A missed dunk isn’t usually that big of a deal. But Shaq’s missed dunk in the first half of Game 3 against the Bulls highlighted just how far the big man has fallen.
The Big Aristotle played fairly well in Game 1 against the tiny Bulls frontline, but was a non-factor in Game 2 and downright awful in Game 3. The Cavs play much better when he is off the court, using a small lineup with Anderson Varejao at center. Mike Brown could turn to J.J. Hickson to provide more athleticism in Game 4 against the likes of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.
Shaq’s Game 3 numbers–six points and four rebounds in 19 minutes–were indicative of his declining skills. He has a huge size advantage against the Bulls, but seems to have lost what little quickness he had left. His moves are slow and tentative. His touch around the basket is gone. His lift is gone. On the defensive end, Shaq’s feet appear to be stuck in concrete–Joakim Noah drives around him with ease. Pick n’ roll defense, never one of Shaq’s strong suits, has been a glaring problem against the Bulls, with Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich getting numerous open looks in each game of the series.
Just about everybody has praised Shaq’s work ethic this year in Cleveland. He supposedly has dropped around 20 pounds while recovering from his thumb injury, although he still looks overweight. He is vastly out of shape, unable to get up and down the court without breathing hard.
No matter how hard he works, the prideful Shaq won’t be able to make his body perform forever. At this point, he is sputtering towards the finish line.
Dwight Howard couldn’t be happier.