The sage observer that is Matt Moore asked this same question of ABC’s morning game between the Cavaliers and Celtics, but let’s ask it about the second game — the Spurs at the Lakers. Can we learn anything from this game, heading into the playoffs and a possible first round matchup?
No, not really. I should just basically cut and paste Matt’s comments about the first game here and change the names, because the reasons are basically the same. Darius Soriano of Forum Blue & Gold said this:
I think this game probably just confirms things we already think. We’re
late in the season and these are two teams that are experienced and
familiar to each other.
For today, the Lakers are without Andrew Bynum (for how much longer will be determined by another MRI on Monday). They have all but locked up home court through the Western Conference Finals. There just is not a lot to play for. When not motivated, these Lakers can lose to anyone. But does one more bad performance mean they would lose to San Antonio in the first round? Not exactly, then the Lakers would be motivated and with Bynum.
What does a San Antonio win tell us? That they are still dangerous? We knew that. That Manu Ginobili is very good? Knew that too. That for a game or three, Tim Duncan can defy Father Time? Again, knew that.
But does winning erase how old they have looked this season? Does it erase that come the playoffs guys like Matt Bonner and Malik Hairston and Antonio McDyess are going to have to play well? Does it make you think they have a defensive Kobe stopper anymore?
Would it really make you believe the Spurs could beat the Lakers in a best of seven? One of these teams will be able to say, “look, we’re playing well heading into the playoffs. We’re gearing up.” Aside that…
Should be an entertaining game. Usually is when they meet, close and a little bit of an edge to it. Enjoy it for that. Don’t look for the larger lessons.
The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.
And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.
James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.
But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.
In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).
That sounds right to me.
Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.
Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.
After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).
That’s vintage Perkins.
Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.
Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:
“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.
Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”
Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.
From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.
Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.
When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.
Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.
Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?
That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.