When I was asked to write for this blog, I thought to myself: that sounds fun but it will never happen. The blogging thing had a few things going against it: (A) I am too lazy to do it, and (B) writing is for English nerds and angst-ridden teenage girls. Additionally, I am not motivated by the need to inform. I am, however, fueled by hatred and an inferiority complex that could only be spawned in Northeast Ohio. In the spirit of the holidays, I would like to present the man who has driven me to hate once more: Tim Legler, ESPN commentator and apparently an ex-NBAer based on my recollection of my basketball card collection. In last night’s SportsCenter, he informs that Boston is beating teams by almost 11 points per game. Wow, 11 points. That certainly is a lot. This stat apparently shows that Boston does not play down to their competition, which according to Tim, distinguishes them from every other team in the league.
First of all, that last comment is obviously an insult to all Clevelanders. The Cavs are beating teams by 13 (i.e. a number greater than 11) points per game so if your whole point is that the Celtics are the only team that do not play down to their competition find some better stats. There are lots of statistics. You can make them point to anything. I bet you can find an obscure one deep on some website that no one cares about that completely ignores the big picture and obviously states that the Boston Celtics are the only team that never plays down to their competition. It is pretty easy to do. It’s kinda like when people ignore the big picture and choose one obscure passage from the (ed.: the rest of this paragraph has been censored).
Second of all and perhaps more intellectually stimulating (assuming this thought can beat not at all intellectually stimulating), the Cavaliers no longer play down to their competition. This is perhaps the surest sign that the Cavs are finally a legit Championship contender and is one of the biggest differences between this year’s team and other recent Cavs teams. Watching the Cavs these days, you never feel like the Cavs have totally lost control. They feel like a steady force. Can you feel it? (If not, an article about feelings may not be right for you. More into the hard sciences? Try this one from a few posts back. It may be better for you. It is about anatomy.)
Anyway, my point is that there are no longer the five minute droughts where the Cavs do not score and also no extended periods where a weak opponent (I’m looking at you Tyronn Lue) scores at will. There are no more droughts where you know you are watching the Cavs blow the game. There is no more (or at least less) watching Lebron hold the ball for 22 seconds on offense before chucking up a fadeaway jumper. Basically, the Cavs are playing like they are not from Cleveland. (Maybe this is why Lebron is trying to get everyone to focus on other cities.) They keep pushing ahead even with a big lead. For the most part, they have not only gotten rid of the dreadful 3rd quarters that have been extensively written about but also their less talked about dreadful mini 3rd quarters that occurred in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th quarters. If you look at the number of points the Cavs are scoring per period, it is remarkably consistent: 27 in the first, 25 in the second, 25 in the third, and 25 in the fourth. If you look at the number of points the Cavs are giving up per quarter, it is remarkably consistent: 22 in the first, 22 in the second, 22 in the third, and a whopping 24 in the fourth against Tarence Kinsey. Over and over again, the defense is making quick adjustments and tightening the screws when the opponent puts together a small run. The offense, on the other hand, does not look like it needs to make many adjustments. It is so good that it can just keep beating on the door until it busts through for a 10-0 run. As long as they keep moving the ball and penetrating the defense, good things end up happening.
Last night’s game against Houston was a perfect example. The game was close until the Cavs opened up a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter. At this point, two things happened: the Cavs’ offense went a little cold, and the Rockets started pounding it inside with Yao. The Rockets started to catch up. Yao kept either getting to the line to make free throws or kicked the ball out for a three. They got within one. Then, something happened that rarely happened in previous years; the Cavs regained control of the game. The Cavs adjusted to Yao’s inside game. Z forced Yao to take a jumper. Then, the Cavs started doubling down hard on Yao. When Yao kicked it out to his shooters, the Cavs defense did an amazing job rotating to the first shooter on the left wing, then the second shooter on the right wing, and finally, the third shooter in the corner as the Rockets swiftly moved the ball around. In particular, Wally deserves praise. He was hustling to double Yao and then, hustling over to get in the face of the third shooter to contest the shot. With the adjustments and increased hustle on defense, the Cavs starting coming up with key stops. On offense, nothing much changed, but things started clicking again. Boobie nailed two huge three pointers to get the offense going, and you could feel that the tide had turned back toward the Cavs. Three minutes later, the Cavs had won by 9. They once again beat an opponent by remaining steady throughout the game. They did not let the Rocket’s physical play (which I have not discussed) or Yao’s brief dominance distract them. It certainly looked like the Cavs did not play down to their competition, and when you have to look down to be on Houston’s level, you know your team is pretty damn good.