Post-game Reactions

There is so much analysis to read, watch and digest in the wake of Game 5 that I had to do an off-day notebook.

• Let’s start with a surprise Game 5 retro-diary from Bill Simmons. If you like Simmons, you’ll read the whole thing and enjoy it. I want to highlight a couple of things here. First, if I’m not mistaken, this is Simmons breaking news:

[Garnett] played on one leg for most of the year, got shopped by Danny Ainge at the February deadline (it’s true)…

Whoa. It would not surprise me if the the C’s shopped KG at the trade deadline; he was obviously on the decline, and he has a horrible contract that will pay him $40 million over the next two seasons. Ainge would have been duty-bound to shop KG, just as he was duty-bound to explore deals for Ray Allen. He wouldn’t have been doing his job otherwise. 

If anything, I’d be surprised if the C’s found any team interested in taking on KG’s contract. He could fit on any number of teams—not least of which the team the Celtics are playing right now—but how many teams have $20 million in talent that would be acceptable to Boston and the willingness to take on $40 million through 2012?

Simmons also zeroes in on something I alluded to in both of my post-Game 5 posts (here and here): Mike Brown is ignoring a couple of five-man line-ups that could give Boston lots of trouble:

The Cavs’ biggest advantage in this series was/is athleticism. The Celtics can’t match up with Hickson-LeBron-Moon-West-Williams or Hickson-LeBron-Varejao-Williams-West. 

I wrote after Game 1 that I was terrified Mike Brown might realize J.J. Hickson could hurt Boston. Well, we haven’t seen much of J.J. since Game 1. 

And Moon and West? Playing those guys more would a) cut minutes for Mo Williams, whom the C’s are treating as if he were Mike Bibby; and b) allow Brown to have LeBron guard Rondo for longer periods. 

The C’s pulled away in the 3rd quarter when Brown, clinging stubbornly to the Williams-Parker back court, shifted Williams onto Rondo. The floodgates opened, Rondo exploded and an 8-point game became a 21-point game in five minutes. 

Simmons is dead on about this.

In other news, the city of Cleveland is attempting to cope with what is happening, and it is not going well. And, also, LeBron James played terribly and everyone is writing about it:

• John Krolik, Cavs the Blog

This is my lowest moment as a serious Cavalier fan. Why? Because I have never been ashamed to be a fan of this team or LeBron James until tonight. I am now. There’s no excuse for that type of effort. I’ve defended LeBron a lot in the past. I can’t, in good conscience, do so tonight.

• Kelly Dwyer, Yahoo!

I don’t understand this. I can’t see how a person who has been handed the court vision and ability that LeBron James has, followed by the years upon years of success that has resulted from staying aggressive offensively and driving to the basket, could play like this. Even taking into account his massive ego, and his aversion to responsibility. It’s an art crime of the highest order, and the only thing worse would be if we somehow found out that LeBron was trying to lose on purpose.

• Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo!

James says the Cavaliers know all about what it takes, but he knows about winning in the regular season. This is a different time, a different game. Three bad games in seven years? He’s kidding himself. Now, he has a championship cast around him. Now, he’ll be judged. No one gives a damn what he did in the regular season.

• Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers (via the Cleveland Plain-Dealer): 

“The last two home playoff losses and the manner in which we lost these games does not come close to being anywhere near the high expectations all of us have of our organization. Our fans and supporters deserve more.”

Let me stop for a second. You know what’s fascinating about LeBron’s no-show last night? The Celtics didn’t do anything to him they haven’t done a dozen times before. Go watch the tape and try and find me a new wrinkle the C’s threw at LBJ last night. You can’t. We covered them all, and we did it before the series even started. 

Having Pierce go under screens while the big guy guarding the screener jumped at LeBron? Seen that. The occasional trap on a screen/roll? Come on. Overloading the strong side with an extra defender and placing that defender right in LeBron’s driving path? Hell, the C’s do that to Carmelo Anthony. Having Pierce jump out to one side of the screen to force LeBron in one direction? Please. The C’s do that to Manu Ginobili

If there was one difference last night, it was this: The C’s limited the number of possessions on which Ray Allen defended LeBron, perhaps because Paul Pierce was (finally) not in foul trouble. This was Pierce’s (and TA’s) show. 

Other than that? The same hum-drum star treatment the C’s have been tossing at LeBron for three years. And yet: 3-of-14 from the floor, with 11 long jump shots and a half-dozen or fewer drives to the hole. 

That is not right. My gut reaction, as I wrote in an email to Kevin Arnovitz today, is that either LeBron’s elbow is hurting or he’s cracking under the pressure of what this post-season means to him, the Cavaliers and Cleveland. 

• John Hollinger has a hunch it’s LeBron’s elbow, and he brings out a very interesting piece of evidence to support that case:

We have one other data point to support us: his track record in this series. Since Game 5 of the Chicago series, James’ effectiveness has correlated directly with how much rest he had between games.

Witness: Games 2, 4 and 5 came with just one day of rest; in those three, he shot 0-for-13 on 3s and 17-for-47 overall. Games 1 and 3, on the other hand, had an extra day of rest beforehand, which seemed to allow his elbow to feel much better.

A very interesting theory, no? If Hollinger is onto something, the C’s better take care of business tomorrow, because the teams would have two days off between Games 6 and 7. 

• Like Hollinger, Sebastian Pruiti, author of the glorious blog NBA Playbook, focuses on LeBron’s jump shot, and he finds LBJ’s form in Game 5 was sloppy. Go check out Pruiti’s awesome-as-usual picture/video/telestrator breakdowns. 

• LeBron is not without his defenders. Henry Abbott at TrueHoop and Neil Paine at Basketball-Reference point out that some other high-profile superstars have had the occasional playoff dud against the KG/Ray-era Celtics defense. Here’s Abbott:

But please, spare us the assertion that after one bad night we know James has always had a permanent flaw. It’s just absurd, and amazingly some of it’s coming from the faithful in Cleveland.

I couldn’t take unhindered joy in watching LeBron drift around the weak side on possession after possession last night. Why? Because I knew the Kobe Trolls were mobilizing. See! LeBron is un-clutch! Not like Our Kobe! Kobe would never do this! 

They forget, of course, that Kobe tossed up a 13-of-41 combined in two crushing NBA Finals losses in 2008—Games 4 and 6. But here’s thing: Kobe attempted 20 shots per game in those two games; LBJ attempted just 14 on Tuesday. Yes, he earned 12 free throw attempts (more than Kobe in those two ’08 stinkers combined), and that matters, but 14 shots? Eleven of which were jumpers? 

I feel pretty comfortable saying Michael Jordan in his athletic prime—1991 Michael Jordan—would not have allowed that to happen. 

All that aside, LeBron is the best player in the NBA. Period. 

Red’s Army reminds us that all 10 NBA experts picked the Cavaliers in this series, and that 8 of their 10 predictions are now invalid. 

CelticsBlog’s Greg Payne does great work to show how Rajon Rondo’s improvement is breathing fresh air into Ray Allen’s career, especially in this post-season. Allen is leading the team in post-season scoring, and Payne shows us he’s getting a huge percentage of his points from Rondo assists.

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Zach Lowe

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  • Lysha

    ” Go watch the tape and try and find me a new wrinkle the C’s threw at LBJ last night. You can’t. We covered them all, and we did it before the series even started. ”

    Here’s something, and certainly not meant as a criticism of you guys’ comprehensive work:

    It seemed like when they ran a pick/roll with Bron and the big jumping out was too late, the man who got picked (once for sure for Paul, atleast once with TA), reached and grabbed Bron before he was able to make his move to the hoop and come close to getting something in the act. It seemed to only come when we were not in the bonus and when Bron was going right, which to me we’ve done a good job of preventing…for the most part…in the games we’ve won. I like this strategy, especially if Paul isnt in foul trouble.

    Not sure if you all will even read this, nor did I go back and look at the tape, it just stuck out to me during the game and it seemed like a new wrinkle. You guys do great work btw.

  • I love Green


    He even took off that sleeve in last nights game that protects his elbow. Its not his elbow, something else is wrong with him. NOT HIS FUCKING ELBOW! Find a new damn excuse.

  • I love Green

    I meant please stop talking about his elbow, not hit elbow.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    The Cs can run the same defense, but the energy & enthusiasm varies. When the Cs focus the majority of their effort & energy on the defensive end holding the enemy to 90 or less points we are 6-0 in the playoffs. The Cs are 0-3 in the playoffs when the enemy breaks 100 points. We allowed 98 points that 1 game which Paul won at the buzzer vs the Heat–way too close for comfort.

    We are in big trouble when we just trade baskets with other teams instead of clamping down on D. I think our defense looks better because KG is not limping, more pressure on the ball, & there is a team approach to defensive rebounding with Rajon paying much more attention to defensive boards now than in the regular season.

    We are now 33-3 when we hold teams to 90 or less points. I feel like bron is going to go off for 40+ next game. If he takes a lot of shots to get that & we lock down everyone else then that is ok. It reminds me of the time that Jordan went off for 50+ against the Cs, but it was not enough so it was ok. I think bron is going to constantly attack the paint. If ever we needed guys to take charges it will be next game. Bron is going to be super aggressive, & we have to exploit his head down drives by being smart, thinking ahead, & beating him to the spot to take a charge. May need to bring Glen in early since he is our best charge taker (maybe he can strap on some spiked plate mail & a helmet). My major concern is our bigs getting into early foul trouble like in game 3 & then the lane is compromised for their layupfest. I think it is wiser to give up a few bron layups rather than fouling him & getting our guys in foul trouble. If we put great pressure on the ball & BALL DENY bron (hello, TA) as much as possible then that can take some of the wind out of his sails. Another prediction is that bron is going to attack the offensive glass like a madman. We can’t out jump him so everyone is going to have to help put an actual body on him to block him off the offensive glass. I think face guarding him (he is too elusive to try & stick your rump into him) when it’s time to rebound, & kamikazing him (Scal was good at this style of blocking out) so that he has human obstacles to wade through to even get to the glass is the way to go. If our defense is ‘on fire’ & not allowing 2nd shots or 3s or fouling heavily then I predict another 90 point or less shutdown & a win.

  • rav

    Wonder what happens if Lebron tears it up tomorrow? Like 40-10-10 or something?

    Does that mean half of the interweb text that was inputted the past two days all becomes invalid?

    Remember how we lost by 20 points in Game 3? Celtics fans said the same thing Cavs fans are saying now.

    It’s just one of seven. Just one of seven. (or hopefully 6).

  • Dan

    @Zach: The problem with Hickson is his defense. Just like the last game had a “oh, that’s why Shelden doesn’t play” moment, the 2nd had one for JJ.

  • w2

    I too was very scarred of the athletic lineup…but two things have surprised me…KG tremendous focus and efficiency on offense and Ray’s improved energy on defense. I wish to give Mike Brown a bit of credit…he sees this two.

    The Celts are better if everyone plays well and with energy on both sides…and that is happening in the playoffs regularly. I would be scarred too Cleveland. And I wouldn’t put this on Bron or Mike.

    Celts are playing better than anyone (except a few die hards and the team) expected.

  • Jay P

    The athletic line up doesn’t scare me as much anymore. If they start running, we can run back.

    I like a line-up Rondo-Ray-TA-Baby-KG out there agaisnt that line up. If teams start running, I’ll take Rondo and TA on the break, with Ray following for the transition 3 opportunity if the defense stops the ball.

    Those lineups provide some problems, mostly for KG. Hickson is quicker, but he doesn’t really scare me. West? Eh, he can get streaky by Ray’s got him. Lebron, well he is what he is, but that line up doesn’t change anything, TA is still guarding, and the help defense has to be there. Moon is the most difficult match up there. But you could always bring in Paul and have him play PF, since Cleveland is so small. Paul can match Moon, no problem.

    So where’s the problem?