Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cavaliers need higher gear

Maybe it was Mike Brown's decision to rest some of his stars in the final five games of the season. Then again, perhaps it's because the Chicago Bulls have overachieved in the first two games of the NBA playoff series with the Cavaliers.

Even though the Cavs won those two games, why does it seem as though they've been outplayed in the last six quarters by a team that barely scraped together enough victories to qualify for the postseason? Not you, LeBron. Without you and your brilliance, the Bulls have a two-game lead instead of the Cavaliers.

Cleveland racked up the best record during the regular season because it did the little things. Rarely did the Cavs lose the battle of the offensive boards. Rarely did they allow the opposition to dominate in the paint. Rarely did they come out on the short end in scrambles for loose balls. They outhustled the opposition.

Their seeming nonchalance against the Bulls is puzzling. It possibly could be a brief aftereffect of the prolonged layoff Brown gave a few of his men when home-court advantage throughout the playoffs was achieved with five games left in the season. Whatever the reason, the Cavs seem out of sync heading into the next two games in Chicago. It's almost as though they're too confident.

If they don't start playing with a greater sense of urgency and purpose, the Bulls just might sneak one out and prolong a series most everyone believed would not reach a fifth game.

Of course, the Cavs are going to eliminate the Bulls, but they'll have to get a whole lot better for the next round against the Boston Celtics (unless they stumble) if the postseason is to continue. If they hum along in the same gear against Boston that they're showing against the Bulls, summer vacation might arrive early. Talent goes just so far.

It's time to ratchet up the intensity a notch or three and then sustain it. It's time for the Cavaliers to take their game to the levels that helped make them the best team in the NBA. No more fooling around. There's way too much riding on the ultimate outcome.

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