Kevin Garnett: 36 points, 17-of-41 field goals, 2-2 FTs, 20 rebounds*, 6 assists, 5 turnovers, +6
Antawn Jamison: 23 points, 8-of-17 field goals, 5-10 FTs, 15 rebounds, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, -2
*KG grabbed 10 boards in each of the first two games of this series. He reached 10 rebounds in just 12 games the entire regular season.
It’s not a blow-out. Garnett’s shooting percentage is going to have to improve a little bit. But the Celtics have found a weak spot in Cleveland’s defense, and they are going to milk that weak spot until the Cavaliers adjust. KG, for the first time in a long, long time, is a legitimate low post threat, at least when Jamison is guarding him.
And that gives Boston one more crutch to lean on when the offense goes into disarray and the turnovers pile up—things that are inevitable with this team.
The obvious adjustment for Cleveland would be to play Anderson Varejao more minutes at the power forward alongside Shaq.
But this presents two potentially huge problems for the Cavaliers.
1) Varejao is apparently struggling with back spasms. The entire complexion of this series changes if Varejao can’t play at his normal level.
2) Playing Varejao and Shaq on the court presents serious spacing issues for the Cavs offense. Shaq’s range extends to about the block/charge circle at this point, and Varejao is basically a non-threat from outside 10 or 12 feet.
You can look at every five-man unit Anderson Varejao played in this season at Basketball Value. Varejao played 20 or minutes in six line-ups that included Shaq; five of those six line-ups scored below 102 points per 100 possessions, and three of them failed to crack 100 points per 100 possessions.
To put that in perspective, the Nets had the worst offense in the league this season; they scored 100.6 points per 100 possessions.
The flip side is that five of those six Varejao-Shaq units were outstanding defensively. But it’s clear Cleveland prefers not to play the two of them together much, probably because it clogs up the interior and messes with LeBron’s driving game—to the degree his driving game can be messed with at all.
Mike Brown has one potential solution sitting on his bench: Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Z’s range extends all the way to the corner three, and his job on offense is to serve as a pick-and-pop threat and drag one opposing big man out of the lane. Perhaps this spacing issue explains why Ilgauskas played far more minutes with Varejao than did Shaq.
Brown isn’t comfortable using Ilgauskas right now, but he’s going to have to make some adjustment. He cannot leave Jamison—or J.J. Hickson—on an island against Garnett in the low post.
This is the fun of the playoffs. Mike Brown has three days to think about it. What will he do?