Two teams entered, not 24 hours removed from being called out by teammates for not having the requisite toughness and lamenting how other playoff teams do. So one of them was going to look “tougher” by default, which means “one would win because they have to.”
In what was a mildly controversial ending only if you watched the majority of the thing, Cleveland’s Cavs topped Indiana’s Pacers 100-96, sending the Pacers to their fourth loss in their last five while snapping their own three-game losing streak.
The controversy comes from a Paul George three-pointer with just over four minutes left that clearly came after the shot clock had expired, but wasn’t wiped away (and not with sufficient communication to Pacers coach Frank Vogel, apparently) until a few minutes had gone off the clock. More on that later.
J.R. Smith (Cleveland) and George (Indiana) were the guys to question their mates’ toughness yesterday after flaccid backside-whippings at the hands of Washington and Portland respectively. Smith shot a salty 4-14, but was active, all over the floor after loose balls, and wanted it as much as you’re going to without actually scoring points well.
George shot okay, especially from deep (4-9), but saw 14 of his 23 come in the third quarter (where he and Monta Ellis made up 28 of the team’s 30) and again, the team went away from him in late possessions. To the Cavs’ credit, he wasn’t really getting himself open. But he needs to.
It’s hard to tell if any “toughness meter” was cracked with this one. Kevin Love at times was visually frustrated without the ball going where he thought it should go. It didn’t help that he couldn’t hit garbage if you dropped him 50 feet above a landfill from a helicopter in spite of playing the most minutes on the team Monday night.
Love, Smith, and Kyrie Irving were a combined 13-41 from the field. That probably has to improve, whether “toughness” is involved in that equation or not. Irving did drop in 11-11 free throws, so at if a game ever turns into a HORSE contests and he gets first shot, good luck.
The truth is, we probably learned nothing about either team tonight from this battle of would-be and trying-to-find-it toughness. The pace didn’t pick up until the third and was sloppy throughout. The Pacers did what they do, which is find amazing ways to lose close games, and the Cavs can feel decent about a win all the same.
Which gets us back to Monday’s idiocy. The NBA has got to find a better way to do this “reviewing” stuff if they’re going to do it than have it done a few minutes later. Without question, in a back and forth game, Vogel and staff call the game differently knowing they’re without three points that are showing on the scoreboard.
It doesn’t exempt them from stupid play calling that saw the team assume it was up four and spend two possessions with a shot at extending it to six showing all of one pass and two near 20-foot jumpers, the worst shot in basketball, but surely there has to be another way.
Think if any other sport did that.
“We’ll figure out if it’s a fumble after the possession is over and if you got a touchdown, we’ll just wipe it and bring the ball back.”
Or, “we’ll call that one a 3-run homer and review it, but if we find out it was just wide, you only get the runs that were had after the bases were cleared.”
Basketball is a different sport and like any, suffers from over-reviewing, but there has to be another way. Human error is better than this. No one, save a few folks who have nothing better to do, would have noticed it.
Either way, two teams were called out and one had to win. The Cavs did so. What it tells us is what we knew going in … that tough or not, Cleveland was going to be the class of the East going into the playoffs, and the schizophrenic Pacers will be scuffling for a late seed bid into the last week.
To the victors go the spoils, tough or not.