Talk about taking the Crab Dribble to strange new lengths...
The Cleveland Craboliers: By the end of the regular season, and as the Crabs were knocking a surprisingly fiesty Bulls team out of the playoffs, everybody was rushing to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan. Guys like John Hollinger had the advanced stats to back up these claims, and one Chicago-based writer's 'Bron-gasm was so uncontrollable that he boldy proclaimed King Crab was going to be better than MJ. Forget the fact that James has yet to sniff an NBA championship...unless you count that four-game sweep in the 2007 Finals as getting a sniff.
I'll be honest: I hate forecasts. I hate predictions. And I hate comparisons. I get that people don't know whether they're buying a gallon of milk unless the words "One Gallon" actually appear on the jug. Measuring sticks are important when buying dairy products or bulk candy. But honestly, comparing players always seems to minimize and diminish both parties.
Think about it. Based on the numbers, LeBron is right there with Jordan, right? And yet he is not Jordan. I mean, can you imagine MJ's Bulls taking a huge dump at home in the playoffs right after Mike accepted an MVP trophy? Would that have ever happened? No. They would have had to carry away what was left of Jordan's teammates in a bucket. A small one. So that's what I'm talking about. When you use the numbers to say James is as good as MJ, it denigrates MJ's accomplishments, and when you hold Mike's end results up to LeBron's achievements to date, it seems like James can't DO IT when it really matters, crushing anyone and everyone in his path...which more than anything else was Jordan's hallmark.
Okay. I'm done with that rant.
So...how 'bout them Craboliers, huh? Maybe we should have seen this meltdown coming. After all, in the first round they were supposed to obliterate an undertalented Bulls team that barely eked into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season only because Chris Bosh broke his face and the Toronto Craptors pulled off an epic choke job down the stretch. Again, by comparison, all Jordan's Bulls ever left behind of teams like that were smoking craters surrounded by police tape. Yet Chicago -- a team that lives off long-range, contested two-point jumpers, a.k.a. the worst shot in basketball -- kept every game but one close and almost stole two in Cleveland.
Then it took an offensive collapse by the Celtics for the Crabs to win Game 1 of this series. So yeah, maybe we should have predicted something like this 104-86 loss was going to happen. But then, catastrophes are always obvious in hindsight.
Cleveland saw Boston's offensive collapse in the first game and upped the ante by getting outscored 31-12 in the third quarter of Game 2. According to ESPN Stats & Information, losing that quarter by 19 points tied for the second-highest negative scoring differential in a quarter the Cavaliers have ever had in a home playoff game. Seriously, that never even happened when Jordan was tormenting poor Craig Ehlo. That's some historic fail right there.
Of course, the Celtics -- being the Celtics -- nearly collapsed again. They led 91-66 with 9:08 left before the Crabs went on a 15-0 run to pull to within 93-83. Boston fans -- at least this one -- were thinking "Oh no...not again."
But it turns out a 25-point lead was actually enough this time.
Cleveland couldn't do anything (again) with Rajon Rondo, who tied a Boston franchise record by dishing out 19 assists. Ditto for Ray Allen (22 points, 8-for-15, 7 boards) and Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds). Hell, even Rasheed Wallace killed it (17 points, 7-for-8, 3-for-4 from downtown, and a slam dunk).
'Sheed celebrates his first good game as a Celtic.
Oh, what the heck. Here are some of 'Sheed's highlights:
Crabs "coach" Mike Brown was freaking out after the game: "We did not fight back until late. We've gotta decide if we're going to take the fight to them and take these games. Nothing is going to be given to us at all. Ain't a ... damn thing going to be given to us at all in this series.
"We've got to fight better than what we did tonight. Coming from behind in the first game, coming from behind in the second game, that's not good enough. That's not good enough for me or anybody in that locker room. If we expect to win that series, we've gotta bring more of a sense of urgency than what we brought tonight. Plain and simple they kicked our behinds."
He's not wrong. About that, anyway. I won't go into his offensive playcalling.
I'm also not going into the bizarre officiating in this game (although I knew things were going to be bad when, early on, KG was body-blocked to the ground on a layup in front of an official but didn't get the call). I'll leave the final epitaph to stephanie g.:
The shot, the drive, the fumble...the elbow?
Seemed like everyone was in on a conspiracy to make this game have as many bawful threads as possible. The freshly minted MVP sucking badly, Cleveland getting killed, lots of funny calls that make no sense, a mini-Boston meltdown, a fan throwing a beer bottle, fans booing Mo Williams, lots of silly "confrontations," Rondo almost getting the playoff assist record by messing around, Mike Brown looking clueless, and 'Sheed actually playing well. The only thing missing was KG punching someone and then running away.
Update! Officiating:I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to say anything about the officiating...but COME ON. The nearest ref should have demanded 'Bron's passport before this travesty happened. I decided to refer to the official NBA Video Rule Book on this one...turn's out 'Bron's move is a legal jump stop: "An offensive player may end his dribble by alighting off of one foot and landing simultaneously on both feet. The offensive player on this play gathers the ball, alights from his right foot, and then lands with both feet simultaneously on the floor. Note that at this point, the player may not pivot; if he lifts either foot, the ball must be released prior to that foot returning to the floor."
Mo Williams: Remember his slam that woke the Crabs up in Game 1? Yeah, I know...it's hard for me to remember it too, especially after last night's 1-for-9 shooting performance.
Speaking of Mo and his Game 1 jam, Basketbawful reader V Singhai would like you to see Mike Brown's reaction to it:
Shaq: The Big Creaky played only 19 minutes, going 4-for-10 from the field and grabbing one lonely defensive rebound. The "moves" that worked against Chicago's undersized frontcourt -- namely, shove the defender around and wipe him out with a forearm smash -- don't work against Kendrick Perkins. That fact renders Shaq pretty useless against the Celtics.
Doc Rivers, quote machine: After being told that his team led the league in technical fouls this season, Doc said: "That was our goal."
The San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs have been the Suns' Kryptonite during the Nash era. Since Captain Canada came to Phoenix, the Suns are winless against the Spurs in the playoffs but are 6-1 against everybody else.
Apparently, that fact pisses Nash off.
And Steve went the hell off against the Spurs in Game one, hitting his first five shots, scoring 17 points in the first quarter, and finishing with game-highs in points (33) and assists (10). Nash shot 13-for-19 from the field, 2-for-4 from downtown, and 5-for-6 from the line. No one could stay in front of him. Nothing could stop him.
Of course, everybody is making such a huge deal about King Crab's elbow...meanwhile, a 36-year-old dude with a chronic back ailment and a bum hip is killing the Spurs. Maybe Steve's whole body needs a Twitter page like LeBron's elbow.
Said Nash: "You never know what the game is going to present. You have to be willing and aggressive and do whatever you can. For me, I didn't know how I was going to feel physically, but dragging my leg around in Game 6 in Portland wasn't very fun and it was great to get out there and feel like I could do something."
Other than their usual problem with turnovers -- where they gave up 18 points off 16 miscues -- the Suns ran their game plan to perfection. They ran out for 27 fast break points, scored 56 points in the paint, and shot 52 percent for the game. Hell, they even outrebounded San Antonio 44-38, including a 37-29 advantage on the defensive backboards.
And although they got exploited (per usual) by the Spurs' big three of Tim Duncan (20 points, 11 rebounds), Tony Parker (26 points, 11-for-21) and Manu Ginobili (27 points, 4 steals), for once they didn't let San Antonio's role players kill them with clutch shots and key plays.
It was a complete reversal of fortunes. Instead of the Suns having to claw their way back into the game, the Spurs had their big push swatted aside by clutch plays being made against them by a Phoenix team that has historically folded in these situations.
Richard Jefferson: Look, the Spurs know what they're getting out of TD, TP and Bat Manu. The Suns know what they're getting out of Captain Candada and STAT. That means this series will come down to X-Factors...and the two biggest X-Factors are Jason Richardson and Richard Jefferson.
Richardson finished with 27 points while shooting 10-for-16 from the field and 3-for-6 from downtown. The Suns are now 30-4 this season (regular season and playoffs) when Richardson scores 20-plus points.
On the other end of the good-suck spectrum is Jefferson, who logged 33 minutes but scored only 5 points on 1-for-3 shooting. Remember: This guy was supposed to be the Difference Maker for the 2009-10 Spurs. Instead, he's been their Walton's foot.
George Hill: Hill is still starting at PG for San Antonio, and like Jefferson he played for 33 minutes. Too bad he forgot to contribute. The line: 2-for-9 from the field, 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, and only 1 assist. And Nash abused him so badly I'm surprised the Department of Family and Protective Services wasn't called in.
"I think he was a little bit concerned about the balloons going off when he was starting the game," Sloan said. "Everybody has to have fun, but you've got to stay focused on how to play basketball. That's what we've said all along. He's got to continue to work at that."
That is one of my favorite quotes ever. I'm hoping that if he's ever in a situation where he catches a full-court pass on his way to a fastbreak dunk, some fan behind the basket rolls out a ball of yarn to distract him, he dribbles the ball off his foot and out of bounds, then dives on the ball of yarn and tries to push it away from his hands with his feet.
Of course, that scenario probably won't happen, because this is what he did on Saturday:
"The Jazz had Fesenko working on his catching with a ball-return machine before Saturday's practice."
Yeah, he'll probably drop that full-court pass, anyway.
My most sincre apologies, TDA. I hope my inclusion of your comment in today's post has rectified my unfortunate oversight.
Lacktion report: And now, chris presents those players who were even less active than LeBron's elbow:
Celtics-Crabs: As the crustacean nation cleared out the Q, garbage time took over in the final 74 seconds - time enough for Boobie Gibson and Jawad Williams to each claw a brick from Euclid Avenue for a +1 suck differential! Meanwhile, Nate Robinson and Shelden Williams consulted Laikatu's cloud in 40 seconds as Mario Brothers, while Marquis Daniels fouled and bricked once in 6:10 for a +2.
Spurs-Suns: Garrett Temple continues to be a headstrong participant in any rapid-fire Super Smash Bros. showdowns, as evidenced by a 7-second Super Mario! For Phoenix, starter-in-name-only Jarron Collins countered a board in 8:50 with a brick, foul, and giveaway for a 2:1 Voskuhl.