Sunday, April 16, 2006

They put a spell on you

A few weeks back, I said I hoped the Cavaliers draw the Wizards in the first round. I thought it would be the one team that could keep the Cavs motivated over the span of seven games.
I take that back after watching the Wizards dismantle the Cavs today 104-92. The game wasn't even that close.
Now, the Wizards are the one possible playoff opponent I want no part of. Which means the Cavs will almost certainly draw them.
Washington finished the regular season 3-1 against the Cavs. Today's game was indicative of the kind of series it has been. The Cavs are persistently tormented by undersized point guards and wing players who can shoot. It's a big reason why Cleveland is 1-2 against the lowly Knicks, and should by all rights be 0-3.
Washington has a quick, undersized combo guard who can shoot the lights out in Gilbert Arenas. He used to be a poor man's Allen Iverson. Now, he's in Iverson's league, the type of player who can alter a game.
But Arenas is just the tip of Washington's iceberg, and the Cavs are doing a good job of mimicking the hull of the Titanic.
The Wizards have a wing player who can shoot in Caron Butler, a big man who can shoot in Antawn Jamison, and a pretty darn good bench player in Antonio Daniels. He can shoot, too.
In a nutshell, the Cavs match up terribly with the Wizards. Good shooting teams can only be stopped with with on-the-ball perimeter defense that takes away open shots. The Cavs are filled with lane-cloggers and ball-stealers, but Eric Snow is their best on-the-ball defender, and he's not that great.
Should the Wizards and Cavs match up, there is every reason to believe the Wizards will be able to capitalize on open looks and bomb the Cavs into submission. Once the Cavs panic and spread their defense out, Washington will be able to take advantage of soft interior defense for repeated dunks and layups.
If that happens, the Cavs would be lucky to extend the series to five games.
I might also mention that the Wizards have a terrific coach in Eddie Jordan who piloted his team to an upset of the Bulls in a 4-5 series last season. The Cavs, meanwhile, will just be getting their feet wet in the postseason.
The Cavs will have the first two games against any first-round opponent at home. That should count for something. But against the Wizards, winning the first two at home is paramount. If the Cavs and Wizards split the first two at The Q, suddenly it becomes a best-of-five series with three in Washington.
At that point, the Cavs will need another miracle to knock off Washington, 30 years after the Cavs knocked off the Washington Bullets in the "Miracle of Richfield."

1 comment:

Joel said...

I couldn't agree more, which isn't surprising. I listened to Tait's call as I was on the road, and this team is the worst possible matchup for the Cavs. If possible, I think Cleveland matches up BETTER with the Pistons than the Wizards. You made a good distinction in your post about the team's defense -- Hughes, for his reputation as a defender, isn't particularly spectacular on the ball. I guess I never thought about that.

It could be a short stay for the Cavs, I agree, if they draw the Wizards, which made a win Sunday all the more important. ... In that regard, I didn't understand resting the starters in the fourth, especially once it got to nine.