There’s a classic Saturday Night Live skit from the 1995 season where Bob Saget was the coach of a track team that looked like they should be doing just about anything that did not involve physical competition. The skit takes place in between events, where Saget is there to help his team make what would be considered halftime adjustments.
Glaring in disbelief at his team of obviously overmatched runners – which one could surmise without even laying eyes on the opponent – his only words of advice were to simply “run faster.” One of his runners lost a race and the only question the coach had was “why didn’t you run faster?” You know, as if one can just instantly become more athletic during a given event.
A similar scene is envisioned following the 106-87 loss to the Boston Celtics where the Cavaliers defenders were mere Wine and Gold-colored stand-ins, allowing their opponent to successfully execute lay-up after lay-up.
While Anderson Varejao (16 points, 12 rebounds, two steals) played very well, the rest of the “defenders” may as well have been dressed as cones and tires for the 48-minutes Skills Competition (Taco Bell!) put on by the Celtics. Putting it mildly, Byron Scott said that the team “got away a little bit from what we talked about doing.” The result was 60 points from the paint alone, 14 of which came from notable Cav-killer Rajon Rondo.
To anticipate a game similar to opening night would have been quixotic. The perfect storm was in place with the Boston Celtics coming off of four strong quarters of play against the Miami Heat only to travel to Cleveland to play them in what would conceivably be one of their two “Game 7s” of the season – the latter of which lies just a day ahead. Tuesday night, however, forced many to take a step back and actually look at the two teams that were playing 48 minutes of basketball.
Top to bottom, the Boston Celtics out-ran, out-executed and out-defended their opposing assignment. For every Joey Graham, Mo Williams and JJ Hickson, the Celtics have Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. And with Pierce and Garnett only scoring 11 points a piece, the Celtics gave the Cavaliers a taste of their own medicine a la a season-high effort from Rondo (23 points, 12 assists) and stellar production off of their bench.
Cleveland’s Daniel Gibson was neutralized by Marquis Daniels (16 points, four rebounds), Antawn Jamison was countered with Glen Davis (17 points, 11 rebounds and four assists).
The Celtics crushed the Cavaliers in the paint (60-26) and stifled most of their attempts in transition, holding the Wine and Gold to 39 percent shooting. The Cavs were 3-of-10 on shots less than ten feet from the rim, 2-of-11 from shots between 10-15 feet. Would-be star power forward JJ Hickson finished the game with one point, a free throw in the waining minutes of play, though we would be remiss if we did not mention his season-high 11 rebounds.
For comparison, the Celtics were 20-29 at the rim and 11-14 on shots less than 10 feet from the rim. Yes, the Celtics made twice as many lay-ups as the Cavaliers even had the chance to take.
While being in better shape – running faster – may work at times, if a team is matching up well on the defensive end and the running fast only leads to missed lay-ups, the Cavaliers will only compound their issues. Regardless of the struggles, Byron Scott continues to have faith in his team of players who continue to be outmatched by most (if not all) of the top-tier Eastern Conference teams. “Offensively, [JJ Hickson] is still trying to find his way, but he had 11 rebounds,” said Scott. “He’s still searching but he’ll be fine, just like the rest of our guys. We’ll be fine.”
Like merely “running faster,” one has to wonder if “being fine” will be enough.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)