Cleveland Cavaliers (44-14) vs
Boston Celtics (36-19)
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Thursday, February 25, 2010
8:00 PM EST
After finally snapping that 3 game losing streak, the Cavaliers must now turn their attention to the rival Boston Celtics. Both teams come into this game relatively fresh as each had last night off. This is going to be a great playoff test for the Cavaliers. One of my biggest concerns about this season was that prior to the trade deadline, the only time the Cavaliers played the Celtics was on opening night. I wanted more info on how the Cavs match up with Boston to better know how to proceed at the trade deadline. Now, I realize most Cavs fans don’t take the Celtics seriously, but I refuse to overlook this Boston team. They’re a veteran team that knows how to win big games. This, however, is just a regular season game and the Celtics are without Paul Pierce, so we’ll see how motivated each of these teams really look tonight.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mo Williams (16.1 ppg, 5.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 15.85 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (7.3 ppg, 1.6 apg, .450 3P%, 9.54 PER)
-F LeBron James (29.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 8.5 apg, 31.74 PER)
-F Antawn Jamison (20.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 0.2 bpg, 17.54 PER)
-C Shaquille O’Neal (12.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 18.44 PER)
Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, JJ Hickson, Jamario Moon, Jawad Williams, Daniel Gibson, Leon Powe
Injuries: Sebastian Telfair (out)
-G Rajon Rondo (14.0 ppg, 9.8 apg, 2.5 spg, 20.06 PER)
-G Ray Allen (16.6 ppg, 2.8 apg, .342 3P%, 14.56 PER)
-F Marquis Daniels (6.7 ppg, 1.9 apg, .273 3P%, 11.93 PER)
-F Kevin Garnett (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 19.30 PER)
-C Kendrick Perkins (11.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 15.93 PER)
Key Reserves: Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Shelden Williams, Brian Scalabrine
Injuries: Paul Pierce (doubtful)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (101.7 ppg, 42.1 rpg, .485 FG%, 21.7 apg, 14.3 TOpg, Eff-108.7, Rank-4)
-Def (95.0 ppg, 38.2 rpg, .439 FG%, Eff-101.2, Rank-7)
-Off (98.7 ppg, 38.8 rpg, .484 FG%, 23.7 apg, 15.5 TOpg, Eff-104.6, Rank-13)
-Def (93.8 ppg, 39.7 rpg, .443 FG%, Eff-99.1, Rank-1)
- Boston 95 at Cleveland 89 – 10/27/2009 [box]
- Sun, Mar 14 at Cleveland
- Sun, Apr 4 at Boston
In the opening night of the NBA season, Cavs fans saw Shaq struggle on offense, but disrupt KG a little on defense. That pretty much became about all we expected out of Shaq for much of the first half of the season. Moderate output on offense, but decent and better-than-expected performance on defense. However, in recent weeks, Shaq has steadily been growing into a serious offensive threat once more. Boston will provide a nice test to see if Shaq’s offensive game can project to postseason type basketball. Boston is still the best defensive team in the NBA, balancing both perimeter defense and interior defense, as well as slowing things down into a playoff-style half court game.
With their quick perimeter guys in Rondo and Robinson, and with all of their size in the front court, the Celtics are excellent at defending the pick and roll game. Furthermore, they have mastered the sort of bend-but-don’t-break style of letting LeBron get his and not letting anyone else beat you. We’ll see how that philosophy holds up now that LeBron has another great offensive player at his side in Jamison whom the Celtics must account for at all times. If Garnett is forced to stay closer to Jamison than he has on Varejao or Hickson in the past, then things could really open up for Shaq inside.
It’s also key for Mo Williams to get out of this slump. The Cavaliers still need Mo to find his offense and preserve his role as a legit 2nd and/or 3rd option in this offense. Mo went through similar struggles early this season when he couldn’t adapt to playing off Shaq and Parker, and I feel a little bit like he’s doing the same now that Jamison is here. Mo needs to be assertive and make sure he’s getting his shots early as well.
Finally, LeBron needs to attack the rim much more in this game than he did in the last few games. This isn’t meant to pile up on him after several articles have been written this week about LeBron’s shooting. After all, LeBron’s shooting has won the Cavaliers plenty of games in his career. However, I feel like he has somewhat gotten away from what works in the first quarter as the games have progressed. Boston will actually give LeBron some driving lanes, and in the past he’s used them to put up some enormous numbers against the Celtics. Hopefully he gets back to that in this game.
On defense, the Cavaliers are just a mess right now. It’s not that they aren’t a great defensive team anymore, but rather, the issue is that they aren’t even a good defensive team right now. I am so utterly disheartened by this team’s defense as of late, particularly along the perimeter. And yes, I’m looking squarely at you, Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, and Delonte West.
The Cavaliers have given up 100+ points in 5 of their last 7, and 95+ in all 7 of them. Pathetic. Absolutely inexcusable and pathetic. 3 straight teams have shot better than 50% against Cleveland and 4 of the last 5 have been above 48%. Again, this is pathetic. And you know what? The Cavaliers defense is in serious trouble in this game as well. Now, not only do the Celtics have Rajon Rondo, who Mo Williams and Anthony Parker have 0% chance of ever stopping, but they also have Nate Robinson, who Mo Williams and Anthony Parker have 0% chance of ever stopping.
You want to know why the Cavaliers have been struggling lately? Watch the way Mo Williams “defends” the pick and roll and then watch the way Rondo defends it. As soon as the high screen gets within 4 feet of Mo, he begins to back up so he can go around the pick rather than fight through it. To compensate, Jamison or Varejao will give a hard show to try to slow down Rondo. Obviously, though, the Cavs can’t switch because Mo Williams cannot defend KG or Rasheed or whoever else is providing the high screen. So as a result, Andy or ‘Tawn will have to drop back, which means Mo needs to step back up to get in front of Rondo. This is where Mo gets beat every single time. Rondo will blow right by him. Because Andy or ‘Tawn are busy recovering on their own guy, this means that now a 3rd defender must leave his man to help Mo cut off the penetration. At this point, the Cavaliers have 3 defenders out of position and not solidly defending their guy. 2 quick passes later, and their opponents have either an easy layup inside or a WIDE OPEN 3 point look from outside.
It’s frustrating, and it happens again and again and again and again and again. I am so sick of it, I can barely take it. Why Mike Brown isn’t giving Gibson some minutes back (who was actually fighting through some screens when he was playing), or giving Delonte his starting spot back (who has the footwork to recover properly when going around screens, and who can also occasionally switch off on the screen) is beyond me. This needs to happen, soon, though because I see no sign of Mo Williams improving his defense any time soon. And if Mike Brown is going to just sit there and let this happen over and over again without making any adjustments, then he should be fired right now. This season is too important, and this is the most blatant episode of lethargic effort I have ever seen under Mike Brown. It’s time for it to stop.
Brian Windhorst suggested Mo’s shoulder is what causing him to back off the screen so early, as he doesn’t want to bump it at all. That’s a distinct possibility, but if that’s the case, Mo shouldn’t be playing. He’s doing this team nothing but harm by playing the way he is right now.
Anyway, not that I have achieved some catharsis and vented my anger toward the defense, I’ll just finish up by saying that I really hope this team isn’t using Z’s absence as a crutch. I’ve heard similar sentiments suggested in a few places, and while nobody loves Z more than I do, I feel like it’s time for this team to get their head put back in the right place. They developed some bad habits in racking up their 13 game win streak against bad opponents. Now they’re playing a bunch of good teams, and they’re paying for those bad habits dearly. I hope they don’t wait until March 21st to get serious about this season again. I want to see the Cavaliers come out tonight and try to prove a point to the Celtics. You acquired Jamison to become the elite team in the Eastern Conference, now it’s time to act like it.
From The Outside Looking In
Birds Of A Feather
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Friday, February 26, 2010
7:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors