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LeBron James has been on an absolute tear over the past two weeks, putting up triple-doubles in his last two outings entering Tuesday night's game with the Boston Celtics.
He didn't get the triple-double this time in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 109-104 overtime win against the Celtics, but his 38 points, including 11 in overtime, along with 13 assists against one of the top contenders for the Eastern Conference crown showed us once again his range of skills. The only thing he didn't do was rebound (four). He's right there in the MVP talk.
But even as you watch his game unfold so well, there's still the major issue that we can't escape: One guy cannot win an NBA title. He did yeoman's work to get them to the NBA Finals last season, performing what basically amounts to a miracle. But you saw what happens when a one-man team runs up against a big-time champion like the Spurs.
Almost all the great teams have that No. 2 guy at least. On this night, Drew Gooden (24 points, 13 rebounds) was terrific in that role, and other nights it's Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Daniel Gibson. But they don't have that constant No. 2. Shaq, for example, always played with another great player when he won titles.
When LeBron's out of the game, there's no one who can create offense for himself, or others for that matter. When LeBron briefly left the court, Boston went on a run. He played over 46 minutes out of a possible 53. You can't ask him to go that much. That's a lot of pressure.
So the Cavs are still in a bit of a quandary.
On the flip side, you saw a Celtics team with three different guys capable of carrying them. Which also points out what looks like something the Celtics are working on: Who is going to get the ball in crunch time? Is it going to be one guy, or is it going to be based on matchups?
What's clear is that second-year point guard Rajon Rondo has to get the ball in to one of the big three's hands -- there should never be a big possession in which Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce or Ray Allen doesn't touch the ball. That failure happened in overtime, after Rondo missed two shots, including one that he had to take.
As the last 30 seconds of overtime went by, you saw Celtics coach Doc Rivers talking with Rondo, coaching him on how to handle those game situations. Rondo's a poised kid who's going to get better with time. Hopefully, his jump shot will, too.
One thing Boston apparently needs is a big guy who can score in the paint. In this one, the Cavs flat-out left Kendrick Perkins. And when he did get it in the paint, he kicked it out rather than challenging Ilgauskas.
Maybe Big Baby is that guy, though. Glen Davis, the rookie from LSU, showed some nice moves down low, making all three of his shots and his two free throws in five minutes of action.
Their bench play is important. In this one, Boston reserves outscored Cleveland's 26-8. Ideally, their big three should be going about 36 minutes per game (all three are over that now). And it has to be that way, because they don't have the luxury of a bench like the Spurs'.
You probably couldn't get Garnett out of there, anyway. When I've talked to Rivers about him, he says it's hard even getting him off the practice floor. Along with Allen Iverson, no one plays harder. Boston could probably get by if Pierce or Allen went down, but not KG.So while the Celtics' 11-2 start is impressive, they just haven't had to deal with many close games like this one. They also haven't been tested by the top-notch teams. Still, you could probably put them down for about 54 wins. They are up there with my top four teams in the East, along with the Pistons, who are battling injuries, and the Magic, which I will point out were one of my preseason surprise picks. The fourth team is not as easy a call. For reasons I stated above, I'm not a big Cavaliers guy, and Chicago has dropped out. So, I'd say the Nets would be that fourth team now. ESPN analyst Jon Barry is a regular Daily Dime contributor. Dimes Past: November 10-11 | 12 | 13| 14| 15 | 16 | 17-18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 24-25 | 26 | 27
The only way a team like that wins is by out-hustling and out-executing opponents. Scott Skiles got the Bulls to do that the past four years, but his words seem to be falling on deaf ears now.
Skiles motivates by riding his players relentlessly. That works with most rookies and youngsters, but as players age, they get tired of being treated like college kids who owe their scholarship to the coach.
That's when they begin tuning you out.
Skiles, in my opinion, is a good coach. He reminds me of Mike Fratello. He'll get the most out of mediocre talent and have his teams overachieve for a few years (this is his fifth in Chicago), but after awhile, players get sick of him and tune him out.
According to various players around the league I've talked to, that's what's happening in Chicago.• See the full Chris Broussard blog
-- Andrew Ayres
Chad Ford talks with Brian Windhorst about the contract dispute between the Cavaliers and Anderson Varejao.
Five teams from the Western Conference who entered Monday with a win percentage of .600 or better lost to teams with losing records. Of note, the last time the Mavs, Spurs and Suns all lost on the same day was Nov. 28, 2003.
Upside Down Evening
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AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Nuggets guard J.R. Smith is fouled launching a 3-point shot with six seconds remaining in the Pacers' 112-110 win. Smith missed the third of three free-throw attempts that would have tied the score at 111.