Tuesday , May , 15 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, & Jason Kidd Struggle, Cleveland Cavaliers Win Behind Lebron James’ Performance

The Cleveland Cavaliers have taken a commanding 3-1 series lead with their 87-85 win over the New Jersey Nets … LeBron James was brilliant, Carter, Jefferson, & Kidd struggled … Where did the Cavaliers learn to play such great defense? … And are the Nets tired? Click here for your recap, reaction, and analysis …

What Happened: had a near-triple-double, tallying 30 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists to help the defeat the New Jersey Nets 87-85 on Monday night at Continental Airlines Arena.

With the win, Cleveland has taken a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. They are one win away from advancing to their first conference finals appearance in 15 years.

James rebounded from a disappointing 5-for-16 shooting performance in game three. He started  game four slowly, deferring to teammates in the first quarter. But James picked things up in the second quarter, scoring scored eight points in two minutes to give the Cavaliers the lead.

The All-World forward had some help on this night. scored 19 points in a ploughman-like 43 minutes, while added 13 points to go with 11 rebounds.

But Cleveland’s fine play only tells part of the story. New Jersey’s Big Three had a poor shooting night. had a career-high 17 rebounds and seven assists, but only scored five points, making 2-of-13 shot attempts. registered 25 points, nine assists, and nine rebounds, but only made 6-of-23 shot attempts. scored 15 points, connecting on just 3-of 12 field goal attempts.

Mikki Moore carried the Nets’ offense, hitting 11-of-14 shots for 25 points.

New Jersey, despite an off-shooting night from the Big Three, still had a chance to tie things up in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter. But played solid defense, forcing Vince Carter to turn the ball over.

Game five is on Friday in Cleveland.

Reaction of Cleveland guard Lebron James
on gaining experience from last year’s playoff loss: "We definitely learned a lot from winning the series last year to losing the series. It helped us in the postseason. This is a tough environment to win in. Now we have a chance to close it out at home. We know it’s not going to be easy." (ESPN)

Reaction of Cleveland guard Eric Snow
on his team’s defensive strategy:
"We tried to make them take tough shots, but they’re three extremely talented players. We tried to make it tough for them, and on any given night, they are bound to hurt you." (ESPN)

Reaction of New Jersey center Mikki Moore
on facing elimination in game five:
"Just losing is going to give you a bitter taste, but we haven’t lost our fight. We lost the first game like that and this game like that. We know we can compete with these guys. We are our biggest enemy. We always down the stretch get turnovers or bad shots or whatever. We’re all right, we just have to win the rest of the games."  (CNNSI)

My Take: The San Antonio Spurs are having a major influence on this playoff series. Yes, those Spurs from the Western Conference are influencing a series between New Jersey and Cleveland.

Mike Brown, the Cavaliers’ sideline boss, worked as an assistant coach for the Spurs from 2000-2003. No doubt about it, Brown’s built his team on the Gregg Popovich-San Antonio model.

Why wouldn’t he? Think about it.

The Cavaliers play tenacious half-court defense. Just like the Spurs.

On offense, the Cavaliers base everything around their superstar in James. Just like the Spurs with Tim Duncan.

Of course, there are major differences between Cleveland and San Antonio.

The Cavaliers’ supporting cast is still emerging, while the Spurs have surrounded Tim Duncan with three current-and-past All-Stars in Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Michael Finley.

The Cavaliers big-money veterans, Eric Snow, Damon Jones, and Donyell Marshall have been a disappointment. The Spurs big-money veterans, Brent Barry and Robert Horry, make timely contributions.

Again, there are major differences between these two clubs. But it’s interesting to note where this Cleveland team got their general identity from. It would be something if the Cavaliers and Spurs met-up in the finals.

The Nets look tired. Remember, they exerted a ton of energy clawing back from a 30-38 record to qualify for the playoffs. And then they were engaged in a tiresome six game series with the Toronto Raptors.

Tired legs surely played a part in the Big Three’s poor shooting on Monday night.

Look at the final play of the game. Carter couldn’t drive past, post-up, or shoot a jumper over Snow. Carter’s an athletic 6-7, Snow, an aging defensive-stopper, is 6-2.

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