NBA Roundtable

Game Time: Cleveland vs Boston

In Game Log / Recap on February 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Thoughts on game/matchup rather than a game log

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo is able to destroy the Cavaliers when they use some combination of the following three players:

Mo Williams or Daniel Gibson + Shaquille O’Neal or Zydrunas Ilgauskas + Antawn Jamison

That trio makes Cleveland overly vulnerable in pick and roll situations + transition defense + in man-to-man matchups.

Rajon Rondo will have an opportunity to put in a dominant performance whenever those combinations are in the game.

Cavs Finding Their Footing

Cleveland is still trying to find their chemistry following the addition of Antawn Jamison. He is a player who uses a lot of possessions offensively and brings a lot of flaws defensively. The rest of the Cavs are still trying to figure out how his addition changes their role and how to make this move successful. Mike Brown also needs time to help teach Jamison his defensive system.

There is no flow to the Cavs currently … but it’ll come in time.

The Cleveland Cavaliers that we see in late February will not compare to the team we see come playoff time.

Celtics Are Back

Kevin Garnett is back = Celtics are back

It happened when the Celtics were on their west coast trip. In Portland after a good showing in LA.

KG still isn’t in top gear but he’s close enough to give the Celtics a shot at another Championship. I expect him to improve some more over the next 2-3 weeks.

Rondo Without Pierce

Rajon Rondo is more comfortable offensively with Pierce on the sidelines.

It gives him a greater opportunity to dominate the basketball. To spend more time on the ball instead of off the ball where his lack of shooting limits his impact. To spend more time on the ball as the lead playmaker, being given more freedom to control the tempo and create shots for others. More time on the ball also leads to a more aggressive scoring version of Rondo.

Ray Allen’s Hot Play

Ray Allen has been on fire since the trading deadline pumping 23.5 points per game in his four games since (not including Cavs game).

However, that scoring production is misleading (long term) for two reasons:

(1) Ray Allen has posted a true shooting percentage of 75.5% which is not sustainable. Once Ray comes back down to earth, and posts a TS% of around 59% he’d only be scoring 18.5ppg on the same number of shots.

(2) Ray Allen has been playing longer minutes with the Celtics short handed. Those longer minutes + his hot shooting has led Ray to take 1-2 shots more per game over the past few games. Once they go, and they likely will go, Ray will be back down around 16ppg.

To conclude, Ray Allen has had a spectacular shooting stretch which has increased his scoring hugely but that won’t hold up over the remainder of the season. Ray hasn’t suddenly regained his form of 3-4 years ago.

Rasheed Wallace

Sheed will be a matchup nightmare against both the Cavs and the Magic. His ability to defend the paint at a high level + spread the floor offensively has proven problematic for both teams.

Cleveland’s centers (Shaq/Ilgauskas) are poor defensively away from the rim. They do not defend the pick and roll well. They do not defend jump shooting big men well. And they are not able to make good defensive rotations + recover in time to contest the jump shot.

Those inabilities defensively + Sheed’s abilities give Boston’s offense a good advantage while those players are in the game.

As for Orlando, Sheed is able to take Dwight Howard away from the rim defensively and defends Howard very well on the other end of the floor. Similar issue with Marcin Gortat. Weakens the Magic’s interior + help defense.

Jamison’s Jump Shot

Antawn Jamison is a very good jump shooting big man but he still only hits 42% or 43% (eFG%) of his shots.

The Cavs do not want Jamison taking 75% of his shots from outside the paint. They do not want to see Jamison take 12-15 of his 16-20 shot attempts. It simply isn’t efficient enough as a weapon. It decreases the Cavs effectiveness offensively.

What Jamison needs to do is to strive for closer to a 50-50 split between jump shots and interior shots. Like he did with the Dallas Mavericks several years ago when he posted his most efficient scoring season of his career.

Jamison scores on almost two thirds of his attempts inside the paint. He is an excellent finisher. He also draws more fouls. It makes a huge difference to his scoring efficiency.

Finding the balance between jump shots + interior shots will decide how much Jamison helps the Cavs offensively.

Cavs Interesting Lineup

West + LeBron + Jamison + Hickson + Varejao

I’m still not sure what I think about this combination but I do find it interesting. A lot of mobility and quickness with the two big men and good size out on the perimeter. I like their movement offensively and ability to force a mismatch at the forward spots. In particular, the cutting off the ball from the frontcourt while LeBron creates.

I haven’t liked the idea of Jamison at small forward in recent years but I’m warming up to it after seeing the Cavs play some solid basketball with him there over the past few games. Something to watch over the next few weeks.

Halftime

Boston leads Cleveland 56-48.

  • Anderson Varejao is the Cavaliers second best player. He helped turn the game around in the second quarter and stopped the Celtics from building a 20 point lead which they surely would have done without Varejao.
  • LeBron James has 21 points. He was settling for outside shots early and that hurt him but he’s attacked the rim since. Spectacular in the second quarter.
  • The Cavs have played very poorly in the first half.
  • The Celtics have played very well in the first half.
  • Leon Powe made his comeback tonight and didn’t even get a round of applause from the Celtics faithful. They must have missed him checking into the game.
  • Boston is leading 22-17 on the backboards.
  • Boston has shot 60% (24-40) from the floor in the first half. They have also shot 5-6 from behind the arc and 3-6 from the FT line. A true shooting percentage of 65.7%.
  • The Cavaliers defense was shambolic when Jamison + O’Neal were on the floor together. It was much better when one of Varejao or Hickson were out there alongside them and better again when Varejao + Hickson played alongside one another.
  • Cleveland shot 43% (19-44) from the field, 4-10 from downtown, and 6-8 from the FT line. A TS% of 50.5%.
  • Both teams have taken great care of the ball. Only 8 turnovers between the two of them. Unusual for Boston but I suppose they’ve done better largely because of Rondo being allowed to dominate the basketball (low turnover player) + Cleveland playing very poorly defensively.
  • A lot of mis-communication defensively from the Cavs. Players not knowing who they are picking up. Players not talking in transition. A lot of wide open shots both in the paint and out beyond the arc. Their defensive rotations, particularly Jamison, have been off the mark.
  • Cleveland hasn’t been able to cover Ray Allen off the ball as well as they used to. They haven’t hedged out on those baseline screens to stop Ray from getting easier catch and shoot opportunities as well as they usually do.
  • Marquis Daniels was effective against LeBron James early in the game.
  • Midway through the first quarter + late in the first quarter I was very worried about Rondo being overly responsible for the offense. He either scored or assisted on their first 21 points. Nobody else was making plays. But the Celtics got better in the second quarter and got others involved.

Shaq Is Out

Thumb injury … unclear how serious but he’s out for the rest of tonight’s game.

This could be good news for the Cavaliers tonight. The more that Varejao + Hickson play the better for Cleveland. They need their quickness and defensive ability to help cover Rondo + Ray Allen.

Third Quarter

Boston leads 74-73

  • The Celtics offense grew stagnant in the third. Their hot shooting has abandoned them. Only 6-20 from the field. A couple of careless possessions but only two turnovers.
  • The Celtics unit late in the second hurt them. They had Rondo + TA + Ray + Davis + Sheed out there.
  • Hickson and Varejao continue to play well
  • Antawn Jamison has been bloody awful defensively. He’s cost them a huge number of points. His help defense is atrocious, he’s there for the taking in one-on-one play and does a lousy job contesting shots.

A whole new ball game starting the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter

  • Rondo starts the fourth quarter — Doc must want to keep him out there to create shots for the second unit
  • JJ Hickson gives the Cavs their first lead since early in the first quarter
  • Hickson cannot defend Rasheed Wallace in the low post. How well does Rasheed + the Celtics take advantage of that? I’m guessing not too much.
  • Glen Davis took a terrific charge against Jamison. He does the best job on the Celtics, amongst the bigs, of taking charges.
  • Doc Rivers stuck with that lineup + in particular that BBD/Sheed combination for 4-5 minutes of the fourth quarter. That lineup killed the Celtics momentum. Killed their energy, their pace, the tempo of the game. Allowed Cleveland to get rolling offensively and take control of the game.
  • The Celtics were +6 when BBD/Sheed checked into the game and were down 6 by the time they checked out. Doc kept them in the game for far too long.
  • Doc has also kept Rondo in the game despite Rondo clearing looking fatigued. Rondo badly needed a 3-4 minutes rest bite before coming back in with more energy.
  • Hard to see the Celtics offense picking back up without a dominant performance from Rondo
  • Rondo + Nate + Ray + KG + Perk = Celtics very small on the wings
  • Mo Williams has caught fire, bagged a pair of three pointers, and scored 11 points in six and a half minutes to put the Cavaliers up ten with five and half minutes remaining.
  • The Cavaliers have outscored Boston by 17 points since JJ Hickson entered the game midway through the third quarter.

Game over, Cavaliers win. Good win for Cleveland.

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