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Justice Is Served


May 10, 2010 7:04 PM

No Mo excuses: Cavs need better play from Williams

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The question of what's wrong with the Cavaliers brings a two-word answer: Mo Williams.

Now, the blame game doesn't stop at Williams alone. But some in Cavs colors do deserve more blame than others. Coach Mike Brown fits into that group, and his peculiar substitution patterns make some wonder if Brown's the man to lead this franchise to an NBA championship. 

Why does he sit J.J. Hickson and use Shaquille O'Neal so much?

The Shaq situation presents a singular issue of its own. The Cavs picked  this incredible bulk up in the offseason to give Brown the muscle inside his team needed. Yet where the heck was Shaq's muscle when victory stood in the balance Sunday? To find the answer to this puzzler, look no farther than the end of the Cavs bench. Brown had Shaq's butt planted firmly next to the butts of Daniel Gibson, Leon Powe and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Sprinkle blame on Antawn Jamison for his uneven play, because if Jamison had performed to his pedigree, if he had shown more of the talent that made his midseason acquisition so discussed, the series with the Celtics wouldn't stand at 2-2.

Pardon Jamison for his shortcomings if you'd like, but you can't excuse LeBron James. Throw plenty of criticism his way. James deserves it.


On this team, he's its Kobe Bryant; he's its Michael Jordan; he's its Tim Duncan; and he's its ... just pick a marquee player who has led a franchise to a couple of NBA titles. Stars shine in the public spotlight, but James avoided those prime-time moments Sunday in Boston.

His uninspired play cost the Cavs. In the endgame, James had been expected to make all the right moves, take over and dominate play. When he tried, he failed, throwing the ball carelessly around the court as if he were playing dodge ball. His turnovers hurt the team, not helped it.

Yet LeBron James can't be expected to score 32 points each game, grab every rebound in sight and guard the entire galaxy of Celtics stars alone. He needs help, doesn't he?

James and Brown counted on Mo Williams to provide that help. 

During the regular season, he had served as a capable complement to James. Williams had been the team's No. 2 scorer before Jamison rode into town on his white horse. Confined to a lesser role thereafter, Williams didn't need to do as much, and he didn't even do that: He did nothing significant Sunday.

His statistical contributions were so minimal that you wondered why Brown bothered to keep Mo Williams on the floor. It wasn't just Game 4 that he had vanished like a rabbit in a magician's trick; Williams has been MIA through most of the playoff games he has ever played in.

Forget about his miserable offensive numbers for a moment -- and those numbers are utterly forgettable -- and focus on his defense.

What defense?

The first stop that Mo Williams has on Rajon Rondo will be his first stop of Rondo. Williams has allowed Rondo to control the game, and because Williams has chipped in so minimally on offense, Rondo hasn't had to expend much energy in playing defense.

Williams isn't playing much defense; he isn't scoring many points either. So what good is he to Brown, James and the Cavaliers?

That's the question they will need to answer before the game Tuesday night at The Q. The team has some options at its disposal. Brown can start Delonte West or alternate the taller Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon on the 6-foot-1, 171-pound Rondo; Brown could use James, who implored his coach to do just that in the waning minutes of the 97-87 loss Sunday.

Can James, gifted as he is as a defender, cover Rondo any better than he can cover Dwight Howard? Is James on Rondo simply a matchup made in hoops hell?

Who can know for sure?

One thing seems certain, however: Mo Williams can provide the answer to all of this community's angst about Rondo and the Celtics if he plays like Mo Williams.

"We'll figure that out," Williams said. "One player can't beat us."

But one player -- Mo Williams -- can cause the Cavaliers to lose if he plays as poorly as Mo Williams has this series.

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