Last night the Cavs lost to the Knicks in a very winnable game 93 to 97. Not that the Cavs can win every game, but this one, against a team that was ten games under 0.500, was frustrating. The Cavs move to three games back of the division leading Detroit Pistons. LeBron and company had this one in their grasp, but they never took control of the game. When it came time to get one last stop, as the Cavs trailed by one point with about thirty seconds left in the fourth quarter, Stephon Marbury shot a three-point prayer over Sasha Pavlovic that bounced around the rim for what seemed like 10 seconds before dropping in.
It was a lucky shot that needed a lot of rolls and bounces to go in, but that lucky shot at the end wasn’t where the game was lost. And sure, this game was the second night of consecutive road games that had the Cavs traveling from Indianapolis to New York. The problem is the way in which the Cavs lost the game and what it could mean for the Cavs’ readiness for the playoffs.
The Cavs got out-hustled all night long. They were out-rebounded 48 to 35. The Knicks have huge injury problems that only got worse during the game. Jamal Crawford, David Lee and Quentin Richardson were out before game time, and Steve Francis went down to a sprained ankle during the first quarter. With all those injuries, the Cavs still didn’t have the defensive wherewithall to stop the few guys left to hurt them.
Marbury got his 16 points with the last three-pointer being especially dagger-like. They gave up 12 points to a diminutive Nate Robinson. Worst of all, they gave up 25 points to a bloated Eddy Curry. I know Eddy Curry has some skills and all, but when you have a trio of big men like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden and Anderson Varejao, one might expect your team to be able to stop the likes of Eddy Curry. He isn’t exactly Shaq in his prime.
To add insult to injury, LeBron James took a beating that would make Chuck Finley cry. He was undercut on a drive to the basket. He was fouled hard on another near breakaway and finally was fouled in the lane that caused a scary moment where he basically landed on his back. The Knicks are thugs and they play an old-school style of basketball as directed by Isiah Thomas. They aren’t afraid to make the most of their fouls, especially when it could mean the difference in the game. The Cavs seemed afraid to fight back.
In the playoffs, a team needs to be ready for every game. They need to have intensity on both sides of the ball. They need to recognize the weaknesses of the other team to take advantage. Finally, they need to force the action, as opposed to reacting (poorly) when the other team imposes their will physically. The Cavs were outrebounded, let a Eddy Curry force the action and allowed some role players to physically dominate their superstar by allowing all the hard fouls to LeBron James.
That, my friends, is why this game was a big deal. The loss is a loss. They happen. But to lose the way they did, without putting up a fight, and allowing themselves to be taken out of the game so physically is a poor harbinger of things to come in the playoffs.Powered by Sidelines