Round Two Game Two Numbers and Words

LeBron James Another home game, another blowout. Thursday night the Cleveland Cavaliers used an unbelievably suffocating defense to shut down the Atlanta Hawks offense, and the Cavs ran away with the 105-85 victory. The Cavaliers’ biggest worry now goes from rust to over-confidence. At 6-0 and yet to be tested in the playoffs, the Cavaliers are still looking for their first taste of real adversity. What follows, though, is my analysis in numbers and words.

-The Hawks, for all the things that went wrong in this game. and have gone wrong for the whole series so far, continued to shoot the ball well from the outside. They shot 8-17 from three (47.1%) in this game. The Cavaliers aren’t going to worry about that if the Hawks are going to shoot 34.9% from the field overall, but if the Hawks ever actually figure out how to score inside, the Cavs will want to tighten up the perimeter defense a bit. It’s tough, because the Hawks have some lengthy 3 point shooters and the Cavs backcourt is undersized. It may be nitpicking a bit, but I had to point out something the Cavs could do better in Game 3, especially since the series heads to Atlanta where the Hawks tend to play dramatically better than on the road.   

-I was happy to see a few more assists for the Cavaliers in this game, as they ended up with 19 for the game. They were moving the ball pretty well for the most part, there was a lot more off-ball movement than in Game 1, and their spacing was impeccable. A much better offensive performance in this game as far as running the half court offense is concerned. What was troubling, however, was the increase in turnovers. After committing just 7 in Game 1, they turned it over 17 times in Game 2, their highest TOV total in the playoffs yet. Again, I mean, in theory these are the kinds of things you should worry about. For the Cavaliers, though? Eh, it just came in a 20 point win that wasn’t even remotely as close as the final score indicated. To this point, it’s really hard to criticize this Cavs team with a straight face. They’ve simply been that good.

-You’re going to read a lot of people ripping on the Hawks in this series, attacking their heart and desire as well as their dedication and how hard they are playing in this series. After watching the pathetic effort the Pistons put forth in Round One, though, I don’t see it quite that was in this series. Sure, I’ve seen the Hawks play much better this season, but I don’t feel like they’re not trying. I think it would be unfair to the Cavaliers to not give them the credit for the way this series is heading, rather than just blaming the Hawks performance. In this game, the Hawks shot 46.1% from three, had 18 offensive rebounds to the Cavs’ 10, their A/TOV ratio was 17/13, compared to 19/17 for the Cavs, both teams were whistled for 22 fouls, the Hawks were 19-24 from the line, compared to 23-30 for the Cavs, each team had 22 points off turnovers, the Hawks had 13 fastbreak points to the Cavs’ 16, and the Hawks had 18 second chance points to the Cavs’ 16. There are plenty of aspects where the Hawks are playing hard and right on par with the Cavs. Where the Hawks are failing is scoring inside. Their 34.9% FG percentage in 50 NKthis game was atrocious, and I give a ton of credit to the Cavs coaching staff for the adjustments they have made after the first 2 quarters of this series. Anderson Varejao, Ben Wallace, and Joe Smith were all incredibly effective at disrupting any attempts at scoring on the interior, and as a result, they were able to limit the Hawks to just 24 points in the paint. The Cavaliers defense was about as stifling as I have ever seen it in this game, as we at one point wondered in the Live Blog whether or not the Hawks were ever going to be able to break 50 by the end of 3rd quarter. The discussion lead us to break out the 50 NK Challenge, which prompted Denny to give us our newest NK icon. Hey, we have to keep ourselves entertained in Blow Out Live Blogs (not to be confused with the Bob Loblaw Law Blog), don’t we?

-Another area where the Hawks are still incredibly lacking is in their own interior defense. The Cavaliers had 44 points in the paint in Game 2, improving on the 40 they had in Game 1. It would be tempting to blame the Hawks’ 2nd level of defense for these woes, except the Hawks don’t seem to have a 2nd level. I can’t recall the last time the Cavs played an opponent who allowed the Cavs to have the lane so easily. All the Cavaliers’ backcourt players have to do is get by their original perimeter defender, and occasionally a weak double team attempt, and the lane is there. There’s no help at all and no rotation to speak of. If the Cavs guards get by their defender, they are home free. And as a result, the Cavs are scoring at will inside on the Hawks. When you think of this Atlanta team, you think of them being a long, athletic team that consistently intimidates with their ability to block shots. In Game 1, though, the Hawks had just 2 blocked shots and in Game 2 they managed to get 4. The Cavs, on the other hand, had 11 blocked shots in Game 2. It just shows which team is playing tougher defense and has been more active.

-I would be remiss to not mention the job Wally Szczerbiak has done in this series so far. For the most part, he and Joe Smith seem to have swapped roles from the First Round to the Second Round. Whereas Joe Beast was active and effective at making his presence felt against the Pistons, he has been equally ineffective on offense in this series. It’s been Wally who has come to the rescue off the bench. He had 17 points on 7-9 shooting from the field in this game to lead all bench scorers. He’s been a monster in the post, and believe it or not, the Hawks seem to be unsure of how exactly to defend Wally in the post, other than to try to draw a charge on him. That seriously seems to be the best way they’ve figured out to defend him. Wally also had a dunk in this game, which is always worth mentioning, and the crowd was chanting “Wally! Wally! Wally!” at several points in this game. I’m just saying, if you’re the Hawks and you hear the Cavs fans chanting Wally Szczerbiak’s name, you’re really not doing something right.

-Delonte West had another great game going (turnovers aside)….5-10 from the field, 4-4  from the for 14 points before he got poked in the right eye. It was the only dark moment of the night, as we got a little worried by how long it took to get an update. Thankfully, ESPN eventually diagnosed Delonte with a poked eye (I’m not making this up….that’s what they said the diagnosis was. I suppose the Hawks doctors also diagnosed Joe Johnson’s ankle as “hurting”), and didn’t make it sound too serious. Thanks to Brian Windhorst’s Twitter Feed, we found out last night that the Cavs will be listing him as day-to-day, but LeBron says that Delonte will be good to go for Game 3. Disaster averted.

-Finally, I should probably say something about LeBron’s performance, huh? I mean, 3 dunks, 2 layups, 1 two-point jumper, 3 three-point jumpers, 6 FTs, 27 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block to go with 0 turnovers. As great as LeBron was in the Olympics and as great as he was throughout his MVP season, he has somehow been so much better in this postseason. 27 points on 14 FG attempts, to go with the 0 turnovers, represents a level of efficiency out of his game we just haven’t quite seen on this consistent of a basis before now. With the backcourt duo of Molante playing with extreme confidence right now, and LeBron playing out of his mind, it’s exciting to dream of how good this team is going to be once Big Z and Joe Beast get going again. You don’t want to overlook how well Atlanta plays at home, and they should be embarrassed and come out in Game 3 playing like a trapped animal with their backs against the cage walls, but if the Cavaliers keep playing at this level, it’s kind of hard to imagine it really mattering how well Atlanta plays at home.

  • DCBucks

    Molante. I like it. The 3 point percentage for Atlanta is a bit misleading. I think with the exception of Bibby hitting 2 in a row in the 2nd? quarter, the majority of the 3’s were in extreme garbage time.

    I think our 2/3 unit playing clean up time leaves a little to be desired, but these guys all play so much better when they’re interleaved with starters. Mike Brown experimented throughout the season to get just the right mix of players on the court, and to his credit he found the rotations that get the most out of the bench players. Look at how well the team has done recently with LeBron on the bench starting the 2nd quarter. It hurt not having Delonte available to anchor the first half of the 4th quarter.

  • Scott

    “if you’re the Hawks and you hear the Cavs fans chanting Wally Szczerbiak’s name, you’re really not doing something right.”

    As in, you obviously need more pomade.

  • bridgecrosser

    It should be Molonte. It’s not Delante as far as I know. However, I approve the Molonte message and usage.

  • Brendon

    Molante – Genius. You should trademark that.

  • Brendon

    Waiting for Next Year – Where Molonte Happens.

  • Denny

    To give credit where it’s due, Molante came from Devine. He came up with it on his Twitter a few days ago. Here’s a Twitter search of ‘molante’:

    Also Rock, you forgot the key number of the night: 40. As in 40 feet. That’s where LeBron bombed from at the halftime buzzer.

  • adam

    if joe johnson is out saturday the game (and series) may very well be over already.

    tonights game between orlando and boston should be interesting to say the least. i like the magic to bounce back tonight…

  • AMC

    @ adam – agreed re: johnson, though he claimed, while walking in a walking boot that we was going to try to give it a go. Even if he’s out there though, hard to see how he’s much of an offensive weapon when he can’t drive. Plus, you have to imagine he’d be a defensive liability on a team that’s already struggling mightily to guard dribble penetration from Molante.

    I like the Celts tonight. I think the Magic are really going to miss Rafer Alston.

  • DP

    It’s got to be terribly frustrating for Mike Woodson not to have Marvin Williams and Al Horford to play defense down low. Relying on Josh Smith to do *anything* on the defensive end is like playing roullette. That kid, he’s like a bear with the claws, and the [bleep]in’ fangs, but he has no idea how to kill the bunny. It must get frustrating watching him not try on defense and settling for 15 foot jumpers half the time.

    When a guy named “Zaza”–who is the most “unbasketball-player-looking” human being I’ve ever seen–is your most reliable low-post player in a playoff series, let’s just say it’s probably not going to end well for you.

  • Omega King

    What is the Cavs’ shooting % this series vs. the regular season? I feel like they’re making more shots in this series…and as such, their rebounding numbers are down.

  • Harv 21

    Agree with DC: positive Hawks’ statistics were skewed by garbage time. They certainly weren’t getting many offensive rebounds in the first three quarters.
    If I have any concern at this point, and it’s very minor, it’s the regression of Boobie. Even third stringers are exposing his ball-handling deficiencies, and his spot up shot is deserting him again, even in no presure situations. Delonte keeps throwing his little 180 pounds against the big boys like a human pinata, and if he gets hurt again, who’s the back-up point? Sasha can ball handle a little, but he slips into funks like I slip into flip flops.
    Anyway, the real story is LeBron. The guy is controlling all aspects of these playoff games like a puppeteer pulling the strings. He looks like he’s reaching the height of his powers right now, with all his youthful speed and hops still there, but already having the leadership skills and that developed basketball brain. We may never see anything else quite like this again.

  • jeff

    To be fair…6 of those 17 turnovers came in the 4th quarter (3 on some rather ridiculous offensive fouls by wally). Not that 11 in 3 quarters is good, it’s not as bad as it seems.

  • RockKing

    Yeah, I assumed since we already gave credit to Devine for coming up with Molante that I didn’t need to do so again, but perhaps I should have.

    And, for the record, it probably should be Molonte, but I’m spelling it the way the creator spelled it.

  • Ezzie

    Re: Cavs turnovers, a few were actually off Hawks’ turnovers, when the Cavs were trying to rush a fastbreak. They had 6 at one point in the second quarter, and a couple minutes later after those frantic loose balls back and forth were up to 11. Not saying it’s great, but they weren’t bad passes off sets, just lost balls from the floor.

  • RockKing

    Also, there really should be more praise in the comments for Denny’s new 50 NK logo….it was the highlight of the night. Even more so than LeBron’s halftime buzzer beater.

  • Jay

    Alright, maybe because I’m a little slow on the up-take, or because I’m fairly new here, but what is the meaning of “NK”?

  • Denny

    D R I + NK = ??

  • DP

    Perhaps we need to add an explanation of “NK” to the “before you comment” section… 😉

  • Todd Friedman

    anybody have an update on delonte’s eye?

  • Denny

    Todd –

    Honestly, for breaking Cavs news it doesn’t get more up-to-date than Windy’s Twitter. I know a lot of people suffer from “twitter fatigue” with all the coverage, but it’s far and away the best source for breaking stuff. Usually has things up 2 or 3 hours before he publishes. Doesn’t have game results ahead of time though, sadly.

  • kevin

    I can’t believe I haven’t seen more comments about Mo winning that second quarter jumpball and the bench erupting. that’s some of the funniest stuff I’ve seen all year. Lebron was rooting for him 2 minutes before they even jumped it off.

  • Denny

    Per Windy’s Twitter, Delonte is probable for Game 3. Marvin Williams and Horford practiced today, Joe Johnson did not. All 3 probable.

  • Tsunami

    Nice points about the Hawks. Their interior defense and decision to switch screens and let lebron go 1-1 is what is killing them – and their inability to score around the hoop – but a lot of that is bc they are missing horford.

  • Todd Friedman

    Denny Thanks for the update.