All hope is not lost in the wake of the Game 2 loss to the Celtics. Let’s remember a few things. First, the Celtics have proved this year to be a great away team, going 26-15 on the road, which was tied with the Cavaliers for 2nd in the NBA one game behind the Dallas Mavericks. Second, the Celtics have been beatable at home with a 24-17 record. Third, the teams each went 1-1 at each others Arena, so each team knows it can win on the road.
So, while all hope is not lost, there are many items that concern me. I will breakdown each item and give stats to back it up.
1. Mo Williams is playing horrible defense. This is nothing new, as I have broken down earlier, but with the two point guards we have faced so far it is a major problem. The following is a game by game breakdown of what Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo have done to the Cavaliers:
Derrick Rose – 5 games, 26.8 ppg, 7.2 apg, 3.4 rpg:
Game 1: 28p, 10a, 7r
Game 2: 23p, 8a, 2r
Game 3: 31p, 7a, 2r
Game 4: 21p, 5a, 3r
Game 5: 31p, 6a, 3r
Rajon Rondo – 2 games, 20.0 ppg, 15.5 apg, 5.0 rpg:
Game 1: 27p, 12a, 6r
Game 2: 13p, 19a, 4r
This is an average of 24.9 ppg, 9.6 apg and 3.9 rpg from the opposing point guard.
This is way too much production to allow a point guard to have. Teams like the Bulls and Celtics go as their point guards go, so this is the first step in slowing these types of teams down. Mike Brown seemed to find a solution to slowing Derrick Rose down by putting Anthony Parker on him. This worked in the Bulls series because Mo would then move over to cover Kirk Hinrich, which he was able to do. Against the Celtics, Parker has had less success against Rondo, and Mo Williams is having a tough time sticking with the bigger Ray Allen. The Cavaliers cannot let Rondo continue to impose his will on the games.
2. Mo Williams is having his playoff slump on Offense. This is unfortunately becoming a yearly occurrence for the Cavaliers. This season, Mo is putting up the following numbers in the playoffs (shown with difference from regular season statistics):
Mo Williams – 14.6 ppg (-1.2), 5.6 apg (+0.3), 40.5 FG% (-3.7%), 32.5 3PT% (-10.4%) and 75.0 FT% (-14.4%).
The most concerning thing for me is that over the last two years, Mo is a 90.4 % free throw shooter in the regular season for the Cavaliers, then come playoff time that dips dramatically to 76.1%. This should not happen. This shows me that Mo is just not mentally up to the task come playoff time. Players can go through slumps, it happens to everyone, but free throw shooting is more mental than anything and this dramatic dip shows there is a problem here.
At first glance, it looks as though Mo had an above average game 1 in the Celtics series (20 points scored on 8-14 shooting and 4-5 from the free throw line). A deeper look into the game shows a different story. At the 5:16 mark of the third quarter the Cavaliers trailed by 11 and things were not looking good. Then Mo stole a pass and threw a dunk down right in Paul Pierce’s face. Over the next 2:04, Mo would hit three additional shots and 2 free throws and at the 3:12 mark the Cavaliers trailed by only 5 points. This was unquestionably the turning point of the game. I give Mo all the credit in the world for making this play and turning this game around. This just adds to my point that it is all mental for Mo though.
Taking out those 2+ minutes, here is what Mo is doing in the Celtics series:
* 5:16 to 3:12 of game 1: 2 minutes, 4-4 FG, 0-0 3PT, 2-2 FT, 10 points
* Rest of the Series: 73 minutes, 5-19 FG, 0-7 3PT, 4-6 FT, 14 points
With the defense that Mo plays, we cannot have 73 minutes of 0-7 three point shooting and 26.3% shooting from the field overall. Rondo is not a scorer, but he has outscored Mo 40 to 24. This is unacceptable, and Mike Brown cannot afford to keep playing Mo if this is what we are getting in return. I will address that in a minute though (see #6).
3. Anderson Varejao is not providing his typical energy. You can tell that Andy is not himself. He has spurts where he is flying around, getting loose balls, rebounds, and just about annoying every player on the opposing team. The problem is that Andy typically does this 100% of the time. A breakdown of his playoff numbers vs. his regular season numbers this year is as follows:
Regular Season: 28.5 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 57.2 FG%, 7.6 rpg, 0.93 spg, 0.88 bpg
Playoffs: 24.1 mpg, 5.4 ppg, 38.7 FG%, 7.0 rpg, 1.14 spg, 0.86 bpg
His points and field goal percentage are way down from the regular season. Andy hasn’t gotten his groove going around the basket and this is clearly shown in his almost 20 percentage point drop in field goal percentage. You haven’t seen the pick and roll with LeBron James as often as we have in the past during the playoffs and as we often saw this regular season. His rebounding is also down moving from a team leading 7.6 in the regular season to 7.0 in the playoffs (which ranks 3rd on the team behind James and Jamison).
4. LeBron James is not up to his usual greatness. As we presented last week, LeBron is off the charts come playoff time. This has come to be expected from him. Currently he is battling an elbow injury that no one is perfectly clear how much really hinders him. He is obviously shooting fewer jumpers and is finishing with his left hand more often than we are used to seeing. During the Chicago series, LeBron averaged 31.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 8.2 apg. Those numbers have fallen to averages of 29.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 5.5 apg during the first two games of the Boston series. While those numbers are very impressive for most people, they are not for LeBron James.
Looking at where these current averages rank among LeBron’s 13 playoff series to date shows the better story:
Average Points per Game:
38.5 vs. Orlando (2009 Conference Finals) – Lost Series 2-4
35.7 vs. Washington (2006 First Round) – Won Series 4-2
33.8 vs. Atlanta (2009 Conference Semis) – Won Series 4-0
32.0 vs. Detroit (2009 First Round) – Won Series 4-0
31.8 vs. Chicago (2010 First Round) – Won Series 4-1
29.8 vs. Washington (2008 First Round) – Won Series 4-2
29.5 vs. Boston (2010 Conference Semis) – Series Tied 1-1
27.8 vs. Washington (2007 First Round) – Won Series 4-0
26.7 vs. Boston (2008 Conference Semis) – Lost Series 3-4
26.6 vs. Detroit (2006 Conference Semis) – Lost Series 3-4
25.7 vs. Detroit (2007 Conference Finals) – Won Series 4-2
24.7 vs. New Jersey (2007 Conference Semis) – Won Series 4-2
22.0 vs. San Antonio (2007 NBA Finals) – Lost Series 0-4
Average Rebounds per Game:
11.3 vs. Detroit (2009 First Round) – Won Series 4-0
9.5 vs. Washington (2008 First Round) – Won Series 4-2
9.2 vs. Chicago (2010 First Round) – Won Series 4-1
9.2 vs. Detroit (2007 Conference Finals) – Won Series 4-2
8.6 vs. Detroit (2006 Conference Finals) – Lost Series 3-4
8.5 vs. Washington (2007 First Round) – Won Series 4-0
8.3 vs. Orlando (2009 Conference Finals) – Lost Series 2-4
8.3 vs. Atlanta (2009 Conference Semis) – Won Series 4-0
7.5 vs. Washington (2006 First Round) – Won Series 4-2
7.3 vs. New Jersey (2007 Conference Semis) – Won Series 4-2
7.0 vs. Boston (2010 Conference Semis) – Series Tied 1-1
7.0 vs. San Antonio (2007 NBA Finals) – Lost Series 0-4
6.4 vs. Boston (2008 Conference Semis) – Lost Series 3-4
Average Assists per Game:
1. 8.5 vs. Detroit (2007 Conference Finals) – Won Series 4-2
8.5 vs. New Jersey (2007 Conference Semis) – Won Series 4-2
8.2 vs. Chicago (2010 First Round) – Won Series 4-1
8.0 vs. Orlando (2009 Conference Finals) – Lost Series 2-4
7.7 vs. Washington (2008 First Round) – Won Series 4-2
7.6 vs. Boston (2008 Conference Semis) – Lost Series 3-4
7.5 vs. Detroit (2009 First Round) – Won Series 4-0
7.5 vs. Washington (2007 First Round) – Won Series 4-0
6.8 vs. San Antonio (2007 NBA Finals) – Lost Series 0-4
6.0 vs. Atlanta (2009 Conference Semis) – Won Series 4-0
6.0 vs. Detroit (2006 Conference Semis) – Lost Series 3-4
5.7 vs. Washington (2006 First Round) – Won Series 4-2
5.5 vs. Boston (2010 Conference Semis) – Series Tied 1-1
His scoring average is 7th best and the Cavaliers have lost 3 out of the 6 series where he has scored worse. His rebounding average is 11th best and the Cavaliers have lost both series where he has rebounded worse. Even scarier, his assist average is the worst of his playoff career. The Cavaliers are not as much of a one man show as they have been in the past few years, but they need their MVP to still carry the load. Everything with this team goes how LeBron goes. If LeBron cannot take it to his usual extra gear in the next few games, they will be the last games of the season.
5. Antawn Jamison is getting punked by Kevin Garnett. Prior to the series beginning, I saw this match-up as a major mismatch that should be taken advantage of. The problem is that I saw it as a mismatch in favor of the Cavaliers. This has not come to fruition. Garnett has de-aged about 5 years and has used his height advantage (7’-0” to 6’-9”) to take it to Jamison. The following is a breakdown of the two players in the series:
Garnett: 73 minutes, 36 pts on 17-41 FG, 20 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl and 3 blk
Jamison: 73 minutes, 23 pts on 8-17 FG, 15 reb, 0 ast, 1 stl and 3 blk
As you can see they have been on the court the same amount of time, but Garnett is outplaying Jamison in every category. Garnett has put up 18 and 10 in both games and that is all you can ask from him at this point in his career. Jamison was brought to the Cavaliers to be the #2 option behind LeBron and has have to come up with more for the Cavaliers to move on and be a serious contender for the Championship.
6. Daniel Gibson is glued to the bench. I cannot figure out why Mike Brown has not tried putting Boobie in to see if he can contribute something. I am not calling for any extended minutes for him, but at least see if the guy can come in and change the pace/momentum of the game. A perfect place for this would have been in Game 2 when the Cavaliers were down by 20+ and looked like they didn’t give a crap. First and foremost, Boobie is a proven playoff performer, an Anti-Mo Williams if you will. He is a career 40.6% three point shooter in the playoffs (42.4% in the regular season). As we all remember, he had ice in his veins while knocking down three pointer after three pointer (5 for 5 in the game) on his way to 31 points against the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007. That to this date is still the biggest victory in the history of the Cavaliers. Boobie has shown a knack for catching fire and could give the Cavaliers a nice spark off the bench.
Additionally, Boobie has already proven this year that he still has something to bring to the table. Over an eleven game stretch in the middle of the season, Boobie became the starting point guard due to injuries to both Mo Williams and Delonte West. The following is a breakdown of his statistics during this stretch:
Daniel Gibson (1/23/10 thru 2/18/10): 11 games, 374 minutes (34.0/game), 129 points (11.7/game), 25-53 three point shooting (47.2%) and 30 assists (2.7/game)
The 47.2% three point shooting was in line with his season average of 47.7% (which was 3rd in the NBA). It goes without saying that this is a very impressive shooting percentage. His scoring was much improved and he even dished out 2.7 dimes a games, which is never a high priority for the shoot first Gibson. Most importantly, the Cavaliers went 10-1 in these games. This is plenty of reason to give him some run, and as A.C. would say: “Shoot it Boobie, Shoot It”.
7. Shaquille O’Neal is not forcing the Celtics to double team him. The Celtics are using Kendrick Perkins to guard Shaq and letting him go one on one. In the past, Shaq has taken people to school when they guard him one on one. Obviously Shaq is older and not the same as when he was in his prime, but he still throughout the season required the attention of more than one defender. In this series the Celtics have given Shaq plenty of room to roam and he is not taking advantage of it. In the series Shaq has gone 4-12 (Game 1) and 4-10 (Game 2) from the field. That is a field goal percentage of 36.4% from a man who during the regular season was at 56.6% and who during his distinguished playoff career has shot 56.2%. This is affecting everyone else, as they are not getting free and able to roam like they were in the regular season. The Celtics are a very good defensive team and with their ability to guard Shaq one on one, it make them that much better of a defensive team.
These are all correctable items. The Cavaliers just need to realize as soon as possible that they will not be able to sleepwalk their way past the Celtics. The Celtics still have a lot of life in them and it will take a full team effort to get by them.
Cavalier Playoff Statistical History:
* By playing in Game 2, Daniel Gibson now stands alone in 4th Place in Cavalier Playoff History in Games Played with 48. He was previously tied with Mark Price at 47. The three players ahead of Gibson are Zydrunas Ilgauskas (69), LeBron James (67) and Anderson Varejao (67).
* Anderson Varejao has moved into a tie with Mark Price for 2nd Place in Career Playoff Steals for the Cavaliers with 64. He trails only LeBron James who has 110.
* LeBron James needs 12 assists to become the 41st player in NBA history to reach 500 in their Playoff Career. Additionally he needs 21 points to become the 44th player in NBA history to reach 2,000 in their Playoff Career.
* The Cavaliers are attempting 23.1 three pointers per game in the playoffs this year, up from 19.3 per game in the regular season.
* Mo Williams needs 6 points to pass Drew Gooden and move into 10th place on the Cavalier Career Playoff Points Scored list.
LeBron James Playoff Career Points Scored:
I will track where LeBron James ranks in NBA history in Career Playoff Points Scored throughout the 2010 postseason run by the Cavaliers:
40. Moses Malone 2,077
41. Tom Heinsohn 2,058
42. Kevin Johnson 2,026
43. Bob Cousy 2,018
44. LeBron James 1,979 (moved from 48th place to 44th place this week)
45. Bob Dandridge 1,967
46. Robert Horry 1,939
47. Gus Williams 1,927
Walt Frazier 1,927