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Make open shots or the season ends this week.
It's a very simple proclamation but that is unavoidable when you look at the 2-1 series hole the Cavaliers have dug for themselves against the Orlando Magic.
Do not bore me with match up advantages talk.
Do not make yourself look to be a fool with talk about how LeBron James needs to elevate his game or do this or that to get this team beyond the Eastern Conference Finals.
No, the Cavs facing the fight of their playoff lives comes down to Mo Williams, Delonte West and Zydrunas Ilgauskas hitting more of the wide open looks that James has created for each and every one of them in the first three games.
You want the bad news?
Delonte West is 13-31 for 41.9%.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is 13-34 for 39%.
And Mo Williams is shooting at a robust 31% on 18 for 56.
As a group that troika is laying it down at a 36% rate on just 44 of 121 from the field.
That's not going to get it done.
The bad news is, well, that's not going to get it done. That continued abysmal shooting will kill you dead in this series. The good news is that the Cavaliers are a couple inches away from being up 2-1 in this series despite all of that bad news above. They literally could be shooting like crap at under 39% and potentially be up 3-0 in this series.
I understand the Magic are a nightmare when it comes to match ups and style of play. It's specifically horrible for the Cavaliers due to Cleveland not having anyone on the roster with the ass big enough to keep Dwight Howard from setting up wherever he wants to on the court. I get that. I understand that means that as the Cavs chase shooters over and under pick-n-rolls from the Magic that Howard gets an entry pass and either scores on a dunk or passes to an open shooter out of the double team that inevitably arrives to an open shooter.
Got it. The Cavs face size and athletic disadvantages against this team. But that's not what's beaten them in the two games they lost. It's that pesky ‘not making open shots' thing. And the biggest concern for me is Z.
Ilgauskas doesn't take too many contested shots. He's made a ton of money in the years since LBJ showed up by spotting up from 15-18 feet and being the recipient of wide open looks created by James's penetration. It cuts both ways because when Z is knocking wide open shots down then someone has to leave the paint and follow him out to the 15-18 foot range which leaves the lane wide open for everyone else.
In this series, while Mo and Delonte have been chasing Magic shooters all over the court, Z has been getting handled by Howard down low. You can almost stand that if he matches him with shots on the offensive end. That hasn't happened yet. My theory is that a layoff like the Cavs had after their series win over Atlanta affected a rhythm shooter like Z more than it did a lot of guys. He's out of whack, to use a very technical basketball term. Look at Z's number from the free throw stripe where he's usually money. He's barely above 60%.
Z has got to get it going starting now for this Cavs team to have a chance. If he gets into the offense early and opens up the lane then guys like Mo and D West will get to the lane and start getting some easier hoops as well.
This is a 2-1 series so there is still time. By my watch Ilgauskas has about 30 hours to get right. Because trailing 3-1 might just be death for a season with no end in sight a week ago.
The Kick Returner is Crying?
I've questioned in the past whether it's Josh Cribbs's intelligence or talent that has kept him as pretty much just a kick returner/special teams guy in the NFL. I mean, the guy is fast and he's stronger than a bull, so one has to wonder why he can't squeeze ahead of Syndric Steptoe on the depth chart, right? Maybe make some decisions, reads and throw out of the Wildcat?
Now I know: he must be stone-cold stupid.
The 7th ranked kick returner and 8th ranked punt returner in the NFL....errr....wait.... in the AFC is demanding more money or threatening a hold out. For what? For not being able to run a route or make a catch? I don't get it.
I know Cribbs is a fan favorite for his work on special teams but this is basically the utility infielder demanding starter's type money despite the fact he has no position and adds limited value. Terrific. Hope that works out for you Josh. Eric Mangini seems like the perfect type of guy to pull that crap with. And hey, kudos on the timing. Maybe you should wait until a few hundred thousand more people lose their jobs or their homes before coming off like some greedy a-hole.
Yeah, I really believe it has to be what's upstairs that's keeping Cribbs off the field. It makes sense to believe that ‘return left', ‘return middle' and ‘return right' might be about as much as Cribbs can process. Maybe being told, "Kill the ball carrier" is the extent of what he can understand on the coverage side of the game.
That's fine. There's some value in following a wedge (less of a wedge this season with the new rules in play) and there's value in seeking out the other side's return guy and bringing him down. But there's not that much value to it.
And certainly, in these times, Cribbs and his agents could have looked for a better way to go about it, no?
Just seems stupid to me.
The Indians are on the ‘Pay no Mind' list. Talk me to when they get back to .500 or when there is nothing better to talk about. Which may be next weekend if things don't turn around quickly for the Cavaliers.