Friday, June 08, 2007

NBA Finals 2007, Game 1:

As previously mentioned, for the Cavaliers' inaugural appearance in the NBA Finals, our buddy Steve D will be contributing to the cause by offering his thoughts on each game. A gentleman and a scholar, Steve teaches middle school kids in New Jersey, plays piano, and likes to bench press with beers in his pocket. Most importantly, he is a tried and true Cleveland fan who calls it like it is.

Lebron tries to wipe his game face off.

Game 1, Thursday June 7th, 2007, in San Antonio
• Z is a defensive liability on the screen and roll with Duncan.
• Hughes is a defensive liability on a much faster Tony Parker.
• Damon Jones is a defensive liability on anybody.
• Donyell Marshall is a defensive liability on himself.
• Notice a trend?
• At this point, the Cavs are better playing a lineup consisting of Gibson (on Parker), Sasha (on Manu/Finley), James (Bowen), Andy (Duncan), and a warm body (Oberto/Elson).
• When the Spurs switch to their defensive line up (Jacques Vaughn, Robert Horry), the Cavs can get away with putting Z or Hughes in the game. Otherwise, they should stay on the bench.
• Later on, the Cavs tried to double team Parker and Duncan to compensate for Hughes and the rest, but that just left Bowen/Horry/Manu wide open for 3’s.

• The high pick and roll with James and Z/Marshall/Gooden/Andy is not going to work against the Spurs’ defense. Mainly because the Spurs are creating a shell around the post (not unlike what international teams have been doing against the “Dream Teams” the last decade) which takes away driving lanes.
• The essence of the pick and roll is that either James or the “picker” will get a clear lane to the basket. When the Cavs run the pick and roll, both Spurs defenders are staying on James and letting the man setting the pick run to the hoop. The problem is, because the rest of the Spurs defenders are staying home on the post, that player is essentially guarded as well. Therefore, the pick and roll isn’t producing any advantage for the Cavs. If anything, it’s feeding into the Spurs’ plan to double James at the top of the key.
• Other than James getting a pick at the top of the key, the only offensive play the Cavs run is “James drives and kicks it to Damon, Donyell, or Boobie with Andy in the post to get the rebound.” The problem is, this lineup got killed on the defensive side of the ball (see the 3rd quarter of game 1). Besides, Donyell Marshall ain’t gonna win you a championship.
• The Cavs got through the first three rounds of the playoffs because they had more talent. Well they don’t have more talent than the Spurs. Their one trump card is James, and they aren’t properly utilizing him. James should either be coming off the ball (catching the ball in the lane off of screens), or he should stick his ass into Bowen and post him up. Either way, the Cavs will get a much better shot than anything they saw in Game 1. When James receives the ball at the top of the key and surveys the defense, he allows the defense to set up to stop him.

• The Cavs don’t have to play a perfect to beat the Spurs, but they can’t make all of the mental errors they committed in Game 1.
• Case in point, at least twice, a Spurs foul shooter got his own rebound on a miss (should NEVER happen). The Spurs also got more offensive rebounds than the Cavs (can’t happen).
• Drew Gooden took more than a few naps on defense during this game. I know, he scored a lot in the 3rd quarter, but that’s what is so annoying about Gooden (besides his neck toupee). The guy flashes talent on one play, and genuine disinterest/stupidity on the next. That’s not going to fly in the Finals when you’re guarding one of the best players of all time.
• The Cavs barely got any whistles last night and you could see it frustrated them. The fact is, they got a lot of favorable calls in Games 5 and 6 against the Pistons. That is not going to happen in San Antonio, so you need to adjust.
• I don’t know that last night could have gone much worse for the Cavs. I would have given them a better chance to win Game 1 against a rusty Spurs team than Game 2. That said, maybe Mike Brown (or James) will make adjustments and they’ll steal Game 2. Or maybe Scott Pollard can take a tire iron to Duncan’s knee before shootaround. Either one works.

Editor's thought: The folks playing the Undertaker's theme while they introduced the Cavs was a nice touch on their part. "Ya'll Ready For This" while they introduced the Spurs wasnt.


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