Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bring on the Celtics

I purposely waited a while to post today in the wake of the Cavs' 4-1 opening series win over the pesky Bulls. My immediate reaction while filing out of the Q after last night's game was a combination of disgust and relief. Disgust in how the Bulls were allowed to hang around for far too long in that one. And relief that the Cavs don't have to face that team anymore this year. Somehow the Bulls managed to turn a handful of games vs. the Cavs this year into some of the ugliest slugfests I've seen since Mike Brown's early days as head coach when the team strictly relied on LeBron and gritty team defense.

Whatever it was about the Bulls, they somehow managed to find the right combination on defense to stop the Cavs from playing their normal style for long stretches of games. And to me it seemed like that style lulled the Cavs to sleep on more than one occasion this season. You can't fault the Cavs for falling into the 1 vs. 8th seed trap and leaning on the "we'll turn it on in the 4th quarter" crutch that comes with such a matchup. But that mentality nearly resulted in an unnecessarily bad Game 5 home loss at home - a game which the Cavs should have controlled from the opening tip. I never got the sense the Cavs would lose last night, but it is a little alarming to think that the Bulls were possibly a couple of Derrick Rose in-and-out misses from stealing that game.

All that said, the Cavs did what they had to do in the end and beat the Bulls in five games, as many of us predicted they would. And in the process, they got Shaq some quality minutes in a tight playoff game and found out the big fella can still produce on both ends of the floor. And he can still quickly rack up fouls on the opposition. Maybe this series is what Mike Brown's much-maligned "high-level practices" quote at the end of the regular season can really be applied to. I do know that playing some games like this against the Bulls has to go further than previous first-round cake walks at the hands of the Pistons and Wizards. The Cavs should be more prepared to face the Celtics this next round than they were in last season's ECF vs. the Magic.

And perhaps the biggest thing to take away from the Bulls series is the fact that Antawn Jamison has truly become the bona fide second option offensively for this team. He finished the series averaging 19.5 points on 50.7% shooting from the floor. And he went 16-for-20 from the line after struggling so mightily there since joining the Cavs. He seems to have reached a new level of comfort on this offense and I believe Mo Williams, in particular, will reap the most benefit from this. Even with Mo's clunker (2-of-13 from the field) last night, he still averaged 15.6 points on 41% shooting for the series. Jamison's arrival has taken much of the pressure off Mo and I'm looking forward to seeing how this affects him as the playoffs roll on.

For now, we can forget about the Joakim Noah hate (the guy was pretty much a beast against the Cavs, as was Derrick Rose). It's time to direct that hatred to where it rightfully belongs... squarely on the Boston Celtics. Possibly the most unlikeable team I've ever had the displeasure of watching in all my years of NBA fandom. Bring on the Celtics. We've been waiting for this for two years now and the time has finally come for some payback. Go Cavs.

Random notes:

  • I didn't even mention LeBron in my post above. He's that good that I don't even feel the need to single him out anymore. But how about his series? He averaged 31.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 8.2 assists. On 56.7% shooting, including 54.2% from three-point range. I've run out of things to say to describe his awesomeness. Even when it looked like he was having a tough game last night, I look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game to see he was one assist shy of yet another playoff triple-double. Sick.
  • Can anyone out there verify if FSN will be broadcasting any of these 2nd round games? My fear of the national guys on TNT is slowly creeping in... my only hope is that they at least give us the tag team of Fratello and Albert. I don't ask for much.
  • I hear the LeBron banner got some major airtime on TNT last night as they headed to a commercial. A true testament to the hard work of many at If you're a true Cavs fan and don't at least regularly browse the forums, what is wrong with you?
  • My brush with the stars last night: Before the game, on my way to Wilbert's after picking up my tickets I run into Campy Russell and got a fist bump from him. The guy is a lot bigger in person than I expected. And on the way to the car after the game I got a peace sign from Boobie Gibson as he was being hustled out of there in girlfriend Keyshia Cole's Porsche.
  • Finally, last night was my first encounter after a Cavs playoff game where the team shop wasn't a complete zoo. Note to self: hit the team shop any time a playoff game ends around 11:00pm on a Tuesday night. Gotta take advantage of that 20% season ticket holder discount and you can never have too much Cavs gear.

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