Well, basketball fans, if you’re surprised that the Cavs won Game 6, or rather that the Celtics dropped yet ANOTHER one on the road, you should probably stop reading this right now and go back to Facebook stalking or whatever website you were looking at before you stumbled upon this article.
(Go ahead, I’ll wait. I’ve got all day.)
(And yes, I just turned 21 and I have a Dave Loggins reference in my headline. Don't judge me because I love 70's soft rock.)
Right, now down to business…
1. As has been the trend throughout this series, the Cavs used huge runs to take leads and let the Celtics slip back into things. Once again, the lack of a killer instinct and ability to put teams away has and continues to hamper the Cavs.
A 17-2 run to close the second quarter, coupled with the first seven points of the third quarter, gave the Cavs a 16-point lead. The Celtics crept within three on a pair of occasions before the Cavs regained ANOTHER double figure lead at the start of the fourth. Once again, that frustratingly melted away, but the Cavs still held on despite only scoring five points in the final four minutes of the game.
By my count, the Cavs have led by double figures in Games 2-6 and also held a two-point with 1:30 left in Game 1. Yes, I know they’re playing the team with the best record in the NBA, but if the Cavs can’t close this series out on Sunday they have no one to blame but themselves.
2. LeBron James is rounding back into form. The scary thing is that he dropped 35 points in Game 5 and 32 tonight but he’s not even close to playing his best basketball.
What I noticed tonight was that the Cavs floor spacing wasn’t as good as it should have been. When the Celtics came to double LeBron, he didn’t have any passing lanes, which forced him into many of his eight turnovers.
Part of the problem, no doubt, is the absence of Boobie Gibson. But the Celtics did a good latching onto the outside shooters and not giving them any breathing room to separate or be in a position to catch the ball. Hopefully Mike Brown will address that issue before Game 7 because I doubt 74 points will be enough to win in Boston – but who knows with the way this series is going?
3. Speaking of points and scoring… in the regular season series, the Cavs averaged 95.0 points per game, and that included the 80-70 LeBron-less loss. The Celtics, for their part, averaged 97.3 points per game, including a game without KG.
The average score for games in this series? Cavs 84.0, Boston 81.8. And no one’s been sitting out this series. It’s remarkable the difference between a game played in February and a game played in May.
4. Boobie’s absence was clearest in the back-to-back plays from Sasha Pavlovic in the fourth quarter when he drove headfirst into about 12 Celtics defenders and threw up crazy shots. I was ready to commit homicide (just check my text message log.)
Pavlovic, one of the leading vote-getters for the NBA’s Least Valuable Player and Most Regressed Award, had a clunker of a night. Mike Brown also dusted off Damon Jones for three uninspired minutes, while Devin Brown – you know, the most consistent sub, the Sixth Man all season, continued to rot away on the bench.
(I don't know who's playing worse right now, Sasha or Kendrick Perkins. But I'm sure some clown like me in Worcester gets the same giddy feeling every time Sasha touches the ball like I get when Perkins has it for the Celtics.)
5. I know Boston fans will be griping about those two plays at the end. I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible, but come on guys. First, Ray Allen’s shot attempt hit the padding on the sideof the basket, and Delonte West only got a fingertip or two on it anyway – unless it was the Keith Hernandez Magic Loogie from Seinfeld, it wasn’t going in. No goaltending, not even close.
Secondly, the charge on Paul Pierce was the same play LeBron has been whistled for several times in this series. If you extend your off arm or lower your shoulder, it’s going to be called a charge. Especially on the road.
6. The Cavs shot 33 percent – that’s a pretty good batting average, pretty bad field goal percentage – and only had 10 assists. Sixteen offensive rebounds, and a 45-37 edge on the boards overall, rescued them, as well as a stunning (for them at least) 84 percent at the free throw line.
This team’s success is predicated heavily on getting to the free throw line. I made this point last year in the Pistons series – the two games the Cavs lost, they shot 33 total free throws. In the four games they won, they averaged almost 35 attempts per game.
When you have as miserable of an offense as the Cavs do, you need as many free and easy points as possible.
(If the Cavs shot 84 percent from the line in Game 5, they would have scored six more points. They lost by seven. Hmmmmm…)
7. So what’s the key for the Cavs to become the second (as of this posting) road team to win a game in the conference semis? They must get back to what they do well – pound the glass and get second and third chance opportunities to score. They must get some type of production out of Wally Szczerbiak or Delonte West – preferably both, because if they falter than Sasha Pavlovic must step up, and I have more faith in the Kennedy’s giving up drinking than that happening.
And LeBron’s going to have to be electric. As I said before, he’s been good but not great the past two games. He must be great for the Cavs to win Sunday.
(I’m going to share a little secret – I think he has it in him, I really do.)