Celtics 4, Cavs 3...season over
--Excuse my tardiness in posting, my computer is no more. I am still not back in Cleveland and am using another barrowed computer to do this. --The Cavs lost to a better team. I feel they actually played better basketball in the series and even though Kevin Garnett is a great player and a former MVP who geninuely cares about defense, he is not better than LeBron. The Celtics won the series for three reasons: 1. They had homecourt advantage. 2. They had multiple players able to deliver the scoring load. Paul Pierce did twice, in Games 5 & 7, and he was a difference-maker in both games. 3. They had role players they got for free come through in the clutch. Sam Cassell made a few big plays in Game 1, P.J. Brown did it in Game 7. The players the Cavs got for free were Lance Allred and Billy Thomas. --After the game LeBron was very upset. The reason is because he gave his all and lost. He is not used to playing his best and losing, it has almost never happened before. Against the Spurs he did not play well and he knew it and it was easier for him to accept. Which is why he left shaking hands and saying how much he needed to get better then. Yesterday he walked off without looking at anyone, his teammates or anybody else. Then after the game, without being prompted, he said the Cavs needed to make some personnel changes. --LeBron is right, the Cavs need more players. I believe they are better than they were a year ago but the conference is much tougher. The Celtics are 10 times better than the Nets were in last year's second round and I believe the Pistons are better than they were last year. While it may make a difference to the fans and to the owner who got to sell fewer tickets, it really doesn't matter whether you get beat in the second round and the Finals. The Cavs lost when they ran into a better team. They must take steps to reach that level. --Ben Wallace was very strong on Garnett in Game 7. Delonte West showed he can be a contributor and that he's very tough, though I believe the Cavs still need a true point guard and have West as their third guard because West does not handle the ball well under pressure at times and he doesn't get the team into its offense well at times. Joe Smith is a quality veteran big man who contributed in many playoff games. The roster is flexible, so Danny Ferry must take what he learned and apply it. --LeBron was tremendous in Game 7, but he did not trust his teammates enough. When push comes to shove -- and Game 7 is shoving time -- he wanted to control everything. Part of this is something he's got to overcome. It took Michael Jordan six or seven years to truly trust his teammates. Part of it is he's got to be given assistance on offense. I have written that I don't think he respects the system at times so he will break it off. But also the Cavs do not have a realible second scorer or that point guard who will take the ball and tell LeBron to go run a play and LeBron will respect it. This has been said for years. The Cavs play championship quality playoff defense but they just don't have the offense to do it yet, even though they have the offensive player. --If LeBron makes the 3-pointer from the wing with the Cavs down one with about 1:40 to go, I think the game might have had a different outcome. However, I felt it played out the exact same way the series played out. The Celtics got ahead early and the Cavs bit their heels the whole way but just were not good enough to pass them. Boston has enough players and enough options -- and so does Detroit -- that they can withstand some mistakes. The Cavs do not, they have to play at an extremely high level to win. They have done it often and last year against the Pistons LeBron did have a perfect moment that put them over the top. But ultimately they have to become more than overachievers. --Two things that hurt the Cavs in Game 7. Both LeBron and Z were out of the game together for a minute and the Celtics scored five straight points to push the lead from five to 10. The Cavs never overcame that. Not that Z did much in the last four games of the series. Part of it was him, part of it was the Celtics, part of it was coaching. He said he couldn't get shots, that's a coaching issue. But he didn't make many, either, and you could see his technique slipping and that is nerves. The other was the inability to deal with the high pick-and-roll. The Celtics basically only ran three plays yesterday. A Pierce/Garnett pick and roll, a Rondo/Garnett or Pierce pick and roll, and a Garnett post up on the left block. Yet the Cavs never were able to consistently get stops. Pierce made some really tough jumpers, but he got going because he made a bunch of open ones because the Cavs couldn't keep track of him on that simple play. --One thing that is not going to change with this team is Brown. He did a solid job in the playoffs, his in between adjustments were pretty strong for the most part and I thought in the Wizards series his management of matchups was very good at times. Sometimes he is unable to get the Cavs to make changes in the game, part of that is him and part of that is the team (um, LeBron) sort of doing what they want to do on offense and not running anything. He'll have to look inward and decide how to fix it, that is his next great challenge. But he gets the Cavs to play a style that enables them to have a chance to win and his playoff record is very strong. Take your potshots, even those with merit, but he's proven that he is a good playoff coach and one that is still growing and learning.
I'll have more, including some postseason player-by-player breakdowns in the next few days.
Cavs: Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Officials Ken Mauer, Eddie F. Rush, Bennett Salvatore...Mauer is the most demonstrative of the three, Salvatore the most experienced. Over the years, Rush has seemed to give James the benefit of the doubt.
--You can feel the extra tension in the building today, this is two rounds from the Finals but it has a near Finals buzz. There is a general belief that what happens today could be memorable/historic which adds the extra layer. --That said, the Cavs are keeping it business as usual as much as they can. Mike Brown was reasonably relaxed before the game and said the same things he's said all along. It's a one-game focus. Today that is very true. The locker room was a little more quiet than usual but everyone is going about their routines. --LeBron said before the game that he is looking forward to this and is very confident. You never have to worry about LeBron's confidence level. What is more important is how aggressive he is and how much he tries to get others involved. While everyone in the large media gathering here seems to be guessing how many LeBron will score today, I believe his assist total will be just as important. That's not to say he doesn't have a 40-game in him, he has done it before and he's been warming up. But I continue to say the way he played in Game 6 in Washington is when he can be at his best and that sort of performance (27 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists) is more repeatable than the 48-point effort last year in Detroit. --The game plan is the same. The Cavs have to limit Rondo's drives and stay up on Allen and Pierce. On offense they have to move the ball and attempt to get Z involved. One thing they have not done is run after rebounds, they have stopped to compose themselves instead of pushing it. Offensive rebounding will be important because they have yet to shoot at a very high percentage. Also limiting turnovers to avoid big Celtics runs is vital in this building. But if you have been watching this series you already know all of this. Enjoy.
Halftime -- Celtics 50, Cavs 40 --The Cavs are lucky to still be this close, they are still in the game. But they cannot win unless they make some changes. First off, they have got to come up with a new way to cover the high pick-and-roll with Paul Pierce. He is playing very well, but he's getting space because of the way the Cavs are letting him come off. That is basically the only play the Celtics are running but they are executing it and the options off it very well. Mike Brown must earn his money here. Might be worth giving Devin Brown a look. If they give up 50 in the second half it's a blowout. --LeBron is attacking and that is good, but he is not playing a good game at all. He has one assist and one rebound. He continues to back the ball out and not run the offense. He's playing 1-on-1 ball and he's losing. He must create for others, otherwise he is not going to lead the Cavs to a win. The Cavs have just five assists but a large reason is LeBron is stopping things. --That said, the Cavs' role players have been terrible with the exception of Joe Smith. The starters other than LeBron are 1-of-9. Z has to make some of the shots he gets, he is shooting tight, you can tell my his release. Wally Szczerbiak has done nothing, either. Sasha Pavlovic is maddening, he's had a couple OK defensive possessions but otherwise he has not contributed. I think you could sum up his season by the possession when one of his weak drives resulted in his shot being blocked by two different Celtics. --The Cavs are not offensive rebounding and not running off rebounds. They are going to need 6-10 fastbreak points and about the same second chance in the second half, they need the easy baskets.