At least our game had a conclusion…
Sorry, I missed it. Sopranos were on y’ know. I flipped it on at half time, saw the boring Spurs (who wouldn’t even be in this series if the league hadn’t shafted the Suns) and just went to bed and had a nice dream about Raquel Welch.
:: hits self in the face, repeatedly ::
Whoops, my bad. I thought I was Tony Kornheiser there for a second. Of course I watched the game, screw those Guinea fucks! “It’s not TV, it’s HBO”… what’s that? It’s still TV. IT’S STILL TV!!!
Yeah, yeah, I stole that line from Larry David.
We’re um… very, very, good. Cleveland? Not so much. I’ve been doing my darnedest to champion the Eastern Conference banner, I’ve tried to sell you on guys like Big Z and Sideshow Bob and Boobie Gibson being legitimate threats to at least make it a series against us, but these gentlemen aren’t cooperating. I think it may be time to face the grim reality that John Hollinger and Matthew Powell, two rather unfortunate-looking basketball analysts who I respect tremendously, have warned us all about. This might be the worst team our Spurs have faced in the playoffs since the Memphis Grizzles in 2004.
PtR boss Matthew Powell, takes a minute off from another award-winning timely masterpiece blog entry to smile for the camera. Yes ladies, he’s single…
Would it be any more competitive if Larry Hughes was healthy? Sure, whatever lets those Cleveland fans sleep at night. Hughes is only killing them because Mike Brown is letting him. I’m a bit conflicted when it comes to Mr. Brown. By all accounts he’s a very nice, pleasant man. He hasn’t said anything in the pressers that I’ve found offensive or off-putting, and I’m like Michael Jordan out there, dogged in my pursuit of slights, real or imagined. But the guy is getting worked over by Pop and it’s getting kind of awkward and creepy to watch. Like, not as awkward and creepy as that ill-fated Michael Richards set at the Comedy Store was to watch, but close. I am now officially uncomfortable with it.
After LeBron stupidly wasted his second foul hacking Timmy three minutes into the game, Brown chained him to the bench for the rest of the quarter. Four or five minutes of jail time would’ve been fine, but the whole quarter? That’s paint-by-numbers coaching and flat out stupid. The rules aren’t the same for every player, Mike, and without this guy on the floor you have no chance. James’ banishment helped contribute to the Cavs 11 point hole and Cleveland never recovered. Brown accidentally stumbled into a winning line-up in the 4th quarter, playing Varejao as his sole big and using James as a facilitator for three guys spotting up at the three point line, and this forced one of our two bigs (usually Elson) to have scramble out to a shooter. While that strategy could be effective offensively, it would be death if the big three were on the floor at the same time on defense. Tony and Manu could go to the rim at will, with no shot blocker to worry about.
Hey, here’s a thought – is there any way we can trade coaches for the rest of the series? Is that too unreasonable? I just want to make it a bit more balanced. When our 3rd best player is significantly outplaying their best player, we’ve got a bit of a problem with the competitiveness of the series. Seriously, how much damage could Brown do on our bench? At worst, he’d just call for a pick and roll with Tony and Tim every play for 48 minutes, right? Maybe post up Horry? It’s not like he’d start Beno at small forward, right? I’d like to try this experiment for a couple of games; I think it’d be fun. Or terrifying.
The first three quarters were clinical. I honestly don’t know how we could play any better offensively. We didn’t even have to rely on anyone outside of the big three to score because the Cavs couldn’t shut down even one of our three stars. As Chazz Michael Michaels would say, “That’s mind bottling.”
When the Cavs doubled Tim, he simply kicked it out to Tim or Manu. When they played him one-on-one with Ilgouskas… well I get a little emotional just thinking about the poor Latvian slug. I want to give him a hug or something. Gino meanwhile was having a night eerily similar to Game 2 of the Finals two years ago, where he had 29 on 8 shots, just living on three pointers and free throws. At his peak here he had 21 on 7 shots, before falling off that pace with a couple of bricks at the end of the 3rd quarter. Also, Manu set a new personal record, launching a shot approximately .328 seconds after checking into the game midway through the 1st quarter. I guess the transformation is fully complete now, he’s officially thinking like a bench scrub. I think that sequence was his “point of no return” moment.
And Tony… what can I possibly say about Tony? He’s reached that McGrady/Wade/Bryant/James zone where when his jumper’s falling, it’s good night Aunt Sally. After a shaky Game 1 in that regard (by my unofficial count he was 2 of 10 with the jumper) he made 7 of 12 jumpers, including a three, (again, unofficial) on Sunday. It’d be one thing if the Cavs followed their game plan to a T and those jump shots were all that Tony got, but he still scored on a half dozen forays into the lane as well and finished with another 15 points in the paint, when you account for the free throws and everything.
All told the big three combined for 78 points, a total that’s impossible for Cleveland’s modest offense to keep up with. The Cavs “held” everyone else to 25, a winning amount for them ordinarily, but moot in this case. Similarly, the Spurs allowed 67 to the non-LeBrons, five more than the 62 they gave up in Game 1, (and I thought that was too many) yet they still won handily because of how unstoppable their stars were. Dee Brown just suggested that the Cavs should double Duncan, double Parker, and put LeBron on Manu. Brilliant! God, I love ESPN. They will hire literally anyone. I think the more realistic strategy is to keep doing what they did in Game 2, and hope Tony and Manu start missing. Double teaming multiple people against the best passing team in basketball is probably not going to work.<
On defense, we had a few problems. James was a bit more aggressive this game and he got a few lay-ins on us, and eleven freebies as well (though he air-balled one). Still, 25 points is about his level, and that’s not too concerning. What I did find troubling was Cleveland’s 13 offensive rebounds, and their multiple fast break gimmes. Fin pretty much got benched for his weak box out efforts. I guess his back isn’t right, because Bones got a lot of run at his expense. We gave them a lot of easy points, and they’ve been just as effective as we are of capitalizing off turnovers. Also, we had a few mental lapses and a few examples of outright laziness in closing out on three pointers. Gibson got Tony a couple times, Pavlovic got Manu once, and both Vaughn and Elson were victimized multiple times in Cleveland’s big 4th quarter run. The Cavs hitting seven bombs was a bit surprising, especially since LeBron didn’t have any.
Anywho, the scene shifts to Cleveland now. I’m afraid Ichiro Suzuki, of the Seattle Mariners, has the right idea. His team had to make a pit stop in the Mistake by the Lake last night to make up for a game that was snowed out in April, and he said, of the trip, “To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.” Either his interpreter is having some fun with him, or Ichiro is now my favorite ballplayer.
I don’t expect our guys to be a whole lot more enthusiastic about the trip either. I think our defense will clean up a few things in Game 3, but in truth the offense played a bit over their heads in Game 2. The big three cannot keep up this torrid pace and one or two of them will probably struggle tonight. If a couple of our role guys, Fin, Horry, Fab, etc. doesn’t step up in a big way, I think points might be a bit hard to come by tonight. The Cavs will bring the energy, they’ll be physical, the refs will be compromised, and more likely than not, this will be our one loss of the series.
And no, the Cavs big run had no influence on my opinion. The run happened because 1) Pop put Manu on the floor with four non-scorers, but didn’t run any plays for Manu anyway and 2) in the second part of the run, Tim, Tony, and Brent all decided to go cold simultaneously, despite getting great looks and 3) Elson and Vaughn were atrocious in their own end. These fluky things happen in blowouts and I don’t put much stock in them.
What I do put stock in is our history and our nature. I’d love to be wrong, but no matter how much better than these guys we are, I’m just not convinced the Spurs are ruthless enough to sweep anybody. I don’t even think that’s a bad thing really. I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t want to root for a bunch of pricks. I will say that an “L” tonight is less of a sure thing in my mind than Game 3 in Utah was, but I still give us only about a 35% chance of pulling it out. It’s not about the Cavs, it’s about us, and we are still captives to the “one pussy game per series” rule until we decide to change.
Is this team mentally strong enough to quit fooling around? Stay tuned.
No, seriously, stay tuned, especially if you have a Nielsen’s box, because no one is watching.
3. Manu Ginobili – with apologies to Tony, 25 points on 11 shots is pretty sick, and Gonzo also chipped in with the rebounds and the steals. He was also + 17 to Tony’s + 10, and a bit better defensively (though not great, by any stretch.)
2. Robert Horry – A bit of everything. 5 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 blocks, and a game best +27. Most importantly, he treated Drew Gooden like how you’re supposed to treat someone with that haircut.
1. Tim Duncan – 23-9-8. Good golly, dem’s LeBron like numbers.
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