NBA Finals: Game 1: Silver Lining
Posted by disappointmentzone on 8 June 2007
It’s late and I am graduating tomorrow, so rather than attempt a semi-coherent synopsis I am instead going to crib the Random Thoughts format and hit you with some bullets.
* The Spurs played very well. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili shot 27-52 (52%) for 67 points. The Spurs had 13 offensive rebounds and out-rebounding the Cavs 43-32. But the key stat is assists. The Spurs had 18 assists. The Cavs had nine assists. Interestingly, the Spurs shot just marginally better from the field than the Cavs: 45% vs 43%. The Cavs had fewer assists because they missed a lot of shots and often played one-on-five, but they only missed one more shot than the Spurs. The difference between the teams was that the Spurs’ assists were mostly on dunks and layups and shots from within eight feet. The Cavs’ assists seemed to be on a series of jumpers with the occasional layup. The Spurs interior defense was outstanding and the Cavs opted for jumpers all night long.
* That said, the Cavs kept the game close throughout the first half and had the Spurs in their sights late in the fourth quarter. For long stretches of the game it appeared as though this was Game 1 of the ECF: the Cavs never played particularly well on offense but they hung around by playing pretty good defense and, had a few more key shots fallen, they could have had a chance to steal the game. If you are looking for a silver lining this might be it. The Cavs didn’t look good. The Spurs did. The game wasn’t a blowout. The Cavs are better than people are giving them credit for and at this point it’s getting hard to imagine that the Spurs will ever blow the Cavs out. The Cavs’ defense is too good.
* Speaking of defense, Cavs defensive strategy for Duncan was similar to the way that the Warriors played Dirk — throwing multiple guys at him coming from multiple angles. When Duncan got the ball with his back to the basket he was far less effective than when he was facing up or coming off a pick-and-roll precisely because he didn’t know where the double (or triple) team was coming from. I know it sound ridiculous, but from time to time I think it might be a good strategy not to hedge of pick-and-rolls that occur close to the top of the key, instead letting Duncan get the ball outside or allowing him to set up with his back to the basket. He’s not particularly great facing up from the key and the Cavs worked him well when he had his back to the hoop. Duncan won’t crumble like Dirk, but this might be the only way the Cavs can control Duncan on offense — control not in terms of dominating him but rather in terms of having some measure of influence over how he plays.
* At 6:17 in the first quarter the Spurs had 16 points. With 6:08 in the second quarter the Spurs had 20 points — a pretty remarkable stretch given how the Spurs shot out of the gate. In the fourth quarter the Cavs went on a 16-6 run in about five minutes. Unfortunately the Spurs had a number of runs of their own. But what these two stretches demonstrate is that the Cavs can control the Spurs defensively and that they can score in bunches against the Spurs as well. Now they just need to figure out how to have such runs in the third quarter.
* The Cavs attempted too many jump shots and Henry Abbott at TrueHoop made an interesting observation after the game about why it is that the Cavs are shooting so much from the outside: “I swear, every time LeBron gets the ball he likes to hold it for three or four seconds to look at the defense. That pause helps the defense. I’d love him to mix in some catch, rip, and go. That would get him layups sometimes.”
* After Manu hit that three pointer very late in the second quarter to push the Spurs’ lead to 40-35 the Cavs were never really in the game. They cut the lead to eight late in the fourth quarter, but asking this Cavs team to score eight points in about 98 seconds is a tall order. This team has trouble scoring eight points in eight minutes.
* Tony Parker is an annoying little runt. Parker went 12-23 from the field for 27 points, a fairly impressive line until you consider that he missed 11 of his 23 layups. Wait? Are you telling me that Parker actually attempted jump shots? I sure didn’t see them. All I saw was a French blur weaving its way through a series of tall legs before tossing an orange orb 13 feet into the air off of a plane of glass and through a net. If Parker continues to get to the hole the way he did in Game 1 the Cavs have no shot at beating the Spurs. (1)
* Larry Hughes cannot stay with Parker defensively. Parker is too quick and Hughes is too gimpy. If Hughes’s defense is rendered moot, then what does he offer the team? Practically nothing. His +/- was -18, the worst on the team (tied with Z). Watching Damon Jones play defense is an exercise in patience, but at least he can make a jump shot from time to time. You might also ask where Eric Snow was — I sure did. Snow is big enough to body Parker and certainly is the probably the best defensive guard on the roster at this point. But the real question is: why not play Gibson more? Gibson had a +/1 of +4, second only to Varejao (+5), and made pretty much ever shot he took. He also had four steals and four assists and no turnovers.
* Donyell Marshall can no longer shoot. Since March 1st Marshall is 16-56 on three pointers. That’s 31% and it includes his 6-10 performance against the Nets. Cut out that game and he’s shooting a lowly 22% and has only one game in which he’s made two or more threes (he made two in Game 2 against Detroit). Why he’s allowed to shoot is beyond me. He’s hurting the team.
* The 2-3-2 format of the NBA Finals pretty much means that Game 2 is a must-win. There is no way the Cavs are winning all three home games and it is pretty much impossible to imagine that the Cavs could win both Games 6 and 7 on the road, which is what would need to happen were the Cavs to drop Game 2 and one of the home games. The only chance the team has of sneaking out with the Championship is sneaking out of San Antonio with the series tied 1-1. Here’s to hoping that happens.
1: Quick joke: How many Frenchmen does it take to guard Daniel Gibson? Answer: Not sure. No one’s ever tried. 7-9 from the field for Boobie. Maybe Brown should play this guy.