No, we’re not talking about LeBron possibly leaving and how the Cavaliers handled that situation. We’re talking about four things that went wrong with Cleveland against the Boston Cetics, whether it was the player’s or Mike Brown’s fault, that the Blazers can learn from in future playoff runs.
- Consistency Matters: What is the opposite of a thing of beauty? A thing of horror? That’s what Mike Brown’s rotations and adjustments were in this series. Zydrunas Ilgauskas played in Game 1, was terrible, then didn’t play until being handed major minutes in Game’s 5 and 6. JJ Hickson — who Cleveland didn’t want to trade for Amar’e freaking Stoudemire — started 73 games, was the prototypical athletic forward that hurts Boston, and didn’t play significant minutes in Game’s 5 or 6. Shaquille O’Neal missed the last two months of the season and was handed the starting spot just before the playoffs despite Anderson Varejao being a better matchup with Boston and O’Neal never having dealt with defensive rotations alongside Antawn Jamison. If you want a team to make adjustments on the fly and respond to adversity, that lineup better be used to playing with eachother, and better know why each of those players is on the floor. As stubborn as Nate McMillan can seem sometimes — Steve Blake says hello — he at least understands the value of not over-tinkering.
- Staying on that topic, the Cavaliers were over-adjusting to the Celtics all series, never settling on how to play Rondo in the pick-and-roll, who to guard him with, or how to play Kevin Garnett in the post. Cleveland was always reacting to Boston rather than making Boston react to them.
- The Square Peg is Trying to Tell You Something: Shaq could not score on Kendrick Perkins. This was fact. And yet they force fed Shaq in the post at the start of every game, and continued throughout in an apparent attempt to satiate his appetite for the ball. It’s one thing to try and establish interior scoring, it’s another to stagnant your offense in a stubborn attempt to get it to work. Valuable though LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden may be, if either of them ever finds themselves in a dead-end matchup in the playoffs, the Blazers can’t just throw them the ball and ask them to plow on through. They’ve got to be more creative, and sometimes that means deviating from your regular season offensive formula. Ironic that this was the one thing Mike Brown was consistent in all series, no?
- If You’re Going to Iso, Mean It: The problems with Cleveland’s Le-Iso offense are well documented. The gripes with Portland’s tendencies toward late-game Brandon Roy Iso offense are also discusses aplenty. The difference between the two is that Cleveland’s spacing, hurt by the lack of a stretch four and by them stubbornly sending useless picks at LeBron which just draws two defenders to him, is no good, very bad, awful. At least we can give the Blazers credit for giving Roy to operate with that 1-4 spread offense. It might be conservative, and they might rely on it too often, but the resulting looks from Roy are a step above what Cleveland allows for LeBron against a good defense.
- Loyalty Can Hurt: Here’s the most poignant quote to come out of that series, from Kevin Garnett on LeBron: “Honestly, he’s gonna have to make a decision on not just him, but his family and his future. Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can’t get youth back. I can honestly say that if I can go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I’d of done it (changed teams) a little sooner. But I don’t know what’s going through his mind. He’s a different individual, I haven’t spoken to him or anything but the world is his.” This probably won’t mean much for the Blazers for some time, but if, for whatever reason, the team has further issues in the playoffs down the line, it’s worth remember that you can always take a step back and re-evaluate, no matter yours or the organization’s or the city’s or a player’s feelings of loyalty.