When this all over, and that time is soon, the Cavs may very well regret they never gave the San Antonio Spurs their best shot. Perhaps it would not have mattered, but it may be easier for them to rest in the off-season that way. It didn't matter Thursday when the Spurs wrestled the Cavs into submission in the 75-72 win.
--LeBron James probably got fouled on the last play, Bruce Bowen was trying to foul him I believe. Afterward, LeBron didn't complain as is Cavs policy. But let's be honest, do you think he would've made all three free throws under such pressure? His history of making clutch free throws is spotty. The intangibles have gone the Spurs way this series and Bowen making a move at LeBron probably forced him to take a worse shot.
--Anderson Varejao always wants to shoot, the man has taken 3-pointers in this postseason. This is the last guy you want with the ball in a pressure situation trying to create his own shot. It is a disaster waiting to happen. It happened. This is a experience issue, in that case he's got to be smarter with the ball. Mike Brown was trying hard to get a timeout there. We all know the play out of the timeout would've been an iso play for the LeBron at the top of the key and the Spurs would've been ready. Who can say the Cavs would've even got a better shot with the timeout. Nonetheless, when the season is on the line there has to be better decisions made. Another lesson.
--I have been blown away watching the Spurs' execution in these last three games. It seems like they have maybe made four or five defensive mistakes in the entire series. Their rotations are so crisp, it is scary. The way they react to pick-and-roll and postups to neutralize them is downright awe-inspiring. It's almost like their defense breathes, fluidly collapsing and expanding like it's a living entity. Gregg Popovich said after the game it is the best defense the Spurs have played all season. It may be the best defense I've ever seen in person.
--Now, the Spurs' offense. It is so smart and well-oiled, everyone knows where to be and the spacing and passing is perfect. Perhaps I am warped from watching the Cavs and their dribblefest for more than 100 games now, but let me give you one play for an example. In the third quarter, Tim Duncan got the ball in the post on the right block. The Cavs doubled and Duncan kicked it to the corner and the Cavs started to recover, spreading out to the shooters. The Spurs passed the ball around the perimeter until it reached Bruce Bowen on the opposite wing. Bowen looked to pass the ball to Brent Barry in the corner, but the Cavs had every option covered in what looked like good defense. So Bowen, seeing the Cavs in full-speed spread and with four 3-pointers already in his pocket, pump-faked and went to the basket. He drew a desperation foul. Now, it was insignificant in the game, but it was the exact correct play to make there. He waits another second and the Cavs have stopped the play. They just make so many proper decisions. It's just impressive to watch.
--Want to know where the game was really won? The 10-0 run to close the first half and the 7-0 at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth. Yes, Brown took LeBron out with fouls with six minutes left in the half. He had to, LeBron had three and hadn't been out of the game yet. Leaving him out the full six minutes, especially when the Spurs started the run is questionable. As usual, the Cavs got a 3-4 minute bounce without LeBron, actually extending the lead. This is a normal for them throughout the playoffs, but it has also been proven that it's not sustainable. Brown had a free 24-second timeout to use to get LeBron in the game and break the run. He didn't use it until the final Cavs possession and he didn't put LeBron in for even that play. Extreme second-guess here, I know, but that run was very penal to the Cavs because it soured the whole first half.
--Moving Daniel Gibson into the starting lineup didn't work. It was in part because the Spurs were paying more attention and in part because he forced some shots early instead of letting them develop. He might just be better off the bench at this point. Honestly, Eric Snow has played pretty well over the last two games and the offense has responded while he's been in there. He had five assists tonight. Perhaps that's an option, to start him Thursday.
--I wrote about the Larry Hughes decision here. Here's how I can break it down from my viewpoint, having talked to some people close to Larry. After not taking the injection for Game 1, Hughes went ahead and did it for Game 2 hoping it would help even though he thought it was against his best interests. He has a fear that he could completely tear the muscle or break his foot and he wouldn't know it with it numb. It doesn't matter what the doctors told him, he hated doing it. Anyway, he got the needle and he got just 20 minutes of playing time in Game 2, which upset him. So he pretty much had enough and the Cavs weren't getting much from him. He met with the coaches and they came to a mutual decision rather than his foot actually hurting more, which was the story. It is unfortunate that him doing something he should get credit for (playing through the injury) may not be remembered as much as his poor play.
--The Cavs are shooting 42.3 percent for the postseason and now averaging less than 90 points a game. Two things should be remembered about this: 1. It was a miracle in some ways for the Cavs to get to this point with those numbers. 2. There needs to be a major, major overhaul/improvement to the offense before the Cavs can get their hands on the trophy the Spurs are about to win. The Cavs shot a lower percentage than their opponents in the regular season and rebounding and defense somehow got them to 18 games over .500. They are 12-7 in the postseason while shooting worse than their opponents again. The Cavs have world-class defense. But they are miles away on offense and it is an old, old wound.