It takes sixteen games
To win a championship
BUT ONE TO LOSE IT
All our hopes are DASHED
Elbow is DEVASTATED
Thank you Denny for those wonderful words in haiku form and the picture to your right. Now the analysis of why everyone in Cleveland should “step away from the ledge”. If you recall, we were up to this same type of article just about two months ago with Shaq’s injury and assorted depressing Cavs news. Here it’s time to ease your fears and worries about the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
For starters, let’s begin with the simple fact that the Cavaliers are tied with the Celtics 1-1 in their best-of-seven series. From here, the Cavs will play two straight games (of equal importance) in the state of Massachusetts. There is also a guaranteed game five back at the Q, followed by continuous alternating locations for the potential game six and game seven.
As we were reminded by Cleveland Frowns on Twitter yesterday, there is actually a huge historical advantage for teams in Cleveland’s situation. John Hollinger wrote about this earlier in the week (ESPN Insider) but this is the gist: Just 12 of 42 road teams (28.6 percent) to win a game two after losing game one actually went on to win a second-round series.
This historical trend is probably true because of the simple fact the team with home court advantage is usually much better in the second round and how only road win switches back the momentum. If the Cavs can simply win either game three or game four in Boston, all the team will have to do from there is protest home court and win the series in seven games.
Currently however, the Celtics have the opportunity to protect home court and defeat the Cavaliers in six games. This is what happened last year where the Magic went back home to Orlando with a 1-1 series mark, and then coasted from there to an Eastern Conference title. There are several things different about these two games than that Orlando series. Here are my three main arguments and the conclusions from there:
1) Cleveland and Boston’s History – I talked about the history between Paul Pierce and LeBron James prior to game two the other day. Before that contest, in 19 of their previous 20 match ups in the regular season or post season, the home team won every time. But besides that, the Cavs could not match up with Orlando at all last season. In the nine meetings combined last year, Cleveland was 3-6 and lost by an average of 5.4 points.
Meanwhile, over the past two regular seasons against boston, Cleveland is 4-4 with an average differential of +6.4. As showcased in the series between the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs, differential means something in the NBA. It proves that teams are reliably better than another and can indicate various other trends. Assuming this holds true, it would not be shocking to see Cleveland win at least one game in Boston.
2) LeBron’s Injury – Yes, I am using this as a reason why this year and last year are different in a positive light. LeBron James is capable of being the best player in the NBA still to this moment, as illustrated by his two fourth quarters in this series. In these 22.7 minutes, he has totaled 22 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals. In his other 64 minutes of playing time during this series, he has just 37 points, nine rebounds, one block and four steals.
What this shows is that LeBron’s elbow is still able to do everything we are used to him doing in clutch situations. The elbow is some strange factor during the first three quarters of games, but when it is absolutely needed, LeBron is still very capable of scoring and rebounding just like he used to back in the day. The elbow injury itself is not a concern because there are times when LeBron seems just fine.
3) The Results – Against Orlando last season, the Cavs lost game one, the team desperately needed the second game to even stay in the series. Fortunately, LeBron saved everything with his memorable last-second three. But even after this game, our very own Andrew had this to say about the series:
Last night, after the shot, I was initially more relieved than anything else. I wasn’t happy because I felt in my heart that the Cavaliers deserved to be in an 0-2 hole heading to Orlando.
Does anyone here believe that we should technically be down 0-2 to Boston? Was there any doubt in the fourth quarter of game one at all? In the end, the series is convincingly tied at 1-1 with no glaring match up difficulties like Cleveland had last season. Rajon Rondo has been good, Kevin Garnett has battled well against Antawn Jamison, but besides that there is nothing glaringly better about Boston over the Cavs.
Conclusion - In the end, the Cavaliers are tied at 1-1 in a best-of-seven series against the 2008 NBA champions. Forget everything you thought coming into the series about Boston’s regular season mediocrity or age, because that simply doesn’t matter anymore. These are two defensive-minded teams that are definitely both capable of competing for the 2010 title.
Here is all that Cleveland has to do to put itself back in the driver’s seat to the Eastern Conference Finals: win one of the next two games in Boston. That’s it. Either Friday or Sunday. Lose boththose games, and extreme panic will be entirely appropriate. Considering everything above however, this series should be OK for the Cleveland Cavaliers very soon.
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.