The case for the Cavs (cont.)
Posted: Thursday June 7, 2007 11:40AM; Updated: Thursday June 7, 2007 12:36PM
With Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden, the Cavs have two big men who love nothing more than to pull up from 16 or 17 feet. And though Cleveland's often-inaccurate three-point shooters (Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic) may not like having to step in from 25 feet, working an up-fake and heading toward the open spaces on the perimeter could be enough to pull out a road victory.
4. Potential free-throw advantage.
This is where things get tricky. The Cavs shot a combined 64 free throws to San Antonio's 54 during their two-game regular-season sweep, a difference that could hardly be called a big advantage. Still, the Cavs haven't played San Antonio in five months, and LeBron has accrued heaps of playoff knowledge since then. Could he force his way to a Dwyane Wade-level stay at the line in these Finals?
That's a tough task, as Wade shot 99 freebies in six games during last year's six-game series victory against the Mavericks. And yet, the prevailing perception about San Antonio, that this is a borderline-dirty team that gets all the calls, could aid the Cavs.
The Spurs have long been a brilliant defensive team with an innate ability to dominate without sending the other team to the line. We're not saying that the NBA will hand down a proclamation insisting things be evened out -- "fix" musings are about as insipid as "insight" gets, and it's worth noting that the referees' union and league office were at odds even before the Joey Crawford incident -- but the refs on their own might want to straighten things out and do away with the idea that they handed San Antonio a Western Conference title.
They didn't, and it wasn't even close, but cable TV and 24-hour bloviating have a way of getting to even the most secure of professionals. If LeBron stays aggressive and gets the Spurs in the penalty early in quarters, who knows what could happen?
5. Did we mention LeBron?
Tim Duncan is the best player in this series. With Duncan's ability to dominate defensively, let's face it, LeBron is still a few steps behind the Big Fundamental. But James is the most explosive player in this series. A 50-point night isn't out of the question even against San Antonio's defense, and his youth and newfound willingness to attack incessantly suggest an element of production that just can't be anticipated.
Anything could happen with LeBron. He could nail his first few jumpers, decide that his perimeter game is "on" and spend the rest of the game spinning out 22-foot fadeaways. Or he could remind us of Julius Erving in the 1976 ABA Finals, doing significant damage even against the premier perimeter defender of his time (back then, Bobby Jones; right now, Bruce Bowen).
With James starting to figure out things, calling the Spurs anything approaching a sure thing seems preposterous. The Cavs are a few bad decisions away from being swept. But there is also a solid chance that the team is a few inspired moves away from its first title. As always, it's LeBron's call.