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?
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.