Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cavs Even Series

I'm sure many will disagree with this for a variety of reasons (including, but not limited to: beauty being in the eye of the beholder, the taint of it being a Leastern Conference game, and the general malaise that has stricken the NBA playoffs post-Suns), but this was actually a pretty entertaining game tonight. Not entertaining enough to write a cohesive column though, so here are 10 random thoughts:

1. Wilbon's Wrong, I'm Right. Sorry, can't resist. But not only did the Cavs NOT need Larry Hughes, I don't think they could have won the game had he played his usual minutes. People just aren't getting this (except for the guys at Yay Sports of course), but Hughes is AWFUL. He's been getting all the credit for Billups' struggles, but as I pointed out in a previous post, there are a lot of factors at work and they don't start or finish with anything specific to Larry Hughes. Without him in the game the Cavs had better shooting, better ballhandling, better help defense, and more basketball intelligence. I routinely crush Mike Brown here, but the Scarecrow (because he doesn't have a brain, but might be in the process of getting one) did the right thing by giving Hughes the final hook after that 8-0 burst to start the second half. That saved Cleveland.

2. Kenny Got His Wish. I promise this won't be all about big media types, but Kenny Smith hit the nail on the head after Game Three when he said that the next step for Daniel Gibson was to add penetration to this game. Gibson did just that, attacking the rim, getting to the line, and becoming more of a playmaker. Speaking of Gibson ...

3. Gibson Steps Up. It shouldn't be terribly surprising that Gibson is coming up big. He's a much better basketball player than Larry Hughes and is playing next to LeBron James, so with minutes will come numbers. Plus, he was once the #1 guy on Chad Ford's prospect board (before he had a rough junior year at Texas) so there is obvious talent here. Sure, he was a second round pick, but so was Gilbert Arenas. So was Monta Ellis. Plenty of talented guys go in the second round. He's a good player. I wish people would stop acting shocked that he's playing well like it is Rudy on the hardcourt.

(Speaking of, I love Marv Albert's surprise that Gibson went 12-for-12 from the line. While it was certainly a particularly good night for Gibson, you can't go off of his 72% mark for the season, because he was getting sporadic attempts. It is why you don't see a lot of pinch hitters slapping up a .360 in baseball. You need more looks to achieve a higher percentage. The best example of this was Lee Humphrey for Florida in the 2006 Tourney. Billy Packer couldn't begin to understand how a Sixty Two Percent Shooter! could knock down a bunch of free throws, completely ignoring the fact that Humphrey had only taken like 26 free throws all season. I guess the lesson is that small sample sizes are not to be trusted.)

4. Does Sheed Have a Gut? I'm sorry, but I'm watching Inside the NBA right now and they just showed Wallace whipping his jersey into some poor dude's face. Lost in the comedy was the fact that Sheed had a little gut hanging over his waistband. I have to admit, this shocks me.

(Along those lines, did you see Maxiell giving Billups a prolonged, sensual massage before the start of the third quarter? What was that all about? It looked like the rubdown that Xerxes gave to Leonidas in the middle of 300.)

5. Kerr Gets Excited. My favorite sequence of this game came when LeBron went behind-the-back to Donyell Marshall for a potential and-one. This play was followed by a great camera shot of Geraldo Rivera going bonkers in the stands. And to top it all off, Steve Kerr then said, "Geraldo loves it!" before cackling like an evil genius. Forget Geraldo, I loved it.

6. Scarecrow Stays with Gooden. Big moment for Mike Brown early in the fourth quarter. Drew Gooden had a Vintage Gooden series in which he fumbled a pass, tried to pivot like eight times, and then tossed up an airball hookshot. Frustrated by his poor play, he tried to chop Sheed's head off on the other end and picked up a tech. Pretty terrible work by Gooden, but not the end of the world either. All he did was give up an extra free throw. But normally, Brown would pull Gooden for that, acting like his power forward had just robbed a bank or something. Tonight Brown left him in and Gooden came through with multiple big shots and boards.

(Another live look-in on TNT's coverage. Sager is trying to grill Billups a little bit, but the only problem is that Chauncey looks completely unperturbed while Sager is beat red and sweating like Johnny Drama going to the Valley for the Aquaman premier. It reminds me of the scene in Seinfeld in which Newman is trying to investigate Jerry for mail fraud, but it is Newman dripping with sweat. "Pretty hot under these lights, eh Seinfeld? Pretty ... (gasping) hot!" And yes, I realize it took two TV show references to convey the point.)

7. Pavlovic Does Best Horry Impersonation. One of the key plays in the game came when the Pistons back-tapped a rebound on the offensive end, yet it was Pavlovic hauling in the long rebound and taking it the length of the court for a hoop. Question: what in the hell was he doing back there? His team is playing defense, battling for the board, and he's on the other side of halfcourt? How does that work? It was a lot like when Robert Horry made his famous shot against the Kings because he was standing 25 feet away from the basket watching his teammates scrap for the rebound. Kind of funny.

8. Gotta Love LeBron. There was once again a lot to get excited about in regard to LeBron's play. The "suck it" he gave to Hamilton on his last two free throws was big and the fadeaway late was insane, but once again, it was a simple pass that impressed me the most. And it didn't even lead to a made basket. At one point, the Cavs were up six, the crowd was surging, and LeBron was turning the corner into the lane. Nearly every other player (except for Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, probably) would have tried to finish at the rim to put a bow on the affair. But James saw a wide open Z and didn't hesitate for a minute, whipping him a perfect pass for an open shot. Big Z shanked the shot, but I just loved the thought process. It doesn't seem to matter if it is for a game-winning shot, a "pile on" moment, or whatever, LeBron is looking to make the right play every time. Passing is hardwired into his DNA and it is great to see. I just really, really hope that the impatient and hypocritical sports media will let this guy develop as he's meant to.

9. The Refs. I can't very well discuss the refs in every game and then fail to discuss them here. There was the usual smattering of missed and blown calls, but two plays stood out. The first was early in the fourth when James drove the lane, got the ball stuck on his hip, and was somehow bailed out when a foul was called on McDyess. Is there such thing as a makeup call two games after the fact? The other was that scrum at midcourt, where Gibson appeared to body check somebody and Eric Snow appeared to trip over a line, yet it was Snow going to the line for two free throws. The officials mostly stayed out of the way in this one, but those were a couple of suspect calls and they both really hurt Detroit.

10. Classic Sheed. As a Blazers fan, I know all the signs when Sheed is melting down and he put them all together in one rapid sequence late in the fourth. There was the headband toss, the T, the four straight borderline illegal picks, and then the horrific airball three ... all in 25 seconds of game time. Sheed is hilarious. The amazing part is that he didn't get thrown out.

1 comment:

jessica said...

I've been hard on LeBron James myself but I kinda feel bad about it now. It was frustrating back when everyone was saying that he was the best player in the league because I really didn't think he'd earned it yet - but that's not his fault, it's just natural that being a young player right out of high school he's not going to be the best right away, no matter how much talent and potential he has.

But he obviously has potential to be one of the most amazingly complete and talented players the league has ever seen.

I guess the real beef is with the media, who crowned him too early and then got frustrated with him for not immediately living up to an ideal they had created.

I had the same issue with them over the whole Dirk-MVP thing. I felt they jumped the gun in trying to crown him MVP. I always had reservations about Dirk that a lot of media-types seemed to be willfully overlooking. And then when the playoffs came along and he had a poor performance, they ripped him to shreds, 'this is not how an MVP plays' and all that. Not that Dirk shouldn't have been criticized for his performance, but they acted like he was sinning against them for not living up to their hype. Many of them crucified Dirk rather than admit they had made a mistake in too-hastily jumping on the Dirk-for-MVP bandwagon.