I’m a pessimist. If you read this site, you know this by now.
So when this sequence happened at around the 3:50 mark of the 2nd quarter in Game 2, I felt certain the C’s would lose, even though they were ahead.
It started with this:
And, after a non-shooting foul on the other end, this happened:
The first play is a great play by LeBron James. It has become his play. But it’s also a poor job by Tony Allen of recognizing the situation. A headier player knows LeBron is trailing him and adjusts the way he takes the shot accordingly.
The cough up on the defensive glass? A classic turnover from one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league. The C’s had reached double-digits in turnovers by this point in the game, and you can only give away so many possessions on the road against a 60-win team, right?
And besides, the sloppiness had started earlier. Watch the three Boston possessions immediately after Rasheed Wallace, now unbenchable, apparently, hit a three to put Boston up 35-22:
1) The C’s go to Sheed on the left block, and the Cavs double him. Sheed kicks to Michael Finley behind the three-point line. Finley passes up a deep open three and takes one dribble to his left—giving Jamario Moon the second he needs to recover and find Finley. Finley than inexplicably jacks a three with Moon contesting. It misses;
2) Rondo and Davis run a screen/roll at the three-point line, and Mo Williams goes under the Big Baby screen. Rondo pulls up and takes a 20-footer with his body leaning forward and his feet kicking out behind him. It misses;
3) The C’s pull off one of the worst 3-on-2 fast breaks of the season. Rondo streaks down the court and approaches the rim at the right edge of the paint, with Jamario Moon just behind his left shoulder. Moon is clearly primed for an LBJ chase-down block. TA is a few feet behind Rondo in the middle of the paint, and Ray Allen is sprinting on TA’s left side—so close to TA, in fact, that TA could have reached back and touched Ray. Delonte West is running in between the Allens.
The right play is for Rondo to use his body as a shield and go up for a lay-up, probably drawing a foul. But as we’ve seen Rajon do 100 times, he passes up the shot and tries to thread an impossible pass to TA, who fumbles it out of bounds.
I freeze-framed this play. When Rondo’s pass reaches TA, there are four guys (Moon, West and the Allens) crammed into a space about as big as the block/charge circle would be if you drew the back half of the semi-circle painted on the floor. The play has no chance.
The Cavs, of course, went on a 6-0 run while Boston was blowing these three possessions.
There are two ways to look at Game 2:
1) Boston was sort of fortunate to win; they turned the ball over 17 times, Cleveland, the 2nd-best three-point shooting team in the NBA, missed 17 of 21 three-pointers, and the C’s hit 9-of-19 from deep. You can’t reasonably expect that kind of three-point disparity again;
2) Boston turned the ball over 17 times and still won by 18 points on the road. And, sure, they were hot from three-point range and Cleveland was cold, but what are the chances Cleveland attempts 20 more foul shots than the C’s once the series moves to the Garden?
Also: The C’s can get away with turning the ball over 17 times if they shoot well and force 15 turnovers on the other end, as they did in Game 2. And the C’s are very, very good at forcing turnovers; only Golden State forced more, per possession, than the C’s did this season.
You know what feels strange?
The truth is infinitely more complex than either of those two narratives, but gun to my head, I think #2 hits closer to the truth.
And I’m supposed to be a pessimist.