Cavaliers Preview Game #59: Cavs at Celtics

Cavaliers vs CelticsCleveland Cavaliers (44-14) vs
Boston Celtics (36-19)
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Thursday, February 25, 2010
8:00 PM EST
TNT/WTAM

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

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-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)

Boston Celtics:

-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

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-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)

Boston Celtics:

-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)

Previous Matchups

  1. Boston 95 at Cleveland 89 – 10/27/2009 [box]

Future Matchups

  1. Sun, Mar 14 at Cleveland
  2. Sun, Apr 4 at Boston

Game Notes

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.

Vegas Line

Boston +2.5
Over/Under 193

From The Outside Looking In

CelticsBlog
Celtics Hub

Red’s Army
Celtics 17
Hardwood Houdini

Perk Is A Beast

Birds Of A Feather

Stepien Rules
Cavs: The Blog
The Wine and Gold Rush
Random Thoughts

Next Game For The Cavaliers

Friday, February 26, 2010
7:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
FSOH/WTAM

  • historycat

    THAT is an empty arena, Simmons.

    /Now shut up about the Q crowd.

  • ZachinBoston

    Thank you, Cavs, for coming back and smacking in the face the team i hate hearing about all the time.

  • Mark

    Wow. What a turn-around. That has to be demoralising for the Celtics and, more importantly, their fans.

  • DG

    Hope Shaq’s not out too long…severely sprained thumb…are we looking at a few weeks? Good thing the Cavs have depth w/ the bigs..they murdered the Celts w/ the smaller lineup, esp in transition.

  • S-Dub

    Where’s everyone that was saying Mo is a choker!?!?!? I told you he had to play his way out of it, same with Delonte. Where is Jaythetruth at calling Mo a choker tonight!? People need to stop analyzing every game so closely.

    Cavs showed a TON tonight. Without Shaq and Z. Mike Brown put LBJ at the 4 with Andy at C and we became unstoppable. JJ played real well with LBJ. Jamison has to be a bigger factor, but as he gets more comfortable he will be. GO CAVS!

  • christiang

    WOAH CAVS TICKETS SELLING FOR 10′ KG COMIN TO CLEELANNN

  • historycat

    Of course, now Barkley looks like a genius for picking us before the game.

  • historycat

    S-dub, no one thinks Mo choked the past few games, but he was off. He may still be off. Let’s give it time, at least more than one quarter. He needs to get a rhythm going.

    You can’t think 3 points in the first half was up to par for him.

  • Eli

    Barkely has probably just watched the Celts more than most of us. They are miserable lately on closing out games. They can be skilled and productive for much of a game, but they are not sustaining it against the quality teams.

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    Welcome back Mo Williams I hope this jump starts him in getting back to his first half form but still nothing but three pointers. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the Cavaliers look so bad in one half only to turn it around in the second lets not be fooled by the final score but the win was still nice especially on the road.

    Props to JJ Hickson for coming in and contributing given he hasn’t seen the floor since the All-Star break he logged some nice minutes. If Shaq is out Hickson will have a role as will Powe who was great to see take the court finally. I am shocked Daniel Gibson never got in I guess it’s his turn to be lost in Mike Brown’s Bermuda Triangle of a bench.

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    S-Dub take it easy Mo has been terrible since he came back I give him credit he hit some big shots but all he does is attempt 3s now. I want to see what he does in the next game because he was owned against New Orleans and he was owned in the first half as well as the third and didn’t show up until the fourth. By my count that’s 7 bad quarters to 1 good one.

  • Jack

    @historycat – Well, it was a good pick wasn’t it?

    Takeaways from this game:

    1) Our small lineup is really really good as long as we aren’t playing a team with Dwight Howard on it.

    2) JJ Hickson needs to play minutes.

    3) When the Cavs get a couple layups and force players to move, they look nice.

    Also, @Mark: look, the Simmons comment was obnoxious. I totally agree. But just to be a little fair and not stoop to that level, he wasn’t hating on the fans for not getting excited while their team look disinterested and were coughing up a huge lead. He was down on them for allegedly not being stoked during the shootout.

    And honestly, he has a point. The Orlando game, for instance, was crazy. Their fans were crazy that whole game. And I was at the Orlando game at the Q–we weren’t even close to matching their intensity. We don’t want to get too excited. We don’t. We, much like the team we live for, seem to be waiting for the playoffs. The regular season, especially after last year, just doesn’t move us that much anymore.

    That said, ~@~ on Simmons.

  • Turk

    God, just look at the plus/minus numbers for the bench…

  • phil m

    You have to love the Celtics scoring line by quarter: 31, 25, 18, 14. It reads like the downward sliding chromatic phrase you hear at the Q when the opposing team misses a significant shot — wah, wah, wah, waaaaah….

    It also reminds us that the Celtics are getting old. Wait, it doesn’t remind US, but it should jostle the likes of Kenny Smith, who cannot clear his head of his frozen notions: “Kobe is the best; no one beats the Lakers; the Cavs are weak; the Cavs can’t beat Boston.” The guy keeps repeating himself like some senile bench sitter in the park, and he gets paid as an “analyst.”

    I never thought I would commend Charles B., but he did call this one at halftime. The guy has finally gotten over his hate for the Cavs. Surely not for Cleveland, but at least he recognizes the team’s character for what it is.

    My only complaint about this game: would have liked to have seen Booby.

  • The Other Tim

    Come back DJack!

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    @164 phil m I thought the Cavaliers were meat the way Barkley was slurping them especially at the half when he was so confident they would come back and win easily. I’m not used to Sir Charles speaking highly of the team luckily for me he had Mighty Mouse Kenny I made a career off of Hakeem Olajuwon’s back Smith to level things out.

  • phil m

    @boogeyman: yeah, you could see it as leveling out expectations, but I’ll be interested to see if Kenny Smith is able to adjust his brain cells should the Cavs take this season.

  • Mark

    @ Jack – Totally agree about the Simmons comment. I just like sticking it to Boston.

    @ Phil – thats my complaint about every game! Hey oh! Thanks, I’ll be here all night!

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    @167 phil it’ll take Smith sending Boston fishing before he probably gets off riding them.

    @Mark even better then watching those Boston fans sit there watching their team fall apart is knowing Nate Robinson brings his losing ways with him from NY. For some reason I can’t stand that midget. With him there I now have Rondo, Perkins and Robinson to enjoy when the Celtics fail.

  • CavsFanInLA

    You gotta have faith in the depth and skill of the Cavs…

    Even without Shaq, we hammered the Celts.

    Now we have a 2 game winning streak

    I completely agree that JJ should get more minutes… He’s an animal of a young player, and he give the Cavs energy when he is on the floor…

    I know that Powe only played for a few minutes, but he played very aggressive with an in-you-face style that’s going to strengthen the D and force opponents’ turnovers.

    I think the Cavs just needed some adjustment time after getting Jamison, and Mo coming back after being out.

    I have faith in the depth and skill of the Cavs.

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    Don’t sleep on the Raptors tomorrow…never a break for LeBron!