Monday, May 14, 2007

As Sasha Goes ...

... so go the Cavs? Obviously, that statement is lunacy. We all know that Cleveland is only as good as LeBron can coax, lead, prod, and deplore them to be. Heck, they don't even really have a coach. (Well, there's that guy who stands near the bench and purses his lips, but I'm not sure what he does.) But I'm running with this Sasha thing for three reasons:

1. We desperately need something new to talk about on this space other than RefereeGate, which has had the unexpected result of getting both Spurs and Suns fans angry with me. At least, as another writer told me today, that usually means you are on to something.

2. I'm sick of hearing about how "moving Larry Hughes into the starting lineup" is what saved Cleveland's season.

3. With his close-cropped buzz cut, Sasha looks a bit like a Michael Schofield (Prison Break doppelganger. Not a dead ringer, certainly, but close enough that it is fun to say things like, "I have the blueprint on my body" when he goes to the line, or "Sorry about that, Pope!" after he blocks a shot. It adds a lot to a fairly boring series.

Let's start with Hughes. He's clearly a gifted athlete and a hard worker. I know this because he has pretty good stats and even some good games despite the fact that he almost no feel for organized basketball. You have to really watch him play, but if you do, you will see some high comedy. He gets lost on defense very easily, gambles too much (which is bad, since LeBron does this as well), and he might be one of the 10 worst passers in the NBA. I made this comment and then followed it with a Bill Walton-esque "he can't even execute the most SIMPLE of passes" joke to my brother this weekend ... and within five seconds Larry Hughes tried to throw a 20 foot bounce pass, except it went two feet directly into Jason Kidd's hand. Even Kidd looked stunned. Hughes can make a few jumpers and he's pretty good finishing on the break, and his gambles can lead to some steals. But otherwise, he is one of those guys who has WAY better numbers than actual impact on the game.

So how exactly is putting that guy at point guard enough to turn a team's season around? Well, one way is that Larry Hughes is not Eric Snow or Daniel Gibson. Those are the two characters who somehow avoided retirement and/or the D League and then become the not-so-formidable 1-2 point guard punch of a supposed title contender. Predictably there were some rough Cleveland games this year. So playing Hughes in that spot had the natural effect of getting a guy much worse than Larry off the floor.

But the other big byproduct of playing Hughes at point is that it opened up a wing spot for Sasha Pavlovic. And very quietly, the Artist Formerly Known as Aleksandar has become an effective NBA player. He might not be the world's greatest swingman, but he's doing enough to actually help the Cavs, which is a fairly rare trait for a Cavs player not named James.

The day that Hughes and Sasha entered the lineup together, Cleveland went from a 33-25 (.569) team to a 23-8 (.742) squad that is 6-1 in the playoffs and looking somewhere north of decent (albeit, barely). Hughes has certainly helped, as mentioned above. But Pavlovic seems to be the real boon. He scored in double figures in 16 of his last 19 playoff games, added some surprising athleticism on the defensive end, and helped stretch the floor with his team-best 40% three-point shooting. And after a shaky series against Washington, Sasha has really become a critical player in the matchup with New Jersey.

I started watching Pavlovic closely primarily as a joke, saying that the riveting matchup between Sasha and Bostjan (Nachbar) was the key to the series. It isn't, but it has actually been more important than I anticipated. Specifically on the Cleveland side. When Pavlovic has played well, the Cavs have won. When he's played poorly or timidly, they have lost.

Now, understand that this is a tiny sample size. He's played poorly and timidly in only one game in a series that has totaled just three games. So there's not much to go on. Not only that, but Drew Gooden also played better in the wins. So did LeBron, for that matter. And they were at home. And on and on.

But I really do think Pavlovic is a key guy for them. His defense on Vince Carter in Game Two was fantastic. His block of J-Kidd to "save" (exaggeration alert!) Game One was one of the real highlights of the Leastern Conference Playoffs. And he gave them some nice scoring punch with 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting in that game.

So while the phrase "As Sasha goes, so go the Cavs" is obviously only relevant for comedy purposes, I can't help but think that he's a key figure in this series going forward, and in any other that Cleveland might play in. And I'm convinced that his insertion into the lineup, not any transformation in Larry Hughes game, is the reason that lineup move worked back in early March.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go with Sasha Pavlovic put the city of Cleveland on his back.


Take That Spike Lee said...

Sasha + Scofield = comedy.

That is legit.

Brandon said...

LeBron needs a good point guard. There are plenty of solid 1's in the league without him having to rely on Eric Snow to run the offense for the past 3 years.

It's ridiculous, really.

Michael said...

Hey adam, it's the dude that left gigantic comments on your foul breakdown posts.

I'm just droppin' by to tell you to hurry up and post something about the crazy game 4 that just went down. I want to see what you have to say about it...I'm sure you're typin it up rrrright now. Peace.

By the way, I looove Sasha...besides the fact that he was a great fantasy pick up for me, I just like foreign ballers who can actually BALL. I agree with you that he's extremely valuable to the cavs and he has definite potential to be the scottie to lebron's MJ (ok, you know I'm exaggerating a bit in all directions here, but yeah you get the gist).

Adam Hoff said...

Michael, the comments are up. There is the usual nightly wrap-up and also a new "watching the whistles" for the fourth quarter. I swore to never do one again, but felt I owed everyone to look at a game that "felt" more like the Suns had the edge. And indeed they did. Perhaps this just proves that my bias isn't with a team, but rather with proving myself right? I have no idea, but the Spurs did seem to get boned. Which is ironic, considering the firestorm I had going over their favorable calls.

Anyway, it is up.

I'm glad there is another Sasha fan out there. He had a quiet night tonight, but even then, he was involved in the key play, when Moore fouled him hard.

chenlu said...

runescape money
runescape gold
runescape money
runescape gold
buy runescape gold buy runescape money runescape items
runescape accounts
runescape gp
runescape money
runescape power leveling
runescape money
runescape gold
dofus kamas
cheap runescape money
cheap runescape gold
Guild Wars Gold
buy Guild Wars Gold
lotro gold
buy lotro gold
lotro gold
buy lotro gold
lotro gold
buy lotro gold

Hellgate Palladium
Hellgate London Palladium
Hellgate money
Tabula Rasa gold tabula rasa money
Tabula Rasa Credit
Tabula Rasa Credits
Hellgate gold
Hellgate London gold
wow power leveling
wow powerleveling
Warcraft PowerLeveling
Warcraft Power Leveling
World of Warcraft PowerLeveling World of Warcraft Power Leveling runescape power leveling
runescape powerleveling
eve isk
eve online isk
eve isk
eve online isk
tibia gold
Fiesta Silver
Fiesta Gold
Age of Conan Gold
buy Age of Conan Gold
aoc gold

china tour
beijing tour
beijing travel
china tour
tibet tour
tibet travel
computer monitoring software
employee monitoring