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Something Old, Something New

 

After Game 5, a bunch of casual fans wanted to talk to me about this series. And they mostly wanted to know one thing: What’s wrong with LeBron’s elbow?

I don’t know. It’s a sprain or a strain and/or a bone bruise, and LeBron finally said on Wednesday that it’s something he’ll need to “deal with in the off-season.”

If LeBron’s injury is serious, it certainly effects everything about the Cavaliers. But that effect is impossible to quantify at this point.

Here’s what I do know for sure: the Celtics have a 3-2 lead in this series because they’ve done one thing we’ve expected all season and some things we, frankly, had little right to expect. Can enough of these trends hold up for one more game?

Something old:

The C’s have held the Cavaliers below the 1 point per possession mark (or, if you like, 100 points per 100 possessions) in all three games Boston has won in this series, according to stats provided by ESPN researchers. The Cavaliers scored the equivalent of 91 points per 100 possessions in Games 2 and 4 and 97 points per 100 possessions in Game 5.

How good is that?

The Nets had the worst offense in the league this season. They averaged about 100.6 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference. The Cavaliers averaged just over 111 points per 100 possessions in the regular season, the 6th-best mark in the league. The Cavs have hit that number just once in this series—in their Game 3 destruction of Boston. Otherwise, the C’s have held Cleveland to a below-average output on offense.

This is, frankly, what we’ve been waiting to see from Boston for the last two months, as their defensive ranking gradually dropped from 1st all the way down to 5th over the last 30 games of the season.

The Celtics defense is, it appears, back. Ask Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison, who averaged about 32 points combined on 46 percent shooting for the Cavaliers in the regular season. That’s down to about 24 points per game in this series on 44 percent shooting, with Williams hitting just 39.6 percent from the floor so far.

And Mo has hit just 3-of-15 three-pointers through five games. The Cavs as a whole have hit just 27 percent of their threes, down from 38 percent in the regular season—the 2nd-best mark in the league.

Can the C’s pull this off one more time?

Something New

• How’s this for something new: The C’s are only turning the ball over 12.8 times per game in this series. They averaged about 15 turnovers per game in the regular season—or a turnover on 14.5 percent of their possessions, the 4th-worst mark in the league. That turnover rate is down to 13.3 percent against the Cavs, a league-average mark.

And the Cavs? They’re coughing it up 14.4 times per game, which works out to a turnover on about 15.8 percent of Cleveland possessions. That would have been the worst mark in the league in the regular season.

The Boston Celtics—the freaking Boston Celtics—are winning the turnover battle.

• They’ve also returned to being an elite defensive rebounding team. The Cavs are averaging just 7.5 offensive boards per game, a mark that would also have ranked dead last in the NBA in the regular season. That holds up when you shift into advanced stats mode, too. The C’s have rebounded about 80 percent of Cleveland misses in this series. 80 percent!

Do you realize how good that is? The Magic led the league in defensive rebounding this season—and they hauled in 77.4 percent of opponent misses. Boston, meanwhile, hovered around the league average defensive rebounding rate all season.

The Cavs ranked in the bottom-third of the league in offensive rebounding, so Boston is merely doing it’s job. But it’s a job they didn’t do against Cleveland in the regular season—or at least against Anderson Varejao, who averaged 4.3 offensive boards per game against Boston by himself this season.

He has 9 offensive rebounds in this series.

Can enough of these trends hold up in Game 6? We only have to wait a few more hours to find out.

  • JP

    Oh I hope they do.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but reading all of the opinions and articles about this game 6, you just get the sense that it will be huge. Huge stakes, huge game, huge consequences. I might be overreacting, but the potential to force LeBron from Cleveland, pretty much destroy basketball in that city, and change the future of a number of franchises (who gets LeBron in the summer if he leaves, who misses out on him etc.), that is just amazing to me. All of this hype is making me very excited for this game and I can’t wait until tonight.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @JP: you’re not over-reacting. It might be that big. Or, LBJ could already have made up his mind. But it certainly feels bigger than your average Game 6

  • Kevin

    The C’s are rebounding well, but part of the reason the Cavs aren’t hitting the offensive boards is that they are scared to death of Rondo pushing the tempo. Brown is a disciple of Popovich – so the philosophy is ‘get back and play D’. (Brown isn’t much of a disciple of anyone on offense. The Cavs playbbok is an index card.)

  • Jay P

    He was going to be in New York or Chicago, no matter what the outcome of these playoffs was.

    Lebron’s all about his brand, he’s more business mogul than basketball great. Think about the marketing implications in either city.

    New York has a HUGE market, it’s a city they loves their teams, and an arena which is arguably the most famous in basketball. It we’re talking the ability to market himself, and add to his legend, there’s no better opportunity than New York.

    But Chicago is no small market either, and that team is better suited for him to win a championship. They were a playoff team already, throw Lebron in there, and their legit contenders next year. Not to mention a chance to revitalize championship basketball in the house that Jordan built. Quite the chapter in the life story of Lebron James.

    Cleveland… well it’s his home time. That’s it. He’s gone, no matter what.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    Yup, the Cavs don’t care quite that much about ORBs, though they were league average last season.

  • Eric

    @JP If the nervous, verging-on-puking feeling in my stomach is an indication, this is indeed a huge game.

  • Devon

    @ Eric I’ve had that exact same feeling since I woke up.
    I can’t shake the feeling that LB is gonna go nuts, all indications point the other direction, yet I can’t shake it. It’s truly amazing at what a powerful narcotic professional sports can be to the die-hard fan.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    LBJ is going to go out swinging, one would imagine. I expect him to attack the rim early. Maybe the C’s should bring in Sheed right away to hack Bron at the rim. Hard.

  • Eric

    Okay, if he goes to the Knicks, then we know he doesn’t really want to win a title; that team has no pieces in place to support him and won’t for a long time. Yeah, they can sign another max player, say Bosh, but they’d have to get rid of Lee to do it, and he’s exactly the kind of player they’d need. That would be a depleted roster, with Bill Walker being maybe the third-best player on the team.

    Will LeBron play for a team with another star on it? I’m betting no, so that rules out Miami and Chicago.

    On the other hand, one thing that’s become clear to me, and I bet to LeBron, is that against great defensive teams, like Boston and Orlando, he could really use a real point guard to set him up; the charge-into-the-lane thing doesn’t work against teams that clog the lane. He doesn’t have anything like an off-the-ball game, but he could develop one. That would argue for signing with Chicago or the Clippers. But are Rose and Davis that kind of point guards? The latter no, the former not yet and maybe never.

    LeBron has options, but none of them are that great.

  • Devon

    @ Zack Agreed, It’s like the KG philosophy of never allowing shots after plays. If he’s taking it to the hole and getting hammered he can’t get in rhythm…. When did Sheed suddenly become our P. J. Brown?

  • Jay P

    @Zach

    That’s hilarious, my girlfriend has been saying the same thing all series.

    Prior to his Game 2 explosion, during every game she’d say to just bring in Sheed, and tell him to flagrant 2 on James (actually she said it about Wade too vs. Miami) kill two birds with one stone. Sheed gets ejected, James gets hurt, win/win for Boston.

    I’m not sure she’s kidding, she’s got quite the mean streak. I make a point to never piss her off…

  • http://www.hotmail.com Kevin Garnett

    This is it. It’s for all the marbles. I’m sitting in the house loading up the pump, I’m loading up the Uzis, I’ve got a couple of M-16s, couple of nines, couple of joints with some silencers on them, couple of grenades, got a missile launcher. I’m ready for war.

  • Perry

    @JP

    From our perspective we should be concentrating on what the Celts need to accomplish tonight in order to avoid a return engagement in Cleveland on Sunday. The media made this season about Lebron. They own the story line and are not about to let it go. They built him up; now collectively they tear him down — until the next storyline emerges. So be prepared my friend because this is akin to Tiger and more nauseating than Farve. If the Celts win tonight a Lebron tsunami will ensue, and the remarkable turnaround put forward by this team will be nothing more than an afterthought.

  • Jay P

    @Eric

    You’re right about New York, even James AND Bosh don’t make that team a championship. There’s no depth outside those two. Two-man teams don’t win championships, the Celtics learned that the hard way with Tione-Pierce (and let’s face it, even that team had more depth than the knicks would.) So yes, if he goes to New york, he obviously does not care about the Basketball side of it, and is doing it only for the money, and potential to expand his brand in the New York market.

    I’d have to disagree with you on Chicago though, that team has a lot of great role players (Noah, Deng, Hinrich) and Rose, as he proved in their first round series can be a dominant force in the NBA.

    I agree with you that he would probably love to be with a great pass first type PG that can control the ball and get it to him in the right spots (Trade to Boston in 2-3 years when we clear KG, Ray, Paul, Sheed?… Rondo/James together…. oh imagine the possibilities) but I think that team has a lot of potential.

    Either way, ya, I don’t think he’s staying in Cleveland.

  • sacbobv
  • http://hoopstersworld.blogspot.com miss j.moxie

    So far, I’ve stayed away from this whole where-is-LeBron-going thing, but I have to ask: Is it not possible for the Cavs to lose and have LeBron still stay in Clevelad? Alternatively, is it not possible for the Cavs to win but have LeBron choose to leave anyway?

  • Rocci

    To be fair, the Celtics turned the ball over 1219 times this year, and their opponents turned it over 1283 times this year…so its not like winning the turnover battle is a rarity. Our style of play just happens to be mega-sloppy, that’s all.

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