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News » How Cavs went from unbeatable to beaten 2009-06-01

How Cavs went from unbeatable to beaten 2009-06-01

How Cavs went from unbeatable to beaten 2009-06-01
After Cleveland cruised to 66 wins and swept the Pistons and the Hawks, most fans and media pundits conceded the championship to the Cavs. No question about it — LeBron James was the greatest thing to hit Cleveland since Otto Graham, the Cavs were virtually unbeatable at home, and as sure as death and taxes they were destined to succeed the Celtics.

LeBron's swaggering and continual self-promotion was the most egregious of these haughty antics. It's only fitting that the prestidigitations of the Magic made LeBron disappear in the same cloud of chalk dust that he ostentatiously employed to announce his imperial presence before each game.

  • Throughout the season, the media Muppets were also claiming that, at long last, LeBron was surrounded by worthy teammates. In truth, Orlando exposed Mo Williams as being defenseless, shot-happy and short-armed whenever a game was up for grabs. He's always been a shooting guard in a point guard's body. And he wasn't the only issue.

    Zydrunas Ilgauskas couldn't guard his own lunch, was no longer a consistent threat in the low post and had devolved into a modern-day equivalent of Mel Counts. Anderson Varejao was both foul- and flop-prone and consistently tried to do things that he was incapable of doing — like hitting jump shots. Ben Wallace was old and in the way. Wally Szczerbiak was a jump-shooting statue. Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic were 3-point specialists who could do little else.

    Only Delonte West had the toughness, the offensive versatility and the defensive chops to enhance LBJ's game.

  • And what about LeBron Himself?

    His jumper is still incredibly erratic, especially when he pulls up going left and has to move the ball across his body to load his shot. This movement creates an often-costly lack of balance in his legs and leads to more bad misses than makes.

    He still has difficulty stopping-and-popping with accuracy off a hard dribble.

    2009 NBA playoffs

    NBA Finals -- Thursday

    • Magic at Lakers, 9 p.m. ET (Tied 0-0) analysis

    • Playoff results, schedule
    • 2009 NBA Playoff Central
    • Kriegel: Lakers have no excuses
    • Hill: Magic may stay on top of East
    • Rosen: Breaking down Finals matchup
    • Rosenberg: LeBron needs to mature
    • WhatIfSports: NBA Finals simulation
    • Rosen: Why the Cavs fell short


    • Hear the Magic players and coaches
    • Hear the Lakers players and coaches


    • Eastern Conference finals, Game 6
    • Western Conference finals, Game 6
    • Biggest fouls of the playoffs

    He's a much better finisher when he approaches the hoop with his right hand — perhaps one of the best ever. And he's particularly deadly when he can execute one of his quick/tight/powerful spins as he attacks the basket. Push him left and load up the defensive help so that he can't spin and LeBron becomes a good, but not a great, finisher.

    Too often he tries to force his dribble through an impenetrable crowd.

    Too often he still massages the ball before he finally makes a move.

    His chase-down blocks have given onlookers the impression that he's become an outstanding defender. Actually, his defense has indeed showed a significant improvement — in Game 6, the one time that he was caught in a switch on to Dwight Howard, LBJ forced the bigger man to take (and miss) a fadeaway hook shot. Still, jet-set opponents can still leave LeBron in the dust, and against all comers he often wanders too far away from his man in pursuit of steals and blocks.

    Finally, his incredible lack of grace after the loss signifies an ego of such humongous proportions as to enable him to deny any personal responsibility for the Cavs' ultimate failure.

  • Mike Brown must also accept his share of the blame.

    His offense was much too predictable. Either the ball wound up in LeBron's hands in an isolation situation — after a screen/roll, a series of overly simplistic handoffs, or even just presenting a stationary target — or else he'd be twiddling his thumbs somewhere on the weak side while someone else took a turn.

    The Cavs would have been better off with some kind of continuity offense — the triangle? — wherein LeBron would go one-on-one only if the shot clock was ticking down and nothing else developed.

    Imagine being one of LeBron's teammates, standing around while he does his thing, waiting for the golden pass to come to you — or not — and then absolutely having to hit the open 3-pointer. Imagine the enormous pressure to make that shot. Imagine being either yanked to the bench or being ignored if you miss two or three such shots in a row.

    Quite simply, if the defense knows precisely where the ball is eventually going to be positioned, it can make appropriate adjustments. Against the NBA's elite teams — and especially in a long series — these defensive adjustments became more sophisticated and more effective.

    At the other end, the Cavs lacked a legitimate shot-blocker capable of erasing their defensive missteps. Ilguaskas was too immobile and Anderson too undisciplined.

    What do the Cavs need, then, to take the next step?

  • More beef in the frontcourt.
  • A better defensive big man.
  • Investigate the possibility of trading Ilgauskas.
  • A true pass-first point guard.
  • Employing Williams in his natural role — a scorer off the bench.
  • Submitting to a team-wide workshop on the joys of humility.
  • LeBron abdicating his papier-mache throne and becoming an unpretentious pilgrim like the rest of us.

    Finally, LeBron has to make up his mind whether or not he'll commit the rest of his career to the Cavs. If so, then the quest will continue. If not, then now's the time for the Cavs to trade LBJ for as many young, talented players as the market will yield.

    In any event, something's got to change in Cavs-land. More of the same will only result in more of the same.

    Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website:
    Added: June 1, 2009


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