Game One Musings

By Rich

Since Thursday night, I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts on Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The problem is, I don’t quite know what I think. Actually, that’s not true. I definitely think Cleveland is screwed. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Cavs and am rooting for them in the series. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it happening…then again, most people were saying similar things after the first two games of the Detroit series. I’m not hopping off the LeBandwagon, it’s just that in my mind, the Spurs are one of those teams like the Patriots, USC, and Duke. I loathe them, but after years of being frustrated by their continued success, I have simply learned to root against them but never bet against them.

So in no particular order, here are some things I’ve been thinking about in this series:

I have no idea what the Cavs are doing with their backcourt. Larry Hughes should be collecting workman’s comp from the bench, not eating up minutes that desperately need to go to Boobie or Sasha Pavlovic. Of course, the problem with that is that Boobie is completely incapable of guarding Tony Parker, who scored 12 of his 27 points on layups after simply running past whoever was “guarding” him to the rim. Simply, this means Hughes is being forced onto the court on a bad leg because the Cavs are that desperate to find someone who can check Parker.

Mike Brown is having his team defend Tim Duncan in a very strange manner. About 80% of the time, they let Duncan catch the ball way too close to the basket for any defense to help. I mean, I’ve never claimed to be a professional coach, but uh…if your man is inside the restricted area when he catches the ball, what exactly do you plan on doing to prevent him from scoring?

The fact is, that’s actually the part of Mike Brown’s defensive strategy that makes the
most
sense. And that is terrifying. You’ll notice I said that the Cavs are letting Duncan get the ball in deep about 80% of the time. Well, the other 20% is what really boggles my mind. A few times during Game 1, Duncan posted up on the wing, a bit farther out than normal. Each time, Ilgauskas looked like he was handling the situation just fine. That didn’t stop the Cavs from sending two additional defenders to Duncan, which forced him to give the ball up to one of the two open men on the perimeter. Yes, I can see the need to double a player like Tim Duncan in the post; that doesn’t mean, however, that I have any clue why a sane person would think that it’s a good idea to triple-team a post player eighteen feet from the basket!

But hey, maybe Mike Brown knows something we don’t, and he’s simply choosing to leave guys like Manu, Finley, Bruce Bowen and Rob Horry open to catch and shoot. After all, it’s not like those guys have 10 rings between them or anything. They’ll probably buckle under the pressure of hitting wide-open threes sooner or later. Right?

That NBA Finals trophy at mid-court is enormous, and I’m betting that it’ll somehow make an impact in this series. In all seriousness, does anyone remember the All-Star Game this year? Okay, no. Not Pac-man making it rain, or Ty Thomas dunking for the bonus money. They actually played an exhibition game in Vegas, too. The All-Star Game logo decal on the floor was so large that parts of it came loose during the game and a couple of players almost lost their footing. As Ryan astutely pointed out the other night, this can only lead to one thing: Manu crossing half-court on the break, slipping on the decal, and hitting the floor like a sniper took him down while pleading with the nearest ref. Seriously, I would be more surprised if he didn’t flop in order to try and draw a foul on the trophy.

I’ve had about enough of David Blaine. The campaign was sort of clever the first time I saw one of those commercials. Unfortunately, that was 3 rounds and roughly 12,000 viewings ago. I’m over it.

The Spurs are doing a really good job of defending the pick-and-roll. LeBron is not being allowed to turn the corner towards the basket with a head of steam, and as a result he’s taking off-balance jumpers. Those don’t always go in, as we saw in Game 1. He needs to get better looks in the next 3-6 games, or we’ll see more stat lines in the 4-16 FG, 14 point range.

I’m rooting for you, LeBron. Really. Well, kind of. I’m also rooting against The Most Boring Dynasty In Sports. Either way, the Cavs need to get it together in a hurry, because I don’t think I can take an entire summer of “4 Rings! Is Tim Duncan the Best Forward Ever?” fluff pieces.