After watching the game live at The Q and then going home and watching it a second time on TV (I love my DVR) here’s what jumped out at me from the Cavs 99-92 loss to the Bulls in Game #1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
THOUGHT: I was surprised to see Mike Miller in the starting line up yesterday. I thought for sure it would be James Jones getting the start because he’s a little more athletic and plays slightly better defense. It turned out to be a horrible decision by David Blatt to start Miller as the man he guarded Mike Dunleavy went off in the first quarter scoring 13 points on 5 of 5 shooting. Miller did not score in the first stanza.
ADJUSTMENT: I would start James Jones in Game #2 and try him on Dunleavy. If that doesn’t work then switch and put Jones on Joakim Noah who is not as mobile, nor is he an outside threat that you’d have to chase all over the floor.
THOUGHT: Why did David Blatt have one of your best defenders in LeBron James guarding one of the Bulls worst offensive players in Joakim Noah? As I told Josh Weir, Cavs beat reporter from the Canton Repository yesterday before the game on my radio show, if LeBron is going to guard a “BIG” it should be Pau Gasol because he’s more mobile and prefers to step out and shoot the jumper. It also allows Timofey Mozgov to stay close to the basket to protect the rim and be in position to grab rebounds if he is guarding Noah instead. Sure enough Gasol killed the Cavs on the “Pick-n-Pop” to the tune of 21 points, his most points against eh Cavaliers this season. According to the Cavs players postgame, the game plan was to leave Gasol alone for the shots. WHAT?
ADJUSTMENT: Anyone who knows anything about Pau Gasol knows that his bread and butter, his favorite thing to do is “Pick-n-Pop” for that top of the key jumper or that wing jumper and the Cavs elected to give him that shot as part of their game plan? What the hell was David Blatt and his staff thinking? In Game #2, as I suggested before Game #1, if LeBron is going to guard a “BIG” put him on Gasol to take him out of his comfort zone and make him work for his shots. Don’t waste LeBron on Noah who’s got a bad knee and is their worst offensive player. This also allows Mozgov to clog the middle and challenge some of those drives that Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler got in Game #1.
THOUGHT: Twice in Game #1 I thought David Blatt waited too long to take a time out. I marked in my game notes at 8:26 of the first quarter the Cavs were down 8-2 and Blatt waited another possession and basket by the Bulls to take a TO. Then again after the Cavs had tied the game twice at 51-51 and 53-53 and had a chance to take the lead both times and failed, the Bulls went on a 10-0 run before Blatt called a time out. He should have done so after LeBron had a terrible stretch of settling for jumpers and turning it over. I would have called the TO when the Bulls took a 58-53 lead, instead Blatt waited until it was 63-53.
ADJUSTEMNT: David Blatt must realize that he is shorthanded as far as talent goes and needs to keep that in mind when he’s thinking his team will play out of a bad stretch and the Bulls are picking up momentum. He has to sense when that is and take a time out sooner rather than later.
THOUGHT: I tweeted out in the third quarter that LeBron James was settling for jump shots and wasn’t attacking the basket enough. He had just settled for, and missed 4 consecutive long jumpers and had a poor turnover because he wasn’t going to the basket. During this stretch the Cavaliers went from being tied 51-51 to trailing 70-55. He has to play more “BIG BOY BALL”!
ADJUSTMENT: LeBron can overpower any player on the Bulls roster and he can take anyone of them to the basket or post them up when he wants to. So he needs to do more of that, especially when the game is close or there’s a need to stop momentum that the Bulls may be gaining. Credit to James after the game during his press conference for admitting that even though he came close to a triple/double (19pts-15reb-9ast), that he did not play well in Game #1.
THOUGHT: Just like in the Boston series in three of the four games the Cavaliers had a horrible start. They fell behind 13-2, 18-5 and 25-11 in the first quarter of Game #1. I know there was a line up change and they’re missing two starters, but they have to at least keep it even until they get in the flow or make the changes necessary to get it going.
ADJUSTMENT: First off start James Jones or Tristan Thompson over mike Miller. Then one of the “Dynamic Duo” of LeBron and Kyrie have to be ultra-aggressive and take it upon themselves to get buckets or set their teammates up for easy buckets by being in attack mode and going to the basket and in a worst case scenario, at least get fouled and score at the line. James and Irving were a combined 3-10fg and only 1-1ft in the first quarter in Game #1 and that led to a season low first quarter total of just 15 points.
THOUGHT: I figured the Cavs would struggle somewhat offensively in Game #1 and they did only shooting 42% from the field and a dismal 26% from 3-point country, but I expected their defense to play much better. While they missed J.R. Smith’s offense in the game, they really missed his length and athleticism on defense guarding the perimeter.
ADJUSTMENT: Again I go back to taking LeBron off Joakim Noah and having him guard their perimeter players more. Also in spurts, matching up offense for defense play Shawn Marion and/or James Jones to be longer and take away those outside shots that the bulls want to take. Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor pointed out to me that the Bulls are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the playoffs this year, so you’ve got to find a way to limit that until J.R. returns.
THOUGHT: The Cavs scored a total of two fast break points in the game, 2! That can’t happen against a Bulls team that is known for the half-court defense. You can’t let the Bulls set up on defense every time down the floor. The Cavaliers have to find a way to get some easy baskets in this series off the break.
ADJUSTMENT: Because Kevin Love is out and you need to send everybody to the boards to rebound, the Cavaliers need to play better defense to get some deflections and steals which will lead to some easy fast-break opportunities. Also, LeBron and Kyrie need to push the tempo, pick up the pace more whether it’s off rebounds, steals or even a made basket to try and score early on the Bulls before they can get set on defense.
LeBron James offensively had one good quarter in Game #1, the second quarter. In the second, he was 4-7fg for 8 points and 2 assists. The rest of the game he was 5-15fg for 11 points. In this ongoing chess match between Tom Thibodeau and LeBron, the Bulls head coach won game #1. Now it’s up to LBJ to counter in Game #2. LeBron scored only 19 points in Game #1 and his teams are now just (7-14) in playoff games when he scores fewer than 20 points in a game.
Derrick Rose scored 25 points in Game #1 and at times looked very good. But he was also the beneficiary of a couple of lucky shots that went in from long range to beat the shot clock buzzer. He also needed 26 shots to score those 25 points. Let’s see how D-Rose does coming back from only one days rest and after suffering a stinger to his shoulder late in the fourth quarter. Check out these numbers on Derrick Rose: on two days rest between games in the postseason so far Rose is averaging 24ppg and shooting 48% from the field and 48% from 3-point country. On only one days rest between games in the postseason this year Rose is averaging only 14ppg and is shooting 29% from the field and just 23% from beyond the arc. Game #2 happens on only one days rest.
The Bulls magic number is 92. Chicago this season is 29-1 when they hold their opponent to 92 points or less in a game.
According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, David Blatt and the Cavs, prior to yesterday’s game, had never started the lineup of Irving, Miller, James, Shumpert and Mozgov before Game #1.
The Bulls were averaging 17.5 turnovers a game in the postseason going into yesterday’s Game #1 versus the Cavs. They turned it over just 10 times, a postseason low against the Cavaliers in Game #1 while also shooting 50% from the field and 55% from 3-point country. One of their more efficient offensive games in the playoffs so far.