Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Elbow Could be Signaling Doom
If The Elbow is worse than we know, that changes everything.
Monday night in Game 2, there was evidence The Elbow is worse than we know.
Monday night, The Elbow looked bad, and the Cavs looked worse.
The Cavs looked worse because The Most Valuable Elbow got very little help from its teammates, and the result was a double dose of ugly.
Monday night, the Celtics simply ran over, around and through the strangely listless Cavaliers, who for most of the game — and all 12 minutes of the third quarter — seemed lost, disoriented and leaderless in their own building. And just like that, the home court the Cavs worked so hard for six months and won 61 games during the regular season to establish is gone. Gone with the din.
Boston's 104-86 pancaking of the flailing, flattened, frustrated Cavs at The Q (for "Quiet'') is undeniably a series turning point, even though it was only Game 2.
Prior to Game 2, the Cavs didn't need to win a game in Boston to win the series.
Now the Cavs do.
That's right, the Celtics now lead the series, 1-1. They lead the series, 1-1, because they have the homecourt advantage. The same homecourt advantage the Cavs coughed up to Orlando in the first game of last year's Eastern Conference finals.
And you know how that one turned out.
For the rest of the series, the Celtics need only to win their home games in order to bounce from the playoffs for the second year in a row the team that had clinched the homecourt advantage all the way through the playoffs.
The Cavs desperately need a bounceback game Friday in Boston, but that could be problematic if LeBron James is as wounded as he now apparently is.
Monday night, for maybe the first time in his career, James was pretty much a non-factor in a game of basketball.
Clearly, his elbow is in a lot worse shape than anyone knew, or will admit.
"His elbow is fine,'' said Cavs coach Mike Brown. "If it's bothering him, he hasn't said anything to me.''
James doesn't have to say anything. His style of play says it all. Monday night, the explosiveness wasn't there. The acrobatic abandon wasn't there. The jackhammer dunks weren't there. The outside shooting wasn't there. And his teammates weren't there.
Unless team doctors can figure out a miracle cure for an injury that probably is best treated with rest — which is in short supply this time of year — the Cavs could be in big trouble.
Because all of a sudden the supporting cast now has to become the leading men, and the early returns on that configuration were downright horrifying.
Trailing by just four points at halftime, the Cavs were run out of the gym in the third quarter. They were outscored, 31-12, in the quarter, and it wasn't that close. The Cavs seemed stunned, and the Celtics sensed blood in the water.
Prior to the game, James was presented with his second straight MVP award by NBA commissioner David Stern.
James thanked everyone, especially his teammates. Then the game began, and his teammates repaid that thanks by promptly disappearing.
On a night when their wounded wordwide icon needed help, nobody stepped up. No one. Especially in the third quarter.
Shaquille O'Neal looked more old than powerful, missing a bucketful of shots barely a bucket's width from the bucket.
Mo Williams careened around the floor at about 100 mph firing up misguided missiles from all angles and missing all but one of his nine field-goal attempts.
Delonte West played 31 minutes and in the first 28, incredibly, he didn't score a single point. None. Anthony Parker? He missed five of seven field-goal attempts and had one rebound in 28 minutes. J.J. Hickson: one rebound in 19 minutes.
The Cavs' no-show defense was riddled by Rondo. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo ran circles around the Cavs. He had 19 assists in the game and has 31, only four fewer than the Cavs' whole team, in the series.
The Celtics routed the Cavs with such ease in the third quarter Boston forgot to play most of the fourth, allowing the Cavs to go on a face-saving 15-0 run. That kind of hit-the-gas-late approach was enough to win four games from the Bulls in the first round.
But the Celtics are not the Bulls.
Following the game, a refreshingly candid and fiery Brown basically called out his team, at least the ones with two good elbows:
"We did not play with any sense of urgency, and we got our behinds kicked,'' he said. "We've got to decide if we are going to take the fight to them. Because for us to win this series, we have to play with a greater sense of urgency than we did tonight.''
And for the rest of the series the Cavs will need all hands on deck, because they may be short one elbow.
by James Ingraham