If I were a tall, red skinned, fish-squid looking man with a white jumpsuit on, this is w..."/> If I were a tall, red skinned, fish-squid looking man with a white jumpsuit on, this is w..."/>

Cavs, Blazers Pre-Thoughts


If I were a tall, red skinned, fish-squid looking man with a white jumpsuit on, this is what I would say about tonight’s matchup with the Cleveland MoBrons:


Congratulation if you got the reference, but even if you didn’t, you get the point. Portland’s last six opponents are Milwuakee, Charlotte, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago and Golden State. Only two of those teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, and even then you can’t call the Sixers and Nets good basketball teams. Then all of the sudden you are playing the best defensive team in the league (Boston is second in nearly every category at the moment) with they guy playing the best basketball in the league (SJ is going to get after me for that one, I guarantee you). It’s the exact type of game where you can come out at home, feeling confident, and get down 20 by halftime because your opponent was 10 times better than anyone you had been playing.

Of course, everybody, especially Nate, knows this. They also know that this is another possible statement game along the lines of the Boston matchups — what that statement is really worth only the guys in the locker room truly know. But to do what you want to do, knock off one of the top three or four teams in the league, you have to know what you are going to do against LeBron.

Everyone in the world has their own conjectures on how to guard LeBron. Truth is, you can’t anymore. You can’t pull vet moves, you can’t body him up, you can’t collapse the lane on him. He’s going to score, he’s going to get his teammates in position to score, and now, this is different this year, he’s going to create havoc and confusion on defense. The single greatest performance of the year, by far, was LeBron’s against the Celtics last week. When he is playing like that, he puts your team on it’s heels because they don’t know what to do against him. The key is fairly simple. Have a gameplan and stick to it. If LeBron beats you, fine, at least you stuck to your guns. And most people are going to have a fairly similar strategy: double LeBron where appropriate, and rotate well enough to not give the other guys the open looks that kill you.

Of course, if LeBron is not in the game, he can’t be LeBron, so go right at him. Go into his chest and try and get calls. There’s a good chance he won’t get called even for kneeing you in the stomach, but you’ve got to take the chance, especially early. Nic Batum and Travis Outlaw probably aren’t the best chances for getting those fouls, so Portland has to get mismatches with the pick-and-roll. Get LeBron in the post, get him guarding Roy one-on-one, get him in position as the primary weakside help.

All the other guys on the Cavs are just gravy. Mo Williams is a nice piece, but he’s primarily a jump shooter. If you’re rotations are on the spot, you can hinder his effectiveness. Varejao, Ben Wallace, they’re just energy guys. Varejao can step out and shoot a little now, though, so LaMarcus must be aware of this. Off the bench, we need Outlaw and Bayless to be smart-aggressive and Rudy’s shot to be on, but mostly, this game comes down to beating up in the paint on the boards and easy buckets, rotating well off LeBron double teams and not letting Cleveland’s shooters beat you. If LeBron scores 50 on mostly mid-range jumpers and three’s — meaning you aren’t letting him freight-train his way down the lane — then so be it. He doesn’t have a developed post-game yet, so in a seven-game series, if you can find a way to limit him to jumpers while still defending the perimeter AND controlling the middle, you can win four games. Oden and LaMarcus, the Blazers need you tonight.