 9 boards, 9 assists and 10 turnovers.Some of this is a credit to Boston’s defense, they doubled James early and often and made him uncomfortable the entire night. But some of this goes on the coaching staff and the terrible offense. Is James not allowed to post up? Why does he have to receive the ball outside the 3pt line? What happened to the ‘C’ cuts he was doing against the Wizards? The Cavs had extremely little offensive movement and it allowed the Celtics’ defense to clamp down on James. LeBron finished just 2-18 (both shots were layups, including the first basket of the game) though he was 8-10 from the line. James missed two really close shots late that just rimmed out; he probably should’ve gotten a foul called at least once (you know, when James Posey was intentionally fouling) but he usually makes those anyways.” [Random Thoughts]
What The Outside World Is Saying
“Whew. Eeeeeewww. Yuck. If that’s what the Celtics and Cavaliers have in store for us, maybe it’s time to resume work on that stamp collection.
Missed shots. Turnovers. Just plain bad plays. Have I mentioned the turnovers? No one actually won this game. Someone had to not lose it. To the immense relief of the nightly sellout crowd of 18,624, the Celtics were the fortunate non-losers and thus lead this series, one game to none.” [Bob Ryan]
“The defensive-minded contest might have been an affair that only Bill Russell could love.
Garnett scored 28 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and made a key late shot that proved decisive. As for his fellow All-Star teammates, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, they both struggled mightily offensively.
Allen averaged 17.4 points per game during the regular season, Pierce 19.6. But last night, Allen went scoreless in a playoff game for the first time in his career, and scoreless in any game for only the second time.
Allen, who took only four field goal attempts and zero free throws, had scored at least a point in 852 straight games.” [Marc Spears]
“What a night. LeBron made only 2 of 18 shots in a 4-point playoff loss to the Celtics. He committed 10 turnovers. He had 9 rebounds and 9 assists to go with his measly 12 points. Almost a dubious quadruple-double.
Staying with the cold symbolism, James placed the stat sheet on top of the ice water between his ankles.” [Dan Shaughnessy]
“The biggest basket of last night’s game came down to Kevin Garnett doing one of his patented swooping moves across the lane, blowing past an overmatched Joe Smith, and curling the ball into the basket with 21.4 seconds to play. That snapped the game’s final tie, and the Celtics hung on for a 76-72 victory in the series opener against the Cavaliers.
It was a play that Garnett often has come under criticism for not making or, even worse, not wanting to make. But he showed absolutely no hesitation in taking the ball to the rim on this occasion. It was a play that Doc Rivers called only because Rivers overruled himself and did not call a timeout. That one move – not calling time – may have been the biggest of the game.” [Peter May]
“Now that game one is in the books, we have to turn to both coaching staffs and see how they react. What will Coach Brown do to free up LeBron more? Sounds like they want to run some more pick and roll. Will Doc counter with perhaps the best pick and roll defender ever (Kevin Garnett)? What will Doc do to get Pierce and Allen involved? Will we see more of Sam Cassell late in games or will Rajon Rondo’s role return to normal? The chess match gets interesting now.” [CelticsBlog]
“OK, enough LeBron talk… the last thing I want to do is get that man all riled up. On the flip-side, Boston’s main cog, Kevin Garnett, was absolutely dominating. He finished with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. He made two clutch baskets down the stretch to help seal the win. He busted out of the gates, scoring 12 first quarter points, attempting to set the tone for Boston. In the first half, he was an offensive juggernaut down-low. Cleveland (like most other teams) couldn’t handle him in the post. Unfortunately, in the second half he reverted back to hanging out by the 3 point line… although one of his big, down-the-stretch shots was a 20+ foot jumper, so I’m not complaining.” [BostonsportZ]
“Let’s get one thing straight right away: KG was a monster that shut a lot of people up. He carried the team offensively, and he drove hard the hoop for what turned out to be a game winning layup. Awesome game for KG… and that aggressiveness should scare Cavs fans.
But I want to make sure that the defensive effort on LeBron isn’t lost… especially since the national media will be swinging from LeBron’s sack… declaring that something must have been “off” with LeBron’s game. Yeah… he might have missed a couple of shots he normally makes… but the real story was that Paul Pierce and James Posey smothered him all night long.” [Red’s Army]
“Celtics win 76-72 in a defensive struggle of titanic proportions. The carnage included the great LeBron James going 2-18, Paul Pierce going for 2-14, and Ray Allen 0-4 AND going scoreless for the first time since 1979. Put those remarkable numbers aside, and you have to elevate Garnett to MVP status -oops, he got bumped on that one, make that player of the game for doing what he’s been maligned for not doing enough of in his career – against the big front line of the Cavs, KG embarked on a 28 point scoring night and more importantly came up clutch on not one, but two occasions in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter.” [Celtics 17]
What The Players And Coaches Said
“Celtics defense was good. They did a good job making the paint look crowded and contesting our shooters from the perimeter. We need to continue doing a good job being aggressive. We were aggressive getting to the rim. We ended up with 26 free throws. I thought on some of our drives, we could have ended up with more, but that’s how it goes, and you need to give the Celtics defense credit, they did a nice job.” [Mike Brown]
“[Paul Pierce]’s a very good offensive player. Footwork wise, besides Kobe Bryant, he has the best footwork I have seen. So just trying to mix and match and just trying to keep my body on him. He’s a very good player. I don’t expect him to play like he played tonight, him or Ray. I mean, tonight was a very offensive struggle game. Defensively, both teams were locked in. Now we just got to get ready for game two.” [LeBron James]
“We were right there, up two points. That’s where you want to be at on the road with a minute left. They just made a couple more shots than we did at the end. They made their shots and we missed some shots. Sometimes it goes that way. You know, you have to like being up by two with a minute left on the road with a hostile crowd. We know we are going to play better next game.” [Zydrunas Ilgauskas]
“Well, I thought it was the Knicks-Heat series for about 20 minutes of that game. It was a beautiful win. I guess I’ll put it that way. A lot of things didn’t go our way and a lot of things didn’t go their way either and we just found a way to win the game. I’m really happy and I loved the way we played defense. I loved the way we came out offensively in the first quarter, other than that, to get away with, I think it was 23 turnovers and win the game, it’s fantastic and we’ll take it.” [Doc Rivers]
“Well, me and Ray Allen feel like if we play him to a stand still, because the combination between me and him was 2 of 18 also, we give ourselves the best chance. You know you just try and run into the help. I mean 1 on 1 he is tough, just driving to the hole with his strength, the way he can knock down shots. We just tried to direct him toward where the help is, where Kevin, where Perk is, and make his finishes tough at the rim and then we just try and keep him out of the fast break, limit easy opportunities. That’s what our defense is, that’s what we tried to do last series with Joe Johnson and definitely you got to do it with LeBron. He is not going to come out and play and go 2 for 18 every game, but hey we going to go out there and do our best to try and make him.” [Paul Pierce]
“Guarding LeBron is going to be a collective effort, its not just on Paul, its not just on Ray. But like you said, James Posey, Tony Allen, you know our team defense, its not just 1 on 1 with us. Paul said earlier with Joe Johnson, thought we did a real good job neutralizing him and LeBron you got to do that with him. You have to make the other guys be effective and beat you. Posey did a good job as well as anybody in this league, I think he is one of the premier defenders in this league. At the end of the day, the bigs got to be there, we all have to communicate to him and guys have to be ready at any time to step up and do whatever is caused to stop dudes.” [Kevin Garnett]