[Editor’s Note] The Cavs went into DC to battle a team they were looking up at in the standings. John Wall apparently called this a “must win” game for the Wizards. The Cavs led by as many as 40. With the win, they leapt over Washington to claim 4th place in the East. The Cavs even dominated garbage time, which never happens. The C:tB crew was inactive tonight (we didn’t perfectly align our all-star break), so we tapped some of the veteran commenters for the recap.
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The Bulls came to play, LeBron laid an egg. A win would have been nice for the Cavs, a loss would have hurt the Bulls more than the Cavs. LeBron was -27, Tony Snell, a mutant created when Tony Allen and Ray Allen’s DNA was combined, was +29 and completely dominated LeBron at both ends.
Cavs netted the first five points of the game including a LeBron and-1. After a rebound, LeBron stumbled against the pressure of Tony Snell and coughed it up, leading to a Pau Gasol and-1 the other way: five-point swing for the Bulls. LeBron, seemingly annoyed, calmly stepped into a 3 right in Snell’s eye. And that was the last outside shot LeBron made in the half (and he took quite a few). The Bulls turned up the heat at both ends. Rumors of Gasol’s resurgence turned out to be true. He punished the Cavs inside and even stepped out and swished a corner 3. And then Tony Snell happened. In addition to hounding LeBron like a bulldog, Snell cut right down the lane on back to back possessions and threw down vicious 2-handed dunks. The Bulls continued to flash people down the middle of the lane and the Cavs really didn’t do anything to slow them down. Mozgov showed some life offensively, tossing in a nice left-handed pop shot over Joakim Noah, and drove from the foul line-extended to throw down a brutal left-handed dunk.
The Cavs and Bulls were coronated early, and have spent the season looking up at Toronto and Atlanta. In spite of injuries, chemistry issues, and uneven play, both teams are in a position to compete for the Eastern Conference Crown. Tonight, the Cavs try to continue their march into the All-Star Break on a scintillating stretch of offensive dominance. The Bulls will play without Most-Improved Player Candidate Jimmy Butler, and the Cavs will not have Kevin Love at their disposal. In a game featuring LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Derrick Rose, this contest may be decided in the trenches: Pau Gasol has turned back the clock and Timofey Mozgov has sped it up to a place few thought possible.
I’ll post this later in the weekend, but since it’s already online, sink your teeth into my studio appearance on Dayton’s Sports Scene. We get into all sorts of cool topics and I even took some calls.
Welcome to February. The groundhog saw his shadow (yawn), the Cavs have just 11 games this month (as opposed to 17 in January) and six of those games are on national TV starting tonight against the Clippers, a team that is described at any given time using phrases like “I just don’t like this team” and “don’t sleep on the Clippers”. No one seems to know how to properly rate the Clippers.
I guess the same can be said of the Cavs. We’ve all doubted their ceiling at various times this season, even as we’ve rejoiced in some overwhelming talent-fests. The 11-game streak, ironically enough, is the most steady basketball we’ve seen from the Cavs all season. Let’s hope that continues tonight.
Do me a favor and give my interview with Mark Neal a listen (during halftime or commercial breaks). It’s probably the 7th or 8th most intelligent NBA analysis you’ll hear today!
Nate and Cory attended this game – and I think they’re still at the Horseshoe. So expect a more thorough recap tomorrow. In the meantime I’ll offer my thoughts for you to sound off. Here are 11 quick takes – Lloydian style – in honor of the 11-game winning streak.
1.) This was one of the sloppier games the Cavs have played in a while. They continue to throw bounce passes into heavy leg-traffic. They also go for the touchdown pass a LOT. I think they collectively missed about six alley-oops tonight.
2.) Tonight was a nice win because LeBron and KLove really struggled shooting the ball. They combined to go 7-24. For all the talk about the Cavs not getting Love involved in the offense or “using him properly” – I’ve seen so many occasions this year where he spots up on the perimeter, receives the ball, and then swings it around to someone that’s not spotted up. Tonight he passed up a perfectly wide-open 3 to give the ball to poor Delly, who had to make something happen with time running down on the clock. Love wasn’t the only guy to do this to SuperDova.
Mark and I discuss Kyrie Irving’s Double Nickel Domination, The Kevin Love opt-out situation, and whether or not the Hawks are for real.
The Cavs defeated the Pistons to win their seventh straight game. This one was the definition of an uneven game. The Cavs were about as lethargic as I’ve seen them in the opening minutes before LeBron decided to push the tempo off every miss, taking over the game in spurts. Cleveland couldn’t hit 3s no matter how open until they hit four straight to push their lead to 15 points in the third. (They finished 9-34 from downtown.) Shawn Marion gave an inspired two-way effort in the first half and barely saw the court in the second. LeBron, for all his spurious wizardry was downright horrific in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving had one of his best games as a Cavalier. There were periods were the only offense the Cavs could generate was on the heels of Kyrie’s defense and in the 4th quarter he alone kept the Pistons at arms-length. The Pistons had moments where they completely dominated the Cavs with dribble drive penetration and individual post moves from Greg Monroe. Andre Drummond dominated the defensive glass and sent six shots back from whence they came. But he finished an abysmal 6-17 from the field and missed a handful of point-blank bunnies, including an uncontested one in the final moments that would have made the game much more interesting. A win is a win, but the Cavs played like the 25th best team in the league outlasting the 27th best team. That both teams shot 42% and the Pistons had zero defensive answers for LeBron dribble drives while the Cavs defensive effort was Swiss cheesian tells you how poorly these teams executed on offense.
Last week Mark and I lamented the sorry state of the Cavs [Listen Here] and wondered aloud how hot David Blatt’s seat must have been feeling. The Cavs have won four straight since – so we got a chance to talk about the new trade pieces and viability of a Hawks vs. Warriors NBA Finals.