During this playoff run, we will adapt a Browns feature for each of the Cavs’ series. (Certainly we hope to do two more of these.) Each writer will contribute a paragraph on one of the keys to success for the Cavs against a particular opponent. After dispatching with the Bulls in round one, Cleveland opens up the Conference semi-finals against the Boston Celtics. Andrew gave us a great series preview yesterday, now check out what the rest of WFNY thinks will be key to the series. With that: The Cavs Will Win If…
Rick-…the Cavs remember what earned them regular season wins against the Celtics. Cleveland was built to play multiple styles, and that includes uptempo against slower teams. Yes, Shaq can bang against Perkins, but the real advantage this year was when the Cavs went smaller AND forced the tempo. Just inserting Hickson doesn’t mean anything if the Cavs don’t push the ball in transition against KG, Perkins and Allen. Taking care of the ball will be important, and getting back to out-hustling our opponent would be nice.
Keeping Rondo from penetrating will be big as well. I like the idea of throwing different looks at Rondo. Use Mo, West, Moon and even LeBron on him at times. Keep a hand in the face of their shooters, and dare I say let Sheed shoot. He is not effective this season. Playing LeBron on Sheed might be a good plan for stretches so that he can lag off Sheed to play help defense.
Scott- …they realize that this is no longer the month of March. And this does not exempt Mike Brown either. He and the team needs to do what leads to the most success. Play their style of basketball, dictate the flow of the game and do not force certain plays simply to get Shaquille O’Neal involved. No longer can we have “experimental” games. The Cavs need to make sure they come out of the gate on all cyllanders and do not let up until the end of the game. No third quarter lulls, no mental breakdowns and limit the turnovers. Oh, and hitting free throws would be an added bonus…
DP- …if they show up. No, I’m not saying this is a total walk-over. What I mean is: if the Cavs show up hungry, intense, focused, ready to play, and with some heart. We only really saw that team once against the Bulls, and I guess the nice thing is that the Cavs are good enough to beat a scrappy Bulls team while just going through the motions three out of four times. But, that has to stop, as Boston is peaking at the right time and will not let the Cavs skate by while just going through the motions. The defensive intensity HAS to be there for 48 minutes. In Game 4 against Chicago, once the Cavs really turned it on defensively (led by LeBron), there was simply no way you could see the Bulls coming back. The Cavs have to play that way every game against the Celtics–especially in Boston where the crowd will surely be jacked up to give LeBron and Company the business at all times.
Finally, if LeBron’s elbow is OK. I tend to vacillate between thinking this is all a charade to keep the Celtics guessing (Eric Mangini would be proud) and having genuine concern that LeBron will be limited in his scoring abilities because of the elbow. If it’s the former, the Cavs can win this series in 5. If the latter is the case, their success in this series is going to fall on the shoulders of two guys: Antawn Jamison, who so far in these playoffs has looked every bit the “second banana” the Cavs have always needed; and Mo Williams, who for the most part has been able to use the decrease in attention caused by Jamison to up his scoring totals in the playoffs so far. If those two guys struggle, it’s going to be a tough series for the Cavs.
Jacob-… the team controls the defensive boards, operates within its offense and stops Rajon Rondo. Boston is an intriguing team because of their experience and defensive talent, but those three items will be the keys to victory. Among playoff teams, Boston actually has the worst offensive rebound rate differential at -3.32. This means they have a propensity for both allowing opponents to get second chance opportunities and not getting these chances on their side. It also comes as no surprise that Cleveland does much better in games when they collect more assists, and that will be crucial in this series. The Cavs assisted about 4.8% more of its field goal makes in wins than losses this year and that number was 5.5% in comparing the two wins and two losses against the Celtics.
And finally, to echo what many others said, Rondo is the MVP for Boston and the team will only go as far as the he takes them in the playoffs. In his 361 career regular season and playoff games, the Celtics have won exactly two-thirds (.667 pct) of its 177 games when he scores 11+ points but have a much more pedestrian .560 win percentage in the 184 other outings with his 10 points or less. Limiting Rondo’s production and efficiency, especially on the offensive end, is going to be the key for any Boston opponent over the course of next half dozen years or more.
TD-…they own the boards, are the aggressor, and clamp down defensively on Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen. To me it’s that simple. Oh, and a certain person’s elbow doesn’t offer too much discomfort. When Allen is on, and he was during the Celtics 4-1 series win against Miami, Boston is an entirely different and improved team. Paul Pierce is going to get his, that’s a given, but if Cleveland can stop Allen from getting hot, things will go a lot more smoothly.
The Cavs’ front court should have a big advantage. The X-factor here is Antawn Jamison. He will bring Kevin Garnett away from the basket and abuse the getting-slower-by-the-day KG. I expect to see more of JJ Hickson this series as well. I know the national media is quick to give the Celtics a great chance here, but the truth is the Cavs aren’t the one man Miami Heat. When the Cavs were with their full compliment of players this year, the owned Boston. The same will happen here.
Craig-… they play with as much desire and intensity and possibly even a bit of desperation that the fanbase also feels with this playoffs. We were really frustrated with the Cavs in the first round, not because the Bulls stink and shouldn’t have put up a fight, but because the Cavs seemed to take the first round win for granted. As fans right now, we aren’t taking ANYTHING for granted. We know what level the Cavs can play when they really set their minds to it, and we just want them to want it and need it as badly as we do sitting on the edge of our seats at home. I know the Cavs never step on the court wanting to lose or disappoint the fans, but it is undeniable that they sometimes get in a good zone and a bad zone. They need to figure out how to replicate the steps they took to get into the good zone and repeat.
Brendan…they play small and fast. We are all constantly reminded of the difference in depth between last year’s Cavalier team and this year’s team – a depth that provides them with perhaps the most flexible roster in the postseason. Shaq will undoubtedly be helpful in this series and should have some success getting Celtics bigs Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis in foul trouble. But the Celtics are an old and fairly slow team, save for Rajon Rondo. The Cavaliers have had great success this season against the Cs when they went with a smaller lineup with which the older slower Celts could not move and keep up with. While this recent edition of the Celtics have been an outstanding rebounding team, that has not been the case this year at all as they finished last or near the bottom in most rebounding statistical categories. I do not think you are hurt too badly on the glass by going small and the quick and active Andy Varejao has really had his way with the Celtics frontcourt this season, single-handedly keeping them at bay.
From what I have heard and read, it appears Mike Brown intends to go with that 8.5 man rotation for this series. It sounds like Moon, West, and Varejao will be those 3 off the bench with talk of Daniel Gibson and JJ Hickson splitting time at that “half” rotation spot. It appears Z, who was phased out of the rotation after the first two games of the Bulls series, will most likely not be in the rotation this series. With his ultimate effectiveness coming in a potential matchup with Orlando and LA, Shaq can still have a successful series against the Celtics and there may definitely be stretches where the Cavs look great with him on the floor. But I think they will be better with a frontcourt of Andy, Jamison, and LeBron and I hope this is the lineup that sees the majority of minutes. It’s not that I don’t want to see Shaq – I just hope we are not wedded to playing a slower, lower scoring style because that is where the Celtics can keep up. They Celtics have no one who can remotely stay with LeBron and will also struggle to matchup with the “stretchability” of Antawn. Rondo is going to use his quickness and will undoubtedly be able to consistently penetrate into the lane to get his. I hope the Cavs use their smaller quicker lineup to run out and get theirs off the slower Celtics bigs of Garnett, Davis, Wallace, and Perkins.