April 25, 2014

Round Two, Game Six: Numbers and Words

LeBron James, Joe SmithI’m stepping in for Rock today, realizing that I have some huge shoes to fill.  Or slippers.  After all, this is a blog.  And thankfully, a huge win last night gives me something that I’ll actually enjoy writing about – as opposed to the disaster down in Cincinnati.

- Finally.  A game where LeBron James leads the way and the Cavaliers win.  Arguably, it was the role players that were the keys in the ignition during games three and four.  Game five saw James come out swinging early, and then rested on his laurels and saw a slew of teammates simply doing the infamous stand-around-and-watch move.  Last night, James had 32 of the team’s 74 points.  Started off slow (missing his first handful of shots), only to catch fire in the second half with clutch jumpers and huge free throws.  Can we count on 13-of-15 from the line tomorrow?  Not likely, given that pesky career average.  However, as timely as it may have been, James sure picked a good night to channel Mark Price.

- He may have only had 10 points, and somehow managed to play 45 minutes without recording an assist, but Delonte West had two absolutely huge plays in last night’s game.  The first of which was the buzzer-beater at the end of the first half.  From 29-feet out, West short-armed what may go down to be one of the bigger shots of this series, putting the Cavs up nine at the half.  The second play was the block on Ray Allen after the foul was called on Wally Szczerbiak late in the game.  The foul was questionable as it was, but had that shot went in, Allen’s an automatic three-point play. 

- Perhaps Daniel Gibson’s absence may hurt us more than we realize, given his playing time.  Sasha Pavolovic was absolutely dreadful in the fourth quarter.  His man would leave him to double LeBron James, and LBJ smartly passed it to the slashing Pavlovic.  Twice, Sasha found himself too deep under the hoop, but still forced shots – resulting in blocks by Garnett and Perkins.  Thankfully for the timeout, Mike Brown’s swap of Wally for Sasha resulted in a clutch three with two minutes left.

- Unfortunately, Ben Wallace was near invisible last night.  Fortunately, Joe Smith came up huge in the end with his two free throws with less than a minute left.  Recall when the trade went down, I mentioned that the free throw shooting of West, Smith and Szczerbiak would be a huge difference-maker.  Wally was 4-for-4, Smith 3-of-4.  Not a bad night considering our 28-of-41 a game earlier.

- I said it over at Red’s Army, and I’ll say it here. If the Celtics want to go small with Eddie House, they will get some offensive help.  But they will also concede on the glass.  When you have the length of a KG-Perkins-Rondo-Allen-Pierce lineup, it’s tough to contend in boards, let alone win.  But when you have Posey-House-Rondo-Allen-Davis, things are going to be a bit different.  And I’ll take that any day given the low-scoring affairs we have seen.

- And one final note.  Boston fans can cry about the foul-shooting discrepancy all they’d like.  It’s actually smart defense to foul a team like the Cavaliers – especially James – who struggles mightily from the line.  Look at Game 5.  However, you can’t cry when you do the same thing and the free throws start to fall.  It’s just the way it is.  Washington did the same thing; it was the strategy.  And sometimes, strategy comes back to bite you.  Let the game be played on the court; LeBron would prefer it go down that way.

What the Inside World is Saying:

It is fair to criticize Mike Brown for his offense, heck knows I have been doing it for years. But the guy takes so much abuse in this town. His defensive principles are responsible for the win, maybe not as much as the star power of LeBron, but these are the types of games that Mike spends so much time preparing his team for. Perhaps the weaknesses will decide the game Sunday but there are strengths and important ones. The Cavs shot 32 percent and won. Think about that for a minute. (Brian Windhorst)

Eddie House came off the Boston bench late in the first quarter, and in the next six minutes, he scored five points on 2-of-3 from the field. Little things like this help win a road game, especially since House was 1-of-12 from the field in his previous 41 playoff minutes. He has been the Celtics’ forgotten man in the playoffs, much like Damon Jones for the Cavs. Jones came into the game in the second quarter, took two shots and missed them both. (Terry Pluto)

James takes the contact and gets to the foul line in a continuous one-man parade. With all the talk about his shooting from the floor (now 32.5 percent at 41-for-126), he is shooting 76.1 percent at the foul line. He added 12 rebounds and six assists, partially offsetting eight turnovers. After missing seven of his nine shots from the field in the first half, he made seven of 14 in the second. (Bill Livingston)

The Cavaliers weren’t sure who might step up with Gibson gone, but West did. He wasn’t winded after logging just one minute less than LeBron James. He understood the significance of how he filled in for Gibson with some timely long-distance shooting of his own. (Jodie Valade)

But this series is about everything we thought it would be about the minute the matchup became official: defense and rebounding. The Cavs won the battle on the boards on Friday night, 45-37, while holding a 16-7 edge on the o-boards. Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been one of the best offensive rebounders in the league over the past several years, and five of his 10 rebounds came on the offensive side.

The result: a 17-2 edge in the Cavs’ favor in second-chance points, easily the decisive stat of Game 6 that summarized Friday night in a nutshell. (Cavalier Attitude)

What the Outside World Is Saying:

The mighty Celtics have been exposed in the tournament, but still have the only thing that matters in the NBA this year: home court. Sooner or later, of course, the pattern will be interrupted; the Celtics sincerely hope it’s not tomorrow when they play Game 7 at home against LeBron James and friends. (Dan Shaughnessy)

Disappear, that’s what a lot of people think Allen has done in this series, and in the playoffs. His lack of production, the Celtics’ inconsistent play on the road, and some classic home cooking from the officials contributed to the need for a Game 7 tomorrow at TD Banknorth Garden to decide who will play the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals.

Nobody is more frustrated than Allen, who is shooting 34.5 percent from the field in the first six games of this series and has made just 4 of 22 3-pointers, including an 0-for-3 effort last night. (Christopher Gasper)

Can we really lose to LeBron James and his band of role players (I got physically ill watching Wally drain that 25-footer with 2 minutes left last night) in a Game 7 at the Garden? Put a gun to my head and force me to make decision, I’m going with the Celtics. There’s no denying this has been one ugly series. But I like our guys on our court with our refs. Oops…did I make a reference that the referees have been impartial? Sorry but I just can’t overlook the discrepancy in fouls called and free throws. LeBron is going to the line more than the entire Celtics team. (Red’s Army)

What the Players/Coaches are Saying:

“Tell the refs to do the interview. They were just as important.” (Doc Rivers)

“Mentally, we feel like we are a confident team.  We’ve been in a Game 7 before. We feel like this is a game we let slip away. I think we’re going to go home and take care of business.” (Paul Pierce)

“There are a lot of things that are frustrating, obviously.  [One is] when you hold a team to a pretty decent percentage as far as shooting [and lose].” (Kevin Garnett)

“Those are daggers, even if it’s early in the game.  A man goes down when it’s win or go home, and the show’s got to go on.” (Delonte West)

“You need tough guys around you, mentally and physically, to endure in tough games.  He does not shy away from contact. He has to force the issue and do so aggressively.”  (Mike Brown)

“I’m not ready to go home.  In Game 5, I wasn’t aggressive and they took advantage of that. I was aggressive in the third quarter [Friday] and we took advantage of that.” (LeBron James)

“Games are not always going to be pretty.  The good teams in this league are always the ones that can find ways to win ugly games. But they can call it what they want. I call it a win.”  (Ben Wallace)

Game 7.  Sunday.  Three-thirty, P.M.  It’s a series of one.

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  • Graham

    Great post Scott, good filling in for Rock

    I know this definately comes from a Cavs fans standpoint, but I don’t think the descrepancy of fouls was that big. The Celtics played more physical defense, everyone saw that. A lot of things that were fouls were not called. So Celtics fans need to stop complaining about the referees and just play basketball. I know it’s tough to lose, ask any Cavs fans from 1993-2002. But you don’t go blaming the refs.

    Poor class, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doc Rivers get fined $25,000 for his comments to the referees after the game

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Agreed – I actually defend Rivers in most cases, but stooped to ‘angry fan’ level with that one.

    And you’re spot-on. If you’re going to be an agressive defensive team, you’ll typically wind up fouling more.

  • SamBfromTN

    Are Celtics fans watching the games? They’re basing that argument off of a stat line. I dont understand how wizards fans and celts fans alike can pretend to believe that Lebron isnt getting legitimately fouled the majority of times he goes to the line. If they had players that could push through a crowd and consistently make baskets they would get to the line too.