There's a new creed in the Cavalier
kingdom: Ask and ye shall receive.
asking for more intensity, more focus, and a renewed playoff energy?
It took a quarter and a half, but the Cavs finally looked a No. 1 seed
for the first time since Game One, using a 39-15 run across the end of
the first half and beginning of the second to turn a three-point deficit
into a 21-point lead.
asking for discipline, a sense of urgency, and an attacking gameplan on defense?
opened with Anthony Parker on Derrick Rose, used multiple styles of
defense on the pick-and-roll, and held the Bulls to 37.4 percent
shooting and just 34 points in the paint (they averaged 47 in the
previous two contests).
You're asking for a more focused effort to
get Antawn Jamison the ball?
The Cavs used the athletic power
forward in the pick-and-roll with LeBron James repeatedly in the third
quarter, setting him up for jumpers, lay-ups, and everything in between.
Antawn simply abused Luol Deng in the post on his way to 24 points on
You're asking for less three-point shots
and better ball movement?
They still attempted 25 three-point
field goals, but a majority of them came in the flow of the offense, or
were the result of dribble penetration and swinging the ball from one
corner to the other. Connecting on 12 of those 25 attempts doesn't hurt
You're asking for your franchise player to come out as a
LeBron James, as
focused as he's looked all season (and maybe in his career), torched
Chicago to the tune of 37 points (11-for-17 FG, 6-for-9 three's, 9-for-10 FT),
12 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, and one block. Put an emphatic
check next to that one.
were things that I clamored for and demanded after the Cleveland's
108-106 loss in Game Three. In hindsight, I was probably too hard on the
team and their lackadaisical effort in that contest. After all, it was
just one game against a weaker opponent in a series that they were
destined to win…isn't it human nature to occasionally take things for
Still, it was the overall energy and intensity that I was
worried about. After all, in a series against a team like Orlando or
Boston, you can't afford to give a game away simply because you didn't
"bring it" for a majority of that contest.
But even a
perfectionist such as myself couldn't find too much to nitpick at today.
Sure, there were a few things that you could
point out: It took them a few minutes to get going, Joakim Noah was
once again the best post player on the floor, Shaq doesn't appear to be shaking
off any rust, the transition defense was suspect, and it didn't
help Chicago's cause that they started jacking up jump shots
once they went down double-digits.
But for everything that you
could put the Cavaliers at fault for, there were two or three other
areas where they excelled. Here are a few examples:
on Derrick Rose
For the most part, the on-ball defense of
Rose was excellent. In a mini-preview of today's
game, I said that Mo Williams shouldn't be
on Rose at all; Anthony Parker started the game on Rose and defended him
most of the time.
Rose got into the paint and got his points, but
nothing like he did on Thursday. He didn't score at opportune times,
and didn't really distribute eitherâ€”he had just five assists and three
The bottom line is that Rose has to play unbelievable
basketball for Chicago to have a chance to win games. He didn't today,
and the Bulls had no chance.
made his way off the bench for 17 minutes, and drew a charge on his
first defensive possessionâ€”a
good way to earn more playing time for Mike Brown.
His stats weren't mind-blowing, but he made a
positive impact on the
floor. Though the Cavs
didn't utilize it today, his athleticism allows the Cavs to go the fan-favorite small
ball lineup, since he moves so well off the ball.
West and Anderson Varejao
didn't have particularly
strong games, but they both were solid and consistent.
bench was hardly spectacular, but they basically played even and guys
that were plugged into the lineup did their jobs nicely. When LeBron,
Antawn, and Mo all have games like they did today, that's all you need
from the pine.
Chicago's Guard Play
And finally, the Cavs did a much better job of
turning Chicago's three premier perimeter players (Rose, Deng, and Kirk
Hinrich) into volume scorers.
In Game One, when the Cavs
rolled, they combined for just 50 points on 53 shots.
Three, they exploded for 78 points on just 54 shots.
dropped significantly, going for 47 points on 50 shots.
A lot of that success has to do with the pressure
the Cavs put on the
perimeter. They essentially ignored the low-post players and dared
Chicago to beat them by throwing it inside.
count out the rhythm factor either. It's a lot easier to make shots
coming off screens when you've made a few in a row and you have a
double-digit lead, as was the case in Game Three.
But you miss a
few in a row and you're playing from behind, the bucket gets a little
smaller. Today was a great example of that.
The keys to today's game were basically intensity,
focus, and executionâ€”the Cavs
nailed all three. Antawn Jamison said before the game that he had never
seen a more intense and prepared look in LeBron James' eyes than he did
today. That mindset trickled down to everyone else.
And the Bulls just aren't anywhere near good enough to beat them
if Cleveland plays at this high of a level.
Heading into Tuesday's potential series-clincher,
the same points of emphasis should be on full display in Cleveland. As
long as the Cavs play with
the same sense of urgency as they did from the second quarter on today,
they should be ready to end Chicago's season.
13 to go.