I dedicated yesterday to basking in the glow of the Cavs' first win in many moons in the Eastern Conference Finals, so my apologies for posting a bit late. Without further ado, here are a couple observations from this corner--though I will note that I simply have nothing to add about how incredible LeBron was, so I'll focus on other things that haven't garnered as much attention:
1.) Where the hell was Rip Hamilton during that entire game? During the first game, my buddy Scott and I decided to play a Cavs drinking game (I will post the scoring sheet later, but in the interim, will just let you know that one of the items on our list was Chris Webber trying to dunk but failing since he's no longer explosive--it happened twice) and considered putting "Rip Hamilton hitting improbable jumper" on there, then didn't because we realized we'd be drunk by the end of the first quarter. Seriously, the guy made as many improbable jump shots as Z had awkward offensive possessions. In game 2, Rip was doing his thing (running off screens, catching and shooting) but the shots weren't falling. Game 3, though, was different--it was like he wasn't on the floor at all. I'd be fine with this behavior continuing throughout the series.
2.) Huge game for Daniel Gibson. Hit some big threes, played clutch defense down the stretch--this kid may be the real deal. I could see us trotting out a starting lineup of Gibson, Sasha, LeBron, Gooden, and Ilgauskas next year and being pretty damn happy with it. In the meantime, let's hope that lineup can hold up tonight . . .
3.) . . . because wonder of wonders, Larry Hughes is injured again. Every day seems to provide a new reason for me to be upset that Michael Redd decided to be a fool and re-up with Milwaukee a few years ago. Can you imagine him on our team instead of Hughes? He would have played in twice as many games and he would have been the perfect complement to LeBron. Honestly, what was he thinking? Did he really believe that Andre "the Giant" Bogut had any chance at saving that team from perennial 8-seed, first round elimination-at best territory?
4.) That said, Hughes did look good for the few minutes he was out there. He was taking the ball to the hoop instead of settling for the outside jumper (the reverse layup he sank right before the injury was a work of art). That's the Larry Hughes we signed--that's the Larry Hughes I can get behind. I wish he would play like that all the time, instead of more often than not getting possessed by the ghost of Ricky Davis (no, I know he's not dead, but his career sure seems to be). I wonder if there's any merit to Larry Hughes coming off the bench next year as an energy shooter/slasher--Gibson appears to be the long-term solution at the point, and Hughes and Sasha can't be in the lineup at the same time . . .
5.) When did Sasha Pavlovic become such a great defender? I mean, he's a good enough outside shooter (he hit one three in the first quarter that was pretty unbelievable), he's one of the most deceptively athletic players in the NBA (every time he has the ball he's a threat to take it to the hoop and at worst draw a foul) but now he's also a phenomenal defender. Yeah, Rip didn't have much energy, but Pavs prevented him from getting started in the first place. I really, really, really hope we match any offer for this guy, even if it means letting go of Raggedy Andy.
6.) I think the "Webber Face" has to replace the "Manning Face" for "Most Pathetic look by an athlete". Honestly, the guy always looks like he's a.)about to cry b.) just passed a kidney stone c.) wishing that Kobe had run Shaq out of town a few years sooner so that he could have won a title in Sacramento.
7.) Kudos to Mike Brown for sticking with a lineup that worked from the second quarter to the third quarter (did he read my blog? That must have been it). Gibson's presence in the game made the Cavs much harder to defend--with both Pavlovic and Gibson in the game, the Pistons couldn't swarm LeBron because of the perpetual threat of a kickout (plus, Donyell wasn't in the game, so there was a substantially lower chance of the Cavs missing the resulting shot). I half expected Brown to come out with the starters in the third quarter, even though Hughes was playing on only one leg. But he accomplished the miraculous task of going with what was working before halftime, and as a result kept the Cavs in the game.
8.) Is this the birth of a new LeBron? No, I'm not reneging on my promise in the preface to this post. I'm just curious as to whether the constantly passionate LeBron of Game 3 -- the one calling out his teammates for boneheaded plays, constantly working the referees, talking frequently in the huddle, showing up early for practice to work on his balky jumpshot -- is here to stay. In Game 3, he seemed to finally have that intensity that D-Wade had last year and that Jordan had in his prime. That's LeBron at his finest, the great player who trusts his teammates but expects them to play at the same high level of intensity that he does.
9.) On that note, did anyone else notice LeBron reenacting a great moment in Indians history? It happened in the second half, when LeBron made a sick feed to Drew Gooden under the hoop, and Gooden decided to dribble before dunking and thus got his shot blocked out of bounds. LeBron responded by staring down Gooden, pointing to his flexed bicep, and yelling "it's right (profanity) here," much like Albert Belle did years ago after the White Sox asked to check his bat for cork. Which leads to a good question: does anyone think we can get Jason Grimsley to sneak into the Cavs' locker room tonight and replace Gooden with Carlos Boozer?
10.) I would LOVE to possess a "Beat Detroit" T-shirt. That said, those t-shirts have to go down as one of the least creative fan-inspiration efforts of all time. First, we stole the t-shirt idea from both Golden State and then Utah (honestly, who the hell steals ideas from the Utah Jazz fan base? That's taking Quarter Pounders to a potluck--the best anyone can say about your efforts is "it's the thought that counts" before throwing the sack of burgers in the trash.) More importantly (since it is cool to see an arena of people wearing the same color, lack of creativity aside) Cavs management also came up with the least creative t-shirt slogan ever. Why not just get t-shirts that say "Win" or "Don't Lose?" As my friend Wyatt pointed out, "even 'Defeat Detroit' would have been better, since it's alliterative. No wonder you guys are down two games."
I can't top that, so I'll have to leave you there for now. Stay tuned for my preview of Game 4.