This wonderful picture of Mike Brown was provided by Tim from The Sports Hernia
In today's NBA Closer column
, I joked that LeBron had been body-snatched by a group of world-conquering (and probably anal-probing) aliens. But now that I think of it, that's as good an explanation as any for the King's transformation into a frog. I mean, what a line: 21 points, 6-for-24 shooting, 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 7 turnovers. And those are just numbers. You could tell by watching that LeBron just didn't have it, especially as the game went on. So what's up?
Well, first of all, he's being very
well-defended by the Celtics. Doc Rivers usually has somebody -- often Paul Pierce or James Posey -- in LeBron's grill at all times, with lots of help defenders stepping up to cut off penetration. At other times, they're openly daring him to shoot from the outside because, well, improved or not he still isn't exactly a precision shooter (31 percent from three during the season, 21 percent so far in the playoffs).
Secondly, could this be the ultimate revenge of DeShawn Stevenson and the Wizards at work? It kind of seems like the beating LeBron took in the first round is finally getting to him. He doesn't have the same spring to his step, and the swagger hasn't been there either. And over the course of the regular season and playoffs, no player has shouldered more of the load for his team than LeBron James. Frankly, he looks exhausted and he's playing like it.
This, of course, bodes ill for the Cavs. Of course, going home is usually a nice elixir for most players. And Boston still hasn't won on the road in this year's playoffs...Mike Brown:
This is from Carter "C-Rod" Rodriguez: "You just gotta include this guy when you're talking about last night's Cavs-Celtics Game 2. It just completely shows how inept of a coach this guy is. 'Wait, LeBron got held to 2-for-18 shooting because all we run are high pick and rolls...every play. We'll do it again next game! They won't be expecting us to be this retarded!' So, as Pierce and Allen actually start scoring because their coach did his job and made adjustments, the Cavaliers...didn't. And that can be attributed at just how horrible Brown is on the offensive end of the ball. Why'd we give him an extension again? He's a poor man's Tom Thibodeau. Yipes."
First off: I agree. Second: Wow. A Tom Thibodeau reference. I wonder how many people know who Thibs is. (Here's a hint: He works for the Celtics. I'll let you guess in what capacity.) Brown's inability to make offensive adjustments -- or even run an offense -- is radically exposed any time LeBron has a rough game. Most of the time, the King provides the perfect camouflage for Brown. See, a lot of people want to just say, "LeBron doesn't have any help." But that's not true. The Cavaliers have
offensive talent. It's just that Brown doesn't have the wherewithal to utilize it. I mean, he's got three-point shooters -- Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West -- but how often to they get wide-open shots? Not as often as they should, especially with LeBron drawing defenders like flies on poop.
No offense to Mike Brown. He's a fantastic defensive coach and a really great guy. But the Cavaliers are going to need a new coach before they get better. That, more than better supporting players, is what Cleveland needs to succeed.Cleveland Cavaliers:
Outside of Zydrunas Ilgauskas (19 points, 9-for-12), nobody else provided LeBron with any support. Delonte West actually started the game by playing some inspired defense -- he had 4 blocked shots! -- but that eventually tailed off into a 3-point, 1-for-5 performance.
Wally Szczerbiak was 4-for-11. Ben Wallace played less than four minutes due to an allergy attack (more on that below). Anderson Varejao grabbed 10 rebounds but shot 1-for-5, almost fouled out, and ended up with the worst +/- score on the team (-21). Boobie Gibson was 0-for-2, Joe Smith was 2-for-7 and grabbed only 3 rebounds.
As a team, the Cavs shot 35 percent from the field and hit only two of their 13 three-point attempts. They ended up with 73 points.Rajon Rondo:
The kid had a rough game: 7 points, 0-for-6 shooting, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 turnovers. Oh, and he ate three Wilsonburgers
. It's no wonder Doc played him only 22 minutes.Kendrick Perkins:
Speaking of rough games. Perk had zero points (0-for-2), 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls in just under 21 minutes. Oh, and he had one of his shots blocked by Delonte West. That's not the kind of "beast" the Celts were hoping for.Ray Allen:
He finished with 16 points -- 11 of which came in the third quarter -- but he missed his first four shots and, at times, looked old and immobile. I mean, he's been giving me "Chris Mullin with the Pacers" flashbacks the last few games. Doc Rivers made a concerted effort to get Ray-Ray going in the second half, and it worked, but still...Allen has been having a harder and harder time getting open this season, and it hasn't gotten any easier in the playoffs.Update! Leon Powe, quote maching:
This quote was submitted by an anonymous reader: "He hadn't scored last game, and we wanted something to get him going...I wanted to see my man get off." Um, wow, Leon...TMI. Allergies:
Ben Wallace nearly collapsed in the first quarter and had to be helped to the locker room. But don't worry. It was only allergies
. Said Big Ben: "You know (Boston) is a tough place for allergies, but no one has warned me. That's when it started - headaches. Then it got worse. I got lightheaded and my head started spinning."
Let's hope that it really is merely a heretofore unknown vulnerability to pollen and not something more serious. I mean, being that this happened in Boston and all, I had visions of Reggie Lewis in Game 1 of the Celtics' 1993 first-round series against the Charlotte Hornets. I was watching that game live on NBC when Lewis collapsed while running downcourt. It was scary and disturbing, and a few months later Reggie was dead. Jeff Van Gundy actually brought Reggie up during the game -- though not in reference to Ben's near-collapse -- which also struck me as slightly chilling.
Anyway, here's hoping that Ben's feeling better for Game 3. (But not that
much better.)Peja Stojakovic:
He spent 35 minutes in Bruce Bowen's straightjacket, and it showed: 8 points, 2-for-7, 1-for-3 from distance, 5 rebounds, zero assists. Using his typical method of hands-all-over defense, Bowen made Peja look like the 2002 Western Conference Finals version of himself; in other words, it was like he wasn't even there. And somewhere Chris Webber is nodding his head and saying, "Yup, yup..."Morris Peterson:
Mo shot 1-for-3 and finished with more fouls (4) than points (3). And he committed 3 turnovers. He's a starter, by the way.Jannero Pargo:
That 30-point game against the Mavericks seems further and further away. Last night, Jannero shot 1-for-7. He did have 2 blocked shots, though, which was one more than Tyson Chandler.Tyson Chandler:
His numbers were decent -- 12 points, 5-for-5, 8 rebounds -- and he continued to harass Tim Duncan into poor play. But he committed a handful of stupid fouls in the third quarter that earned him a trip to the bench, and that's
when the Spurs made their run. Chandler needs to learn to stop moving when setting picks so he can stay on the floor. His ability to contain Duncan is absolutely critical to the Hornets' chances in this series.Bonzi Wells:
He was supposed to provide scoring punch off the bench. Instead, he ended up 3-for-8 from the field, had one of his shots sent back, and boned a dunk. Remember when Bonzi's bonus value came from his ability to post up smaller guards and score from inside? Yeah, it's getting harder for me to think back to those days, too.Melvin Ely:
Basketbawful reader Sami had a few words to say about Mr. Ely. "I know who helped contribute to San Antonio's third quarter run: Melvin Ely. In the third quarter, he killed any momentum New Orleans had and contributed to San Antonio's run by: Committing a lane violation, getting called for three in the key just as Julian Wright hit a three-pointer, taking a fadeaway hook shot (how the hell do you do that?), allowing Tim Duncan to blow by him for a layup, giving up an uncontested offensive rebound to Duncan, and allowing him to get to the foul line a couple of times. All this from someone that was drafted 12th freakin' overall. But, then again, it was the Clippers who drafted him. So I guess I should have expected this kind of play."Brent Barry:
He was one blocked shot and 10 seconds away from a four trillion
.Jacque Vaughn and Robert Horry:
They each had a mario
last night. Vaughn played 48 seconds and Ben Gay Bob played 54 seconds. And you know what that means: SUPER MARIO BROTHERS!! (Thanks for the reminder, Colin.)
Labels: aliens, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron James, NBA playoffs, New Orleans Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Worst of the Night