Tag Archives: Rondo

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

Boston, Boredom, Rondo, Sheed, Chewbacca

As a nice little dovetail to the Celtics thing I did yesterday, I ended up joining John Karalis (who you know from this Logo Project post and The 8th Seed NBA Podcast) and That Sports Babe (who you should follow @ThatSportsBabe) on their aptly titled radio show Boston & That Sports Babe.

Here’s last night’s episode.

I come in around the 15 minute mark if you want to just jump ahead to the good stuff.

We talked about the Celtics being “bored” with the regular season, chatted with a caller about Rondo perhaps deserving some of the blame for this Boston mess (something I disagree with wholeheartedly) and John called me Chewbacca at one point. I’ll admit that the beard could probably use a trim, but c’mon.

You can catch future episodes of Boston & That Sports Babe most every Tuesday at 9:00 pm Northeast Elitist Standard Time.


So Many Great Point Guards, Including Frenchie

I have to laugh every time someone says the NBA isn’t as good as it used to be. Sure, expansion means that there are fewer teams who have a legitimate eight-man rotation and those that do (i.e., the Lakers and Cavs) are automatically that much better than the rest of the League, but the individual talent level throughout the Association has risen so high over the past three or four years that historically great performances and plays have been happening at least once a week since November.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at the point guard position.

Of course, we all know about the two great gifts bestowed upon us by the 2005 Draft: Chris Paul and Deron Williams. And we’re all very familiar with the resumes of Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups, who raised his legacy to even further heights by playing out his goddamn mind in the first two games of this year’s Playoffs. But as Marc Stein so aptly pointed out in his great column today, we also now have Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose putting on the best PG vs. PG show of the postseason thus far. Throw in Devin Harris’ ascension, Andre Miller’s overlooked-yet-always-dependable floor generalship, Jameer Nelson’s evolution and Rodney Stuckey’s potential, and we’re looking at a renaissance that can make even the most jaded NBA onlooker forget all about the Starbury/Franchise-led, shoot-first era of point guards.

And then there’s Tony Parker, who has had a better season than any of em.

Since tomorrow night could very well mark last game of a truly transcendant season where he morphed from solid, trustworthy player who could make a few big plays down the stretch to a guy who no player in the League can stop from getting to the rim, I just wanted to spend a few words praising his play this year. But since you don’t really wanna read me go on and on about how some French guy has put an entire team you probably haven’t enjoyed watching for at least four years on his back and carried them for the past 50 games, just go read Kevin Arnovitz’s great breakdown of just exactly how unguardable Mr. Parker has become. And, yes, I know Jason Kidd has some serious defensive issues at this stage of his career, but Tony has been doing this to the whole League to the tune of 24 ppg, 7.5 apg and 3.5 rpg on 52% shooting since the All-Star break, largely due to a newly lethal mid-range game that allows him to pull-up whenever his defender sags three feet — something every guard in the NBA has to do if they wanna keep the fiery Francophile, the Parisian Torpedo (see video below) in front of them.

So even though the Spurs will probably get uncermoniously bounced by the Mavs tomorrow, don’t be surprised when Tony’s flirting with 25 ppg next year.