Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cliff's Edge 4.23.15: #Cavs V. #Celtics Game 2 & Game 3

By @CLG2282

It was not as pretty as I expected but the Cleveland Cavaliers got the job done.  This is definitely one of those instances where you have to roll with the adage "A win is a win."

Game 2 in the Cavs versus Celtics playoff series opened up just as, if not more, grueling for the home team.  While we were all hoping that they would make adjustments from their Game 1 mistakes, the Cavs limped into the second game of the series much like they did the first.

The very first possession was a Kevin Love 3pt FG and LeBron James was credited with the assist.  On the next Cleveland possession the offense executed perfectly and found Timofey Mozgov inside the paint after running a nice set.  But at that point, things got a little tad rough.

Boston began the game moving and executing fairly well on their offensive end.  After quickly falling behind 5-1, the Celtics responded to the Cavs' exciting start taking a 16- lead after a 15-3 run.  Boston hit shots from inside, the perimeter and also got to the free-throw line during the early stretch.  They executed quite well in the half-court throughout the majority of the first half.

Both offenses decided to show their Jekyll and Hyde styles of play in the first 24 minutes of basketball.  The Cavs answered Boston's run immediately with an 8-0 run of their own as well as regaining some momentum.  The scoring spurt was started by a defensive stop and a fast-break lay-up by Kryie Irving who posted another solid 1st half with 12 points (9 in the 1st quarter) and 2 assists.   The Cavs stole the ball on Boston's next possessions and LeBron found Mozgov in transition for a dynamic dunk over Tyler Zeller. After another stop, Mozgov scored on another dunk to cap the 8-0 run.

I wish I had an explanation for the sporadic play of the Cavs but it baffles me as much as anyone.  It's like they forget for brief moments they are the Cavs and do not know how to play well.  Or it could be just that they know exactly who they are and get lazy resting on their ability to score quickly and in bunches.

The Celtics who look to be the hungrier team kept consistent energy on both ends of the floor well into the second half while the Cavs fluctuated for the entire game.  They had an 8-0 run of their own mid way through the 2nd quarter which was quickly answered by another 8-0 run by the Cavs.  Surprisingly, 4 of the 8 points were scored by Kevin Love in very rare low post touches. And back and forth the game went ending with a 51-50 Cavs lead at the Half.

It was Boston to who played more efficiently during the first two quarters but there were a lot of bright spots for the Cavs coming out of the half.  JR Smith, who continued to struggle from the field, tallied his 5th steal with 9:52 left in the 3rd, matching high playoff and career high for a single game.  That is a lot of defense for one man that EARLY in the game. Also, with still more than seven minutes left in the 3rd quarter had put together a quite the stat line posting 14pts (7/11 FGs) 6 rebs 5 blks.  His defensive impact was probably the most underrated aspect in all of game 2.

The spark that ignited the Cavs to seal the game late ended up begin their defense that lead to quick and energetic offense.  To huge and emphatic alley-oop dunk(James to Love and Irving to James) got the crowd really into the game.  The two jams also had an equally electrifying effect on players, especially the animated bench.  Two highlight dunks and JR Smith's first and only made 3-point field goal were what the Cavs needed to get over the hump.  Cleveland put the pedal to the metal and opened up a 15-2 scoring run late in the third.

The 4th quarter was all LeBron James.  James had one of those quarters that bolsters the resume of an all-time great. LeBron figuratively put the Cavs on his back.  Through the first 3 or 4 minutes, James was the only Cavs player to attempt a shot or record a rebound.  In addition to a steal, James had a key block on Zeller as the Celtics were threatening late and closed the Cavs' lead to just two points.  All in all, LBJ had 15 of his 30 point in the the 4th quarter alone.  It was a great way for James to step up and close out a big game.

One thing I do want to point out that probably will never be talked about is the Kyrie Irving evolving as a leader.  Coming out of a timeout late in the 4th quarter Irving tapped JR Smith, who had recently missed another shot from behind the arc, and offered encouragement.  Smith at the time had a blank stare of frustration and Irving gave Smith a slight nudge and told him to "keep shooting it".  Smith nodded in confirmation and they did one of the dozens of handshake used by Cavs players. Good sign as a star player and upcoming leader on the big stage.

I know I expected much more of the Cavs in the early going and I'm sure much of you did as well.  These late starts will cost the team much more in future rounds.  Complete games are going to be key as the Cavs advance.  Late game success is necessary as well.  So I'm hoping to see the Cavs tweak the early woes in future game but as long as they are winning games, there is only so much one can complain about.  We will see what Thursday has to hold.  It isn't the old Boston Garden but playing on the road in Boston is always a difficult task in the playoffs.  I would not be surprised if the Celtics were able to edge out a win in game 3.

But its always #GoCavs #OATW and most definitely #CLEvelandOverEverything

IG: @CLG2282

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