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Commentary, news, analysis and reader-driven discussions focusing on this year's NBA playoffs.
11:34 p.m. ET, 5/16/07

Nets-Cavs Suddenly A Series

Posted by Chris Mannix
Jason Kidd and the Nets shot 47.8 percent from the field in Wednesday's win.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
It has been said that a series doesn't officially begin until one team faces elimination.

Consider the Nets-Cavaliers series in full swing.

There was a different vibe on the floor for New Jersey, who played like a bunch of bullies had stolen their lunch money and they were hell bent on getting it back. And they did it in an unorthodox manner. Jason Kidd (20 points) played more like Vince Carter. Carter (10 assists) played more like Kidd while rediscovering his ability to make the acrobatic shot. Mikki Moore packed the same string that carried the ball from the top of the left elbow to the basket at Continental Airlines Arena to Cleveland. Fit just as nicely at the Q.

The Nets didn't get to the free throw line (just 20 attempts, many coming when the game was already decided, compared to 29 for Cleveland), but, well, who needs free throws when you shoot an uncharacteristic 47.8 percent from the field?

The Cavaliers now enter dangerous territory. I'll be the first (though certainly not the last) to remind blog readers that Cleveland held a threatening 3-2 advantage over Detroit in the '06 semifinals but ultimately dropped the final two games of the series.

Different year, different opponent, different Sasha Pavlovic, but this series is beginning to feel a little familiar.

Those young Cavaliers succumbed to a Pistons team loaded with veterans. These still green Cavs are facing a Nets team that isn't much different, boasting a combined 535 games of playoff experience. They have Richard Jefferson, who was barely able to buy beer before he played in his first NBA Final. They have Carter who -- when he's not feeling the effects of a self-induced anxiety attack -- is one of the league's premier individual players. And they have Kidd, who could make Nets PR boss Gary Sussman a 10-point-per-game scorer.

For Cleveland, it's all about getting back to what works. After snatching 28 rebounds in the series' first two games, Drew Gooden has 22 in the last three. Larry Hughes' shooting percentage this series would be solid if it was his batting average and his free-throw shooting is descending to Ben Wallace-like lows. Hughes, to say the least, needs to pick it up.

Then there is LeBron James. James (rightfully) earned accolades for his play in the series' first four games, when he averaged 26.3 points and 9.5 assists. But Wednesday's 5-for-14 clunker is evidence that James still needs to learn how to put away teams (which he inevitably will) before his coronation.

And he will get his chance. The Meadowlands will be a hostile environment (or at least a sellout) come Friday night. James needs to have a big game (read: efficient scoring, high assist total) for the Cavaliers to have a chance.
posted by SI.com | View comments |  

Comments:

Posted: 11:53 PM, May 16, 2007   by Anonymous
This was an embarassing and shameful performance. I'm not sure if this team even realizes how much they threw away tonight. Instead of sitting back and getting some rest while Detroit tries to put away Chicago, now they're in the same boat as the Pistons -- desperate to put away an inferior yet feisty team. The Cavs are now looking at a 7-game series, since I don't see them winning Game 6 in New Jersey at all. And anything can happen in a Game 7. Wow.....this went from a slam-dunk to a coin-flip in terms of whether or not they will advance.
Posted: 12:02 AM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Is it me or does this series compared to the Suns-Spurs looks like a JV High School game to professionals? I mean the Nets scored six points in the 4th Quarter and won decisively.
Posted: 1:49 AM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Lebron is not Jordan. Not even close. I don't care what his numbers are, he is not a leader and he takes quarters off. He said in his press conferance basically, "Why should I be upset? You know at the end of the day it's just basketball." Did Jordan ever say anything like that at all after losing at home? He's not a winner. He's a great player but not a winner.
Posted: 8:19 AM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
LeBron said "it's just basketball" because his eight-month pregnant girlfriend had to leave her courtside seats for the hospital during the game. Sometimes, sports really are "just a game". Even if you have a $90 million shoe contract.

And even still, James was arguably the best player on the court last night. No, he was not like Jordan, but has become a leader this year, and it's gonna take another playoff loss or two before he gets the right attitude and becomes more emotionally attached.
Posted: 9:53 AM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
You guys, nobody remembers what everybody was saying about Jordan before he won 6 championships? Lebron is still very young, Jordan did not take the Bulls to the NBA finals when he was 22...
Posted: 9:59 AM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Nobody will ever be Michael. Not even Kobe. That game last night was tough. The Cavs had the open looks, but nothing was falling in. Not free throws, not jump shots, not even Lebron's usual 3-point play layups. I don't know if it was the pressure or just bad luck, but they definitely need to pick it up for the next game. Someone needs to step up to help out Z and Lebron. I think the key will be Gooden. He needs to play with some fire like he did in the first two. He cant let Moore push him around.
Posted: 11:12 AM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
As a Nets fan, this was the game that I thought NJ had no chance of winning.

Tha Cavs came out flat, and NJ cought them very badly.

NJ will win game 6. and I really dont see the Cavs winning game seven. At that point Cavs will hold a 1-3 record in the last four games losing two in a row. Playing at home or not, that's a pretty bad monkey on their backs!

Alfi OUT!
Posted: 12:21 PM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Hey Chris Mannix. Your other article, "Blame the players, not the NBA" is written by someone who doesn't understand basketball and is merely an outsider to the game. How could you blame Amare and Boris for what happened, honestly? And how can you blame them for their intentions? Are you 100% confident that they were going out to the court to stir up trouble? The NBA has gone on a recent power trip and it seems like the game is all about politics now. The game used to be a lot more fun to watch 10 years ago. Referees and David Stern should not be able to control the fate of a playoff series. It seems like every year in the playoffs, there's a controversial call or play that ruins the genuine excitement of playoff atmosphere. Just let the players play.
Posted: 1:18 PM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Jason Kidd had to be used for wayyyy too many minutes last night. You could see the effect in the fourth quarter, when he kept missing shots and free throws. With a short turn around time, there may be challenges ahead for the Nets in NJ. It would be a good time for Vince Carter to actually take the team on his shoulders and perform like a superstar, rather than a highlight reel.
Posted: 1:47 PM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Ugly. IMO, no one deserved to win that game and whoever advances from this pair to the Conference Finals has no business being there.
Too many people want to crown LBJ the "King." He is nice and at times unstoppable, but there is a reason why Barkley and all the old school cats take barbs at him. They had to earn what reputations they established and were not labeled the "King" after beating a half assed Wizards team in the playoffst the last 2 years. I like LBJ, and some day he may be the "King," but not until he does something meaningful. Right now he has not done anything more than Bernard King, Dominique Wilkins, or Alex English. These players put up great stats, but were never able to really get over the hump. Notice to LBJ: It is not a foul everytime you miss a shot. There more you moan to the referees after a miss, the less they are going to give you the call.
Posted: 2:46 PM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
No way the Cavs lose this series. They are a far better team than the Nets. If those 4th quarter shots fall, they win that game last night comin back from 22. Look for Lebron to come out with some serious intensity. If Larry hits at least half of those shots he takes, and Gooden can man up against a weak interior Nets team, there is no chance NJ wins. Besides, all of the Cavs series victories have been on the road. They had one of the best road records this season. Cavs win.
Posted: 7:56 PM, May 17, 2007   by Anonymous
BOOOOOORRRRRRIINNNNGGGG

The Cavs are the most boring team in the playoffs, followed closely by the Nets. This whole series has been painful.
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