Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Let's Get It On!

Tonight, the rumble in Beantown begins. The Cavaliers look to knock off the heavily-favored Celtics in what I expect to be a hard-fought, tough series for both teams. As I sit here thinking about tonight's game I have the same nervous feeling I had going into last year's Eastern Conference Finals. On one hand, I'm nervous about this Cavs team playing on the road in a hostile environment. But on the other hand, I'm excited to see if they can build on their Game 6 victory on the road in Washington. And of course, I'm always looking forward to seeing what LeBron has up his sleeve in the playoffs. He has always saved an extra gear for the Celtics, probably stemming from his personal rivalry with Paul Pierce over the last few years. And don't discount the fact that the Cavs have had to listen to the entire national media fawn over these Celtics all year long, basically handing them a free pass to the ECF vs. the Pistons. The Cavaliers are the defending Eastern Conference champs and I expect them to defend that title viciously starting tonight.

My Cavalier keys to the series:
  1. The LeBron Factor: If he brings it like he did in Game 6 on both ends of the floor in this series, look out Celtics. It's hard to believe a 23-year-old can be that good (and is still improving).
  2. Our shooters: If our outside threats can consistently knock down shots from the perimeter we will be nearly impossible to beat. One of the biggest factors of this series simply comes down to Gibson, Szczerbiak, and West hitting their open shots. We know the defense will be tilted towards LeBron at all times and he will find them for open looks.
  3. Establishing a low-post game: The Cavaliers often forget about Zydrunas Ilguaskas in their offensive sets. He has a big advantage on offense over Kendrick Perkins and this is one area the Cavs can use to their advantage. I also think they should look to post up Szczerbiak when Ray Allen is guarding him. This can get Wally going offensively and could get Allen into foul trouble. And of course I'm always a proponent of getting LeBron to post up on certain possessions.
  4. Stealing a win in the Garden: It sounds simple enough, but the Cavs have struggled all year on the road. They were 2-2 vs. the Celtics this year, with both losses coming in Boston (although LeBron missed one of those games). And Boston likes to pressure the ball, which could force turnovers early. Our ballhandlers needs to stay under control and composed which can be tough on the road. But if we can steal one in Boston I think we win the series.
  5. Keep the games close, win in the end: This has been the Cavaliers' formula for success ever since Mike Brown took over the head coaching reigns. I think it especially holds true in this series. If they keep the games close with good defense, LeBron will be there to close things out. And I don't think this Celtics team has what it takes to dig out close games. Pierce likes to put his head down and try to get bailed out by the whistle on drives to the hoop. And KG tends to start short-arming shots late. Keep the games close and "win in the end" (for all you Teen Wolf fans out there).
For a more detailed series breakdown, check out what our favorite Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst thinks of this series. I also went behind enemy lines today to see what Boston writers were saying. I was actually pleasantly surprised by what Bob Ryan had to say and by this piece by Michael Vega. It's refreshing when the other team's writers aren't completely delusional or writing with personal agendas. Speaking of Tom Knott, he just can't let go of his idiotic theory that the NBA hates the Wizards and pampers LeBron. For the record, during the series the Cavs were called for 139 fouls, the Wizards 137. And the Cavs shot 175 free throws, to the Wizards' 174 (thanks again to Mr. Windhorst for that great info). Go Cavs!!!

This guy always brings out LBJ's best

Tuesday Tribe Update:
The Tribe decided to give us all a break yesterday and had an off day. Hopefully they put together a game plan for how to wake up the offense for the series in New York. They also officially cut ties with Jason Michaels in favor of Ben Francisco (the loud clapping and cheering you might hear outside your window is coming from the entire Tribe fanbase).

Obligatory Browns Update:
Lost in the shuffle of my weekend of Cavalier and Tribe following, I forgot to mention that Phil Savage was given a 3-year contract extension to remain VP & GM of the Cleveland Browns. Kudos to Randy Lerner and the entire Browns organization for getting this done. Phil has successfully lifted the 'woe-is-me' attitude that hung over this franchise (as he correctly predicted, yet is still no small miracle). It's great to have hope in this team again.

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