Cavs raise game in playoffs

April, 22, 2008

A lot of people, including myself, have talked about how Detroit gets complacent at times during the playoffs. Well, Cleveland is just the opposite.

The Cavs have lulls during the regular season that lead them to underachieve. But over the past three seasons, they've always turned it up and played their best basketball in the postseason.

They have the right formula for successful playoff basketball:

(1) A great individual player in LeBron James who can create offense when nothing's there.

(2) A great rebounding team. They were first in the league in overall rebounding, and second in offensive rebounding.

In their six Eastern Conference playoff series of the LeBron era, the Cavs have outrebounded their opponent each time.

(3) A great defensive team. They weren't great on that end during the regular season, which is one reason they won only 45 games.

But in each of the three postseasons with LeBron, including this one, the Cavs' defense has improved significantly from the regular season to the playoffs.

This season, they were just 11th in the league in defense, allowing opponents to shoot 45.5 percent from the floor. But in two games against Washington, they've held the Wizards to 86 points per game (12 below the Wizards' season average) on 38 percent shooting.

Each member of Washington's big three of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler is shooting less than 40 percent.

LeBron set the tone in Game 2 by guarding Arenas all night and holding him to just seven points on 2-of-10 shooting.

If the Cavs continue to improve throughout this series, beat Washington in four or five games and enter their second-round series against Boston (I'm going out on a limb by assuming they'll survive Atlanta) with major momentum, I believe they'll actually have a chance of pulling the upset.

I'm not predicting an upset, but a Cavs team at the top of its game will be a handful for the Celtics.


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