Cleveland Cavalier fans have been buzzing since their beloved Cavs finished their series with the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. Sure, the game was a little closer than expected, and Lebron left us all scratching our heads when he chucked up a Shaq-esque left handed free-throw in the pivotal moments of the fourth quarter; but Cavs fans still managed to remain optimistic rather than speculative. For the most part, I think they were just happy that Joakim Noah was going home to plan a vacation to anywhere but Cleveland.
As for the Cavs, I hope they aren’t planning on a cruise to the Conference Finals. The Boston Celtics looked as good as they ever have in their first round romping of the Miami Heat. The Celts also want to prove that they are still amongst the Eastern conference elite, and know that the Cavs are the perfect team to do so against.
The teams split their games this season, 4-4, in what were mostly tightly contested match-ups. And let’s face it, there is definitely no love lost between these teams; which was proven by a series of scuffles throughout the season. Yup, I would say that we are in for a pretty good series.
While looking at the teams lineups, I knew that this series was going to be all business. That’s why I decided to break down the Cavs’ team matchup using the one key resource I remember from my four forgettable years in business school, the SWOT analysis. Let’s begin.
What else did you expect me start with? The guy just won his second consecutive MVP, and is fresh off of a series where he averaged 31.8 points, 9.2 boards, and 8.2 assists. Lebron isn’t messing around, he looks like a man possessed out there, proving to everyone that he is hands down the best player in the world. There isn’t a player in the league that can stop him from producing offensively, however there are a few that give a valiant effort; and none of them play for the Celtics.
We all know how badly he wants a championship, and you can all but guarantee he will do everything in his power to make sure that the Celtics don’t mess that up. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, considering he did average 37 points a game against the C’s this year.
By all means, this is by far the deepest team the Cavs have had in the James-era. Across the board, this is a better team than last years.
The addition of Shaq, Antawn Jamison, and Anthony Parker has given the Cavs what is widely renowned as the best bench in the league. Jamario Moon, J.J. Hickson, and Anderson Varejao bring in instant energy, and Delonte West does a great job scoring off the bench. It doesn’t hurt to have the old faithful Big Z coming in to back up Shaq either.
Kevin Garnett may be a few years removed from contending for a MVP, but he still shows some of that Big Ticket brilliance, and is going to demand a lot of attention when he has the ball. The Cavs will have to guard him by committee, as Antawn Jamison has never won an award for defense in his life. Luckily for the Cavs, KG has proven to be easily annoyed, and Anderson Varejao has made a name for himself by being an annoyance.
The Cavs aren’t necessarily a bad rebounding team; however, the way Joakim Noah was able to clean up the glass against the team for the entire first round leaves me a little skeptical. Hopefully this won’t be a problem against a bigger rival in the Celtics, and the Cavs step up the intensity on the glass. Lebron will get his 8 plus rebounds a night, but you prefer to him to be catching outlet passes from your big men so he can lead the break.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are old. They don’t have the same legs they did in their championship run a couple seasons back, and aren’t moving at the pace they used to.
As I mentioned earlier, the Cavs are deep, and they have an array of offensive options. The Cavs should look to push the ball as much as they can against the veteran Celt’s to take advantage of that. Lebron is the best open court player in the league, and with all the shooters that the Cavs have to offer, I don’t see the Celtics being able to keep up.
Get Under Their Skin
Kevin Garnett proved it when he threw that nasty elbow at Quinton Richardson’s head, the Celtics are a bunch of cranky old veterans. The Cavs on the other hand, are a team that tends to get underneath peoples skin with their constant posing, celebrating, and dancing. If the Cavs can use this to their advantage, it should disrupt the veteran presence the Celtics have on the floor, or at the very least, make for exciting television.
This young man has been the best player all season long for the team that used to be known for its ‘Big Three.’ This didn’t change in the playoffs, as he was constantly controlling the pace of the game on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor. Rondo went on to average 15 points and 10 dimes in the series.
If Rondo is able to use that lanky frame to disrupt the flow of Mo Williams’ game, the Cavs could be in trouble. They may also be in trouble if he is able to take advantage of Mo’s shaky defense on the other end.
If Rondo was the best Celtic all season long, Ray Allen was definitely the most consistent player they had, at least since the All-star break. Ray Ray still has one of the prettiest, most effective shots in the league, and has shown a renewed enthusiasm of late after trade rumors swirled at the time of the trade deadline.
Ray also has had the Cavs number all season long, averaging 22.5 points a game against them this season. The thing that really scares me however; is that he managed to shoot the three ball at an astounding 58% in those games. If this is the year that the King gets his ring, that is going to have to change.