Tag Archives: Mo Williams

Mike Brown Is High on Life, Mo Will’s Dunk

He sure does have the giggles at least. Last time I heard this much uncontrollable, start-and-stop laughter there was a gravity bong, my dorm room and talk of a trip to IHOP in the mix.

Here’s how, earlier on Twitter during the press conference, I tried to transcribe Mike Brown’s reaction to Mo Williams’ out-of-nowhere, thunder dunk over Paul Pierce  — something that was oh-so difficult in just 140 characters. (And, yeah, I realized I didn’t get the question verbatim … was a little flustered by all the cackling.)

Reporter: “Did you even know Mo could dunk?”
Mike Brown: “Nah. Hehehe. Nah … That surprised me … I did not. Hehehehe”

Not quite as good, but also pretty sweet, was Mike’s later comment on the dunk.

Mike Brown on Mo dunk: “It mighta been the red shoes he had on tonight. The red shoes might have helped him fly a lil bit.”

It’s gotta be the shoes, Money.

As for Mo, the dunk was also the hot topic when he sat in front of the press. In explaining how it happened, he said that, normally in such instances, he will wait until the defender commits to him and then look to throw a lob to LeBron to help “get him going.” But Paul never fully cut him off. Even so, being that Truth is “6’7, 6’8,” according to Mo, he was just going to go up and do a little sweeping layup deal where he fades away a little and creates some space so that the taller guy can’t block the shot.

But in this instance, said Mo, “I was a little high. I was thinking ‘I might gonna try it.” (video via TrueHoop)

LeBron’s New Crew vs. the Former Champs

lebron cavaliers celtics

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

This series is not.

On paper, this should be a nail biter. The teams split the regular season series. Both won their first round series in 5 games. Both teams are as healthy as they will ever be (and yes, I’m assuming that LeBron’s elbow is fine, because he’s a cyborg and cyborgs don’t feel pain). And while the Cavs are deeper, and had the far superior regular season record, they are also employing a line-up that has played less than 10 games together, including in the playoffs, and lack the championship pedigree of their green opponents. All in all, this evens out.

Until you look at the fine print.

How did Boston got those regular season wins? Well, one was on opening night, against a Cleveland squad playing it’s first game with Shaquille O’Neal in uniform after a shaky training camp, without Delonte West who was battling personal issues. Since then, Cleveland acquired Antawn Jamison, got Delonte back, got Shaq in the mix, and gained two rotation players in J.J. Hickson and Jawad Williams (though the latter might be kind of a stretch), while the Celtics regressed to .500 ball from Christmas Day onward.

The second Boston win came 10 days before the end of the season, after the Cavs clinched the league’s best record, without the aforementioned O’Neal. Cleveland basically rolled over for 3 quarters, allowing Boston to go up 22, before LeBron decided he feels like trying and instantaneously made it a close game, only to lose the game on some questionable decisions – and missed some free throws – in crunch time.

How did Cleveland get their wins?

One was a late February game, one week after Jamison joined the team, which was close for three quarters before the Cavs turned it up in the fourth (notice a trend here?) and won by 20. The other was a mid-March, Shaq-less contest, an 11 point win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

“Sure,” you could say, “but how about those first round series? Boston looked much better there!”

Well, the Cavs, playing at first gear, beat a Bulls team despite the Bulls playing two or three of their best games of the season. The Celtics, with extreme motivation, beat a Miami team that consists of Dwyane Wade … and … yeah.

Not to take away from the Boston’s win against Miami – they upped the defensive intensity, and managed to convincingly win a series that many, including yours truly, predicted would be very close. But how does that help them against Cleveland? Letting Wade get his and stopping the likes of Beasley, Chalmers, Haslem and Jermaine O’Neal’s dead body is hardly the same as letting LeBron get his and stopping Jamison, Mo, Shaq and an array of three-point snipers. Besides, just letting LeBron get his could be enough to lose.

Look, I might be selling the Celtics short. I pretty much declared their title chances – for this year – over once Kevin Garnett was ruled out from last season’s playoffs, and my stance didn’t change one bit even when they started the season 23-5. And while I still believe the Celtics as presently constructed to be all but done as far as a title contender, I may be letting that opinion get the better of me.

And yet, the question remains:

When have the Celtics ever given us any indication that they are capable of beating these guys?

Even at full strength, rolling towards a title, a much stronger version of these Celtics needed 7 games and a fourth quarter outburst from P.J. Brown to put Cleveland away. And this was when Cleveland had, maybe, 10% the supporting cast, the Celtics had James Posey (whom they’ve never adequately replaced), and Kevin Garnett was still one of the best players in the league.

So yes, Rajon Rondo will probably have his way with Mo Williams, weaving his way into the paint for numerous floaters and funny looking layups, just like Derrick Rose did before him and Jameer Nelson will do after him. Ray Allen will make some big threes, Paul Pierce will still be Paul Pierce, KG will yell at all sorts of things, be them opposing point guards or stationary objects. Heck, maybe even Rasheed Wallace will get off the bench and show the Cavs that even though he already mailed in a playoff series against them last year, he’s still enough of a bonehead to do it again. You know, all the those Celticy little things we’ve come to know and love.

And after all that is said and done, LeBron will get his ridiculous stat-line, Jamison will get his 18 points without releasing the ball from above his shoulder even once, Anderson Varejao will draw 5 charges and 8 technicals, some kind of dude with an unnecessary J in his name will score a big three and follow it up with a 5 minute hand shake/rain dance, and the Celtics will go home.

I know this sounds bleak, and not very fun. But I promise you, it’s not like that. It will be a fun series. The games themselves should be fairly close – not the defensive slugfest kind of close, but the entertaining kind of close, as these teams have quite regularly produced in the past.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that this series can’t affect the NBA title. In fact, this is the ultimate Cleveland gut check: for all of Lebron’s greatness, he hasn’t beaten a legit, top tier team in the playoffs since the Pistons in 2007. Unfair as that assessment may be, it’s on him to prove that he can hold up to that pressure. If he doesn’t against Boston, he won’t against Orlando/whoever comes out of the West.

As for the Celtics, this series can dramatically alter their future. If they somehow take this to 7, or even win (which I don’t see happening, at all, but you can never be sure in this league), then maybe they stay course, hope KG’s knee is better after yet another summer off, re-sign Ray Allen, sign another, strong mid-level bench guy (not like Sheed), and take another shot. If they lose in a blowout … well, then maybe it’s time to blow this thing up. (Fun side note: if Allen leaves in free agency, no team is a better fit for him than Cleveland. Nobody.) The whole Ubuntu, heart of a champion mentality of this squad will be put to the test here, even if it seemed like it abandoned them during the season.

And no matter what happens, whether this goes 4 or 7, we’ll get to see two very good teams doing what they do best. You can never go wrong with that. It’s just that at the end of the day, one of these teams is better than the other.

By quite a margin.

And they have Lebron.

Cavs in 5

Embracing the Actual Magic

The other day, someone asked me “Has any team ever improved as much during one Playoffs as this Magic squad?” I don’t know the answer to that silly question (even though it is undoubtedly “yes”), but thinking about Orlando’s run thus far did prompt me to realize that I can’t recall another squad of the 2000s that has more endeared itself to me during a postseason.

In many ways, I’ve enjoyed watching the Magic all season. But, honestly, it’s been more like that Stuff White People Like post about “The Idea of Soccer.” The gist of the concept is that people who aren’t actually soccer fans yet want to project themselves as worldly and cultured will always say they really like soccer even though they can’t name any players aside from David Beckham or tell you the current Premier League standings.

That’s how I was all season with Orlando; I liked the idea of the Magic.

I liked their potent offensive scheme of surrounding the most athletic physical specimen from Krypton with two of the most dead-eyed jumpshooters on Earth. I liked Dwight’s vacuum-cleaner work on the boards. I liked the fact that Jameer shocked me by turning into a helluva pointguard somehow. I liked Stan Van Gundy more than any other coach not named Popovich or Jerry Sloan. And I of course loved everything about Marcin Gortat.

But I just thought they were impostors — even as I was consistently impressed while watching them blow out other teams in the regular season. I think a lot of people had similar thoughts but for me personally it probably even went a little deeper.

Growing up, I patterned my game around Reggie Miller. In high school, I was one of the better three point shooters in our league and, like Rashard, about half the shots I took were treys. I had a lot of big games and made a lot of huge shots but, in hindsight, and after I got older and the other parts of my game caught up to my shooting ability, I sort of started to resent being so one-dimensional. I should have done more to control the game in other ways. So nowadays I tend to look down on players — and teams — who put all their proverbial eggs in the same jumpshooting basket.

Sure, Orlando’s offense was potent in the regular season, but what happens when Hedo and Shard both have an off-night from the perimeter? (We all know this team isn’t making the Finals on the strength of its defense.) Sure, Hedo is an able ball-handler and can run a decent pick-and-roll given his height, but are other teams really going to allow Turkoglu to burn them with clutch shots? Sure Rashard is a great shooter, but if he isn’t hitting his jumpers, is he really adding much to an offense.** (His reluctance to destroy Big Baby/Scalabrine in the post during the first few games of the Celtics series provided some nice confirmation bias to that theory.) Sure, Dwight is a monster on both ends, but is he serious with those things he calls “post moves”?

But as the Magic have advanced through the postseason, each and every one of those “fatal flaws” have been discredited…further proving my theory that I’m not very smart.

Rashard Lewis is not only sticking fourth quarter daggers, he’s going by people with pump fakes and finishing at the rim. He’s spreading the floor as a decoy. He’s hitting bank shots around the block. He’s making the right pass. He’s efficient. He’s savvy. He’s a constant factor.

Hedo is not only playing point-forward, he’s finishing in the paint. He’s finding Dwight for lobs. He’s drilling step-back jumpers. He’s getting out of the way when need be. He’s drawing double teams. He’s kicking it out to open shooters. He’s a rock.

Dwight is not only dunking on people, he’s crushing their spirit. He doesn’t need post moves to control the whole game. He just bangs in your grill. He just owns the boards. He just makes every penetrator aside of LeBron scared to enter the lane. He just turns your well-conceived pick-and-roll defense into nonsense. He’s just a cyborg. He’s just built for this.

And then there’s Rafer, whose performance last night perfectly illustrates why Orlando never has to worry about an off night from either Hedo or Rashard.

The other day, Stan Van Gundy said in a press conference that a coach really can’t control how many shots his players take. The other team’s coach decides that. If the other team wants to take the ball out of Hedo’s hands, they can do that through various defensive schemes and Hedo will have to either become a facilitator or start forcing bad shots. If the other teams wants to double Dwight and turn him into a passer (something Mike Brown may want to look into, by the way), they can do that and Dwight will have to become an offensive rebounder.

Last night, Mike Brown — like Doc Rivers before him and Tony Dileo before him — dared Rafer to be Orlando’s shot-maker in a big game. So Rafer went out and made shots. Just like he did in Game 7 against Boston. Just like he did in Game 6 against Philly.

In doing so, he made it look like that was Orlando’s game plan the whole time.

When Mike Piet (he sounds like a better player if you call him that) got hot in the fourth quarter, it looked like Orlando’s offense was built with him in mind. When Courtney Lee caught the ball on the perimeter and blew by the slower defender guarding him, it looked like just another play drawn up by Stan Van Gundy. When Marcin Gortat slipped a screen, caught a pass in space and dunked on nobody, it looked like a well-orchestrated counter-attack to Cleveland’s pick-and-roll defense. And when all these extra options came after ten effective minutes of running the ball through Hedo, Dwight or Rashard, it looked like an unstoppable offense.

But, really, that’s just how basketball is supposed to be played.

That’s how you play in the park.

If a guy gets hot, you give him the ball. You don’t do rigorous analysis to figure out that Rafer Alston has shot 33% from the wing this year versus 44% from the top of the key and plan around that. You just go out there, throw the ball around and figure out what is working right now. Then you keep doing it until it stops working.

If Rashard is missing his jumpers you just swing the ball to Pietrus in the corner. If they aren’t letting Hedo drive off the pick-and-roll, you put him in the corner and let Courtney Lee break his man off the dribble. If Kendrick Perkins is pushing Dwight Howard off his preferred position on the block, you clear him to the weak side and let Rashard go to work on Glen Davis.

Basketball is a simple sport. People love to over-complicate it, but the game usually comes down to the fact that no good offensive player can be guarded one-on-one. Thus, the defensive team  has to react to that fact with help defense. And when the defense does that, the offense now has an advantage somewhere else. If you’re a good offensive team, you exploit your primary advantage until the defense takes it away and exposes itself somewhere else. Then you attack there.

Rinse and repeat.

That’s all the Magic do. Over and over and over and over again. And they make it look so easy because all they do is take and make open shots. They find an advantage, exploit it until it ceases being an advantage and then find something else to do for a while.

Everyone who has ever played basketball loves playing pick up that way. One guy gets hot one game and hits four threes. Then another guy gets his post game going and you feed the beast until he misses. Then you catch a slow guy trying to guard a quick pointguard and you let him blow by his defender a few times. If you have good offensive players and they get into a groove where they switch up how they attack the defense, there should never be any stopping them

That has always been the most fun way to play basketball.

As I’m only now realizing for some reason, it is also the most entertaining way to watch other people play basketball in the Playoffs.

And as the Magic are proving more and more with each passing night, it might just be the most effective way to win the NBA Title, too.

** (In hindsight, it’s pretty funny to realize that Mo Williams is currently the walking embodiment of the useless corpse I feared Shard might become if he wasn’t hitting jumpers. If Mo’s not knocking down shots, not guarding anyone and not even setting up the offense better than LeBron can, what purpose does he actually serve? What would you say it is you do in this series, Mo Will?)

"They Can't Guard Us All."

“They Can’t Guard Us All.”

No Way Does Mo Hit That Off Kenny Powers

After LeBron went shutterbug and Shaq went bowling, Round 2 of the intro wars between Shaq and LeBron kicks off with Mo Williams at the bat.

Unfortunately, with the Suns all but eliminated from the Western Conference Playoffs (four games behind the Mavs in the loss column with eight to play), I have a feeling big fella might not even post.

Then again, this is pretty weak stuff from the Cavs and Shaq probably needs something to devote his attention to instead of basketball nowadays. And I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope he does this.