Peticca: Christopher, the Cavaliers are probably feeling pretty good about this series right now, because a lot of things went wrong for them for a major portion of the game and they still won.
Mo Williams was helpless trying to keep Rajon Rondo out of the paint in the
first half. Antawn Jamison had a tough time trying to stop Kevin Garnett from getting
the ball wherever he wanted to. Jamison never got anything going offensively and
the biggest numbers Shaquille O'Neal put up for most of the game were fouls and
missed shots inside 5 feet.
Maybe most disconcerting was the always looming shadow of The Elbow. LeBron took
just three jump shots -- one of them simply trying to beat the shot clock -- in the first
three quarters, and one had to wonder if the long list of Cleveland sports infamies was
about to grow an appendage.
Let alone being down by double figures late in the game. Yet, the Cavs won, and when
they face some adversity as this series goes on or in another series if they advance,
they can draw on this experience of finding a way to beat a good team when they
seemed on the verge of losing big.
The Celtics are such an accomplished veteran team. How do you think this affects them?
Gasper: This felt like the Celtics Earnest Byner-ed away a major opportunity and could turn out to be the defining game of the series. The Green are going to have to win one game in Cleveland to win the series, and having an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter might be the best shot they get. Through the first 30 minutes the Celtics were following a blueprint so masterful it looked like it was the work of Frank Gehry -- make someone other than LeBron beat you, bottle up Mo Williams and let Rajon Rondo slice and dice the Cavaliers defense like a Ginsu.
Then they tossed that blueprint into Lake Erie and started funneling the ball to Paul Pierce and jacking up too many jumps shots. They ended up wilting under the pressure of the Cavs and the Q.
Boston scored just 39 points in the second half and shot 35 percent from the field. The Big Three had one fewer field goal in the fourth quarter than it has members. Ouch.
Doc Rivers might have to think about taking Pierce off of LeBron. It worked two years ago, but NBA years are like dog years at Pierce's age (32). Taking on King James taxed him too much and cost the Celtics on the offensive end. Pierce is supposed to be this team's go-to scorer, and he came up completely empty in the fourth quarter and was so gassed then LeBron used him as a turnstile down the stretch on the way to a 35-point night (surprise, surprise). Now, do you believe this LeBron elbow business is bunk?
Peticca: Chris, I'll resist the temptation to say anything about Bill Buckner, who like Byner, had a terrific all-around career.
Anyway, the Cavs feel they had a lot to do with the Celtics offense going dry after the midpoint of the third quarter. Especially big was that Anthony Parker picked up Rondo and calmed him down a bit. It didn't hurt the Cavs that Rondo had to sit for a while with four fouls.
The Cavs would say, too, that Pierce's meltdown was more a result of LeBron's defense. He can be a shut-down guy when he wants to. That brings us to the elbow.
I think it is legitimately ailing. James took just three jump shots in the first three quarters, and one was a desperate attempt to try to beat the shot clock. Then in the fourth quarter, he took six jumpers or so, and swished a couple 3's. That eased the minds of a lot of Cavs fans.
So, what do you do about covering LeBron if it's not Pierce? More Tony Allen or Marquis Daniels, and who loses minutes for the Celtics in that case?
Gasper: On LeBron's elbow, Mike, I'm only going to say what he said to TNT's David Aldridge after Game 1, that neither he nor the team makes excuses. The elbow wasn't too sore to risk banging it in a celebratory chest-bump after he canned the game-sealing 3-pointer. Me thinks the King is a little bit of a drama queen at times.
That was a nice coaching move by Mike Brown to put Parker on Rondo, but Rondo was still getting into the paint. He just stopped looking for his own shot. Parker can't check Rondo. There is no one on the Cavs' roster other than LeBron that can do so.
Peticca: Chris, the thing is, neither team can be all that disappointed by Game 1. For the Cavs, after all, they won. They did so with a lot of things going wrong for a long time. Like you say, Rondo is the biggest matchup advantage the Celtics have. I do wonder, though, how much he can keep going to the hoop, taking hits and landing hard on his back. That might wear on him.
It looked like the only advantage the Cavs had in the Jamison-Garnett matchup was Garnett having to go out to guard him. I know that matters, but it remains to be seen if Jamison can get some offense going against Garnett -- always a possibility, of course, because of LeBron's playmaking.
Jamison has to get help when Garnett gets the ball in the post, and Garnett can probably face up and get shots over him all night. Garnett should have been something like 13-of-20 instead 9-of-20.
Delonte West was outstanding off the bench, like Anderson Varejao. They gave much more than the stats show. J.J. Hickson struggled on defense and the boards, but he did negate some of that with aggressive offense. Who's going to show up off the Celitcs' bench? Rasheed Wallace looks finished.
Gasper: Mike, I do think the Celtics can take heart in the fact that they were able to control the play against Cleveland at home for almost three quarters, and still had a chance to win down the stretch, even though they got nothing from their best scorer, Pierce. KG was very active, and has been lethal of late with his step-out jumper.
Rondo isn't going to shy away from any contact or anyone. He has jawed at Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul and tried to dunk on Dwyane Wade last series. I think one key for the Celtics is they need to get more out of their bench. They were outscored 26-12 in Game 1. The bigger issue is that Garnett can't play 39 or 40 minutes a night, every night at this stage of his career and Pierce needs some time away from checking LeBron.
Turnovers were an issue and Cleveland's defense doesn't leave much margin for error, but Kendrick Perkins should have corralled that Rondo pass. You have to make that play in a close game.
Peticca: Chris, there's a number of things you mention that have to give the Celtics some hope. For the Cavs, it's pretty simple, I think. They can play a lot better. I don't know if the Celtics can come close to sustaining for 48 minutes what they did for 30 minutes. So, I think it's the Cavs going up by two games. And, I think the fans at the Q are getting better and better at sensing when their team needs a lift. Cavs, 2-0. What do you say?
Gasper: The Celtics kept telling us they'd turn it on when it really counts. Well, they did in Game 1, and it wasn't enough. Now, what?
I think the opening Cleveland leg of the series might be like the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight. Like Mosley, the Celtics were able to get their younger challenger reeling with a big right hand early, but couldn't sustain things. I think the Celtics are coming back to the Garden staring at a 2-0 deficit after tonight, but with the belief that they can rattle the Cavs. But the Cavs may have taken Boston's best shot. That's a scary thought for Celtics fans.
Game 2, Round 2 tonight. It should be fun. Make sure LeBron doesn't forget his elbow pad, Mike.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.