Tag: Cavs Celtics

NBA Playoffs, Cavs v. Celtics Game 6: Shaq identifies the elephant in the room, but that doesn't make it disappear

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rondo cavs layup.pngLeBron James blew it big time on Tuesday, and tonight will be his chance to redeem himself. That wasn’t the only storyline from Game 5 though, as the Cavs struggled in just about every way possible to keep pace with an awfully impressive Celtics team. The problem with James’ particularly woeful performance was that in the scramble to figure out what went wrong with LeBron, some of the other poor aspects of the Cavaliers’ play went unscrutinized.

Could LeBron have played better in such a significant game? Of course. But as J.E. Skeets of the Basketball Jones wisely put it, James could have played a great game and still lost to Boston. The Celtics were just too effective against a revered Cavaliers defense. That includes LeBron, who looked as passive and disinterested on the defensive end as he did on the offensive end, but it extends to each and every Cav that hit the floor in Game 5.

Shaquille O’Neal, to his credit, seems to understand that although LeBron’s performance certainly didn’t help Cleveland’s cause on Tuesday, the Cavs’ bigger problems are on the defensive end. From Ken Berger of CBS Sports:

Though much of the focus has been on LeBron’s 3-for-14 shooting night
— his third sub-par offensive performance in the series — Shaq
remained focused on the aspect of the game that has put the Cavs in the
hole they’re in.

“Our problem is not offense,” Shaq said. “Our
problem is, you can’t let guys get historical triple-doubles and you
can’t let five guys get into double figures. So our problem is not

I wouldn’t say Shaq is completely right. O’Neal may have played pretty well offensively in Game 5 (21 points on 11 shots), but the team as a whole performed well below the norm. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison combined for 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting with five turnovers, which isn’t quite what the Cavs need on one of LeBron’s off-nights, even if no one but James is to blame for his own performance. As a result, the Cavs scored at a rate of 95.7 points per 100 possessions in Game 5, a far cry from their 108.8 mark in the regular season.

The more pressing issues, as Shaq notes, are on the defensive end. The previously strong Cavs defense has broken down against not only match-up problems like Rajon Rondo, but even the aging and limited Kevin Garnett. KG isn’t supposed to be the scorer that he was five years ago, but with Antawn Jamison failing to provide any defensive pressure on Garnett, he’s averaging 18.2 points per game on 50.6% shooting in this series.

Limiting Garnett could be as simple as matching him up with Anderson Varejao rather than Jamison, which would be an offensive concession but a defensive boon. However, Mike Brown and his staff will have to be pretty creative in their
defensive adjustments for Game 6. The Cavs’ guards — be it Anthony Parker, Delonte West, or the defense-less Mo Williams — have all failed to hamper Rondo’s ability to get into the lane. The impact of that isn’t just Rondo’s 20.6 points per game in this series, but also his 11.8 assists, as Rajon’s penetration is opening up all kinds of opportunities for his teammates.

It’s one thing to acknowledge the problem, and another to solve it. Garnett’s offense may not be that difficult to counter, but the Cavaliers are going to have a rough Game 6 if they can’t at least make Rondo’s job difficult. LeBron will have to show up for Cleveland to stay alive, but so will the Cavs’ defense.   

NBA Playoffs, Cavaliers Celtics Game 5: Rajon Rondo is going to think this is a hockey game

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Rondo_Cavs.jpgWe don’t know much about what the Cleveland Cavaliers have planned to stop the Rajon Rondo layup parade — none of their key players have spoken to the media for a couple days. Mike Brown has chosen not to tell the national media the details of his plans. Smart man.

But we can infer, from the words of the coaches and past actions. LeBron said after last game he wants a shot on Rondo, but it’s not so simple because that means Mo Williams has to cover Ray Allen or Paul Pierce and the Celtics will exploit that matchup. Maybe you want to dare the slumping Pierce to get hot, but your risk waking up the dragon with that one.

As John Krolik pointed out here yesterday, the Cavaliers need to do a much better job of shutting off the transition and early offense points Rondo gets. Take away the uncontested layups. That starts with keeping him off the boards — 18 rebounds? How do you let a guard do that? — because that fueled the transition points.

Put simply: Cleveland needs to put a body on Rondo. Bang him around a little. Make this a physical game. Whether that is LeBron or Anthony Parker or Big Z doesn’t matter.

Last game, Rondo just swooped in for his rebounds. He was not boxed out; nobody really gave him much thought. They will tonight. He will have bodies in his way an he will be leaping over people for his boards, not grabbing uncontested ones.

The Cavaliers should also shadow him down the court off misses, as opposed to letting him get up a full head of steam. Then get LeBron or a big man back to patrol the paint. No gimme layups.

Bottom line, Rondo is not going to find it so easy. He is going to get banged around like a pinball. There are risks for Cleveland with this, mostly foul trouble. Rondo will still drive and while it’s hard to draw the contact and sell foul on LeBron because of his strength, he only needs one or two calls. Then LeBron has to sit and… Cleveland doesn’t want that.

Still, don’t expect Rondo to have the same night. Somebody — and Pierce, we’re looking at you — has to step up and take on some of that scoring for Boston. One of the Big 3, because we can’t really expect 28 out of Kendrick Perkins, now can we?

Something’s gotta give in this one. We may have the best game of the playoffs here (Atlanta/Milwaukee Game 7 didn’t quite live up to the billing).

NBA Playoffs Cavs Celtics Game 4: The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning


Look, there’s two ways this can go. If the Cavs come out and blow doors off hinges and win this game, the series is essentially over. Boston’s veteran crew knows better than to waste valuable vacation days, no matter what cliches they throw out about taking it one game at a time. or, Boston can respond, do what they should have done in Game 3, take care of business at home, and restart this series into a best of three.

And really, at this point, would either surprise you?

We’re probably due for a close one, but so far it seems like if one team takes control, the other team sits back, puts its feet up, and chills out.

For the Cavaliers, you can only hope for a game like Game 3. James was in another universe, able to knock down everything. If he’s in that zone, the Celtics will have very little response. That’s what happens with the best player in the NBA. But there are other adjustments you can make.

For starters, The Celtics have to be more aware of Antawn Jamison off the cut. He did significant damage in Game 3, curling off screens for floaters and jumpers. Getting him in open space makes him a significantly better weapon than he’s been in ISO. The Celtics need to trap or at least switch to make sure there’s someone with Jamison to prevent the entry pass.

Offensively, get back to what worked. Rajon Rondo is a revelation. But he’s still not a great jump shooter. In Game 3, the Cavaliers forced him to go to his mid-range game, and that’s a recipe for disaster. His mid-range and three-point shooting has improved, but it isn’t reliable by any means. The C’s need to use the pick and roll to get Rondo attacking the basket, not settling. If the Cavs double on the screen, Rondo has to initiate the perimeter rotation to open up the three point shooting. Simply settling will not work.

And finally, Paul Pierce has to get going. He’s been simply dreadful, and what’s worse, the worse he shoots, the more he shoots. He’s got to respond today by being a leader, getting his elbow jumper going, and creating his own shot. The Celtics can’t live with an offensive disaster from Pierce again.

The Cavaliers need to keep Anthony Parker on Rondo, whose length kept Rondo in check, and use Delonte West to give them a change of pace guard.

Expect this one to get ugly.These two have been on the brink for a while. I’d expect a couple more hard fouls to get tempers flaring. Should be entertaining, in the least. Has to be more competitive than the last game, right?

LeBron speaks about his elbow: It hurts sometimes.

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Thumbnail image for James_Thumbsup.jpgWe’ve heard directly from LeBron’s elbow today. Turns out he’s pretty funny.

But we’ve also got the actual LeBron talking seriously about his elbow, too. Courtesy Brian Windhorst writing for ESPN:

“If it’s hurting throughout the game; there’s no way it can stay off your mind,” James said.

“You want to be conscious about it, but at the same time, I’ve got to be able to pull through it and find a way to try to help the team. It doesn’t change my approach. But if you’re dribbling up and down the court and you can feel a twinge or you feel it lock up, it’s going to stop you from doing some things that you usually would be able to do. It is what it is and I’ve got to play with it.”

He admitted it slowed how aggressive he was at the start of game two. But that was just a part of the Cavaliers problems — somebody else has to step up on offense for the Cavs. In game one that was Mo Williams, but he is not going to consistently do that against Rajon Rondo and his good defense. (Actually, Mo Williams wouldn’t be consistent against no defense.) Antawn Jamison is struggling with Kevin Garnett on him. Shaq is getting bullied by Kendrick Perkins.

The Cavs need better ball movement and player movement, that gets the ball in their scorers’ hands before the defense can totally get set. It can’t be too much isolation, that plays into the hands of the Celtics.

There have to be other contributors. LeBron is the best player walking the planet, but history has shown that alone does not win you a title.

LeBron's elbow speaks

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The Basketball Jones was able to obtain this exclusive interview with LeBron James’ elbow.  He is branching out from his twitter account.

Aside the bone bruise, it has a few other issues. That’s all I’m saying.