He's back. The day so many people have been mulling over for months and the media has had a field day over this week is finally here. And amidst the circus-like atmosphere and speculation, it seems a lot of people have forgotten that at 8 PM this evening (maybe a bit later considering it's TNT), there will be a basketball game played.
So, what do the Cavs have to do to beat Lebron James and the rest of The Big Three?
When the Cavs have gotten into trouble, you can look no further than turnovers. This team has very little room for error (see: Cavs vs. Celtics --Nov. 30), so retaining possession is of critical importance, especially against a team in the Miami Heat that is at their best when they get out and run. The problem with the Cavs' turnovers is that they usually occur early in the shot clock and in positions where they are unable to get back on defense and give up easy buckets.
The Cavs' half-court defense has been surprisingly good for the most part, and the Heat's half-courts sets, by comparison, have left something to be desired. This means no junk start to the game, no second quarter lull and most importantly, no third quarter meltdown.
2.) Shot selection. Shot selection. Shot selection.
Tied to turnovers and transition basketball somewhat, the Cavs have a real propensity to take bad shots. I mean awful shots. A lot of it is tied to personnel, but other times, there is simply no excuse. JJ Hickson should not be forcing one-on-one situations where he takes two dribbles past the top of the key and hoists a shot that has the same power as a Luger.
Anthony Parker should not be pulling his HOT SAUCE routine, dribbling around like a yahoo and awkwardly taking a contested shot at the end of the shot clock that becomes a fadeaway leading to an easy rebound and a quick outlet pass for the other team.
Jawad Williams should not be shooting, much less be on the court to begin with. Ramon Sessions shouldn't force the issue--he's at his best when he weaves around defenders, not when he tries to go through them.
And Anderson Varejao should be doing nothing but layups and reverses.
3.) Play inside-out.
The Heat suck inside. It's really unbelievable just how bad they are. Lebron still would rather play up top than bang down low. If he did that, Hickson would pick up 6 fouls in the first 10 minutes. Who knows, maybe he'll try. But if not, the recipe for success is to get it into Hickson (who absolutely should be playing on the block tonight), Andy and Hollins. I even think today is the day that Leon Powe should be getting big minutes. Look for the easy shots and draw defenders--that will open up spots for Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams.
Dwyane Wade is not exactly an elite defender these days despite the fact that he has averaged 1.8 steals per game in his career. Jamario Moon has to come up big and hit shots. A big question that could be critical to the game is: Who will LBJ be defending? If it's Parker or any of our terrible small forwards--that's ideal. Those positions are black holes to begin with.
4.) Get to the free throw line.
Lebron will go to the free throw line a trillion times. Wade too. So, why can't Cleveland counteract that. Go after Chris Bosh, early and often. Out-muscle him, have Varejao draw charges. Then focus on Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Make the Heat irrelevant inside. That opens the lane. It forces James Jones to have a bigger impact. It keeps the Heat from getting out and running as long as the Cavs hit their free throw opportunities.
5.) Let Lebron get his.
Lebron is going to score. He's going to do his thing. Fine. Let him have his 50 if he wants it. That means he'll take 30 shots and completely dominate the ball. That means the Heat have no offensive flow. That means he'll hoist up terrible threes that completely take Miami out of their rhythm or lead to easy buckets for the Cavs. That means Bosh and Wade will get frustrated.
Stay off him, dare him to shoot. Let him think he can shoot his way into the record books at the Q. He already thinks this is all about him--let that be the case. Let him try to feed off the fans. 50 points won't win the game. If you flip the switch from distributor to SOLELY scorer and the Cavs do the above 4 things, playing as a team will make the difference. Look at Boston--no one player dominates the ball. That's what makes them so dangerous.
If Bosh is irrelevant and Wade can never get into his flow, it really doesn't matter how many Lebron puts up--IF the Cavs play their game and play at their pace and under control.