First and a long way to go
San Antonio -- So the Spurs are pretty good. Here's the scary part Cavs followers: in the 85-76 loss in Game 1, the Spurs played about average. They played good defense, Tony Parker was the fastest guy on the court, Tim Duncan was dominant, and Manu Ginobili hit a few shots. Then they called it a night. The word you're looking for is: eek.
--I respect Larry Hughes for trying, he's scored the points in my book and all, but there's a 0 percent change of him staying in front of Parker with that bad wheel. He managed OK on Michael Finley and some other players, but, honestly, Parker went through Hughes like the Nazis went through Paris. Bad metaphor? Oh, sorry. So Mike Brown simply must play Daniel Gibson and even Eric Snow (you know, the team's best one-on-one defensive player) more on Parker. Neither of those guys can totally stop him either but they have a better chance. Of course, I expect Mike to get ripped by all the media for saying he's not changing his lineup. He will change the minutes, though, guaranteed.
--Zydrunas Ilgauskas looked like a kid that accidentally jumped into the deep end of the pool. He was thrashing around and accomplishing nothing. Not all of it was his fault, Brown's play calls gave him no chance at the rhythm, but he couldn't even hold onto the ball tonight. He couldn't even rebound, which he always does. The Cavs have to win the rebounding battle win have any chance in the series, tonight they got slaughtered and Ilgauskas was a big reason why. Yes, Brown benched him to go small for long stretches but part of that was he wasn't getting anything done when he was out there.
--We now have enough data on LeBron James to know that he doesn't usually play that well in Game 1s of playoff series. Usually he uses the first quarter to feel things out, but he was searching for three quarters tonight. The Spurs did a great job of cutting off his usual outlet passes, they knew all of his tendencies of where he goes when he's trapped. Also, they did a great job of pressuring the ball, which helped keep the Cavs out of their offense and killed the shot clock. It was like moving up a level on a video game, they made everything harder. Nonetheless, the Cavs were still very much in this game until late in the third despite just about everyone -- save for Gibson and Drew Gooden -- playing below average. In other words, hold your water, the Cavs did some good things on offense in the fourth and moved bodies much better. They'll come back, they always do, we'll see if it's good enough.
--Tim Duncan is so damn good, it's amazing. In these playoffs, getting to see Jason Kidd work for six games was a reminder of why the guy is a Hall of Famer. Now watching Duncan will be great. He is so good at so many facets of the game, it's hard to even describe it. How about from the high post when he fakes a bounce pass to Parker then turns and makes the off-balance jumper from 17 feet. That's not Earl Boykins making that move, it's a 7-footer.
--I really appreciated what the Spurs did in the third quarter. They got up seven once or twice but couldn't extend the lead. They knew this was a chance to bury the Cavs if they could get an extra stop or two. So Ginobili starts pumping up the crowd on defense. Then, when Brown is forced to call a timeout to calm things down, the Spurs bring out David Robinson, George Gervin and Sean Elliott to be recognized. The crowd cheered throughout the timeout and didn't let down. The Spurs do the little things right as well as the big things.
--Even with all the trouble Duncan and Parker, the Cavs gave up just 85 points tonight. They had no inside game, LeBron couldn't make a shot, and they best strength (rebounding) was a weakness. They've still got a chance to make some serious noise and they know it. But it's going to take some good adjustments and some moxie. Let's see what happens.
How refreshing. A Cleveland media person acknowledging that not only did the Cavs not play a very good game, but neither did the Spurs.
Also, he is dead on about Z and Hughes. Z has to play well on both ends of the floor, and someone needs to slow down Parker. Those are the keys to the series. To me, since Hughes is reduced to Ira Newble ability right now, I go with Boobie. Is Boobie going to be any worse a defender than Hughes right now? At least Boobie can fill it up. Hughes vs Boobie is a zero sum move defensively, but offensively it slants most favorably to Boobie (and the Cavs).
I'm in total agreement that "it's going to take some good adjustments and some moxie" and that "they'll come back, they always do, we'll see if it's good enough."