East Rutherford, NJ -- In theory, the Cavs-Nets affair became a series when the Nets beat the Cavs in Game 3. In reality, this became a playoff series tonight in the third quarter when Mikki Moore dropped Sasha Pavlovic on a drive to the basket. It was a seminal moment, when the Cavs got angry and matched the Nets' intensity. It made the difference in their Game 4 victory.
--Just after the skirmish, the Cavs made five straight jumpers. This was fate to a degree, they were bound to make some. It was more impressive with how the emotion from Sasha and LeBron James carried over to the defensive end. Over the last quarter and a half the Cavs had some great defensive possessions. They even flustered Jason Kidd at times, which is saying something because they guy seems unstoppable at times.
--After Moore's forearm to Sasha's gut, LeBron didn't skip a beat in squaring up with Moore. Perhaps it was because it wasn't against a fellow star, but that was the first time I can remember James getting right up in another guy's face like that. He was so engaged with Moore that when Sasha got up and came over, Moore didn't even look at him. Sasha had to go around his back to get in his ear. Although when he said "I'm going to (blank) you up," he got a tech. LeBron gets cracked, from here especially, when it appears he's too passive. Not in this case and there's no denying how strongly his teammates responded.
--Speaking of LeBron, late in the game he wasn't able to make a big hoop to finish the Nets. But overall, his effort was remarkable. He scored 24 points on just 11 recorded shots in the first three quarters. Think about that. He also two or three times got into the deep post for easy baskets, which is vital as hard as the Nets are making on him on the outside. He promised he would come back with a good game and he did.
--The Nets seem as if they've had enough of Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao. They started Game 3 running high pick-and-rolls and both Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins were slamming into Pavlovic, I mean loading up and slamming him. It was a message, one Moore carried over in Game 4. By the end of the game Monday, a frustrated Vince Carter was screaming in Sasha's ear and Sasha was going right back at him. Varejao, who drew three offensive fouls Monday, has been under Moore's skin for days now. All of it is contributing to the edge this series is getting.
--It may have gone unnoticed, but Drew Gooden had a big fourth quarter, getting four clutch defensive rebounds in traffic. Zydrunas Ilgauskas also had another double-double. The Nets are able to chase down loose balls with energy, but at the end of the game height usually shows up. It didn't in Game 3, it did in Game 4.
--It was just logical that Jason Kidd would have to cool off from the outside so him going 2-of-13 wasn't shocking. It was unexpected that Richard Jefferson would have such a bad night, even missing dunks. But the Cavs deserve some credit for the way they are handling Carter, the double teams and contested jumpers have supremely frustrated him. Pavlovic's length bothers him, Snow's strength makes it tough for him to drive, and the scheme makes it hard for him to find any space to operate. The series isn't over and Carter can get very hot, but so far their game plan against him has been impressive. As for Moore, he will be permitted to get open looks. Again, Mike Brown is playing percentages and he's looking pretty good so far in doing so.
--This year's playoffs have been about the lessons learned from last year. The last time there was a closeout game at home in the conference semifinals, the Cavs let it slip through their fingers. They may be up a couple of break points now, but expect that Game 6 loss last year to be rehashed.