Game 2 of the 2007 NBA Finals is tonight and I have higher expectations for the Cleveland Cavaliers than most people. In my opinion they were outcoached in Game 1. Lebron James is the leader of the team, but the coach (Mike Brown) should have stepped forward and taken responsibility for the Game 1 loss. I have seen youth basketball teams with a wider variety of plays than we saw from the Cavs in Game 1.
First of all, if you are planning to run a screen and roll, the idea is that both players would be a threat to the other team. Essentially you are forcing the other team to pick their poison. Great examples are Stockton and Malone or Nash and Stoudamire. With those two pick and roll tandems you often lose either way you choose to defend the play in a man-to-man defensive switch or recovery. In Cleveland you have one threat in a screen and roll, and that is Lebron James. So every time they run that play, which seemed like every time down the floor, they would double team Lebron and leave Gooden, Varejao, or Ilgauskus open over 18 feet from the basket. Not only is this out of their range, but in game one they always picked and popped and rarely if ever rolled to the basket. Last time I checked a big man is a greater threat the closer he is to the basket.
What else? The lack of variety in the half court set for the Cleveland Cavaliers made them very easy to guard. Call Don Nelson and get some advice on taking advantage of mis-matches! Put Lebron in the post and play an inside out game with he and Daniel Gibson. Bruce Bowen would foul out by the end of the 3rd quarter trying to hang with James on the block. And if he did get help from a rotating Duncan, kick the ball out to Gibson who has proven deadly from three point range.
Also, in the playoffs the refs blow the whistle when a super star takes the ball to the basket. Look at all of the calls Dwayne Wade received in his favor versus the Dallas Mavericks in last year’s NBA Finals. Lebron, please take the ball to the hole! You will either get the call or make an easy lay-up. Even better than that is the chance of Tim Duncan getting into early foul trouble and spending part of the 2nd and 3rd quarter on the bench. Force the refs to make the close calls. If it is a choice between calling a flop for Ginobali or a foul on Ginobali; regardless of popular opinion, Lebron will get the call. In addition, if Lebron drives to the basket and draws a crowd you once again have Gibson and Marshall looming on the three-point line. This just in: Drive and Kick!
OK – I feel better now that the world knows everything I expect to see in Game 2. If three full days is not enough time for the coaching staff of the Cleveland Cavaliers to add a little variety to their offense, then they deserve to be swept in four games, because they will prove that the Spurs are superior. Lebron must prove that he is more than just a playmaker tonight. If he does not score more than 25 points, the Cavaliers have no chance to win the game. And one of the role players must score at least 20, or at least more than Ginobali. It is sad when the other teams 6th man outscores your team’s second scoring option.
In conclusion, Lebron needs to rise to the challenge in Game 2, but the coaches need to chart the course for the journey. If that does not happen, I will be sad. Avery Johnson adjusted to the Spurs in Game 2 of last year’s Western Conference Playoffs, so it can be done. Good luck to the Cleveland Cavaliers, I am rooting for a better showing than Game 1. Honestly, they have no where to go but up.
Thanks for letting me rant…enjoy the game!