I’m still swamped with Goddamn finals, so I won’t be able to post too much again today. Sorry, folks, but finals are finally done in a few hours and I’ll be able to spend more time on the blog. I’m so happy I could kiss Dick Bavetta on the lips.
Gross. Anyway, here are some talking points about the series and my opinions.
On Lebron defending Rondo:
Yes, the Cavaliers should do it. Yes, the Celtics should be a little worried about Lebron moving to Rondo. It’s simple: Rondo is the C’s best player, and Lebron is Cleveland’s best defender. Lebron also happens to be the only player on Cleveland’s roster with the speed to even be a nuisance to Rondo. It’s a no-brainer for Cleveland, especially after the way Rondo obliterated them last game. While the move could free up Paul Pierce, Pierce has shown very few signs of life in this series. Even if Pierce does get going because of the defensive switch (and he might — seeing Anthony Parker after four games of Lebron will be like being released from jail), it’s just him getting going. When Rondo gets going, he’s dishing the rock and making sure everyone on the team gets into the action.
At the same time, I’m not sure even Lebron can stop Rondo right now. As long as the Celtics get stops Rondo should be able to have his way in transition… whether it’s the King guarding him or Shelden Williams’ brother-in-law. Cleveland’s best defense is probably its offense; hit a few shots, limit transition and keep Rondo out of the open court. Rocket science, it ain’t. Once Rondo gets in the open court, there’s only one way to stop him: Throw a whole bunch of gumballs on the court and hope he slips on one of them.
After gumballs, Lebron on Rondo is the Cavs’ best attempt to slow him down. You know the saying: cut the head off the snake and the body will die too. It’s just going to be tough to cut off the head, when he’s playing so damn well.
On Paul Pierce:
Pierce says he isn’t sick or injured, but he’s either that or halfway washed up. Pierce hasn’t been able to do anything — anything at all — in this series. Doc Rivers has commended his defense, but defending Lebron is more about help defense than the initial defender. No offense to Pierce (who’s tried valiantly to keep Lebron in front of him), or anyone else, but if Lebron James wants to go by his first defender he’s going to do just that. The man’s got a turbo button that other players just don’t have. Pierce isn’t limiting Lebron alone, I can tell you that. Something that I think is telling about the way Pierce has played: at times the Celtics have defended Lebron with Ray Allen… even when Pierce was on the court. I can’t ever remember them doing that. Ever. Pierce has always been the one who’s handled Lebron. With his size and strength, Pierce is simply a better matchup for Lebron than Ray. But Doc has still stuck Ray on him for portions of the game.
Maybe that doesn’t mean anything, and maybe neither does Pierce’s 11.8 ppg or 32% shooting this series. Maybe Pierce is just too tired from dogging Lebron to have an impact defensively. Maybe Lebron is just THAT GOOD defensively. Or maybe Pierce is washed up. It’s sad, but it’s looking more and more like Paul Pierce is a shell of the player he used to be. Say it ain’t so, Paul.
Pierce’s deficiencies haven’t really hurt Boston so far this series, but there will be a close game when Boston needs someone to score down the stretch. When that time comes, they’re going to need the Truth. Whether or not he’ll be there is another question.
On Lebron James’ throne:
I have called Lebron James the NBA’s best player for the last three years or so. He’s the league’s best individual talent, and it isn’t even close. At some point, though, he’s going to have to win a title.
Without a ring, it’ll be tough for me to keep referring to James as the game’s best. As much as you can say about Lebron elevating his teammates, it’s only during the regular season. Last year Cleveland had the NBA’s best record… and was cracked by Orlando in the Conference Finals. This year Cleveland not only has the NBA’s best record, but Lebron also has a much-improved supporting cast. If he AGAIN fails to lead the league’s best team to a championship, we might have to reevaluate the best player in the world. Yeah, Lebron also moved Cleveland to the Finals in 2007 and almost singlehandedly took down Boston in 2008, but the King has to come through when it matters most to continue to hold the throne as the NBA’s best player. Maybe this is the year he finally prevails, but then again maybe it isn’t. Cleveland has looked very vulnerable in three of its four games against Boston.
On Mike Brown:
If Cleveland doesn’t win a title this season, it’s time for Brown to go. I know he’s a great defensive coach, his teams always stop people, yada yada yada. But have you seen Cleveland’s offense? It’s clear that Brown has no idea what he’s doing. When it comes to offense, Brown’s riding the short bus. The Cavs have a mismatch with Antawn Jamison on the perimeter… and have hardly gone to it. They DON’T have a mismatch down low with Shaq… but pound the ball down there frequently. The Cavs have Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a guy who would spread the floor and bring Kendrick Perkins away from the hoop… and Big Z hasn’t played at all. The Cavs have the ability to go small, run Boston out of the gym and abuse Kevin Garnett with whoever he’s defending…. and I can’t remember one time when they’ve used Lebron as a power forward. As I said a few sentences ago, as long as Cleveland falls short of a title Brown should get canned.