The Boots are my form of reporting current information from the sports world. Boot Ups and Boot Downs are assigned to various events, people or stories as I first used in my e-mail based Sports Report. For possible topics in future articles, e-mail us at Tips@WaitingForNextYear.com.
Boot Up: John Hollinger’s Stats – The person who won the most after Cleveland’s game three performance was easily ESPN’s famous NBA statistician. John Hollinger has been a victim of Ohio-based criticism throughout the season for his ranking of the Cavs. It seemed unfair at the time to put Cleveland below teams like Utah but now Hollinger may have redeemed himself entirely.
Rick wrote an entire post about Hollinger’s thoughts before Friday’s game. In a nutshell, he argued recent NBA champions struggled in the second round, proving that the Cavs are not in deep trouble just yet. Following the 29-point blowout in game 3, it now looks like the Cavaliers should be safe against Boston and hopefully Hollinger’s theory holds true.
Boot Down: Cleveland’s Anxiety – In my article about “stepping away from the ledge” earlier this week, I made a point to talk about how important it was for Cleveland to at least win one game in Boston. With a 2-2 mark in the series heading back home, the Cavs would certainly have momentum along with home court in a makeshift three-game series. There is a remarkable difference then between being down 1-3 or leading 3-1 as the series then is much more one-sided.
In the end however, it seems that all our worries and fears are no longer necessary. At the very worst following today’s game 4, Cleveland will walk back home tied in a very competitive series with a chance to put the Celtics in a massive hole. At best, the Cavs can put Boston in a corner with a decisive victory and force the aging champs to win three straight, including two in a row at the Q.
Boot Up: The Bench - In order to be a successful team, the combination of Delonte West and Anderson Varejao have to have a net-positive factor off the bench for coach Mike Brown. Without these two players, Cleveland looks every bit as old as Boston, with an aging frontline and no consistent ball handler to spell LeBron or Mo Williams. Game 3 proved what is possible with these two players back at their best.
Delonte was on fire from everywhere on the court, hitting 5-of-6 jumpers on route to 14 points off the bench. His shot certainly is not pretty but when it is falling like it did Friday, it’s awfully hard to contain him. Anderson, on the other hand, proved to be useful in his limited time despite foul trouble. He finished with six points, five fouls and four boards in 17.5 minutes, but was a constant weapon against Boston’s big men.
In game 2, these two players combined for just 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting overall. Not trying to say that these are the only options off the bench, however West and Varejao clearly epitomize Cleveland’s advantage over Boston. Quickness, versatility and defensive relentlessness are aspects missing from Boston’s rotation, especially late in quarters, and that is where these two have been most effective all year.
Boot Down: Paul Pierce – What more can you say about The Truth? He’s been awful. It’s even be moderately sad to watch. Formerly one of the elite scorers in the NBA, Pierce has been a complete non-factor in the past three games against Cleveland. For the series, he is averaging 12.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists on 31% field goal shooting.
Using the new website StatsByNumbers.com, you can then break down where his struggles have come from. Usually a reliable shooter, Pierce scored 551 points on 548 shots away from the basket this season according to NBA Hotspots. In the playoffs, that mark is just 77 points on 117 shots and against Cleveland, he is just 9-for-33 on jump shots.
Give huge credit to LeBron James for everything that has happened to Pierce on the offensive end. It’s arguably been one of the worst three-game stretches in his Boston career although Mike Brown admitted the Cavs are doing nothing fancy defensively to contain him. I still expect Pierce to have a decent shooting night at some point in this series, but the complete domination has been incredibly helpful so far.
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.