Cavaliers vs Hawks: 5 Things From Game 1

How strange was it to see the Cavs actually playing a game last night? All of those nights off made it seem like the Cavs had a first round bye. (Insert Pistons joke here.) Anyway, here’s my five observations good and bad from last night’s game.

Where Amazing Happens

Five good things-

1. LeBron. (I could probably just type that name alone, but I won’t.) With all the hype, all the pomp of his MVP award, the shoes, the trip to Akron yesterday it would have been easy for him to struggle with focus early on. To say he didn’t would be a gross understatement. LeBron demonstrated MVP leadership with his intense focus from the opening tip. He was defending, hustling for every loose ball, and that dunk to start the game didn’t hurt either. He was amazing. And we’ve come to expect the amazing. By the way, I thought LeBron’s most impressive play may have been drawing a charge on the 2-on-1 breakaway. Brilliant.

2. Ben Wallace. That time off may have helped Big Ben more than any of the Cavs. Ben looked much more mobile and ready to play in his 15 minutes. He had his legs back, and what a difference he could be healthy and focused for 15-20 minutes off the bench. (Did you see him finish off a dunk? When was the last time that happened?)

3. The backcourt. I love when our guards are driving the ball inside. It absolutely destroys defensive integrity. Delonte and Mo weren’t just driving and dishing last night, they were finishing plays inside. If the Hawks are planning to do that all series we may have another long rest following game 4.

4. The bench. With the exception of Joe Smith, the bench was very productive. LeBron’s rest  times saw the lead increase in both the second and fourth quarters. Wally got into position for a charge (!) and everyone got into the rebounding act. I have to image with all the scrimmaging between series the bench is actually pretty sharp as compared to the end of the regular season when the Cavs didn’t do much more than shoot-a-rounds and walk-throughs.

5. Ball control. There were a few sloppy turnovers early on, which you would expect from a team that hadn’t played in a while, but for the most part the Cavs took care of the ball. They finished the game with seven TOs, and didn’t commit one after the 7:00 mark of the third quarter. Well played.

And now five things I didn’t like- (Yes, I am nit-picking.)

1. Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Normally, Big Z plays well after getting rest. I was surprised that his shots weren’t falling, and he certainly will struggle this series against the quicker bigs of Atlanta. I liked that the Cavs tried to get Z going though. He will still be an important part of this series, and hopefully he bounces back with a better performance in game 2.

2. Joe Smith. After having a fantastic series against Detroit, Joe hung a donut on the scoreboard. He was active on the defensive end, but got caught in bad positions a few times too many and ended up fouling more times than not.

3. Defending Josh Smith. Using fouls against Josh would be a wise move. He is an atrocious free throw shooter for a scorer. I was surprised we didn’t see more of LeBron on Smith. He is just a little too quick for Andy to guard, and I think Delonte can handle Joe Johnson.

4. TNT’s coverage. Ok, I really don’t have much negative to say about their coverage, but I really don’t have any more concerns about the Cavs either.

5. When is game 2 again?

  • AMC

    I actually rather liked TNT’s coverage. With the exception of Dick Stockton saying Delonte’s name incorrectly, it was pretty good. Fratello’s a solid analyst and even Cheryl Miller as the sideline reporter wasn’t completely useless.

    If you’re going to nitpick, especially because you put defending Josh Smith up there after they basically completely shut him down in the second half, you need to put “Defending Mike Bibby” up there. In the first half he had WAY to many WIDE OPEN looks. But it would be nitpicking because they shut him down in the second half too.

    I want the return of Joe Beast!

  • Gabriel

    great point about the bench. i never really thought about how the long rest would give the bench more playing time in practice. they did seem to step up their game compared to last series, and i was wondering how that was happening.

  • CJG

    Here’s the only questionable thing that came to my mind last night….are they going to wear those crazy yellow jersey’s again?

    Seriously….I have no problems with this team.

  • The Other Tim

    4. TNT’s coverage.

    I am starting to get really sick of the screaming guitar blast that plays into commercial breaks. That music is awful.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP

    I thought the quote from Mike Brown that Rock had in his recap about Sasha was prescient, too. When was the last time Sasha had any meaningful minutes? I thought his minutes last night were solid, and showed me that he wouldn’t be a total liability if he got forced into more meaningful situations later in the series due to foul trouble or something.

  • Wiggles

    My biggest beef with TNT is the lack of instant replay – it seems all too often they decide to ramble about some meaningless fact or show some worthless graphic instead of showing a play again. They do a good job of replaying the big, important highlights, but we’re going to see those in every recap anyways; let’s see some more little things like questionable foul calls that we didn’t see clearly enough to believe anything actually happened on…

  • DJ

    My only problem with TNT’s coverage: The ad nauseum Dos Equis and Tyler Perry commercials. Enough!

    The T-Mobile ‘Old School’ commercial can stay…I haven’t gotten sick of that one yet.

  • Clown Baby

    I liked the hard foul that Wally dished out at the end of the game last night. Even more enjoyable is the fact that the scoreboard people seemed to like it to and did a closeup on Wally’s jersey and then his face after he laid the dude out. It got the crowd pretty fired up. I’m not sure if they referenced it or replayed it on TV but l loved seeing a good, hard playoff foul. I watched some videos today and I can tell you that the TV coverage of the MVP trophy ceremony did not do the noise level justice. Those in the building couldn’t even hear what Stern was saying and I was fine with that.

  • AMC

    @ Clown – good to hear that. I was actually thinking that the crowd seemed rather subdued, not during the MVP ceremony, but as the game went on…

  • phil

    I’d like to put to shame Chuck Barkley’s brain-shot outburst at halftime, in which he barked out, “The Cavs are playing terrible!” or something to that effect. Chuckle’s evidence of the Cavs’ terrible play was the fact that LeBron had scored a lot of points and not made his typical number of assists. Boy, if scoring a lot of points for your team is not damning, I don’t know what is… kind of fills you with Chucky rage, rage, doesn’t it?

    Caca-headed Chuck notwithstanding, Brian Windhorst of Yahoo! Sports criticized the Hawks’ approach and explained why LeBron had fewer assists in the first two periods than he usually does by halftime (quotation follows):

    “In the first round against Dwyane Wade, the Hawks decided they weren’t going to junk up their defense to deal with the NBA’s leading scorer. They were going to play him one-on-one and have defenders take him in shifts to lessen the load. Then they would rely on the versatility of their defenders – the Hawks are one of the few teams that can switch on all pick-and-rolls because of their general athleticism and like-sized starters – and shot blockers Al Horford and Smith as the second line of defense.

    Wade had his way for the most part, averaging 28.8 points, but the rest of the team couldn’t constantly support him. Especially when 3-pointers weren’t falling. The result was less than 90 points a game and ultimately a series win for the Hawks.

    Atlanta appeared to bring the same idea to the table with James. But if containment was the goal it was a definite miss. Granted James has seen about every defense possible and has corresponding countermeasures that have varying track records. Making him take jumpers is the most prudent bet, though he’s a classic “pick-your-poison” player and nothing is fool proof.

    But one thing that is clear on the scouting report is James cannot be allowed to turn the corner. When he’s moving at high speed with his size there is no stopping him unless Dwight Howard, Yao Ming or a young Shaquille O’Neal are protecting the rim. Even then, James is going to have his moment.

    The reason is he can score with both hands because he’s naturally ambidextrous – he’s left-handed but plays basketball right-handed – so there is no advantage to forcing him one way or another. Once in Game 1 he soared over two back-pedaling Hawks and banked in a left-handed hook at full speed. And it wouldn’t have made his top 10 highlights on the night.

    Yet time and time again, he turned that corner because the Hawks applied no double teams and gave him space coming off pick-and-rolls. So he would square his shoulders with the hoop and zip to the rim and finish with power, draw a foul or find a teammate. Only he didn’t have to look for teammates all that much because the pickings were so abundant.

    Perhaps if Horford, who is dealing with a sprained ankle, was 100 percent it would be different. But James just bounded in between defenders, weaving his away through the lane like an experienced cab driver in rush hour. He didn’t have a single assist in the first half, which is rare considering he was ninth in the NBA in assists. He wasn’t hogging the ball, he just kept “taking what the defense gave him.”

    Once, James didn’t even need a screen and put a spin move on poor Marvin Williams and waltzed to the basket with no one seriously getting in the way. (Me: that was the delicious three-point play that ended the third period and that prompted my comment about the stupid one-man defense. Someone did in fact get in the way, but only “seriously” enough to earn a foul for it.)

    By the time the Hawks made adjustments and started having their big men step up to block James’ path coming off screens late in the third quarter it was too late. James’ teammates had awoken and he started feeding them. (Me: actually, the adjustments were not made consistently, as the previous paragraph shows.)”

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    Record for longest comment ever? Discuss.

    Windhorst writes for the Plain Dealer. He used to do some ESPN work, is he on Yahoo now too?

  • phil

    Well, probably the longest quotation, in any case. Yeah, it appears he works for Yahoo! too.

    Chuckle-head just let loose another whopper. When questioned as to why he did not place the Cavs among the elite teams in the NBA, he said, “everyone beats Detroit, everyone beats Atlanta.”

    I guess Chuckle-head does not recall the last series Atlanta played.

  • Ryan S

    props to the mention of lebrons charge draw. i thought that was incredible and deserved a spot in a highlight reel.

    hope z has a better game.. i am very assured that he will

    go cavs!

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