Cleveland Defeats Boston 93-88: No LeBron or Pierce--but a lot of Cousy!Larry Hughes (21 points, six assists, five rebounds, five steals) led the Cavaliers to a 93-88 victory over the Celtics in Boston on Monday night. The Cavaliers rested LeBron James for the playoffs and Paul Pierce did not play for the Celtics--but NBA TV viewers received a real treat, as Celtics legend Bob Cousy filled the analyst role (subbing for an under the weather Tom Heinsohn) alongside play by play man Mike Gorman. Cousy made a number of interesting comments and observations during the course of the game, providing insights that have significance beyond this particular contest. Here are some key points that he mentioned:
1) Cousy stressed that players must place a great value on the ball and not commit careless turnovers. Boston outshot Cleveland 51.4% to 43.8% but this advantage was blunted in part because the Celtics had 21 turnovers compared to 15 for the Cavaliers.
2) Cousy said that he thinks that LeBron James will not duplicate his regular season averages in the postseason due to the increased intensity level of the playoffs.
3) Cousy stated that Stephon Marbury is a potential Hall of Fame candidate; at first I thought that he was sarcastically mocking Marbury's declaration that he is the best point guard in the NBA but Cousy seemed to be serious. Cousy added that Marbury is not a 1 but that he is a very good 2, explaining that when a 1 crosses midcourt he is thinking about "creating something wonderful for his teammates" and only shoots if he can't do that, while a 2 crosses midcourt thinking about creating a shot for himself and only passes if that is not possible.
4) Cousy believes that Delonte West has the skills and mindset to be a good 1 but needs more confidence.
5) A fascinating glimpse at Cousy's court vision happened when a Tony Allen drive resulted in two foul shots for Allen. Cousy immediately exclaimed that Allen should have passed the ball and during the replay Cousy pointed out that if Allen had made the right pass at the right time it would have resulted in a likely three point play. Instead, Allen missed both free throws and the Celtics had an empty possession as a result.
6) After a flurry of Celtics turnovers in the third quarter fueled a 19-0 Cavaliers run that swelled Cleveland's lead to 75-55, Cousy said that the Celtics were running "desperation offense as opposed to offense by design" and noted that committing a lot of turnovers is just as bad as shooting a low percentage.
7) Cousy noted that one of a point guard's responsibilities is to know his personnel, adding that on a fast break it is better to pass to a good jump shooter than to hit a cutter in the lane who is a poor finisher at the basket. This reminded me of something that K C Jones, a former teammate of Cousy's, told me once: the Celtics would not pass the ball to a non-shooter or to a player who was not in position to shoot a shot within his range, even if that player was wide open. Some might call this "old school" but I would call it simply "championship level play."
8) After Larry Hughes drained a top of the key three pointer with the shot clock winding down, Cousy commented that the top of the key shot is the easiest shot--particularly for a good shooter--and that the defender must make every effort to contest that shot, even if the shot clock is winding down and the shooter seems to be off balance. Cousy explained that the corner shot is more difficult because the shooter cannot use the backboard as a reference point to "frame" the shot.
9) The Celtics did manage a late flurry to make the score close at the end but Cousy lamented Boston's lack of a transition game. He explained that when a team has a good transition game it is able to score layups and create three point play opportunities. Without that capability, a team is forced to rely on hitting a lot of perimeter shots. Of course, Cousy's Celtics were legendary for their fastbreak execution--Bill Russell controlled the glass, Cousy made impeccable decisions with the ball and the rest of the players filled the lane.
10) Talking about the Celtics' options in the draft, Cousy emphasized that a team should always take the best available player regardless of position. Cousy argued that talent is at a premium and, as long as the General Manager's assessments are correct, it will always be possible to make a deal later. In other words, if you end up with six really talented guards, you will be able to trade some of them in exchange for quality players at other positions. Of course, if your talent evaluations are wrong, then you end up with a bunch of mediocre players who play the same position and it will not be easy to trade them.
On the surface, the game between Cleveland and Boston was "meaningless," but for a true basketball fan it provided quite an opportunity to look at basketball through the eyes of one of the all-time greats of the game.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:35 AM