Monday, May 9, 2016

Full Court Press 5.9.16: Another Cavs Sweep #Cavs

Eight Down, Eight To Go
By Randy Groce, @ImissWiggins

For the second straight series, the Cleveland Cavaliers have swept their opponent, this time the Atlanta Hawks 4-0. This series featured the best three point shooting that the Cavaliers have ever done in the history of the franchise, and the NBA, as they hit 77 threes in a series. The easiest way to describe this series would be to give out statistics, but the problem with that is, there's too many. The Cavs won this series mainly because of the consistent outside shooting. They hate being called a "three point shooting team", but that's exactly what they have been all season long. In this series however, they have made more three point field goals than two point field goals. In game 3, they broke a regular and post season record by hitting 25 three pointers in one game. 

LeBron James is still the best player on the planet, averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Great numbers, but he didn't even crack the 30-point mark one time. This series was about everyone on the Cavs roster that received an opportunity to play. From JR to Channing Frye, everyone played well. Great ball movement led to open three point opportunities. It's rare when an entire roster is hot or consistent for four straight games, but that was the case in this situation. Matthew Dellavedova was the only Cavalier who had an off series. Each game featured a different guy as the "go to guy". Game one it was LeBron, game 2 belonged to JR, game 3 was Frye's turn, and game 4 belonged to Kevin Love.

The Hawks gave a pretty good effort, but overall they were simply outmatched. They are a team that is "usually" well coached, play good defense, and move the ball. This series they found themselves trying to match the Cavs in three point shooting which at times took them away from their game plan. I used the usually when I mentioned coaching, because Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer insisted on trapping once the Cavs crossed half court.
The problem with that was the Cavs repeatedly made the right pass to the open man which almost always led to a three pointer in all four games. The biggest adjustment made in the series was in game 3, where Tristan was having a bad night and was pulled in favor of Channing Frye. Unprepared for the pick and roll, Frye ended the night with 27 points, while making 7 three pointers. Almost every single move made by Coach Tyronn Lue worked, even calling timeouts at the right time to stop a Hawks run or start a Cavs run. 

Losing to the best team in your conference 11 times in a row and getting knocked out of the playoffs by them in back to back seasons will probably end up causing Atlanta to either shake up their roster or fire their coach. So far this year, getting rid of the coach has been the popular move, but I don't feel it's necessary in this case. Atlanta needs a number one scoring option and they will be fine. They also need to figure out why Jeff Teague can't stay consistent enough to be on the floor in crunch time.

The Cavaliers on the other hand will have another 7-9 days of rest before either Toronto or Miami come to town for a chance to advance to the NBA Finals. The major thing that the Cavs need to figure out is how to maintain some type of defensive intensity. The Hawks were left open a lot on the perimeter, consistently beat the Cavs to the basket, and muscled them in the paint. Hitting three's to combat that won't always work. At some point they'll need to start turning defensive pressure into turnovers which will eventually lead to points. Kyrie and LeBron played a terrific series, but the ball still got stuck in their hands far too often. Also, LeBron is getting his layup blocked a little too much. Be a big boy LeBron, dunk the ball. 

Eight down, eight to go.

It's still early, but I'm thinking back to a famous phrase used by Moses Malone that gets brought up around this time of the year. Back when he played their were only three rounds compared to the four that we have now. Before the playoffs started in 1983, Malone was asked what his prediction was on how his team would fare and he answered "fo' fo' fo", meaning his team, the Sixers, would sweep all three series.

I wouldn't bet a paycheck on this, but the Cavs are getting mighty close to a "fo' fo' fo' fo" journey this postseason.

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