The nation was split between watching the Spurs-Cavaliers Game 2 and the last episode of The Sopranos. Well, quite honestly both were boring but at least the Spurs victory had a better ending. I am trying to give the Cavaliers the benefit of the doubt after the first two games because they did lose the first two of the Conference Finals against Detroit and came back.
The Spurs are treating the Cavaliers like a JV team and the Cavaliers are showing too much respect for a team that is laughing its way to victory. I hope when the Cavaliers sit down and watch film of Game 2 that they get really mad at the sight of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker laughing up a storm on the bench in the third quarter when they were embarrassing the Cavaliers by 25.
When things are not going well, you grasp for anything that will get you even more motivated than what you are. The Cavaliers need a boost of adrenaline and it’s up to them to find a way to generate more effective energy at home.
Cleveland showed some pride in the fourth quarter with an exciting comeback. LeBron James had a chance to make it a 6-point ball game with three minutes left, but missed a driving layup. Had the Cavaliers not missed 10 free throws, the game would have been closer with that run they made.
Hopefully players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Donyell Marshall, Eric Snow and Damon Jones can add what Daniel Gibson is providing when the series shifts to Cleveland.
Gregg Popovich admitted his substitution patterns were not the best in Game 2. But heck, when it seemed like every shot was going in and every hustle play was going the Spurs way he is allowed that mistake. Although up 2-0 in the series and his team looking dominant, Popovich has to worried about the contribution of shooting the ball from everyone not named Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili. Those role players shot 10 for 30 and he knows that the Spurs will need someone to make shots. Despite that glitch, the Spurs are riding a wave of confidence that should make them feel at home even when they toss it up in Cleveland for Game 3. They say Popovich wants everything perfect. Well, except for the fourth quarter letdowns the Spurs have followed his game plan perfectly.
Mike Brown faced a dilemma when LeBron picked up his second foul early in the first quarter. He decided to take him out and things went haywire shortly after the Cavaliers got to within three points early in the second quarter. He should have left him in and taken the chance, because without him they have nothing to count on in terms of offensive execution and production. I am still baffled why he refuses to attack Parker with a double team as soon as he crosses half court. Yes, he will split it at times and make it look foolish. But to now back off and allow him to float around and give him wide open jumphots and wide open passing lanes is suicidal. Parker will then get it to the players the Spurs need to have the ball and that’s Duncan and Ginobili. Brown needs to force someone other than Parker to make plays. This will usually turn into jump shots and the Spurs role players are not making those right now. Also, he needs to start Gibson and sit Hughes down. He is not better than Damon Jones, Ira Newble or any other Cavalier that has two healthy feet. What is he there for, Brown? He can’t shoot and Parker is destroying him. Stop being so stubborn and sit him down for the rest of the series or until he can be healthy enough to give the team something.
Duncan was one rebound and one assist away from a triple double and didn’t look like he broke a sweat the whole game. He is not facing any kind of physicality at all in this series. I would like to hear who Duncan thinks made him work the hardest in this series. He will probably say his wife has with the honey do’s at home.
Tony Parker can flat out score. He is not a pure point guard in the Steve Nash sense, but he puts more pressure on the defense than anyone I have seen in a long time. He made about three shots last night that were unbelievable. That shot he made in the fourth quarter when the Cavaliers made that run was classic. I said this before and I will say it again… This guy is tough as they come and he will take your heart and laugh at you. The only guard for his size that was tougher was Isiah Thomas and he in my estimation has moved up into that class. The Cavaliers decided to back off of him to cut down on his layups and he still got seven layups while scoring 30 points.
Manu Ginobili was huge all night long. The five baskets he scored didn’t hurt the Cavaliers as much as the 11 free throws he knocked down and the four-point play to silence the Cavalier run to end the game. The Cavaliers have defended Ginobili well in both games by keeping him out of the paint. He had only one basket in the paint, but they are falling for his head fakes and sending him to the line for free points.
Robert Horry played his best game in three months. He has a knack for stepping forward when needed and he did last night with his hustle plays for rebounds (9) and blocks (5). I thought he was difference for the Spurs every time Duncan went to the bench defensively.
LeBron James came out aggressive offensively, but picked up a quick second foul that cost him. When he is aggressive, like he was especially in the second half, the Cavaliers become the team we expected to at least battle the Spurs. James energy almost got the Cavaliers back in the game, but 10 missed free-throws with 4 by James (including an air ball) stopped that miracle from happening. I am still looking for apologies from all those Cavalier fans that attacked me because I said James would never get to Kobe‘s and Michael Jordan‘s level until he developed a mid-range game. Just so you know, he missed every shot he took in Game 2 outside the paint. He made nine layups and went 0 for 6 from outside the paint. James total in both games from mid-range is 0-11. He will get better with proper training and work, but right now the Spurs are daring him to shoot and his confidence is extremely low. I look for James to be ultra-aggressive in these next two games in Cleveland.
Daniel Gibson is the second best player on the Cavaliers and even if Larry Hughes was healthy I would still make that statement. Gibson has performed in these playoffs better than any young rookie I have seen in a long time. He exudes tremendous confidence and swagger and Mike Brown needs to give him all those minutes he is giving Hughes. He has been their best offensive threat in the first two games. He is 13 for 21 in the series and improving every minute he is on the floor.
Larry Hughes needs to just shut it down. He could not shoot before the injury and now he is taking shots away from players like Gibson, Marshall and Damon Jones who are much better shooters. He was 0 for 5 in Game 2 and I didn’t think any shot he took was going in. No one wants to see a player injured, but it’s a part of the game and Hughes right now is not helping the Cavaliers on one foot.
Anderson Varejao is probably one the hardest workers around, but also one of the most false hustle guys I have also seen in the same instance. Let me explain he will push and prod and defend like the dickens and then when you beat him, he bails out every time instead of holding his ground at least 50 percent of the time. He allowed Duncan a dunk late in the game without being able to foul because he was trying to flop. The Cavaliers need more fight from him on Duncan instead of the flopping.
Damon Jones forced Mike Brown to look for him more in Game 3 with the huge threes he knocked down in the fourth quarter.
It should be exciting because the energy and confidence from the Cavaliers should match what the Spurs bring every night. This is the game the Cavaliers can win and if the do they will have a chance to send it back to San Antonio. I have no clue what changes Mike Brown will make, but he better get the ball out of Parkers hands and forces someone else to make plays. I would not be surprised to see him go extremely small with Damon Jones, Daniel Gibson, Donyell Marshall and Sasha Pavlovic on the floor with LeBron. This will force Duncan to have to guard the perimeter because of Marshall’s three-point shooting.
The Spurs will try and silence the fans early with methodical possessions. They will milk the clock and get Duncan established early instead of Parker. They also will employ a zone at times if LeBron and company are getting to the rim. They just have not needed to use it much in the first two games. Michael Finley, Brent Barry or Horry will have to make shots to help the Spurs get Game 3 on the road.