Basketball sure is an easy game when the shots are falling.
Friday night was easily the highlight of the sports weekend around these parts (and not only because the Indians were mercifully rained out against the Royals). The Washington Wizards got their comeuppance as well as a healthy portion of crow to choke down as the Cavaliers beat them in every aspect of game 6 to win the 1st round series 4-2.
Who knows whether it was a response to their lackluster effort last Wednesday night at home in Game 5 or if it was simply a case of very good execution of a very good game plan, but all cylinders were firing as the Cavs lit up the Wizards.
LeBron James was his usual dominating self. LBJ again led the Cavs in every meaningful statistic in going for another playoff triple-double. More important than just the numbers though, James simply led. As it should be, the ball was in hands for most of the night and if the King wasn't scoring it himself he was setting up his teammates with wide-open looks all evening. That's really nothing new. What was different about Friday was that his teammates, specifically the heretofore AWOL Wally Szczerbiak as well as Daniel Gibson hit more than half of the wide open 3-point shots they attempted (10-19) and combined for 48 points.
The Cavs also had a tremendous defensive game plan in place that centered on neutralizing Wizard forward Caron Butler. After going for 32 point last Wednesday Butler was held to just 18 points on Friday night and most of those came after the game was decided. The Cavs helped Szczerbiak defensively by instantly and constantly double teaming or surrounding Butler with defenders in a concerted effort to make him give up the basketball. The plan worked nearly to perfection as Butler became increasingly frustrated by the Cavs tactics, ultimately drawing a technical foul after his frustration led to shove James during one possession.
With the Washington Monument (AKA Gilbert Arenas) deciding to sit out the series after game 4 due to a myriad of injuries and with Butler effectively taken out of the Wizards offense the Wizards could only stand back and watch as the Cavs eliminated them from the playoffs for the third straight year.
This elimination of the Wizards was most satisfying given Washington's yapping and tactics throughout the series. In the end, they were the same old Wizards; paper tigers with all bark and no bite.
Interesting to note that after all was said and done in a series James termed ‘gruesome', the instigator and creator of the hostilities, Deshawn Stevenson, tried to play off his role as just some attempt at motivation. According to the WashingtonPost.com Stevenson said of his talking, "I think that made everybody come out and play hard. I know I did. If we didn't, it wouldn't have been exciting. Like I said, it made everyone's jobs easier. It made the media's job easier, and it was exciting to play. I'm a talker, you know; that's what I do. I was raised like that. We need someone on the team like that."
Terrific. It was all a ploy to motivate himself and his teammates. Instead of his linguistic skills Stevenson now has plenty of time to work on his actual game.
The Cavs are rewarded for their efforts with a series against the Boston Celtics starting Tuesday night in Boston. The Celtics were pushed to an incomprehensible seven game series with Atlanta that ended Sunday afternoon pretty much when they threw up the opening tap. While the Cavs were waiting and resting the Celtics destroyed Atlanta in Game 7 which emptied a lot of bridges in the Boston area where fans were poised to leap.
This is another series where a despised opponent awaits. Paul Pierce and LBJ have no love lost between them. Pierce, however, has not yet crossed the boundary from despised opponent to idiot and the Celtics have multiple weapons to run at you.
The Cavs need to keep the momentum they built in DC and they need to keep knocking down open shots in order to stay with Boston's Big Three for the next two weeks. No change in strategy is required. They need to do what they have to do to keep the game close and let the best player on the planet take over late.
The Other Side of the Coin
At this point all you can say about The Indians is ‘How about those Cavs?'
We've gone past Slump City, driven through and seen Terrible Township and are presently on the road to Unbearable; Population- 25.
You could throw a ball in a dugout full of Indian hitters right now and not hit a productive player with the possible exception of Victor Martinez. And even with Martinez you're still talking about a clean-up hitter (or 3-hole hitter depending on the whimsy of the man making out the lineup) with no home runs.
Every issue is exacerbated by not hitting. The Indians are currently getting outstanding starting pitching. But we hone in the one or two mistakes the pitchers make each game due to the fact any run-producing mistake likely costs you a game when you can't score. We live and die with, and overreact to, every fielding miscue that yields an opponent's run because currently the Tribe needs to pitch a shutout and play for the tie.
These are dark days. No doubt about it. But the Indians, for as awful as it's been, still have a mulligan after the first six weeks of the season. The fact of the matter is they are still only 2.5 games out of the Central Division lead.
That's the good news. The bad news is this team looks horrible in multiple areas right now. But raining down some runs would sure help wash the blood and grime off the streets and take the pressure off the pitching and defense to be less than perfect each and every night.
There's been a ton of talk in recent months about the Cavs potentially bringing in a shooter like Arenas or Michael Redd next season to pair up with LeBron. Let's be clear: There is no need for us ever to watch Arenas in a Cavs uniform. The 20 games a year he's healthy finds him to be productive. But the Cavs have been down that path before with Washington guards that have more hype than heart.
If you have to pick a Wizard to target then let the focus be on Antawn Jamison. Lost in the violence and vitriol of the recently completed series between the Cavs and the Wiz was a pretty solid series from Jamison. He was one of the few Wizard players not to get caught up in the ridiculous war of words and Bad Boy tactics who went out each night and played hard and effectively. Jamison has range, is athletic and seems to mix well with others. If you're going to have to dismantle a few components of this team to bring more talent in, get a guy that can and will play hard every night out. Not that I'm expecting to see Jamison in the Wine & Gold next season. But it's far more appealing than seeing Arenas in the colors of the Cavaliers.
The proprietor of this here joint, Rich Swerbinsky, welcomed a newborn daughter into the word at 2:50am Sunday morning. All reports are that everybody is well. Congrats to the Swerbinsky family on the new arrival.
There is a thread on the message board where you can go and offer Rich congratulations of your own. If you're so inclined, take a minute do so here.