Tag Archives: Cleveland Cavaliers

Brief 2017 NBA Playoff Recaps: Volume 1 (Opening Weekend)

Four games in each day, to launch the 2017 NBA Playoffs. One paragraph per game, that’s all time will allow.

Saturday, April 15

Cleveland Cavs 109, Indiana Pacers 108 (Miles To Go Before I Sleep…)

(CLE leads, 1–0)

LeBron very good, rest of Cavs looked rusty…Kyrie 1 of 9 from deep…Cleveland dodges bullet when C.J. Miles misses fade-away at buzzer. Paul George is mad at C.J. Miles for taking a good look. Too bad Sir Lance couldn’t steal one for Indiana, that would’ve made things dramatic. (Lance is bringing it back to 2013, by the way)…Kevin Seraphin got 16 playoff minutes! Don’t wake the monster…

Milwaukee Bucks 97, Toronto Raptors 83 (Sir Brogdon At Your Service…)

(MIL leads 1–0)

Giannis in attack mode, such a beautiful sight. Half court to the rim in 3 strides. 28 on 18 shots…President Malcolm Brogdon ain’t a rookie, he’s a savvy vet! What do you need? I got your defense, your timely shooting, your smart passing. Just tell me what you need…Khris Middleton is the only human on the planet who can shoot 4 of 15 and finish +27 on the night. Three blocks by Maker made me squeal with delight. Lowry 2 of 11 and 0 of 6 from deep. Wrist rust be a problem. Casey needs to get Valanciunas more than 5 shots. This is going 7.

Dwayne Casey needs to figure some things out before Game 2

 

San Antonio Spurs 111, Memphis Grizzlies 82 (Kawhi Can’t This be a Forfeit?)

(SA leads 1–0….soon to be 4–0)

When we heard Tony Allen was out for the series, we stopped holding out any hope that this would be competitive. The Spurs were ordered by Adam Silver to wait until the 2nd quarter to annihilate the Grizzlies, so they cooperated, ending the first with a 5 point deficit. Then San Antonio won the next three quarters by 34. When you want to watch every series, it helps to have one like this.

Utah Jazz 97, Los Angeles Clippers 95 (Win One for the Gobert!)

(UTAH leads 1–0)

17 seconds after tip and The Gentle Giant, Gobert the Great, was on the ground, crawling and shaking his head. It was a painful, deflating sight. Anyone who was rooting for the Jazz felt hollow inside. Quin Snyder’s expression was more than concerned. Not exactly panicked, though. He held himself together, and the Jazz held themselves together. Players like Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles, George Hill, and Derrick Favors…pulled this one out. What a wonderful game. The Clippers have all the talent and the Jazz have all the grit. The Clippers are an empty vessel, with a ferocious point guard at the helm. They are less than the sum of their parts, while the Jazz are more than just a couple of Joes. What sweet music, Game One brought us. Joe Johnson has been reborn. Joe Ingles is the best YMCA gym rat in the NBA.

Slow-Motion Joe Goes With the Flow

 

Sunday, April 16

Golden St Warriors 121, Portland Trail Blazers 109 (McCollum Merely One Man…)

(GS leads 1–0)

C.J. McCollum was Golden State’s Gollum, they were never sure which way he’d go. Dropping 41 points on 28 shots, McCollum and his pal Lillard kept the Blazers afloat until the 15–2 Warrior avalanche began the 4th. Defensive Draymond opened the gates and the unassuming Ian Clark chipped in 7 of those 15. The first 36 minutes of the series may be the closest, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Blazers backcourt pull one out in the Rose Quarter.

Washington Wizards 114, Atlanta Hawks 107 (Chief Markieff Offers Relief)

(WAS leads 1–0)

The Wizards are probably the better team, and certainly the more interesting one of the two, but with time slipping away at the end of the half, the Hawks led, 48–42, and Washington’s Markieff Morris missed a contested corner three. The ensuing review showed that Morris had been fouled as time expired on the shot. Three free-throws and the lead was cut to 3, as they strolled toward the locker rooms. After the half, Morris opened up by hitting a 3, and the game was tied. Sometimes a game swings when you least expect it. The Hawks have little margin for error. The Wizards bench came up completely empty (except for Mr. Oubre). A few Tim Hardaway threes (0 of 6) and the Hawks might have pulled it out. Instead, Washington still holds home court for now.

Chicago Bulls 106, Boston Celtics 102 (Tragic Turn for Cs but Baby Please…)

(CHI leads 1–0)

What an awful turn of events for Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics. A tragedy clouded what should have been an exuberant first round home game in Boston. Despite it all, Isaiah showed up and did what he always does: scored. 33 points on 18 shots, 10 of 12 from the line, and 3 from deep. Isaiah finished with a +12. So did Bobby Portis, the Bulls 22 year-old who came off the bench with a fury. Those ten minutes without Isaiah belonged to Portis, who scored 19 on 8 of 10, grabbing 9 boards, dishing 3 assists and blocking 2 shots. After the Bulls sent Gibson and McDermott packing, Portis has seen his minutes grow. Once he started knocking down threes at the end of the regular season, his confidence apparently grew as well. Boston’s 53-wins and home court advantage are in the rear-view now, as they fight off Jimmy Butler and Bobby Portis, looking to even things on Tuesday night. Bradley and Horford did their parts, along with Isaiah. Crowder, Smart, Olynyk, and Jaylen have to give more.

Houston Rockets 118, OKC Thunder 87 (Roll the Thunder, Hear Their Cry)

(HOU leads 1–0)

No more debates, no more MVP concerns, just throw the ball up and play. The better team won. The better team has Patrick Beverley, whose offensive contributions (21 points on 13 shots) pale in comparison to the impact of his Westbrook-hounding. Russell can rampage all over the regular season, but he won’t rampage all over Mr. Beverley, who has never known the concept of fear or intimidation. Westbrook’s 6 of 23 line, and 9 turnovers were a big part of the problem. His sidekick, Victor Oladipo, was a dreadful 1 of 12 from the field, misfiring on all 6 three-pointers. OKC’s only hope is to contain Houston’s relentless attack, in which James Harden dissects their defense and makes life simple and breezy for Clint Capela and Nene, who shot a combined 14 of 17, feasting on lay-ups and dunks. Either redirect Harden away from the paint, or Westbrook has to play three times as well as he did tonight and Oladipo needs to wake up. This could be over in 5.

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Will update on a weekly basis.

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Celtics Gaining Momentum as Calendar Flips (Dec 27-Jan 3)

Russell Westbrook went on yet another rampage on Friday at the Garden, single-handedly delivering a road win for his Thunder. It would have been Boston’s fifth straight victory. Instead, it was a difficult to swallow loss. There was no defending Russ. Smart and Bradley took turns harassing Mr. Westbrook, but he may as well have been playing in his own driveway. The season has gone like that for Russ. He gets where he wants, when he wants. The three-point shooting is what made Friday so tough. Avery’s hand straight up in Westbrook’s vision did little to distract the flight of the ball. 45 points on 25 shots. 11 assists and 11 boards. Five of seven from deep. That fourth quarter.

So, instead of heading into Tuesday night’s match-up with the Grizzlies riding a six-game streak, the Celtics head in on the heels of their Christmas Day matinee win in New York. Five of their next six games will take place at the Garden. Boston has played 19 of its 31 games away from home. Only the Lakers (20) have played more.

Signs of Encouragement

  • Boston is 17–10 with Isaiah Thomas in the lineup
  • Isaiah continues to dominate, leading to East player of the week honors. In four games, not only did Thomas average 33 points and 6 assists, he did it while getting to the line at will. Free-throw numbers last week: 17–17, 8–9, 8–9, 6–8. His individual performance in Memphis was flat-out ridiculous. 44 points on 16 shots, 6 assists to 1 turnover. Clearly, Mike Conley is still working his way back into game shape, but my goodness. Despite the team’s ugly first half, IT brought Boston back and pretty much won the Memphis game by himself.
  • Boston is 12–4 with their healthy starting lineup (Thomas-Bradley-Crowder-Horford-Amir)
  • Of their 51 remaining games, the Celtics will be home for 29 of them.
  • Kelly Olynyk is finally warming up, having connected on 8 of his last 17 from deep. Olynyk adding 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench Sunday was a big plus. When Olynyk and Jerebko are knocking down their jumpers and in rhythm, the bench can sustain Boston’s leads.

Upcoming Schedule

Tue, Dec 27: vs Memphis (20–13)

If last week’s game was any indication, this will be another physically-demanding, bloody match-up with playoff intensity. Hopefully Zach Randolph keeps his elbows away from Kelly Olynyk’s neck. Marc Gasol’s always heady passing is complemented by Marc Gasol’s newfound willingness to take a 24-footer (and make it 43% of the time!), but Brad Stevens was able to scheme Gasol into an 8 of 22 shooting night last week. Mike Conley is questioning the health of his toe as I type this, which would have a serious impact on the evening’s proceedings. Aaron Harrison isn’t quite as capable.

The Grizzlies are attempting to work Chandler Parsons back into shape after lingering knee problems have kept him out all season. So far, Parsons has shown quite a bit of atrophy in limited minutes. Parsons has the range and passing to fit nicely into their playoff hopeful-lineups, but he’s clearly in rough shape at the moment. He’ll sit out tonight (back-to-back), which makes you wonder if 12 minutes on a Monday lead to 0 minutes on a Tuesday, how many minutes can he play in April?

After beating the mighty Rockets (snuffing out Eric Gordon), Memphis lost in Orlando last night. Aaron Gordon discovered how to hit a jumper and the long arms of Biyombo, Ibaka and Gordon made life tough for the Grizzlies.

Thu, Dec 29: @ Cleveland (23–7)

Any game against the Cavs feels like a game to circle on the calendar. Early in the season, the Celtics went into Cleveland without Horford or Crowder, and managed to put up a solid fight, thanks to 56 points from IT and Avery, and some inspired Jaylen Brown activity. Though it’s only 1 of 82, this game will either cement Boston’s status next to Toronto as the early-season contenders in the East, or it will remind Celtics fans that we’re still one-trade away (Bogut?), despite the gaudy 12–4 record with all starters in place. No J.R. Smith means the lengthy and pesky defense of DeAndre Liggins, but less-than-ideal spacing for Kyrie and LeBron. Expect more Channing Frye, and hope that the perimeter defense can run the Cavs off the three-point line.

Fri, Dec 30: vs Miami (10–21)

On the one hand, Miami is 10–21. On the other hand, they’ve had next to no depth because of injury for much of the year. On the other hand, they don’t have enough shooting. On the other hand, all they have is Whiteside and Dragic on offense. On the other hand, they have Whiteside’s ridiculous length to disturb any penetration. What should be an easy win will be made more difficult by the the fact that its the third game in four nights and that the battle in Cleveland just took place the night before. Threes in the corner instead of drives in the lane, whenever Whiteside is on the court.

Tue, Jan 3: vs Utah (18–13)

From Whiteside’s enormous wingspan to Rudy Gobert’s gadget-arms. Same plan. Get the big men in foul trouble, or you better find ways to score outside the paint. Utah has been heralded as the next rising team in the West, and for good reason. The addition of George Hill was a smart one, adding stingy perimeter defense and steady shooting from the point, which provides Hayward and Gobert more room to operate the pick-and-roll. Like Whiteside, Gobert catches lobs at the 12-foot mark. It changes the game plan from a horizontal defense to a vertical defense. How do you defend that? Like a defensive back in football, you play tight and jab him at the point of attack. Easier said than done. Often leads to foul trouble. Rodney Hood has been rising over the past twelve months, with his 25-foot range. George Hill’s absence (toe) over the last 13 games has forced Shelvin Mack into bigger minutes. Despite injuries to Derrick Favors (lingering knee issues), Alec Burks (ankle), and Hill, the Jazz are fighting for home court in the West. Why? Rudy Gobert is absurd, and Gordon Hayward has help in Rodney Hood.

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Celtics Journal: Game 8 of 82, Fri 11/14, Cavs @ Celtics (Existential Losses)

Game 8 of 82, Friday, November 14, 430pm PST

Cavs @ Celtics

I was fast when I was little. Faster than most of my friends. Faster than most of my classmates. Faster than my older brother. Fast because of my older brother. We would irritate each other. I would push him over the edge and then I would bolt. There were times he would catch me, but I was small, and low to the ground, and full of fakes.

At the end of every school year, our entire grade (about 50 kids) participated in a “Race around the park.” The race was one 200-250 yard loop around a field. Everyone ran as fast as they could for the first 100 feet. By the halfway point, some kids had given up. Some started walking. Some wandered off. Some fell over and gasped. By the last turn, there were usually 4-6 of us in the front. As my lungs began to burn, and as each stride became a struggle, the pace slowed. Unlike Usain Bolt, nobody had a strong “kick,” We were all getting kicked. The pace was always unsustainable. The winner — sometimes Bobby, sometimes me, one time the new kid, Chris, would be the boy who could barely hang on to a moderate jog.

These days, I don’t run. Since we joined a fitness center near our new place, I’ve been using an arc trainer. It’s a good workout, definitely feels good to be getting my blood pumping again. Building up stamina takes time. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, physically. I haven’t played basketball or tennis much in the last several years. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem impossible to get myself back to a place where I can still run, for at least a few minutes, without gasping like an injured seal.

The Celtics simply ran out of steam again on Friday. Facing the reborn Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, they sprinted to a 31-22 1st quarter lead. As has been the case for several early-season games, the lead dissolved quickly. The halftime score: Celtics 59, Cavs 59. Both teams have struggled on the defensive end. One effect of pushing the pace has been the resulting lack of energy of the other side of the ball. Some of the defensive struggles are inevitable. The Celtics have been playing Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger at the same time. They have zero rim protection and opposing teams are finishing at the rim without much worry. The Celtics built the early lead by maintaining their offensive strategy of rapid ball movement.

The third quarter was a thing of beauty for the Celtics, Brad Stevens and the fans. 42 points. 14 assists on 16 field goals. Only 1 turnover. Rajon Rondo’s playmaking was wondrous, leading to 9 of the 16 makes. Sullinger, Olynyk, Green and Turner all connected on 3 or more shots. The Cavs defense was abysmal. Boston started the 4th quarter with a 101-84 lead. Only the most skeptical Celtics fan could have expected the 4th quarter to unravel as it did. It’s not that the Celtics are so good that they should ever be ahead by 17 points against a team that may eventually discover a sense of cohesion and become a legitimate championship contender. Clearly the Cavs are a work-in-progress (much like the Celtics). However, their potential with LeBron and Love make them a heavily scrutinized work-in-progress. So…a 17-point lead with 12 minutes remaining. Was it safe? No. No lead is safe with this Celtics team. Dangerous leads only.

Think of each game like a wide expanse of sky, filled with pockets of bright sun, and then quickly arriving thunderclouds. Rain comes and goes in flashes. The sky never stays the same. This is the reality of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics. We are conditioned to remain aware of the score. We are conditioned to focus on winning and losing. It gives each game a meaning. Stakes. The place in the standings. And yet, it won’t help you this year. What will help you is to remain aware of the fact that the sky is forever changing.

Kyrie Irving will be in the spotlight all season. The Cavs may or may not make the Eastern Conference Finals this year. Cleveland fans who are expecting the NBA Finals this year may be overzealous. Chemistry doesn’t build overnight. Look at the San Antonio Spurs and consider the decades of familiarity they’ve spent learning each other’s games.

Kyrie Irving trimmed the 17-point (mostly imaginary) cushion down to 10 with three straight triples. 9:47 remained on the clock. 105-95. At the 7-minute mark, Jeff Green countered with a 25-footer of his own. The lead was back to 12, 114-102.  Six straight points to Cleveland. A few Green misses. A Bradley turnover.

With 2:29 on the clock, and the lead whittled down to 3, Rondo made a twisting lay-up. Celtics 118, Cavs 113. The scoreboard should have read: Celtics undefined, Cavs gaining.

LeBron went on to score the next 8 points.

The Celtics had possession of the ball with 7 seconds left, trailing by one point.

Any attempt at a play was impossible to discern. Rondo dribbled, mishandled, dribbled and faked. The clock expired. No shot attempted. No sunshine in sight. An existential kind of loss.

Game 8 of 82.

This will be an existential kind of season for Boston. Much more interesting than blowing every team out and waiting until April to be tested. Every game is a test for the Celtics and their fans.

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