Monday, June 04, 2007

Breaking Down Bron's 25: Rasheed, Where You At?

Also today on The Painted Area:
Boobie! Jay Aych analyzes Game 6

I couldn't resist going back to the DVR to take another look at the end of Game 5 of the Cavs-Pistons series, which edges Games 4-5 of the Warriors-Mavs series as my favorite of the 2007 Playoffs because of the surpassing individual performance by LeBron - and the fact that it may herald the ushering in of a new NBA era.

There's been so much criticism of Detroit's strategy on D that I was interested to see what they were actually doing. I was especially interested in seeing exactly how DET could have possibly given up three completely uncontested dunks in the halfcourt O down the stretch - seemingly unthinkable against the once-vaunted Pistons D.

What I noticed was this:
- DET *did* double-team LeBron more than I remembered and usually it worked, getting the ball out of his hands, generally turning into a Pavlovic mistake of some sort.
- DET also ran its trap to some success in the 4th, but didn't really come back to it in OT.
- DET seemed to be in mild disarray on a few CLE possessions.
- I don't know where Rasheed's head was.

Here is how I would generally break down LeBron's 25 straight points:
- 9 points: ridiculous perimeter offense
Note that 5 of these 9 came when DET doubled; there was....
1) a ridiculous fadeaway three on the move (over a Webber/Billups double-team);
2) a behind-the-back move and 22-footer over Billups at the top of the key (DET had doubled on this play, and it was about the only time they did that the ball got back to LeBron);
3) a tough pull-up jumper on the right wing from about 22 feet again, with Billups contesting;
4) a fadeaway 22-footer in front of the DET bench with Prince contesting right in his face.

- 3 points - mixup by DET D
LeBron, Gooden, and Donyell all came down the court together, DET couldn't get matched up, and LeBron ended up with a wide open three. Prince was pointing as CLE came down the court, and seemed to be disgusted after the play - it looked like he gestured toward Rasheed, but he could have been mad with Maxiell - neither read the play well.

- 4 points - FTs after questionable calls by Bennett Salvatore
Shocking, I know. There was a block on Maxiell in the lane where he looked set, though it was close. There was also a call on Prince that looked to be a phantom call after LeBron had worked through about 4 guys to get to the rim.

- 1 point - FT on a good call
Rasheed wrapped LeBron up on a drive.

- 8 points - Spectacular LeBron uncontested at the rim

3 dunks + the game-winner. These were the ones that shocked me because they seemed so out-of-character from Detroit's standpoint, so let's go Arnovitz-style with the breakdown and look at them more closely.

0:42, 4th Q, 88-87 DET

LeBron (guarded by Prince) runs a high PnR with Gooden (Maxiell). LBJ gets the switch and ends up 1-on-1 vs Maxiell. Bad mismatch. DET really should run at him with a double. Instead LeBron backed up so he could get a running start at Maxiell, who had no chance.

At this point, DET's lineup was Maxiell, Prince, Billups, Hamilton, and Wallace. Rasheed - the only true big man - was on the right block, covering Donyell, who was in the corner. As LeBron blew by Maxiell, he came right toward Rasheed, who basically stood still as LeBron flew in for an all-timer of a dunk.

It was as if Rasheed didn't want to leave Donyell, which is just about as ridiculous as it gets. Don't you have to force LeBron to make the pass, esp. after all the criticism he took after Game 1?

This one was tough, LeBron had such a head of steam as he blew by Maxiell - they really should have doubled up high after the switch.

0:23, 4th Q, 91-89 DET

OK, after Billups hit the 3, CLE needed a bucket to tie. Again a high PnR with LeBron (Hunter) and Gooden (Prince). Another switch but it ends up with LeBron v Prince, so it's OK for DET.

What's notable here is that DET's lineup was Hunter, Hamilton, Prince, Billups and Wallace. Only one big man on the floor b/c Webber and Maxiell were liabilities. Seemed like they could have used McDyess on these possessions.

Anyway, LeBron kind of sets up off to the right on top, with the only other guys on that side being Donyell in the corner, guarded by Rasheed, who's cheating off the right block more than protecting the lane. This time, LeBron blows by Prince, right to the spot where Rasheed *should be* helping, but this time, Rasheed actually hedges slightly toward Marshall. Mind-boggling. Another big dunk. At worst, step in and take a blocking foul and make LeBron tie it at the line, no?

3:46, 1st OT, 95-93 DET

(at :55 (or minus 2:25 on the countdown) of this highlight reel)

Snow brings it up, and I honestly have no idea what kind of defense DET is playing at first. It looks like half the guys think it's a zone, and half think it's man. It ends up with no defenders in the middle, so Snow drives in there before Rasheed comes up to stop him at the foul line.

Then, Snow passes to Ilguaskas and cuts away. Z has his back to the basket at the right elbow, and hits LeBron on the back-door cut for another uncontested dunk.

OK, now here's the crazy thing about this play - after Snow passes and cuts away, RASHEED RUNS WITH HIM, so that he's actually covering Eric Snow, over near the left block with his back to the basket and the ball as LeBron comes in on the right, instead of just forgetting about Snow and coming over to protect the basket. A total defensive screwup from start to finish.

0:11, 2nd OT, 107-107

LeBron catches the inbounds pass at the top, with Billups on him. Holds the ball for six seconds before making a move - I don't know how you don't throw a double team at him here - no one else has made a field goal for literally about an hour and 20 minutes.

DET's lineup here is Billups, Hamilton, Prince, Maxiell and Wallace. Again, Rasheed is the main interior defensive force. Again, he is on Donyell, this time in the left corner. Rasheed cheats over further toward the corner this time to start. Again, LeBron comes toward his side. This time, Rasheed steps in toward the lane as LeBron is coming, but then inexplicably jumps back out toward Marshall. Maxiell steps in but he's no match. Ballgame. But at least the Pistons didn't let Donyell beat them.

I looked back at my preseason predictions and - holy crap! - I actually called it Spurs vs Cavs in the Finals at the start of the season. I had forgotten about that. Hot damn, couple that with my 6-1 performance on season win over-unders and it was a pretty good year to start posting my predictions for the world to see! I'm usually not so fortunate with my picks.

I was actually looking back to reference the storylines I was interested in at the start of the season. These were the last two I had:
    -Where will The LeBron Saga go? Or, as Free Darko called it, the Jordan Narrative. As much as anything else, I love the NBA for its multi-year-long storylines. And in this era, the overarching story is whether LeBron can ascend to the Jordan-Magic-Bird-Russell-Chamberlain pantheon of uber-greats, don't you think?

    -Are the Spurs a dynasty? Oh yeah, unless it's this: the dynasty that no one cares about. If they win, as we both predict, that'll be four titles in nine years, and three in five. That's kinda a dynasty, folks, esp. when you consider they were knocking on the door in '04 and '06, too. But I doubt anyone will care, although these cats are exactly the kind of hard-working team-oriented clean-image guys that people say the NBA is lacking....

And it looks like we'll take it down to the end to get resolution on these puppies for '06-07, eh? Unfortunately for the Cavs, they're no longer facing a team in disarray. Spurs in 5.


At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But at least the Pistons didn't let Donyell beat them.


Terrific analysis--this is pretty damning evidence against Rasheed. I've got to think that consciously or subconsciously, the Game 3 posterization was a factor.

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Cavs' defense has a way of turning teams not in disarray into teams that are in disarray. Cavs surprise and win in 4.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Great Ancestors Warrior Descendents said...

I took the Cavs to win the East, James to win Finals MVP. If y'all hadn't noticed the fix is in. If everyone is betting on the Pistons to win, they cannot win, Las Vegas would go bankrupt. In the finals I'm sure all bet's will favor SA therefore Cavs will win unless they destroy the Spurs in game 1 or 2 and all gamblers jump on the Cav's-wagon.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger jay aych said...

Also. think that leaving Horry open in '05 still seriously haunts Sheed. So he's reluctant to leave shooting bigmen to help, and after he lucked out with Donyell missing in Game 1, he didn't want to chance it again.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger BGGB said...

Well done analysis. I hadn't realized how crucial Rasheed was (or wasn't) on each of the dunk/layups.

The only thing I'd add is that on the first of the four dunks (0:42, 4th Q, 88-87 DET), notice what Tayshaun did as Lebron came in for the dunk.

He actually backed away and curled his arms in, forming a standing fetal position. It is unreal. I know Lebron is bigger and stronger, but c'mon, Tay, where's the D at?

At 10:46 AM, Blogger MCBias said...

Rasheed very nearly was the goat of Games 1 and 2 as well: And what about Game 5 against the Spurs in leaving Horry open? Sheed has a special gift for making the wrong help D decision, and now that B. Wallace is gone, it's more obvious than ever before.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Lars said...

A few comments on your analysis, which is excellent and well backed up with video analysis:

42 seconds remaining, 4th Q, 88-87:

On this dunk, Lebron takes advantage of a massive travel. At the very least he took three steps, but if you watch the TiVo version it looks more like four steps on the way to the rim. These things happen fast so I can't fault the refs too much, but it's a pretty big travel.

3:46, 1st OT, 95-93:

Look also how Prince plays defense. He's trying to cheat and he looks at the ball instead of Lebron, and hence he gets beat back door. Rasheed couldn't make much of a play here, but Hunter should have stepped in to try and draw a charge or strip Lebron.

11, 2nd OT, 107-107:

Billups again makes the same mistake that Prince makes earlier. He looks back for either his help defense or a screener, and as soon as he's back, Lebron goes left and then comes back to his right to finish.

Rasheed certainly had a lot of mentle break downs on defense, but the other Pistons did as well. And how Flip Saunders remains coach after that performance is beyond me.

Nice article.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

Reminds me of idiot rasheed double teaming Ginobili in the corner, freeing up Horry for the game winner two years ago in game 5.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Adam J said...

"GAWD," you don't really know how gambling works, do you?

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got to pretty dam ageree with jason. posterization destroyed him for the rest of the series. he didnt want to be dunked ever again. but instead of increasing his defense, he chose the easy way out. sad.

At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's simple, the cavs had it easy last post season and the pistons didn't, it won't happen again.

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