Archive for March, 2009

Recap: 12 points in the 1st quarter. 13 wins in a row.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Overview: In an extremely ugly game, the Cavs were able to hold off the Pistons down the stretch and grind out a 79-73 win despite the fact LeBron, Z, and Mo combined to shoot 17-46 from the floor.  Cavs-Related Bullets:  Does anyone else selfishly catch themselves selfishly wishing that the Cavs had like, 3 or 4 home losses this year instead of just the one? I get that it’s important for us to feel like the Q is a fortress, but I have to have my heart in my throat when a team like Detroit is hanging around in the fourth quarter.  Tonight was about defense, defense, and more defense, as our offense just didn’t have it on this night. Mo and Z weren’t hitting shots, LeBron got kept on the perimeter and went a tidy 3-17 from outside the paint and only got 3 assists. It was ugly stuff out there, and we even were getting beat on the boards.  Fortunately, Detroit could get exactly zero going offensively. When they had the ball in the second half, it did not occur to me that they could score-I was just waiting for the Cavs to get the ball back.  Before we pat ourselves on the back too badly, Detroit really, really, really mailed this one in-AI was the only guy out there giving a crap down the stretch, which was kind of striking.  Oh, and speaking of the stretch, I thought LeBron was off in the fourth quarter tonight. He scored or assisted on every Cavs basket until Mo’s intentional free-throws. His jump shot was not there, but he was moving hard off the ball and finding his spots in transition and finishing with contact including a ridiculous off-balance spinning flip with his wrist as he was getting fouled by Will Bynum. (By the way: why do you not dunk of Will Bynum in that situation?)  I’m not sure whether to be troubled or somehow more awed and encouraged that after ripping off a run of drives and passes to put the Cavs ahead, LeBron decided sealing the game would be too easy and instead went for the dagger with a pull-up jumper and a ridiculous lefty wraparound pass in traffic to Varejao as he was flying to the basket. The game may actually be too easy for LeBron at this point.  Again, big ups to the bench crew for putting together a monster second quarter with LeBron on the bench.

Bullets of Randomness: Just an all-out implosion by Detroit’s backcourt tonight. 9 assists for the team, the entire game, and for all AI gets, he was clearly the best Piston on the floor tonight. This week has been like a revival act for old guards against us.

Does this still feel like a rivalry to you guys? I don’t really see the intensity anymore. I would much, much, much, much rather play these guys than the Bulls at this moment.

Notes And Contrition

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Good news and bad news, folks. 

I did, in fact, write up the response to the 60 Minutes segment on LeBron that nearly several of you requested, but before I started I got called into the Volcano Lair, and consequently I wrote a response to the piece for tomorrow morning’s Daily Dime. So you will see my response along with lots of other people, tomorrow. (In a truncated, “consise and sensical” form that those of you who dislike my ridiculous tangents will enjoy.) So it’ll be up tomorrow morning, and I’ll provide a link and director’s cut-type notes. Peace.

Recap: It was like March Madness in that a basketball was involved.

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Overview: 

After stumbling very hard out of the gate and facing a 15-point deficit, the Cavs absolutely dominated the next three quarters to comfortably put the Mavs away at home. The Cavs are now on a franchise-record 12-game winning streak and have won 60 games. 

 

Cavs-Related Bullets:

The first quarter. Do we acknowledge that basketball is a game of runs and teams are going to hit shots on you, chalk it up to Jason Kidd’s still-there wizardry, or get concerned that great point guards may have the ability to pick-and-roll us to death? I’m more inclined to be in the former category, because at some point really good point guards running pick-and-roll are just going to hurt you.

Yes, Mo was a sieve in Milwakee and isn’t quite Rondo in Cleveland, and big Z isn’t flying up to make hard shows, but they both play well within the system, buy in on that end, and are far from being a legitmate defensive weakness that can be exploited on pick-and-rolls.

That said, I’m confused as to why there wasn’t a lot more pick-and-roll throughout this game, because everything else Dallas did offensively was just shut down. Dirk and JET ISOing on the high post and perimeter was just not there-they got forced into help or contested cleanly, and Dirk’s chess-match slow fakes were replaced by rushed, off-balance shots. 

The Shot Chart for the game shows Dirk shooting 4-18 from midrange, but the next-level data I have from Arnovitz says Dallas as a team went 3-26 from midrange. We’ll have to sort this discrepancy out the next time the LA TrueHoop faction meets in our volcano lab, but the moral of the story is that Dallas was pretty much fail when they went ISO and shot mid-range jumpers.

Talking LeBron: with a 50% TS, this wasn’t his best night scoring the basketball by any stretch of the imagination. He never quite went into beast mode taking the ball to the hoop and only shot five free thows, and spent a lot of time out on the perimeter (6-13 from outside the paint), and tried to go to the post a few times only to get completely shut down-they crowded him with a zone, and his footwork down there is still a work in progress. 

In terms of passing the basketball, LeBron was phenominal. This is about as well as LeBron can pass the ball, which is about as well as anyone can pass the basketball. 12 assists without a turnover in three quarters is impressive enough, but the variety and decision-making involved in the passes was stunning. One-handed bounce lasers to a cutting Varejao and Mo Williams. Cross-court skip passes to guys setting up behind the screen in perfect rythym. Feeding the hot hand in Z on pick-and-pops for a quick run to start the third quarter. 

Of course we never quite forget about LeBron’s passing ability, but on nights like tonight it’s impressive to behold just how good of a quarterback he is on that court, not just in the passes he can make but his sense of the right play at the right time. Grrr, this sounds like broadcast cliches. 

Over this winning streak, I’ve documented a lot of fourth-quarter takeovers by LeBron; tonight he decided to take over the third quarter and rest in the fourth. What makes the third-quarter takeover fun is that LeBron did it with variety and a sense of wonder instead of the crushing force and creativity of his wing ISO-heavy fourth-quarter beatdowns. 

As the Cavs outscored the Mavericks 30-11 in the third to win the game, LeBron scored or assisted for 26 of those points, running pick-and-pop with Z, slashing for layups on a fast-break, being the screener and rolling to the hoop with Delonte, getting hot for three midrange Js in a row, finding Mo for threes, and drilling threes of his own to end the quarter. 

Mo was workman-like, overcoming a bad start to end up with an efficient 22, getting in the paint, and reinforcing the theory that as Mo goes, so goes the team.

Must mention Joe Smith, who was absolutely beasting all game long, owning the paint and cutting the lead at the beginning of the 2nd with LeBron on the bench. And how about that triple!

You’ve gotta love the Cavs’ antics, but the point about what happens when you’ve got your backs to the wall was a valid one. 

Bullets of Randomness:

When you watch March Madness, it does make it even more jarring when a team just completely stops trying like the Mavericks did midway through the third quarter.

Did I catch this team on a weird night, or is Jason Kidd clearly the best player on that team with Dirk playing the “T-Mac on the Rockets” role at this point? Dirk’s far more efficient, but it seems like more good things are happening when the ball’s in J-Kidd’s hands. 

LeBron on 60 Minutes tonight. I’ll watch-is there demand for some sort of short response post?

Recap: Business As Usual, Which Is Unusual.

Friday, March 27th, 2009

 

Overview: In a home game against the woeful Timberwolves, the Cavs came out with energy and took a commanding lead in the first and never looked back, putting the Timberwolves away behind 47 combined points from LeBron and Mo and a strong defensive effort.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Well, playing really bad teams can help make you look really good. LeBron’s first quarter, where he had 18 points, was definitely something to behold, as he came out with energy and looked to put the game away right out of the gate. He nailed a 29-foot three with the shot clock running down (with a perfect stroke, I add), was flying to the basket at will, nailed a heat-check three pulling up on a fast break, and missed a heat-check that the play-by play GENEROUSLY calls a 25-footer-that was from a dribble inside of half-court. However, after that, he actually pump-faked a heat check and blew by his man closing out for a layup. Using made outside shots to open up the paint instead of using them to set up harder shots from deeper? Who knew that could work? 

After the first, he only had two field goals, more or less giving the game to his teammates to take home offensively and hawking the boards for a very strong 12 boards-these weren’t easy ones nobody wanted, they were full-on Dwight Howard snaps in traffic and were part of a strangling effort on the boards-Minnesota, the 8th-best offensive rebounding team in the league, came into the game with an offensive rebound rate of 28% but only got 17% of the offensive boards tonight, with Kevin Love only snagging one offensive board. 

LBJ also added 7 assists for a line of 25/12/7 on 65% TS against a surprisingly harassing Minnesota defense on LeBron, which was able to coax five turnovers out of him. 

The play of the day was definitely LeBron getting a (hard but clean) flagrant foul from Jason Collins, shooting the free-throws, then immediately flying backdoor for an Alley-Oop stuff on the inbounds play. He was actually looking down at the rim. Ridiculous. 

Mo Williams also definitely came to play, drilling half his threes and finding the confidence in a midrange game that had gone a little dormant, hitting 4-6 from midrange and showing the ability to score in a flurry with LeBron on the bench. 

Boobie was 4-5 from beyond the arc, had two assists against one turnover, didn’t stop the ball, and only took 2 shots inside the arc. The key is that all the looks were open-the less he forces, the better he becomes. I’m thinking that new contract was at least as much of a problem for him as the toe was. 

Delonte also seems to be exuding confidence, going for a Delonte-like 13/5/6 by attacking the hole, setting up a midrange game, and keeping the ball moving. 

You know what, the whole team came to play tonight. The rotations were crisp, everyone was making the extra pass and hitting shots, and 7 players had 2 or more assists. (One of the 2 who didn’t? Mo.)

On the “Brazilian Backhand”-for the love of God, no more catch-phrases. (By the way, do NOT Google “Brazilian Backhand.”)

 

Bullets of Randomness:

Good lord, this Timberwolves team is a mess. Foye, Telfair, and Miller all come off the bench while Kevin Ollie starts. 

Twice, Mike Miller drove and kicked to Sebastian Telfair for a corner three attempt. What’s wrong with this picture?

In fact, Mike Miller had all of two field goal attempts, with one coming on a fast-break he couldn’t not take. “Mike Miller, point guard” may be the NBA’s answer to “Joaquin Phoenix, rapper.” 

Randy Foye: 5-9 from deep, 1-7 from two. Wasn’t this kid supposed to be a Dwyane Wade-type? 

You’re not going to believe this, but Kevin Ollie doesn’t look like a starting-quality NBA point guard. We knew this during the Clinton Administration. By the way, Bobby Brown can really play, and he’s buried under Kevin Ollie.

I revise my opinion from “Kevin Love is corpulent and bad at basketball” to “Kevin Love is corpulent and can rebound. Also, he looks like a jerk.”

I’m not sure what I can say about Dan Gilbert’s spectacularly awkward third quarter in the broadcast booth, other than that it was amazing.

Although at one point, Gilbert did point to the Cavs’ popularity by saying how hard it was to get to play as them on XBOX LIVE NBA 2K9. Coincidentally, I played this game for the first time yesterday against my friend, and I can tell you this: everyone wants to be the Cavs because LeBron is completely ridiculous in that game. He’s up there with Michael Vick in pre-passing cone Madden.

When me and my friend played, LeBron finished with 45 points on 20-23 shooting from the field with 6 assists and the game-winning three with two hands in his face at the buzzer.  (Also, when my friend double-trapped him, he made the pass to Mo Williams for a game-tying three, which was cool because that’s what happens in real life.) I can’t believe I got an excuse to tell that story on this blog. I swear my life cooler than this blog makes it seem. I also realize that’s not saying a lot.  See y’all Sunday.

Off-Day Fun: Interviews and Errata

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

If you’re wondering how to get some love or a link from this site, about the best tip I can give you is do an interview of me. The fantastic people/geniuses on all things basketball over at BasketBall-Reference chose to do just that, and for feeding my narcissism they shall be rewarded. Here’s a link to the interview. I think things about me are generally good, but if you’re interested, I got in a fairly righteous mood in there and dropped some serious truth-bombs, so go ahead and check that out.

Recap: Technically Speaking, we’re really good at basketball.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

 

Overview: With yet another unconvincing but nonetheless effective performance, the Cavs let the Nets hang around for three and a half quarters, then put them away down the stretch. LeBron put in an efficient 22/8/11 and every starter finished in double figures.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

We’ll start with the end, since that’s the only time the Cavs were really playing hard in this one:

At some point I realize this stuff won’t go away until LeBron wins a championship or multiple ones, and I see the point, but can we please give this “killer instinct” stuff a rest? I don’t know where this stuff comes from, and I could go on and on about how LeBron has had far and away the best clutch stats in the league for the past three years, or how the Cavs were, beyond any semblance of a doubt, one of the best clutch teams in history last year. But for the sake of time, please just look at what he’s done over this 10-game win streak. Here’s tonight.

-LeBron starts the fourth quarter on the bench. The Cavaliers blow an 8-point lead in four minutes. 

-LeBron comes into the game. He gets to the line, bricks a step-back jumper, and sinks two free throws and sets up Delonte West with a three. 

-LeBron drives to the basket, thinks he gets contact, but gets no whistle and misses the floater. He gets a technical. LeBron, he who supposedly lacks a killer instinct, gets majorly pissed. LeBron creates a score on every Cavs possession from this point, with 5 minutes left and the score tied, to the end of the game. I am serious. Here you go.

-LeBron flies through traffic and makes a left-handed scoop shot in between three defenders with no whistle.

-LeBron hits Z with a bullet pass directly under the basket. Z gets fouled and drains both free throws.

-LeBron sets up Delonte West with an open three.

-LeBron hits Varejao a weak-to-strong side flash on a wing ISO for a reverse layup.

-LeBron gets fouled and drains two free throws.

-LeBron pulls up and drains a 20-foot jumper.

-Double-trapped 30 feet away from the basket, LeBron calmly takes a dribble and sets up a now-wide open Mo Williams for the dagger three. From here on out it’s intentional fouls. 

That was literally every Cavs possession in the last five minutes of the game. The tallies:

In the fourth quarter, LeBron went for 8 points on 6 attempts and accounted for 13 points on 5 passes, with no turnovers. That’s 21 points on 11 possessions used. 100% efficiency would be 22 points. And this all comes with the game on the line.

IF THIS ISN’T A KILLER

INSTINCT, I IMPLORE YOU TO

INFORM ME AS TO WHAT IS.

 

As for the rest of the stuff:

Andy continued not only his run of stellar player but his reputation as a Nets-killer, taking advantage of Yi and Brook Lopez’s defensive inexperience to catch them watching LeBron on the strong side time after time again and find a spot for a layup. 

I’m trying not to get over-excited, but 3-4 from beyond the arc tonight for Delonte, including two big ones in the fourth quarter, to go along with 9 rebounds, 3 dimes, and a steal. 

Mo Williams had his shot tonight, and he was out there either making hard drives and looking to pass or catching and shooting the three-ball, with 9 of his 12 shots coming from deep.

Joe and D-Block continue to be doing high-quality garbage work, combining for 12 and 7 in 28 minutes. Is it a coincidence that Darnell’s cracked the rotation only after Joe came along? Back when it still looked like Darnell could hit that mid-range J in an NBA setting, that comparison was thrown around a lot, and it appears that it may have merit to it.

Sasha Pavlovic: continuing to blow his chance at the playoff rotation. In 30 seconds, Tarence  Kinsey did more good things (making an entry pass and cutting for a give-and-go, then circling back to clear the floor), than I’ve seen from our bench swingmen. 

Daniel is continuing to look under control, not forcing anything and even making a nice pass here or there. I’ll take 3 points on 2 shots and 2 assists against 1 turnover from Boobie any day. He’s not the JET Terry I had once dreamed him to be, but if he can’t do that than just playing smart and hitting occasional threes is fine. But somebody tell him his floater NEVER goes in. 

Bullets of Randomness:

When did Keyon Dooling become a straight baller? He gets to the paint at will, knows how to set guys up, has upper-echelon point guard springs, and shoots 43% from deep. And at 28, he’s never averaged more than 9.4 points and 3.3 assists. I think he should just move to Italy and pretend to be Brandon Jennings. He’d get drafted in the top 10.

I REALLY like CDR. I desperately wanted the Cavs to draft him (not knowing the Mo trade was coming and knowing nothing of JJ Hickson.) Hickson’s definitely got worlds more potential, but there’s a 80% chance CDR becomes a starting-quality two or a Maggette-like bench scorer, the kind of competent and autonomous backcourt presence the Cavs have lacked until this year. He just knows how to score, and he hasn’t even calibrated to NBA range from deep yet. 

If you had told me in 2000 that an average game from VC would involve him taking 9 threes and going 4-15 from inside the arc, I probably would have hit you or cried. 

I thought Brook Lopez would definitely be a bust. I was very wrong. His post game still sucks, but I underestimated how good he’d be catching and finishing with guys who can actually penetrate around him. Him and Harris are 2/5ths of a very good starting lineup for a very long time. 

Yi Sucks.

This may have karmic repercussions and I don’t usually like to be that guy, but if LeBron’s performances like this keep getting ignored while the adorable MVP candidate Dwyane Wade crapping the bed and going 5-24 for the game, 1-6 in the fourth quarter (2-4 from the line), and bricking the game-winner in a two-point loss, I’m going to lose it. I know everyone calls media bias, but if this doesn’t happen it’ll be a little comical, especially considering the free pass Kobe got for going 5-15 in a one-point game the other week.

MVP-ness, part one: Why LeBron James is the MVP of the league

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

 

Well, it’s time to pull back the curtain a little bit: For his MVP post for TrueHoop, Graydon asked me to give a take on LeBron James and his credentials. I replied late and most of what I said ended up getting killed in editing, but then I saw Ben Q. Rock over at Third Quarter Collapse post the full transcript of what he sent to Graydon, and I realized I can do the same. There will be a post dealing specifically with Wade and the issue of defense sometime in the near future. 

 

I actually run the MVP race for SLAM online , so you can check that out if it fits your fancy. But here’s a take just for you guys:

For me, there are three major factors to consider in an MVP race, and if you’re comparing two guys two out of three takes it (all of this assumes we’re talking about the best player on a team):
1. Size of Role On Team: Does the offense run through this guy on every play? Is he a good cog in a pre-existing system or is the system built around him? Defensively, is he hidden on the wings or is he in the middle? In crunch-time, is he the guy who’s the definitive difference between a win and a loss? (This one favors guys like Wade and LBJ  and doesn’t work as well for guys like Kevin Garnett last year.)
2. Efficiency in performing role: Is this guy gunning for stats, or is he doing it all efficiently? Does he put in a commitment to his defensive role every night? How much does he turn the ball over? Does he choke the offense? For this one, TS% and turnover rate are the main things I look at.
3. Success of Team. Pretty self-explanatory.
If you’ve got two of three, you get it, which kind of explains itself: If you’re performing more efficiently than a guy putting up bigger numbers on a worse team, it’s reasonable to infer you’d be hurting the success of a team if you were shooting more with less efficiency, and the same goes for a guy with a bigger role on a better team. However, if you’re both doing more and doing it more efficiently than another guy, I think you can say the reason his team isn’t as good isn’t the best player’s fault. 
And yeah, LeBron James is the MVP this year, and it’s really not all that close at this point. Frankly, I think Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade are the only other people who votes could legitimately go to if the season ended today.
Just quickly:
-In terms of role on team, only Dwyane Wade creates more points (Points+Ast*2) than LBJ, and it’s by a 2 point gap, with Wade playing many more crunch minutes , which are huge in terms of numbers. Add all that to what LeBron does on the boards and on the defensive end.
-When you look at +/-, it’s LeBron, CP3, and everyone else, with those two accounting for a positive value of 23.2 points per 100 possessions. When LeBron is off the floor, the Cavs are a -9.6 team. That would make them the worst team in the league. The second-best player on the team was dumped by the Bucks this off-season, and the Bucks weren’t lighting the world on fire when Mo Williams was their second-best player. The Cavs’ starters alone have missed 51 games this season. And this is the team with the best record in the NBA.
-In terms of efficiency, he’s on pace to set a PER record, and he’s got Kobe and Wade beat fairly handily in terms of TS%, with a turnover rate better than Wade’s, and on a per-possession basis his assist ratio is better than either of theirs. 
-And in crunch time, LeBron’s numbers are better than anyone else’s (In “clutch” situations, he averages what would extrapolate to 53.2/13.5/12.1 on 53%/44.4%/85% shooting), and more importantly the Cavs are the 2nd-best fourth-quarter team in the league and have been absolutely phenominal in clutch situations, losing only two games by three points or less. (On two controversial referee decisions-the back-to-back alley-oop fouls and, yes, the infamous “Crab Dribble” game.)
-And defensively, he’s been phenominal, head and shoulders above any other candidate. Just as an afterthought. 
I’ll leave you with a quick microcosm: During their current 9-game winning streak, the Cavs have entered 4 fourth quarters trailing and had one other overtime game. Within those games, LeBron:
-Directly accounted for (scored or assisted) 21 of the Cavs’ 35 points in a win over the Clippers
-Accounted for 34 of the Cavs’ 42 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to erase a 14-point fourth quarter deficit against the Kings.
-Accounted for 21 of the Cavs’ 25 points in the fourth quarter against the Magic, including a go-ahead g 28-foot three with the Cavs trailing with 47 seconds to go.
-Against the Blazers, accounted for the Cavs’ final 17 points, not including two Mo Williams free throws on an intentional foul to end the game.
This is the team with the best record in the league, and it’s almost entirely because LeBron is having an absolutely superhuman season in every imaginable facet of the game. I think that four players this season are having seasons that could have won an MVP award in previous years, and I think LeBron is head and shoulders above that pack. He’s been that good. 

Recap: Ultra-Quick Thoughts

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Sorry Guys, but full disclosure is that I missed the second half last night because I was flying back to school. I’ll open up a thread here so that you guys can get your thoughts in, but all I have are a couple of quick hits:

-Andy’s off-ball movement: amazing. If JJ wants back in the rotation, he should look at what Andy’s doing. When you move with LeBron, good things happen. It took us a half-decade to figure that out.

-Yep, Mo’s shot was off this game. This every-other game thing is weird.

-My favorite Boobie game of the year, even though he went scoreless: the passing lightbulb seems to have gone off, and with defenses still closing out on him and him knowing to drop it down low under the trap instead of force it, he’s making a huge impact. 

-I’d have liked to see LeBron do a little more, actually-he had the lane anytime he wanted it, and it really did look like he was trying to give himself challenges instead of putting away what could have been a trap game early. I realize I’m bitching at this point. He’s that good.

-Congratulations to Z on setting the blocks record.

Recap: Business-Like on a weekend

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

 

Overview: In a refereshing blowout not really reflected by the final score, the Cavs easily held their home-court against the red-hot Hawks, controlling the game defensively and cruising to a win behind 20-point efforts from James and Williams.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Embrace the boring. We got back to our defensive fundamentals tonight, and the strangling defense allowed us to not really break a sweat in crusing to a victory. 

LeBron never quite had to turn it on the whole way, spending a lot of time testing out his deep jumper (3-7 on his “midrange” shots from 20+, 1-4 from deep), and not really forcing anything on his way to a wholly unremarkable 21 on 22 attempts with 7 boards and 5 assists. (His 3 steals go to show how LeBron likes to put in effort in other places when he’s not aiming to take over the game offensively.)

Mo continued his every-other-game shooting touch, pouring in an easy 24 on only 16 attempts, including going 3-4 from deep. 

Andy seemed a little gassed, with only 3 field goal attempts and no offensive boards, but Joe was there to pick up the slack, going 4-5 from the floor and putting a spin move for a layup down that recalled his Golden State days. 

Delonte’s shot continues to be an issue, but he provided a lot of energy and ball movement and finally hit a three in the fourth quarter. 

Big Z got his 10,o00 points with balance, hitting 3 deep jumpers and 3 from the paint. Congrats to the big guy. 

…Cautious Optimism about Boobie…

Okay, props to Darnell Jackson, leading the team in offensive boards and posting a very nice 4/8/1 in 17 minutes.

2 POINTS IN 1 MINUTE FOR TARENCE. 

Bullets of Randomness:

3-time All-Star Joe Johnson: Impressive tonight.

If you know of another player more likely to score 10 points in a minute in garbage time than Flip Murray, I’d love to hear it. I miss that guy. I really do.  

Recap: at this point, that’s not even stressful.

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

 

Overview: 

In an overtime game oddly devoid of suspense, the Cavs and Blazers engaged in an extremely ugly defensive struggle, with efforts from LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas eventually able to will the Cavs to an overtime win. 

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Well, at least we’re used to this by now. And we got back to our defensive fundamentals, which was definitely a good thing, and kept us in this game the whole way.

But there’s no denying this team came out and played extremely flat. If the guys with the ball in their hands don’t feel like showing up, you’re just going to have a tough time offensively. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that, and it certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that Mo and Delonte combining to go 8-29 is not what you want out of them. 

Mo appears to have hit some sort of a wall, because every other game it seems like his shot’s not there, which suggests tired legs more than it suggests something mental keeping him out of his rythym. Delonte, on the other hand, is in a major, major funk. He played gritty defense and got to the rim a few times, but his shot is off to the point he just can’t buy one from outside the paint and he’s not moving the ball right now. There’s no option here-we just have to wait for him to snap out of it, because we don’t win in the playoffs without him. He’s our Lamar Odom-he’s the difference between good and great for us. 

As for LeBron, he continued to wait for the rest of the team to galvanize itself in the first half and was passive offensively, which resulted in a 34-point half. Delonte’s normally the guy turning the key in the first half, and that clearly wasn’t there tonight. He also tried to go back to a jumper that just did not come with him, as he went 3-13 from outside of the paint tonight. Not even his free throw stroke was there, as he went 6-11 from the line. 

And yet he finished with a 26-point triple-double and took over the game. Why? Because of the things LeBron brings to every game; a relentless attack of the basket, the ability to find a teammate out of a double, and the ability to just make stuff up. He got himself to the line, made some beautiful passes to Z on the fast-break and when trapped, and, for whatever reason, flashed the midpost game that has been his achilles heel all year. 

By my rough count, LeBron had three teardrops when cut off in the lane tonight, which he never does at all, including one in crunch-time where Joel Pryzbilla was in perfect position, so LeBron just went over him and dropped the ball in. This was less a “teardrop” than “Rain from a vengeful God.” Me and Doug Collins said “Are You Kidding Me?” in perfect harmony after that one.

Also, the 8-foot runners at full speed that LeBron NEVER makes? He drained one to put the Cavs up four in the fourth quarter. This was just after draining a 12-foot baby jumper I’ve never seen him attempt before. 

Oh, and there was a post game tonight! The lefty scoop shot over Outlaw was gorgeous, and the jump hook to seal the game was amazing. (Although I’m less bullish than many Cavs fans on those 8-foot post shots-there’s a reason nobody really shoots from there anymore, and Al Jefferson, owner of easily the best jump hook in basketball, has a TS% 6 percent lower than LeBron currently does. I’d like to see him take that extra dribble and really get a layup, which LBJ never quite looks comfortable doing. Still, better than a 20-footer.)

The post-move that really got me going was the freaking McHale fake where James got Outlaw up, stepped through, stayed patient again on Oden coming over, and got Oden in the air and got free throws. Just a ridiculously savvy post possession. Forget an outside shot- if LeBron can play with patience and confidence under that basket, it’s over. Oh, and where he caught it right block, realized Pryzbilla was on him, faced up, gave himself a live dribble, and blew past him for a layup? Beyond fantastic. 

Crunch-timeness: LeBron was great to take over a tie game and pour in two straight baskets to put the Cavs up 4 with 36 seconds to go, than gave up a quick bad foul on B-Roy, went for a dagger 21-footer instead of going back to the drive, and got pump-faked by Roy and almost gave up three shots. Fortunately, he played a great overtime to remain the hero, but just remember how fickle “clutch” can be.

Oh, and LeBron scored or assisted the Cavs’ final 17 points before Mo’s two free throws on an intentional foul to end the game. LeBron’s pretty clutch.

WHAT IS MO DOING THROWING THE BALL AWAY COMPLETELY UNNECESSARILY TO KEEP THE CAVS FROM GETTING THE TURNOVERS IN A GAME RECORD? Nobody will ever remember that record, but tossing it away with 10 seconds left in overtime for absolutely no reason was kind of fun. Not a red-letter day for Mo, overall. 

Z saves the day, meanwhile. He hit some big jumpers in overtime, but the good thing is that he fell out of love with that shot, hitting 4 of his 9 mid-range jumpers but going 4-4 from the immediate basket area, finding gaps in the paint when LeBron got trapped and using transition to get directly under the basket for a post-up instead of trying to work his way in from the mid-post. 

Also worthy of commendation: Joe Smith, with 12 points on perfect shooting doing the dirty work. 

With Pavs playing 24 minutes and fouling out with one point, I will put a 5-game limit on my Tarence Kinsey begging before getting behind the party line for the playoffs. But until then, I will raise hell on this blog. HELL, I SAY. Also, I am less than pleased about bouncing JJ for Darnell. 5 games.

Bullets of Randomness:

Love B-Roy’s game. Love it. I’d say we shut him down, but he got 24 points on 20 attempts. Great scorers can score quiet. 

Meanwhile, it seemed like Outlaw was feeling it all game, but finished with 17 points on 18 shots. The difference? 2 free throws vs. 11 for Roy. Some guys get scoring, some don’t. Outlaw absolutely should’ve been moved at deadline. 

Steve Blake seems like Blazer Delonte.

Props to Doug Collins, who definitely did his homework on the Cavs. 

Thing of the Game:

“Jai Ho.” I finally saw this movie today, and this doesn’t feel festive enough for an overtime win. Enjoy yourselves. Gotta go, because STRINGER BELL IS ON THE OFFICE TONIGHT. With Jon Hamm on 30 Rock, that’s guys from two of my top 5 favorite dramas on two of my top 5 favorite comedies.