|Celts Beat Cavs||10.21.09 at 9:49 pm ET|
The first rule of preseason games in any sport is don’t read too much into preseason games. It is very unlikely, for example, that there will ever be a time in the regular season when J.R. Giddens is matched up one-on-one with LeBron James at the top of the key with no help coming.
That said, the Celtics final preseason game against the Cavaliers Wednesday night revealed one very valuable truth, which is that when it comes to Cleveland, the Celtics aren’t messing around. They sat Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Glen Davis and had Paul Pierce play just 13 minutes and yet they were still the aggressors from the opening tip in a 96-82 win at THE Ohio State University. (Click here for a recap).
Sure, there were some strange sights like Giddens covering LeBron and Lester Hudson stripping the ball from Shaquille O’Neal down on the block but you have to admire the intentisty with which the Celtics went after the Cavs on the road in the final exhibition game. There was even a fun little skirmish toward the end of the first half when Shelden Williams exchanged shoves with Daniel Gibson Mo Williams. (Note to the Celtics bench: Stay off the court during fights.)
The games between the Cavs and Celtics this season promise to be Events with klieg lights surrounding the building and national TV and media inside. To carry that kind of intensity and attention to detail into the final preseason game is a nice way to wrap it up.
But, let’s not read too much into it.
Other items of note for the Celtics:
The Marquis Daniels lovefest can not be stopped: The free agent swingman might be just a little sad to see the preseason end. You can make the argument that he was the Celtics most consistent player during the preseason and he capped it off with a phenomenal 17-point, five-assist performance in 30 minutes.
Daniels has been everything the Celtics could have hoped for (and he can rap too).
Lester Hudson continues to make a case: Let’s say this before going too far: It will be very difficult for Hudson to get playing time once the season starts. But if he continues to make the most of his chances he has a chance to carve out a niche on this team. Hudson scored eight points in 21 minutes, but most importantly he continued to play without fear or hesitancy.
The players and coaching staff like the 25-year-old rookie from Tennessee-Martin and he has allowed them to feel a little bit more secure about the lack of a “true” backup point guard.
Everyone will be very happy on Tuesday when the regular refs are back: The officials everyone know, and some hate, will undoubtedly make mistakes. They will undoubtedly make a call or two that will leave people scratching their heads or cursing a blue streak at their HD. But, there won’t be many calls that will be influenced by people yelling from the bench and there won’t be too many calls where everyone with a whistle looks at each other and tries to figure out what just happened.
Both those things happened last night and far too often during the preseason. Love them, hate them or tolerate them because they’re generally the best the game has to offer the NBA needs to have the best possible officials on the court and that is the best outcome of all of this preseason.
|Shaq to Cavs: Genius move or desperation?||06.25.09 at 1:32 pm ET|
The news that the Cavaliers are set to send Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix for Shaquille O’Neal is not shocking. The deal had been rumored near the trade deadline and it was clear almost from the moment he arrived in Phoenix that the Shaq-Steve Nash marriage just wasn’t going to work. The question now is: Will the Shaq and LeBron union be better, or just another shotgun wedding?
At first glance this seems like a no-brainer for the Cavs. Wallace and Pavlovic were infrequent contributors and Wallace seems to be nearing the end of his career. In O’Neal they get a true center who had something of a bounce-back season in 2008-09. (Phoenix’s motives are entirely clear. This was a straight salary dump and considering they didn’t make the playoffs with O’Neal, it was an obvious move).
But upon further reflection, this seems like a classic overreach on the part of the Cavs. By any objective measure Cleveland was the best team in the league last season. The Cavs blew through the first two rounds of the playoffs without breaking a sweat, and everyone was geared up for the Kobe-Lebron marketing wet dream. But then Cleveland ran into Orlando, which presented three problems.
First, that the Cavs had no one to match up with Rashard Lewis, which is hardly unique. Few teams have that ability, as the Celtics found out without Kevin Garnett. Second, that their interior defense was suspect against an athletic center like Dwight Howard. Again, not a unique circumstance. Finally, a seven-game series is unforgiving, and as Billy Beane once famously remarked, “My (stuff) doesn’t work in the playoffs.”
While it’s true that baseball is an imperfect comparison because of how much control pitching has over the outcome, Beane’s point is that it’s human nature to over-react to a short series and one shouldn’t lose their perspective. The Cavs lost to Orlando not only because of the matchups, but also because Mo Williams and Delonte West suffered through horrible shooting slumps, Howard uncharacteristically became a competent free-throw shooter, and Lewis made brilliant shot after brilliant shot. The Cavs also blew a huge lead in Game 1 and suffered an excruciating overtime loss in Game 4. Turn any of those factors around and we might not be having this conversation.
That’s a whole lot of what-ifs to consider making such a drastic move. Again, the Cavs didn’t really give up anything to get Shaq, but as the Suns found out, having the Big Fella on the roster means altering your strategy to accommodate his presence. Ironically, the better move for Cleveland might have been working out a deal for Shawn Marion–the man Phoenix traded to get O’Neal–using Wally Szczerbiak’s expiring contract, but we’ll never know for sure.
It’s true that LeBron James has never had the luxury of playing with a superstar center, but neither did Michael Jordan, and it’s not at all clear that O’Neal is still a superstar center or if he will be much of a help in defending the pick and roll. This is a go for broke move by Danny Ferry designed to win a championship with LeBron now, but we shall see if O’Neal’s presence is a benefit or a hindrance.
|Rivers concedes conference race||03.18.09 at 7:15 pm ET|
There are 14 games left in the Celtics regular season, and while it is not within the realm of the likely that they will catch Cleveland in the Eastern Conference race, it is also not outside the realm of the possible that it could happen. Still, it was a little jarring to hear Doc Rivers say, unprompted, that, “we’re not going to catch Cleveland,” as he did before Wednesday night’s tip with Miami.
It was less than two weeks ago, after all, when the Celtics put on such a galvanizing show in beating the Cavs. But then Rajon Rondo got hurt, Big Baby got hurt, Leon Powe got hurt and finally Ray Allen got hurt. “We’ve earned the record that we have,” Rivers said. “We’re not going to catch Cleveland but we have a chance to hold on to that second spot.”
That’s all it is now, a chance. The C’s entered play tonight a half game ahead of Orlando and tied in the loss column for second place, a development that has been as a quick as it has been inevitable. The starting five last night included a player who joined the team at the beginning of the month, two guys who have missed time with injuries and Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins. The bench is even more bare as it has Eddie House and Mikki Moore and three guys who don’t play much, if at all.
Not that it’s going to get better anytime soon. Kevin Garnett is not a sure thing to return this weekend by any stretch of the imagination and Allen is “day to day.” Whether Big Baby has anything to give also remains to be seen.
“If we can get through this week somehow and be in striking distance of the second seed,” Rivers said. “That would be great.”