Archive for Monday, May 12, 2008

Commentary: Seven-game series a psychology test

May 12, 2008


— Something exists in the world called "The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity."

Talk about delving into a swamp of sinking mangrove trees.

I would propose a simpler study - "The Psychology of the Seven-Game Series" in sports.

For one, it avoids the quagmire that other study presents.

It's also quite fascinating - to those of us who find things like this fascinating.

These series have lives of their own. A team loses once or twice and feelings can sink. One win can change the feel of everything. And if ever a team steps back and looks at the series in its entirety, it is in big, big trouble.

This is the way things were with the Cavs. They lost twice in Boston, once in a game they could have won, once in a blowout.

The feeling leaving the new Boston Garden was not good - at least not as I read it. Because the big picture stated the Cavs needed to win four of five against a team that had won 66 games during the regular season.

The Cavs' view, though, was that they needed to win one game.

They did - and now they must have brought some doubt into the minds of the Celtics.

If the Cavs win one more game, things are exactly where they should be - each team having won on its home floor, with three games to go. LeBron James has not been himself, though he showed signs of breaking free of this mini-slump in Game 3.

But James is hardly the Lone Ranger as far as poor shooting goes.

Two of Boston's stars are struggling as much as James.

Paul Pierce is 12-for-35, 3-for-13 from three-point range.

That speaks well for the Cavs' defense.

Through three games, the Celtics are averaging 83 points per game, and are shooting 41.1 percent.

The rest of the series will be close if the Cavs continue that kind of defensive effort.

James had a tough night shooting Saturday - 5-for-16 - but the consequences were not as severe because he got help.

One can look at this two ways. First is that the offense hasn't been consistent, so there might not be a repeat of its good play tonight.

The other would be to say that even if the offense is not run as well as it was in Game 3, James should continue to find his shot. And his efforts should offset any drop-off.

The Celtics won 31 games on the road this season, but in the playoffs, Atlanta beat them three times at home.


This might seem to be something that is now in the Celtics' heads. How can it not be, when everyone is asking them about it, writing about it and talking about it?

But the flip side is, danger lurks, the Celtics will somehow find themselves and come up with the supreme effort away from Boston.

It's imperative for the Cavs to keep playing defense like they have been, and to play offense like they did in Game 3. Coach Mike Brown wouldn't call tonight a must win, but if the Cavs lose, the Celtics go home with a chance to end the series.

Saturday "doesn't matter if we lose (tonight)," Cavs forward Joe Smith said.

Doesn't take psychology to understand that point.


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