The worst thing that could have happened last night was the Cavs getting out to that 23-8 lead. They were never the same since.
Instead of proceeding to step on the Wizards’ throats, they played the rest of the game as if the Wizards were going to go away quietly.
As a matter of fact, the Wizards went on an 18-0 run at that point, and outscored the Cavaliers 81-61 the rest of the way. This spurt was started by the Brendan Haywood clothesline to the neck of King James.
Last night was another subtle reminder that Mike Brown knows as much about offensive game planning as I do about molecular biochemistry. And that LeBron’s uncanny ability to create individually has masked that weakness.
LeBron was off his game last night, this was clearly evident long before the final quarter, when the team desperately needed to find ways to manufacture buckets in the half court set, and were woefully unable to.
29 minutes for Zydrunas, and only 13 shots, half of which were botched bunny opportunities off missed shots. Drew Gooden was amazing last night, but we all know that means no Donyell Marshall. Brown strangely refuses to play the pair at the same time, even though Donyell is more of a 3 than a 4 at this stage of his career. Or how about calling a play or two for the scorching Gooden? Drew once again made things happen for himself, with just one or two of his 11 field goals being assisted by my count. And how do you not take a timeout, down three with 19 seconds left and Anderson Varejao still on the floor?
Give the Wizards credit. They played angry. They played hard. They played desperate. They played how I wanted to see my team play.
It’s clear that Mike Brown has nowhere near the impact on this team right now that Eddie Jordan has on the Wizards. Jordan looked cranky half an hour before tip, and was a seething ball of hate for all forty eight, culminating in a near altercation with a heckling fan near halftime.
After the game, several Wizards talked of how Jordan questioned their manhood the past three days, and that Monday’s practice was downright evil. Will the Cavs practice tomorrow be of that same ilk? Or will Brown continue to appease the team, and worry more about have 13 happy players instead of 13 angry, inspired players?
You could see it in his team last night. They weren’t going to lose that ball game, were seriously pissed off about what happened in game one, and adjusted beautifully in a crisp and inspired effort.
This has the makings to be a helluva series. There is some genuine dislike between these two teams, which was taken to a new level last night. The Haywood clothesline, some matter of fact comments by Jordan on how they were going to handle LeBron, and a post-game Caron Butler taunt of the LeBron rosin cloud have clearly elevated things to a very high level of intensity, even for post-season basketball.
The Wizards responded in game two, wrestling home court in the series as things move to D.C. for game three Friday night.
Coach Brown, it’s your turn.