In a bizarro mirror of their game last night against the Magic, the Cavs survived an early barrage of threes from the Clippers to take control in the second half, with 20 points each from LeBron, Mo Williams, and a back-from-injury Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Cavs’s home winning streak now stands at 22.
Full disclosure: because I live in Los Angeles, tonight’s game was blacked out on my league pass broadband, which is how I watch all Cavs games that aren’t on national TV. My roomate was watching TV for the first bit of the game, so I missed the Cavs’ initial dominant run-out. I’m not pleased about this.
God, how much easier does Z make everything for this team offensively? LeBron gets lower catches when the ball’s in the high-low post and can operate the offense more easily, guys can run off low pin-down screens, and best of all that beautiful jumper, which was nearly automatic tonight, frees up space for everyone to operate.
A snapshot: LeBron had been struggling to convert right around the basket in the past few games. Tonight, he was 5-6 from the immediate basket area and drew two fouls, making him effectively 7-8. Not a coincidence.
Of course it was a much, much, worse defense, but LeBron was definitely playing with the type of ease and confidence that characterized his play when the team was dominant, finishing with a 25/7/6 line on 63% true shooting. He was able to get into the lane without having to force the issue and dance around, went to the spin move off the dribble to get to the bucket instead of end up with the in-between shot he got and missed against Orlando.
After struggling with his shot against Orlando, LeBron was a very respectable 4-10 on jumpers (5-10 effectively), and that number was brought down by two desperation heaves with the shot clock winding down. Having that safety valve in Z for jumpers really makes his life so much easier, as does being able to catch the ball and work with space at the elbow. He could easily have finished with 10 assists if Andy and Ben hadn’t fumbled or gotten fouled on some absolutely beautiful feeds for would-be layups; that the one guy on this roster who could develop into someone who converts that play on a regular basis, JJ, only got 8 minutes thanks to Z’s return tonight is unhappy-making.
By the way, the Cavs were +32 in LeBron’s 37 minutes on the court and hemmoraged 17 points in his 11 minutes on the bench. I think he’s valuable to this team.
However much I want to see JJ continue to get court time, the guy his minutes would come from, Wally, has been an absolute house of fire, pouring in 15 points on 10 shots in 26 minutes. Tonights 2-5 performance from beyond the arc made him 58% on threes for January. He’s finally shooting like we thought he would! That only took 10 months. I’d actually like to see him run more pick-and-pops with Mo when he’s out there to get him shots, like we saw the Clippers do with Steve Novak on the other end.
He’s a good scorer and we knew thought held out a faint glimmer of hope that he would be in a Cavs uniform; now we just have to decide if a guy with one good dimension is a rotation player for a championship team. I definitely wouldn’t trade him just to get another rotation guy at this point.
Mo was definitely feeling it from deep tonight, taking advantage of spacing and setting up for some catch-and-shoot threes and making the nice passes to open guys and not having to go to his always-there midrange game. Fun fact: fully half of his 8 misses were on layups.
Andy’s return to the bench: less than triumphant.
Sasha: 53% on three-pointers in January. Wow. Boobie might have been the best spot-up three-point shooter in the league last year. Right now, Boobie is the fourth-best three point shooter on this team. Wow.
Ben with some bounce back in his step, with 11 boards, 3 assists (?), 2 blocks, a steal, and the second-highest +/- on the team with a +27.
Eric Gordon gave the Cavs some serious trouble from beyond the arc tonight. That kid’s jumper is flat-out pure, and he’s so fast you kind of have to give him space for it. I will point out that Delonte West would have been a very good guy to bottle up EG. Still, I like the kid’s game a lot, and this isn’t the blog that’s going to say that him going to the rookie game instead of Kevin Love is a travesty. The official position of Cavs: The Blog is that Kevin Love is corpulent and bad at basketball.
Fred Jones is a STARTER? Dunk contest Fred Jones? And he finished with 9 assists?
That was not the Baron Davis I named my first blog after. They are not the same person. Although the steal and behind-the-back move was vintage Boom-Dizzle.
Ricky Davis going to the Q for revenge: not a prevailing storyline.
STEVE NOVAK DOMINATION. For the second time, Cavs: The Blog has fallen in love with a spot-up shooter on a terrible team. When he catches and shoots, it’s just cash. I’ve never seen a catch-and-shoot guy with actual forward height that good. He was 5-10 from deep, and it would’ve been better if the Clippers’ offense wasn’t so bad that Steve Novak freestyling was a good offensive option.
He was noticeably terrible in some areas (3 rebounds in 35 minutes, and he was nowhere to be found on defensive rotations to protect the rim), but can you imagine how much this guy would hit if he was getting the looks Donyell got as a stretch-the-floor forward with us? Je-sus.
Again, I missed the opening few minutes-what did DeAndre Jordan do in the first 5 minutes to get him benched for the rest of the game?
Play of the Game:
I’m nervous to do a POG because Arnovitz absolutely destroys me at this type of thing, but I’ll take a crack anyways; in the third quarter, with LeBron at the top of the key, the defense loads up, Mo Williams gets the pass coming off a down-screen and gets into the lane, the defense collapses, Mo makes the easy pass to a wide-open Z for the midrange J. It’s easy, it doesn’t require LeBron going one-on-five but takes advantage of the space he provides, and it’s something that Mo’s playmaking, the new-this-year offensive flow, and Z’s spacing allows to be possible.
Thing of the Game:
My thoughts going into the weekend:
Penn vs. St. Pierre 2:
I’m excited for this one because it’s the type of fight that boxing just doesn’t give you, and there’s no chance, as there is in a lot of big fights, that one of the guys in the fight is going to show up washed up or someone’s going to end the fight in the first round.
I really like both of these guys, but in this one my heart’s with BJ because I feel like his game plan coming in is going to keep the fight standing and use his superior boxing to look for a KO or catch GSP and get on top and use his ridiculous BJJ for a sub, which would be a great finish.
Meanwhile, I feel like GSP’s game plan is more or less to do what he did last time, which is to get BJ on the ground and keep him there and neutralize his BJJ for five rounds, which would be kind of anti-climactic.
It’s odd that I feel that way, because I actually like GSP better and feel like he’s got more of a chance at being one of the great ones, but if me and my friends pitch in for a fight I feel I’m owed a good one.
I will note how tough it is to root against GSP after the “UFC Primetime” show, which showed GSP as a physical freak who works harder than everybody else, listens intently to his coaches and never questions them, always tries to shore up his weaknesses and seeks out the people who can best help him do that, and is a good-natured, friendly, funny, always respectful, and quietly confident guy who’s worked hard for everything he’s acheived.
And remember, this is probably the most physically gifted guy in the sport. It’s odd that one of the best role models for any athlete based on the criteria the media has set out comes from the sport many of them openly despise or discount. Can you imagine watching a show about LeBron wherein he listens to exactly what his trainers tell him and works with a private shooting coach, a post moves coach, and does rigorous workouts without ever questioning them or steering the training in the direction he wants to go in, utterly refusing to let his ego get in the way of his quest to become the perfect athlete? I realize he does something pretty close to that now, but somehow GSP just seems to be on a whole different level from most athletes when it comes to going about trying to improve.
(B.J. didn’t come off as all that bad, just insecure and with a chip on his shoulder and a fear in the back of his mind that he could be at his absolute peak and still not be as good as GSP, as well as a guy who’s determined to have more important things in his life than fighting)
The Super Bowl’s actually kind of similar-heart says the underdog Cardinals’ offense makes it into an exciting game they win, head says the Steelers’ superior D makes it a boring game they take home.
For the video, in honor of Polamalu making the Super Bowl, here’s the best work David Fincher made this year. THAT’S RIGHT CAVS: THE BLOG WENT THERE. WALL-E WAS ROBBED.
Holy crap, that’s awesome. I’m going to post that like five more times in the coming weeks.