NBA

Cavs overpower C's to win Game 1

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Charley Rosen

Charley Rosen is FOXSports.com's NBA analyst and author of 17 sports books, the current ones being Bullpen Diaries: Mariano Rivera, Bronx Dreams, Pinstripe Legends, and the Future of the New York Yankees and Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds.

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Just in case anybody had second thoughts, LeBron James demonstrated why he was just named the league’s back-to-back MVP. He simply controlled both ends of the court in compelling the Cavs to a come-from-behind 101-93 win against the Celtics that broke the seal on the series.

Not only did LBJ light up the scoreboard — 12 for 24 from the field, 7 assists, 35 points — but on defense he put the cuffs on Paul Pierce.

However, despite LeBron’s run-of-the-mill brilliance, the game ball is awarded to Mo Williams. Late in the third quarter, with Boston seemingly in firm control of the game, and with LeBron taking a blow, Mighty Mo single-handedly rallied the Cavs and turned the game around. At 5:16, the Celtics led by 11, but over the course of the next 2:04 Williams scored 10 points, had a steal, and shaved the Cavs’ deficit to five points.

From that point on, the Cavs played with supreme confidence and the Celtics played with the shakes. And when LBJ re-entered the fray, he proceeded to take over the proceedings and the outcome was never in doubt.

What else did Cleveland do to outlast Boston?
  • Anthony Parker was tapped to defend Rajon Rondo. In the first half, Rondo sliced and diced Williams for 19 points, but Parker’s bigger, stronger body and eagerness to defend limited Rondo to eight points after the intermission. A great call by Mike Brown.
  • When he wasn’t matched up against Rondo, Parker (with part-time help from Jamario Moon) also contained Ray Allen, limiting him to 6-for-14 shooting and 14 non-essential points. This glorious deed required both Parker and Moon to pursue Allen over every type of weak-side screen imaginable and never abandon the chase.
  • The Cavs also made a point of fouling Rondo hard enough to send him sprawling whenever someone caught up to him near the rim. As a result, Rondo spent much of the second half rubbing his aching back.
  • After slumbering in the paint for most of the game (and missing four layups), Shaq bagged a couple of key interior buckets late in the game. And his fourth-quarter foul on Rondo was certainly the most brutal.
  • For a brief stretch in the second quarter, Delonte West’s offense carried the ballclub.
  • The repeated use of high screen/rolls forced the Celtics to either switch defenders on LeBron, or took full advantage of the failure of Boston’s bigs to show long and hard enough to prevent LBJ from turning the corner.
  • J. J. Hickson’s lively legs and perpetual hustle gave the Cavs a huge lift early on when Shaq and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were innocent bystanders.
Overall, the Cavs defensive adjustments and interior power — primarily in the persons of LBJ and Shaq — simply wore down the Celtics.

What must the Cavs do to win Game 2? More of the same, with the possible exception of getting more touches for Antawn Jamison.

The Celtics, however, have to make dramatic adjustments.
  • Despite his glittering numbers — 9-for-20 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, and 18 points — Kevin Garnett shot only 3 for 9 in the low post against Jamison, a notoriously poor defender. In addition, KG was soft throughout the game, missing two layups, making a pair of delicate passes that were stolen, and generally avoiding contact. Boston needs to get him the ball at the left elbow so he can face up, shoot or go, without attracting a crowd.
  • After coming out of the gate like gangbusters, Paul Pierce was 1 for 12 throughout the second, third and fourth quarters. Indeed, he seemed to be tentative when faced with LBJ’s strong-armed and quick-footed defense. Perhaps the Celtics should forget about involving Pierce in high S/Rs and just run 1-4 sets that isolate him against James just above the foul line.
  • Rondo has to push the ball, even if Boston has to take it out of the net. And perhaps he also should wear some body armor underneath his jersey.
  • Boston’s bigs have to do a much better showing on the nether side of S/Rs, especially against Williams.
  • Since Rasheed Wallace was a total negative, and Glen Davis tried to do too much and wound up doing nothing, Boston should convince both of these guys to sprain their ankles in tomorrow’s practice. Then they should petition the league to add another player, and pay whatever it takes to get P.J. Brown out of his rocking chair and into a uniform.

Above all, the Celtics must not allow themselves to be intimidated by the Cavs' physicality. They must also take measures to maintain their focus and keep attacking the basket instead of settling for perimeter shots.

Moreover, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to double LeBron on every catch (if possible with a small to keep the bigs at home). If a big man sets a screen for LBJ, then two-time James with the defending big, and rotate in the lane to prevent the screener from rolling hoopwards in a straight line. By any means, get the ball out of LBJ’s hands and force Williams or West or Jamison or anybody else to carry the offense for sustained periods of time.

After all, what do the Celtics really have to lose? Besides, that is, the next three games?
Tagged: Celtics, Cavaliers, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo

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