Cavs fall 97-87 as “attack mode” retreats

I imagine those that say LeBron James can’t close will get awfully loud in the hours leading up to Game 5 on Tuesday, and they’ll be pointing directly towards the closing quarter of Game Four in Boston.  For the moment, they’d be right.  For whatever reason, LeBron James opted not to go into ”attack mode” on Sunday, and he instead chose to continually provide one opportunity after another for his teammates to choke this thing away.  The LeBron James that simply went out and took Game Three, took 7 shots in the fourth quarter, and only made two.  He missed all five of the three-pointers he attempted for the game, shot 38% from the field, and needed 18 shots to finish with 22 points all tolled.  He did lead the Cavaliers in each of the three major statistical categories though - finishing with those 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists – but he also led everybody in the turnover department as well finishing with a game high 7.  And with his second consecutive MVP trophy sitting on his shelf somewhere, he stood their while Boston fans showered Rajon Rondo and his 29 point – 18 rebound (!?!) – 13 assist effort with MVP chants of his own…and deservedly so…

Rondo was a monster in Game Four – shocking right? - and LeBron followed up in the post game presser by saying that he’d like to explore the option of guarding Rondo himself as this series continues.  That’s great I guess, and that might be a necessary move, however if he really wanted to guard Rondo I’m sure Mike Brown would have let him Sunday.  Maybe that wasn’t in the plans for Game Four, maybe he’ll cover him next time, and maybe he’ll shut him down, and maybe when we look back on this series that move will serve as an example of LeBron taking control of a series and enforcing his will on both ends of the floor.  But maybe he was just saying that, who knows.  What we do know is that LeBron and his Cavaliers did have the chance to essentially close the Celtics out today in Boston, however it did look like he and his teammates came into the game knowing they didn’t have to.  Sitting 2-2 though, they have to now, so we’ll see how they, and he, respond in the must win Game 5 situation forthcoming.  I hope that response includes that attack mode mentality on Tuesday, and I also hope that LeBron gets more help than he got today.  Because while LeBron was just as responsible for Sunday’s loss as he was Friday’s win, today’s outcome was far from just his fault.

Backcourt Woes:

Daniel Gibson has to be sitting there thinking to himself, does Mike Brown really think I’m this bad?  And by this bad I mean, the backcourt rotation of Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, and Delonte West – that he couldn’t crack for one minute - combined to go 6 of 23 from the floor for 23 points and 5 turnovers while allowing the opposing backcourt of Rondo, Ray Allen, and Tony Allen to combine to score 62.  I mean, what can you say here.  And I’ll shoulder some blame for trumpeting Delonte West in weeks past as the solution for the poor point guard play of Mo Willams despite the 14 he scored last time out.  Sure, Mo is continuing to disappear, and disappoint Cavs fans everywhere with his fearful approach to postseason basketball, but to be fair, Delonte was much worse than him today in his 20 minutes of action.  And by much worse I mean he went 0 for 7 and was embarrasing out there at times tripping over himself en route to the basket on multiple occasions.  I figured Delonte would be a decisive advantage in the bench battles between these two teams, however Tony Allen looked like an All Star compared to Delonte today going for 15 points 5 boards on 6 of 7 shooting.  Is Boobie an acceptable answer to the Cavaliers backcourt questions?  I really don’t know.  Part of me thinks these guys just need to step up, play with heart, play with urgency, and play to their potential.  I don’t really see how that’s so impossible.  However on the flip side, I have no idea how its possible Daniel Gibson plays any worse than these three guys did today.  I’m even about ready to call for Mo Williams to be shipped down to the D-League on Monday and bring back Ced Jackson.  But I won’t call for that, or call for Boobie, I’m just going to keep on hoping these three guys can turn things around, because really, there’s nothing else the Cavaliers can do at this point to otherwise improve that position…those three guys just need to be better than they were today, much better.

Random Game Notes:

Shaq scored 17 points on 5 of 9 shooting, shot 7 for 11 from the FT line, grabbed 5 boards in 28 minutes, while the Celtics shot 1 for 14 from the 3 point line, but that wasn’t enough to erase the 10 point margin this thing was decided by.  It wasn’t enough because, in addition to the backcourt play, the Cavaliers went 4 of 21 from three, and turned the ball over 17 times as opposed to 12 giveaways from Beantown.  Antawn shot 6 of 12 from the field, but he only netted 14 points, and the Cavaliers only got 11 points off their bench as compared to 23 on the Boston side.  But beyond the numbers, Rondo was simply the best player on the court and has been the best player on a game to game basis throughout this series.  Better than LeBron.  And his performance was better than most all other Celtics guards in history with the stat line he posted.  And to put that line in perspective, Rondo scored 7 more points, grabbed 9 more rebounds, and dished out 5 more assists than any Cavs player.  Well, actually that’s 7-9-5 more than LeBron.  Cavs were also out-rebounded 47-33…time to look towards the next one though I guess.


Confusion Continues Tuesday:

As we all know, and I mentioned on Saturday, this series is as confusing as I can ever remember trying to follow.  But amongst all this confusion, is one simple thing.  If LeBron James chooses to enforce his will on this series, as the best player in the world, the Cavaliers will win.  If LeBron allows Rondo to be the best player on the court, the Cavaliers will lose.  For LeBron to be that though, he needs to attack, and he needs to come out with that sense of urgency right from the jump and put his stamp all over these last two games – hopefully – of this series.  His back – and his teammates alongside him – is to the wall now, there’s no denying that.  If Boston steals game five they then come home for a close out possibility at the Garden. I think the Cavaliers will have something for these Celtics come Tuesday though.  I think while it’s been a roller coaster of emotions for Cavs fans, at the end of the day, the Cavaliers did just need to split in Boston…and they did.  I thought Cavs in 6 before this thing started, and I still do.  Big game though Tuesday Cleveland, lets get after it.    

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of StepienRules.com. I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine, Cleveland.com, BleacherReport.com, InsideFacebook.com and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.

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