Cavaliers-Celtics: Cleveland's Offense Caves in Boston

Scott MilesSenior Analyst IMay 8, 2008

Things I Don’t Understand:

1. How a basketball team can score 24 points in one quarter and 27 in the next two.

2. How a problem that’s existed for three years – a languid, stagnant offense – continues to hamper a team.

3. How NBA players – including a superstar – cannot hit jump shots on a somewhat consistent basis.

4. How a team’s best bench player, arguably its Sixth Man, who even started quite a few games, isn’t sniffing the court.

It is those four things and many more that make me consider jumping off the Valley View Bridge – can you see the Cavs’ new practice gym from there? – or take Dead Man’s Curve at approximately 122 mph in my Corolla.

(OK, Scott, deep breath. Calm down. Exhale.)

First things first. Yes, credit the Boston Celtics for being a great defensive team. They’re aggressive, they’re physical, and they don’t beat themselves.

But my God, this isn’t the ’85 Bears we’re talking about. And we’re not even challengingthem to be a good defensive team. Without sounding like a broken record, the Cavs have done nothing, absolutely nothing, positive on the offensive end. Game 6 against the Wizards might as well have been played 12 years ago.

 Mike Brown talks a good game. He talks about moving the ball from one side of the floor to the other, about spacing the court, about sharing the ball, moving without the basketball. Kudos to Mike for understanding these principles.

But, during Brown’s tenure, when have those principles come into play for the Cavs for more than one game out of every five or six? When? I have no idea – I’ve watched darn near every Cavs game for the past seven or eight years, at least, and we’ve never been able to do any of those things. Never.

What we saw in the first quarter was lovely. Some dribble penetration, kicking passes out to Z who knocked down open shots, LeBron moving all around the court – shame on me for thinking that perhaps we had turned a corner.

After leading by as many as 12 in the first, the Cavs were still up eight when Z hit ANOTHER jumper at the start of the second quarter. The Cavs then proceeded to score one point – ONE POINT, ONE BLEEPING BLEEP POINT – over the next six and a half minutes.

Let me say that again, in case you missed it. One point. Six and a half minutes. It came via an Andy Varejao free throw, in case you forgot. The skid ended when Wally World’s three-pointer actually tied the game at 30 with five minutes left in the second. Perhaps that would get the team rolling before halftime…

Err, not. Because it would be another three and a half minutes before we scored again!!!

I’m an English major, not a math major – but to me, those numbers add up to TEN consecutive minutes of basketball where you make ONE shot from the field and ONE free throw. You know how tough that is to do? Ridiculously tough, that’s how!

(Buckle up, guys, I’m not done ranting yet. I’m going to need an oxygen mask when I’m done writing this thing.)

When I watch other teams – in the NBA, in college, at freaking high school JV games – I see a lot of things happen on offense. I see picks being set. I see more than one guy moving at once, even when he or she doesn’t have the ball. I see attempts to dribble to the basket. I see players posting up.

What do I see when I watch the Cavs play? NONE of that. Nothing. We can’t even set a freaking pick – Marc Jackson was lauding Paul Pierce “fighting” through a Z pick to defend LeBron, when the replay showed Z didn’t even come close to making contact with Pierce on the screen. And LeBron didn’t even act aggressively off the pick, instead making his move to the basket after Pierce rotated around the screen.

(When I played, I was taught to set big, solid screens, and allow the ballhandler to rub off them. That was back in sixth grade travel ball. And you know what? It works. You guys are in the NBA. Learn how to run an actual pick play.)

The Cavs also enjoy not moving without the ball. I’m watching Wally chasing Ray Allen around three or four screens as he’s running laps around the court. I’ve watched Rip Hamilton do the same thing for years against us. Why can’t we do that more with our players, particularly that LeBron guy?

See, LeBron is much, much more effective when he catches the ball on the move. The defense can’t change directions quick enough to react to him – he’s too quick and strong to be slowed. My goodness, he killed the Wizards running off of those curls in one game, something I’d NEVER seen the Cavs employ, and haven’t seen them try since.

Look, I’m not saying I know more basketball than Mike Brown. But I don’t know if something is being lost in translation or what, but the Cavs are a horrendous, horrendous offensive team. The trade did nothing to change that.

(In fact, as it’s shaping up now – wouldn’t the Cavs match up better with the Celtics if we had Drew Gooden at power forward? Because we’re playing 4-on-5 with Andy and Big Ben out there, and Gooden could draw KG away from the basket…just something to think about…)

And then, even when the team does manage to give itself a decent look at the basket, they can’t hit shots. LeBron, God bless your soul I love you like a brother, but you have to make more than one jump shot this series. And somebody shorter than 7’3” has to make a few, too. You get paid millions and millions of dollars. Please make a jumper.

Two last notes before my head finally explodes – first, what the heck happened to Devin Brown? Is he still alive? Did he do something to piss off Mike Brown or what?

Sasha Pavlovic actually hasn’t been terrible, but Devin Brown has – night in, night out – been the steadiest force off the bench for this team all season. And now he only gets garbage minutes at the end of the game? I really have no idea what Mike Brown is thinking.

Finally, I think Andy has regressed incredibly this postseason. He’s nonexistent. I just looked at the stats and saw he grabbed 10 rebounds, and most of those must have come in the fourth quarter when I stopped watching and started making out my living will.

He might be a bigger liability on offense than Big Ben, because at least Wallace understands his limitations and doesn’t (usually) attempt anything stupid. Andy has no concept of this. Every time he dribbles I want to vomit. Every time he throws up a stepback jumper I want to vomit.

The problem is, any value he makes defensively is entirely wiped out by his five to seven bonehead plays on offense. Plus, he can’t guard quicker, stronger players – those “undersized” power forwards like Leon Powe absolutely kill him.

OK, I have a million other thoughts in my head right now but I need to lie down. The only saving grace is the Cavs played miserable in the first two games against Detroit last year and still managed to win it all.

But the Cavs better make some changes – and soon – because their performance tonight was an utter embarrassment.


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