We all know the preseason doesn’t matter too much, especially for the good teams.
Current rivalries, on the other hand, can still be amusing in the preseason. In general, though, in the preseason, star players won’t play as much, and the bench players will have a bigger role. Sometimes, also, players won’t play quite as hard or with the same passion. This was not the case last night.
Three items key us into the passion behind this preseason win for the Celtics, as they beat the Cavaliers 96-82 on Wednesday night.
- LeBron James wanted to win that game, which he made clear by his drives to the hoop area, and the emotion displayed in the game.
- The Cavs were playing at home against the team that knocked them out of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008.
- Things got a little testy. Celtic Sheldon and Cavalier Mo Williams got into a little shoving match under the basket. Players came between the two to prevent a fight.
When the Cavs reloaded over the summer by adding Shaquille O’Neil in exchange for Ben Wallace, his afro and a couple other pieces, most people and plenty of sports writers prematurely declared them conference, or even NBA champions. I, however, was in the other camp. Shaq has played more minutes than any other player in the NBA currently, and he is also 37 going on 38. Also, I looked at what happened to the Suns. By the way, what did happen to the Suns? Will they pull through and make the playoffs again in ‘09? After their years of exciting and effective play, that sounds strange to even ask. When Shaq joined the Suns, they were a perennial playoff team that had been deep in the playoffs. Trading Shawn Marion for O’Neil didn’t work out well for either player or, for that matter, for either franchise. Surprisingly, Miami has been even better without Marion. Will the Suns, likewise, be better without Shaq?
Last night, it was the Celtics who were better despite James leading his team in scoring with 18 and Shaq helping him by adding the second best scoring output (for the Cavs) with 16. But, James and Williams were a combined 9/23 (39%) from the field.
To see the Cavs beaten so easily, although the Cavs tried to stay within reaching distance in the first half, may in itself not seem like a big deal. Except, that’s not all!
- Garnett did not play. Instead, they started Rasheed Wallace, who picked up five fouls in under 30 minutes.
- Ray Allen did not play (and neither did Tony Allen).
- Glenn Davis did not play.
- Oh, and Pierce played just over 13 minutes and had fewer points than Kendrick Perkins.
The Cavs, aside from David West, were not missing any significant players, and they had all of their starters.
LeBron played only two minutes less than Perkins, who played the most minutes of any player in the game. So, while LeBron was playing a lot, trying hard, his Cavs could not break through the Celtic barrage led by bench warmer and streak shooter Eddie House and Celtic new-comer Marquis Daniels.
Clearly, it’s too early for the Cavs to panic, but is it too early to look at this game and see cracks in the armor?