For Mike Brown and the Cleveland Cavaliers, there are two ways to look at the reality of being down 2-0 in the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs: they pack their tails between their legs and run away, or they make adjustments and take the fight to the Spurs.
For the fans of the NBA, and fans of quality basketball for that matter, we pray it’s the latter.
Play-off basketball is the time when making proper adjustments on your team becomes the thin line between winning and losing a series. It’s not the regular season anymore, where you can receive a grade-A pounding like the ones the Spurs laid on the Cavs in Game 2 and face a team like the Knicks the next night.
In the play-offs, teams don’t have that luxury; which makes the need for adjustments so much more crucial.
Against a team as good as the Spurs, the Cavs coaching staff, especially its head coach, needs to understand that the they need to change their approach for them to have, at the very least, a fighting chance of even keeping this series a competitive one.
Unfortunately for us, the Cavs head coach seems to be either allergic or inept in understanding that rather simple logic.
Mike Brown has to realize that Larry Hughes has become a liability for his team. Sure, it’s admirable that he’s still playing his heart out even with an injured foot. But last time I checked, the NBA is still about the team scoring the most points and Larry Hughes has failed miserably for the Cavs in that department during the Finals. In the two games, he has scored a mouth-watering total of two (yes, two!) points on 1-for-10 shooting. When he injured his foot, it took away his slashing ability (his only offensive skill, for that matter) and he was reduced to a one-legged jump shooter – someone who never had a good stroke even when he had two good legs!
Compounding to his misery is the utter abuse Tony “Don’t call me Mr. Longoria” Parker has been laying down on him in the first two games of this series.
Put one-and-one together and you’d come to the conclusion that Larry Hughes has become Eric Snow with no defense! (Think about it, that’s not an exaggeration)
The coach has to do the smart thing and take out Hughes out of the game and have Daniel Gibson start in his place. The man they call “Boobie” has been a god-send for the Cavs this play-offs, and after two games against San Antonio, he’s more than held up his own by averaging 15.5 points while shooting 13-for-21 from the field. Gibson has shown that he has what it takes to limit Parker’s forays to the basket, and at the same time, hit the open shot whenever he has one.
Come to your senses, Mike Brown. Take out Hughes and give us some Boobie!
As great a defensive team as San Antonio is, there’s still a way for the Cavs to make this a series, shocking as it may sound now.
They should try to create as many transition opportunities as possible so they can exploit LeBron’s open court, runaway train skills. There’s no better finisher in this game apart from Kobe Bryant than LeBron James. The Cavs should defend like crazy, pray the Spurs don’t make their shots, get the rebound, and RUNNNNNNNNNN!
(Easier said than done, I know. But to Brown’s credit, he did manage to turn the Cavs into a great defensive team and if they buckle down and focus, I believe they can slow down the Spurs’ offensive onslaught.)
If the Cavs are forced into setting up in the half court, Brown should go back to his attic, dust off his offensive playbook, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, incorporate a few more plays in his gameplan. It was absolutely ridiculous how during Game 1, he went to the EXACT same play through most of the night.
Here’s the play in all its glory:
Lebron gets the ball 35 feet from the basket, surveys the defense, calls for a screen, and attacks the basket. The Spurs, being as good as they are, collapse on the King and forces him to either, a) pass the ball, b) force an ill-advised shot, or c) re-set and do the entire sequence all over again until the shot clock goes down and he forces an even harder ill-advised shot.
Add a few more plays here and there to give the Spurs different looks throughout the game. With any luck, it might cause San Antonio to scramble on defense and allow LeBron enough room to work his magic.
Instead of LeBron dominating the ball at the top, the Cavs should get him the ball off of picks set by Gooden or Varejao (ala Rip Hamilton) for catch-and-drive situations. This way, LeBron will have the luxury of catching a defender vulnerable. Maybe even getting a mismatch once in a while. This scenario would even make it a little tougher for the Spurs to send a double team at him, something they’ve been able to routinely do in the first two games.
The Cavs should also try looking at taking something away from the Spurs playbook. Instead of LeBron bringing the ball up court and waiting for a Gooden pick, why not let the point guard, preferably Daniel Gibson, bring the ball up and work a pick-and-roll with LeBron James! If executed properly, LeBron would be salivating at the thought of Tony Longoria trying to contain him in the post. Sure, the Spurs will send the double team, but if Lebron thinks fast enough, he can attack the basket before the help arrives!
One of the Cavaliers strengths as a team is there ability to rebound. So far, they’ve been outjumped and outhustled by the Spurs in the Finals. For them to make this a series, they must take control of the paint and limit San Antonio’s second chance points, and at the same time, get enough offensive rebounds to score some putbacks of their own.
And if they can control the boards, they may have a better chance of doing the “Lebron-Runaway-Train” play I mentioned earlier.
These are some of the adjustments I’d like to see Coach Brown make. All of it, however, remains up to him. Whether or not he sticks to his guns or tries something new is still his call. It’s just my belief as a fan that with the way things are going for the Cavs, any new approach would be a good approach.
Then again, I’m just hoping and praying that the remaining games will be more exciting than the snoozefest that was Game’s 1 and 2.