Archive for March, 2009

Recap: I’m out of things to say. (Not really)

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

 

Overview:

In a playoff-intensity game, the Cavs scrapped to defend their home floor by edging out the Magic behind an epic 43/12/8 from LeBron James, who had a massive go-ahead three with 47 seconds to go. 

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Seriously, though, what was up with 6 turnovers from LeBron tonight? I kid.

LeBron James is more messianic than you are.  Not only did he completely dominate this game, but he did it against a defense that was well set up and ready to take away his bread and butter from him. The jumper was absolutely in full effect, and this is as good as you’re going to see the inside/out game working from LeBron James. 

Early on, you could see him coming out with determination and energy to take over the game and feel out his game, going to pull-ups, pushing the ball down the court on every steal and rebound and looking to get the basket or make the pass. 

Absolutely everything LeBron did turned to gold tonight, be it working the high/low post to feed Anderson Varejao for a layup, feeding Mo as the safety valve if the Magic got overzealous with their traps up top, and especially working catch-and-shoot on the left side of the floor and absolutely raining jumpers. 

On the left side of the floor, where he often worked a modified version of pick-and-pop with Mo Williams or pulled up if the helper went under the screen, LeBron went 4-5 from beyond the arc and 3-4 on deep 2s. (On the right and center of the court, LeBron was a combined 2-10 from outside of the paint. That about lines up with the general trend of perimeter players, who prefer to pull up to their weak hand and drive to their strong one, and LeBron’s hot spots.) It’s not a shot you can take away from LeBron, and by getting 22 of his 43 points tonight from out there, he was completely unstoppable.

As for crunch-time, he came up fairly large. In the fourth quarter, he had 15 points on 9 attempts and two assists for Mo Williams threes, which makes him responsible for 21 of the 25 Cavalier points in the fourth quarter. (A Joe Smith put-back and a Mo Williams pull-up accounted for the other four.) 

And in the final moments, he was more than a little clutch. That three in front of the Magic bench? I mean, what can I say? He was absolutely feeling it, if he misses we likely as not lose, and the degree of difficulty was through the roof. Absolutely amazing. And sealing it with a savvy pump-fake and foul draw and two clutch free throws instead of getting caught up in the moment and trying a fadeaway dagger? Fantastic. And it’s about time we got some “M-V-P!” in the Q, and you’ve gotta love LeBron pumping up the crowd before icing the free throw to put the Cavs up two possessions. This is maybe the most talented player ever to pick up a basketball on an absolute mission. Enjoy every game. 

As for the rest of the cast, there are fewer nice things to say. The two guys who absolutely came to play are Andy and Mo, which has become the norm over this stretch. Andy’s off-ball movement remains gorgeous, as he exploited Dwight Howard’s odd zone-like positioning for a few layups, and if he doesn’t pull down his fourth offensive rebound, there’s no LeBron three with 48 seconds left. This is the guy who was the second-best player on a finals team. 

Mo Williams also didn’t have his game in full effect, but damned if he wasn’t the guy to knock in 8 absolutely gigantic fourth quarter points, including two perfect threes to catch the Magic cheating on traps of LeBron. 

Meanwhile, the guy who used to play the role of clutch shooter spent his 2nd consecutive game benched, and Pavs failed to get a point with his minutes. Wally sprained his knee, so it MIGHT FINALLY BE TK time. I gotta say, this is not the best time of year to be inconsistent with our player rotations and defensive fundamentals. But it’s not the worst time of the year, either. You take what you get. 

Okay, maybe I was a little excited about Joe Smith. 

Delonte and Z really need to get their shots back working-it makes a world of difference when they’re spacing the defense from deep and midrange and the offense can start to snowball rather than making every possession a two-man game or ISO. And Delonte missing two open threes in crunch-time nearly killed us. Slump happens, I suppose. 

Bullets of Randomness:

This is pretty much the game to show why Howard isn’t quite on that MVP level yet (as I see it, tier one is LeBron, Kobe, CP3, and Wade)-he was dominant defensively and pulling in rebounds, but after looking like a bona fide offensive force the last time we saw him and the last game he played, he was almost invisible on that end tonight, showing some nice hooks and even passes out of double-teams but ultimately only getting 13 points on 8 shots.

A lot of that isn’t his fault-this team loves the three-ball, and doesn’t play as disciplined as it should. This is where going from a Jameer to a Skip really hurts you, even if Skip’s drilling his shots.

Speaking of, SCREW YOU DARYL MOREY FOR GIVING AWAY SKIP AND KEEPING THE MAGIC CONTENDERS. I WILL NOT READ THE BASKETBALL VERSION OF MONEYBALL IF IT’S ABOUT YOU. (Actually, if Michael Lewis writes it, I’ll definitely read it.) BUT I WILL BORROW IT. I REFUSE TO GIVE MONEY TO YOUR EVIL. 

Actually, since Morey got Lowry, the best player in that deal, the blame would probably go to Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace. So of the four championship contenders, two are there because of Chris Wallace handouts. I don’t like you, Chris Wallace. Real contenders do it the honorable way-with handouts from Kevin McHale and John Hammond. 

So, Courney Lee, who went 9-13, D-d up like a monster, and almost beat us during crunch time: 1.2 million dollars. Rashard Lewis, who went 3-15, took terrible shots early in the clock, got 4 rebounds, defended nobody, and kept the Magic from winning: 16.5 million dollars. That’s just fun. 

Why nobody wanted Mickael Pietrus, the French Bruce Bowen, as he begged out of Golden State for three years, is completely beyond me. Championship teams have guys like him. That he, unlike Bowen, doesn’t give a crap just makes him more intriguing. 

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go die. Happy St. Patrick’s day.

Recap: That Was Relatively Easy

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Overview:

In their first game at home after a gut-wrenching road trip, the Cavs allowed the Knicks to hang around for three quarters but were able to pull away down the stretch. Mo Williams went for a team-high 23 on 13 shots, while LeBron added 19/8/10 .

Cavs-Related Bullets:

The game ball tonight might go to Mo Williams, who seems to have experimented with missing in California and decided it’s not for him. He absolutely got whatever he wanted tonight, getting to his spots on the floor for three mid-range jumpers and banging home all five of the threes he looked at, including two step-back heaves that were just ridiculous. He was doing his thing all around the court as well, doing his part to bottle up Nate Robinson and notching 5 assists and 7 boards to boot. 

LeBron really did not look like he wanted to take over this game with scoring for whatever reason-12 of his 17 shots were jumpers, and of the remaning 5 at least two or three were finishes on passes, which means he only completed two or three drives to the basket. That’s normally his bread-and-butter, so you’ve got to think something’s going on. Maybe he wanted to focus on controlling the tempo against this feisty Knicks team, or get the whole team back into a rythym and show that they could win in a healthy balance and have everyone getting their bearings. Although D’Antoni, in a characteristic move, employed a defensive scheme that replaced fundamentals with sheer moxie and had his defenders essentially give LeBron jumpers playground-style, which flustered him to the degree he missed some jumpers with his feet set he normally hits. 

In any case, LeBron certainly found other ways to contribute, beautifully setting everyone up with 10 assists, many of them the good kind leading directly to a layup, 8 boards, and 4 steals and 3 blocks to complete his stuffing of the stats. 

And after completing a 51-point performance where he only went 1-6 on midrange shots, LeBron seemed on a mission to show that he could do that, too, taking 9 of his 17 shots from midrange and hitting 5 of them. They’re all from 20 feet or further, which I think is more “long-range without the extra value,” but LeBron sets up the shots very nicely with his dribble and can get himself a pretty comfortable look with it, so it’s certainly an acceptable perimeter move. I’m just glad he’s using his drive to step into his shots now instead of relying on that step-back fading move that took his legs out of the shot. And on his three missed threes, everything about them was good except that they didn’t go in. Please stick with that stroke. 

Delonte’s shot was completely and utterly off, going 1-8 on shots outside the paint, but he managed to contribute by scoring and drawing double-teams working inside on Nate Robinson. 

Andy saved the day again, this time with a pair of great strong-side flashes and finishes with LeBron ISOed in the midpost in crunch time. When he moves on offense instead of thinking he has skills, he’s so valuable. 

The big news is rotational shake-ups. Boobie Gibson and JJ Hickson both got DNP-CDed today. Boobie’s minutes went to Sasha Pavlovic, who went a tidy 2-9, although he was big in crunch-time and somehow got three blocks. But he should not drive the middle. Like, ever. YOU ARE EURO BOWEN. CATCH, SHOOT, DEFEND. Of course, we must take into account that this game was played in broad daylight, which naturally limited Sasha’s effectiveness.

JJ’s minutes went to Darnell Jackson, who did two good things, raising his season tally of good things to two. I’m confused by this move.

Tarence Kinsey: still benched. Windhorst is on board with me here. This must stop. It’s not like we like him because he’s a flashy scorer with hidden flaws; he’s a great defender who constantly does little things and fills in gaps while getting his points. Meanwhile, the guy who plays ahead of him ran into a help defender three times in a row. What am I missing here? 

Oh Christ, I haven’t mentioned the defense yet. It was fantastic, as the Cavs kept the Knicks out of the middle the whole game and held them to under 40% shooting, with the Knicks’ only success coming off turnovers and three-ball heaves. Although with Duhon injured, getting into the paint would have required a Knick to dribble the ball multiple times without bombing a perimeter shot, and that’s just not something that’s likely to happen. It’s good to see us get into our fundamentals. 

Bullets of Randomness:

I like Nate. Man was born to be a bench scorer. While there are huge differences in their play style, he reminds me of Delonte in his mixture of skill, energy, and toughness out on the court. That guy’s a keeper. But he’s not a starting point guard. 

Larry’s back! And he’s going 6-17 with three assists! That’s the guy we know! I swear, seeing him go left for a step-back 21-footer and then pump fake, escape dribble, and throw up a 21-footer made me grin. If he makes those shots 20% of the time, I’d be shocked. And those are his Go-To Moves. Also featured: a bricked lefty layup and free throw. Larry was playing all the old hits in the Q tonight. 

Thing of the Game:

“Wandering Star” by Portishead. This is really creepy and won’t get out of my head. Have a fun workday.

Recap: That’s Why You Stay In On A Friday Night

Friday, March 13th, 2009

 

Overview:

No. This game defies overview. We somehow won this game. That is all. 

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Um, holy crap. I know I say that a lot, but this team has a knack for it. 

Let me say this before I start, because it definitely warrants mentioning and I’ll forget it later: I got the Kings broadcasters on my LP feed tonight, and I want to give them major props. They are just about as classy and professional as you’ll find in a local booth. This was a VERY tough loss for their team, and one that wouldn’t have happened if the referees didn’t make some very tough calls to take, with nearly all of them going against the Kings.

(And remember, this is a fanbase that has a complex about getting screwed by officials.)

But they kept even-keeled the whole way through, even acknowledging that the calls made were correct, and stayed on the ball throughout the collapse, even remarking on how great of a game it had been as Mo Williams was on the line essentially icing the game. I’ve known and heard a lot of local broadcasters, and it’s both a tough job and one that can reward homerism and catch-phrasing over calm-heading analysis and a love for the game beyond getting paid to cheerlead. (Quick note: those are not veiled jabs at AC. I love AC more than life. It’s okay if you’re relentlessly positive and still provide insight, as he does.)

Okay, onto the game. 

Oh, also before I forget: The Kings broadcasters (see?) noted that the referees failed to go to instant replay and make what was clearly a long two by Bobby Jackson not count for three points near the end of the first half. Seeing as to how this game ended in a tie, had the Cavs lost they would absolutely have grounds to protest the game. 

First, the bad: this is maybe the worst team in the NBA. We should really not be going to overtime and barely winning against them. I really and truly almost had a heart attack this time. This is twice in a week. In fact, this game was a full-on regression to LeBron bailing us out, or playing like what I call the “Cardiac Cavs.”

Did LeBron play out of his mind to save us from an embarrassing defeat, including a fourth-quarter stretch where he essentially started burning down villages? Why, yes he did! To recap: 51 points on 38 attempts (TS at 67%), 9 dimes, and 4 boards, with 2 steals and 3 blocks. 

In the first half, LeBron was doing his thing, getting to the hole, setting guys up, peppering in the occasional deep ball (on a 51-point night, LeBron was 1-6 from midrange), and even getting a five-point play. That was all nice, and could certainly be analyzed. 

But let’s talk about the fourth quarter and overtime. The Cavs entered the quarter down 12 points. I don’t have ProTrade, but the win chances in that scenario cannot be good. The Cavs got to a tie by scoring 32 points in the fourth quarter. Here’s the crazy part: other than an Anderson Varejao tip-in in the fourth, LEBRON JAMES WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY FIELD GOAL FROM THE END OF THE 3RD QUARTER ON. 

I am serious. In the third quarter, LeBron went:

4-6 from the field (8 points)

8-9 from the line (8 points; total now 16)

2 assists for two-point shots (4 points; total now 20)

2 assists for wide-open Sasha Pavlovic threes (6 points; total now 26)

The other 6 points came on the Varejao tip-in and 4 free throws from off-ball fouls, which were free throws because LeBron had drawn four fouls by that point to put the Cavs in the bonus. LeBron had no turnovers in the period. So of the 14 possessions he used in the period, he created 26 points. That’s 92% efficiency. 

In the overtime, LeBron had 6 points on two shots and made the “hockey assist” for the Cavs’ only other field goal of overtime, penetrating and dishing to Joe Smith, who made an inside hand-off to Anderson Varejao for the layup. (The final two points came on Mo Williams free throws on an intentional foul.)

LeBron finished the game by running down the clock and missing three straight attempts at a “dagger” jumper, getting the ball back twice when he missed. So if we count the hockey assist, LeBron accounted for 34 points using 20 possessions in the fourth quarter and overtime to erase a 12-point deficit as the LeBron-independent offense accounted for two points as the result of offensive effort and eight points overall. Boy, I sure wish LeBron had some kind of killer instinct to finish games.

And even so, LeBron refuses to put a pretty enough bow on everything for those looking to make LeBron’s dominance a sufficiently pretty storyline; the one free throw he missed was one that would have given the Cavs the lead at the end of regulation instead of a tie, and instead of hitting a dagger or driving against a helpless defense to put the bow on the whole thing, he bricked three consecutive jumpers and allowed the Kings to get within one point. LeBron’s scope is too great for him to ever be perfect. Lament this at your own peril. It’s like he doesn’t want to make it too easy to appreciate him as the best player in the world. (Right down to having this game on a Friday night so most major sports sites and blogs won’t run tomorrow; this post will like as not be seen by precious few. This makes me mad.)

Oh, and LeBron also had two clutch defensive plays (two and a half, really) in the final 24 seconds, getting an amazing steal as the Kings were trying to run out the shot clock, then giving a very savvy foul on Kevin Martin as he started his move to the basket with five seconds left, then absolutely bottling him up and blocking his last-second three-pointer. 

AND ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH DRAINING A 28-FOOTER IN CRUNCH TIME? You just…what is there to say? Oh, except for that I believe he missed the last free-throw on purpose so that he could end the game with a cooler shot. (Just like Wade against Chicago.)

A signature performance. Here at USC, there’s a game we remember against Fresno State. It wasn’t the best team, it wasn’t the most important game, but on that night a player of unparallelled talent showing the world just exactly what he was capable of, just in case it wasn’t in the front of their minds anymore. That is what we got tonight. 

Okay, onto bad stuff. The defense was extra n0t-good. Kevin Martin is going to get his points. That man can flat-out play basketball. (Although I have no idea what role he plays on a championship team-is he a Ray Allen cold-blooded scorer who doesn’t need to dominate the ball or is he the world’s best 6th man?) And you live and let live with the threes, especially since so many of them were just bracket-buster contested bombs. (And they paid for it: 13-22 through the first three quarters, 1-12 in the fourth and OT) You live with some of that, but too much time in the paint and too many 2nd-chance points. This is a defense-first team, and this is two games where the defense has not shown up. Let’s use the time off and get our stuff together. 

Thing #2 that harkens back to the last couple of years: absolutely horrible backcourt play. Mo with two eggs in three games, although he was there to drain the clutch free throws. 3-14 with no threes: not good. 

Also, I immediately regret endorsing Sasha Pavlovic, who helped our starting backcourt combine for 6-24 shooting. It looked like him and Rashad McCants were having a competition to try and prove whether American College or Europe was better at producing crappy swingmen. Although Pavs did step up and nail clutch threes and provide good D down the stretch.

You can understand having to stick with Pavs for so long; it’s not like we have a guy WHO SCORED 7 POINTS IN 8 MINUTES ON 3-3 SHOOTING BURIED ON OUR BENCH. Although not many assistant coaches are going to have the huevos to go with TK in crunch-time. 

Andy saved the day. Period. 8-8 from the field, 5 absolutely crucial offensive boards, everywhere defensively. Dan Fegan is putting the DVD of this game in a safe. Really great stuff. 

Thing #3 from pre-this season Cavsdom: Z being mediocre, with 9 points on 9 shots and 7 boards. He just hasn’t returned to All-Star form since his injury. 

Thing #4-Boobie making shots and good things happening when he plays! 9 points on 4 shots and a +24 for Boobie.

Wally time! He’s good against bad defenses. There’s some ringing endorsement. 

Bullets of Randomness:

As we approach 1500 words on a Friday post nobody will read:

-Jason Thompson: keeper. They should’ve given him crunch-time minutes.

-K-Mart-baller. I might take him over Carmelo, honestly. Like Durant, he was put on this planet to score the basketball. He reminds me a lot of Eric Gordon in that he’s a great driver and shooter, but no real in-between game.

I think Bobby Jackson and Will Solomon deserve giant stuffed animals for the threes they were making tonight. 

Thing of the Game:

“Jock Jams,” by all that is good in the world. Things that you know are bad, but are just plain awesome. If you were under the age of 15 in 1996 and do not listen to this more than once, you have no soul.

Just So I Don’t Forget

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I was going to make a mental note of this, but realized I might forget it and it deserves its own post. (Or maybe not, but I can do it anyways. Web 2.0!) 

LeBron James just drew a clear-path foul, hit two free throws, and then hit a three after the Cavs got the ball at the sideline. That’s a five-point possession without an offensive rebound or technical foul-it is no more than a single possession under league rules. Seeing as how a clear path foul has only been worth two free  throws for this season and last, there can’t be that many legal five-point plays in NBA history, right? Just wanted to mark this with a 100-word Friday Night Blog Post. See you after the game.

Recap: Prime-Time is Sasha Time

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Overview:

The Cavaliers were able to beat the Suns at their own game on national television, outscoring the Suns 119-111 behind 30-point efforts from LeBron and Mo. LeBron also notched his third triple-double in a row.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

It’s really, really hard to lose a game when you go 17-33 from beyond the arc. Great shooting is the universal deodorant in the NBA, and it made up for some supremely sketchy play on both ends for the Cavs.

I know it’s the Suns and all, but giving up 55% shooting when you hang your hat on defense is just not good enough. With the Suns, you do have to throw up your hands and let what happens happens a lot, but to give up easy baskets in transition and the paint isn’t-the Suns only went 4-18 from deep tonight. They were far from impossible to stop on that end.

LeBron had a supreme case of getting quiet numbers tonight, spending a lot of time out on the perimeter either trying to establish his shot or look to set guys up (he did A LOT of playmaking tonight on the perimeter), and it didn’t really look like he was driving aggressively all that much, but he got himself to the line, peppered in what could only be described as a smattering of jumpers, and fed hot three-point shooters all night for the ugliest 30-point triple-double ever.

Most of LeBron’s fireworks were on the defensive end-holy crap, those blocks were cool.

One more thing that should be adressed-I can’t remember a blown LeBron dunk off the top of my head, and all of a sudden he’s blown three easy ones in four games (four times if you count the bricked tip slam tonight.) I don’t really have a salient point here that relates to anything that would make us better at winning basketball games, but it’s an oddity I’ll point out. Also, if he doesn’t brick that dunk and get his own board, no triple-double tonight. Which one would you rather? I’m conflicted, honestly-after New York, I can tell you that having to qualify a 50-9-11 performance with an “almost” gets really annoying really fast.

Oh, and I so call shenannigans on LeBron for saying that he didn’t know his 10th rebound was his 10th when he left Matt Barnes for an open three so he could get under the basket and flew to a meaningless rebound like the game was on the line when only Andy was near it. ‘Cmon, LeBron. Honesty’s the best policy.

SASHA AND TARENCE ARE OUR BEST BENCH SWINGMEN. IT SHOULD NOT TAKE AN INJURY TO GET THEM IN THE GAME OVER BOOBIE AND WALLY. Sasha came in with some righteous fury tonight, making some nice drives to the basket (he learned to go where the 2nd defender isn’t!), and draining three threes in a row. Since Pavs came into the game shooting 46% from deep, the fact that he could shoot the ball really only surprised Mike Brown, who continues to play Wally and Boobie, two one-dimensional shooters who are actually worse than Pavs at shooting. For all the great stuff Mike Brown has done this year, this makes me insane.

Mo was pretty ineffective off the dribble tonight, but every time he could catch and shoot it was just in the basket. He definitely came out looking to balance the books after LA. How long have we dreamed about LeBron playing with a truly great shooter? Savor it as it happens.

Z-like a clock. Andy-like a crazy ball of energy that makes its own time. You know what you’re getting from those guys.

Delonte had another off-game, and hopefully his injury wasn’t too serious. Let’s hope he can get back on his game soon-he’s a guy you root for with all your heart regardless of what he’s giving you on the court.

Bullets of Randomness:

Matt Barnes is just a guy every team could use; how great would he be as a moderately priced bench swingman on this team? Actually, he’d probably get to sit and watch Boobie force up contested threes or dribble nowhere all game.

Steve Nash is so gorgeous to watch offensively. Any time he takes a dribble, he can go left or right for the finish, take the jumper, or make the pass the next time his hand touches the ball. He’s not fast or even quick, but he just sees everything before it happens. At one point, my dad was talking about what kind of midrange game I wanted to see from LeBron, and I started explaining it before saying “Just watch what Steve Nash does on this possession.” On cue, Nash drove left, got cut off by a man 8 inches taller than him, kept his calm, took a dribble out, and drained an 8-foot fadeaway under total control while staying absolutely balanced and focused.

The turning point was definitely J-Rich’s blocked 360 attempt, which is a great example of a blown call with purpose: yeah, you got hit on the wrist, but you didn’t deserve a foul there. Although I wonder how I’d feel about this if I didn’t run a Cavs blog. And nobody but LeBron gets to that for the block, maybe ever.

LeBron dribbling at full speed, meeting Barbosa, expecting a foul, picking up the ball, throwing it forward, and attempting to resume dribbling, then arguing the travel call, is definitely the watershed absurdist LeBron moment of the year, at least on-court. (“Crab Dribble” still takes the cake overall.)

Recap: 6 seconds of bliss

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

 

Overview:

After getting manhandled for the first three quarters against the Clippers in a texbook “trap game,” the Cavs scored 35 of their 87 points in the fourth quarter to erase a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit and win the game. The winning basket was Mo Williams’ three-pointer with 6 seconds to go. LeBron added a triple-double.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Holy crap. So this is what that whole “Witness” business is all about. This was an amazing one to see live.

LeBron came out way too passive. He didn’t have a field goal until .8 left in the first quarter, when he finally just drove the lane instead of waiting for Mo and Delonte to snap out of their funk or tossing up left-handed running skyhooks. LeBron got 32 points tonight going 1-10 outside of the paint: the lane was there. This is not a great defensive team.

When he turned it on, however, he was absolutely incredible. For not having anything going from the field, this is about as good as you can play. LeBron was scrapping for layups, finding his teammates not for jumpers but for layups and dunks, getting to the line over and over, and getting nearly every rebound in sight. This was LeBron using his complete game to impose his will on the court without having to do all the scoring. Although in the fourth quarter, where we did score 35 points, LeBron was doing pretty much all the offensive heavy lifting, getting into the lane time and time again or hitting the roll man if the Clippers’ rotationally-challenged bigs tried to shut off his drive lanes. 

Mo Williams. What do I say? For 47:54, he had absolutely as bad a game as you can have. He’s kind of an Anti-LeBron in that he’s a guy who’s primarily a straight-up scorer whose offense comes from the perimeter, so when he’s not in a flow things can get very bad very fast. (Fortunately, he’s ridiculously consistent.) 

Tonight, he wasn’t hitting his shots off the dribble. He wasn’t hitting open threes. He wasn’t doing well defensively. He had one assist against four turnovers. 

And yet, for the third game in a row, Mo Williams was the difference between victory and defeat. And if I had to pick one game to show how valuable Mo is to this team, it might be this one. No matter what he’s done before in the game, he’s the guy who’s there when we need him. Tonight, he was the difference between a great win and the worst loss of the year. 

Delonte got off the hook, too-he was an absolute non-factor all game long, which is the one thing he generally never is. 

Again, I’m going to point out just how good Joe Smith and Andy were at rolling to the basket all game long and getting layups, and how unbelievable LeBron was at finding them with amazing passes. I do not think it is a coincidence that this came against Zach Randolph. 

Bullets of Randomness:

I have to wake up in 6 hours and I have a miserable, miserable cold, and I’m tired. Mike Taylor, the YouTube dunking guy, is one of the best defensive guards I’ve seen. I’m going to bed. Sweet dreams, all. Here, MGMT.

A Quick Note As I Walk Out The Door

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Hey all, I’m getting dressed up to go catch Cavs-Clippers over at Staples and don’t have a ton of time, but did just see this on NBA.com (Found Via TrueHoop). It’s a (very good) interview with game-charter and guru Harvey Pollack, who at one point mentions the following tidbit:

He said, ‘I watch it.’

So, during the height of Michael’s career, I got the play-by-play of the first 20 Bulls games and I checked the distance of every shot Jordan took during the season and sure enough, he was shooting under 40 percent from 15 feet back.

Then Wilt said, ‘Jordan doesn’t take any shots from seven feet in, all of those shots are drives to the basket. He doesn’t take five or six footers. He goes right to the hoop.’

I tried 20 more games and ended up looking at the entire season and got the same results. Wilt’s analysis held up.

This is interesting for a simple reason, particularly on the under 7-foot shots: LeBron is the same way. One of these days I’m going to get around to writing a full-on opus on whether or not LeBron James is really a bad shooter or if shot selection is his issue, but one of the interesting things is that while he’s competent from long range and midrange, the one area where he’s absolutely awful are the “chippy” areas: He’s 24-114 from the shortest jump shot zones on the floor. 

If you watch, you know this is because LeBron doesn’t have a mini-pull up move when he drives: when he gets his shoulder down, he always goes at full speed and either gets to the rim, draws the foul, or fires a full-speed slop shot. I think that not having a move from that area is one of his major problems, especially against elite teams, but it’s interesting to know that the most egregious Achilles’ heel in his perimeter game is one he has in common with the GOAT. As I said, nothing behind this analysis, just a brain dump as I try to remember where I keep my polo shirts.

(Link To The Hot Spots For LBJ)

Off-Day Notes And Errata: Monday Edition!

Monday, March 9th, 2009

 

-On the Heat game: sorry for not getting a recap up, I’ve been more or less out of comission all weekend. 

-Basically, Mo Williams was the difference between winning and losing-I didn’t see him being this reliable in the clutch in my wildest dreams. Thank god we pulled that one off. 

-Holy God, Dwyane Wade does not stop. As I write this, he’s sitting on on 42 points on 25 attempts with 8 assists and a game-tying three. If he doesn’t come off this pace, this season is better than LeBron was last year. This is scary.

-I’m loving seeing Joe Smith as the roll man on picks with LeBron. Loving it.

-I’m excited for LeBron to break out of his relative offensive funk this weekend tomorrow against the Clippers, mainly because I’ll be there. I’m ready to see something special. 

-Big news of the weekend was Thursday-night midnight showing of Watchmen on IMAX. If you can see it with a good amount of people on the big screen, do it. It’s impressive stuff. It’s not the book, but it’s good in its own way. As for the movie’s strengths, it is what we thought it would be. Snyder’s great when he’s on-book, but every time he can insert a flashy spot or (Jesus) a muscial cue, it’s cringe-inducing. And yes, Malin Ackerman is that bad. I actually thought Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan was just as good as Haley’s Rorsach, and both of them were amazing. Read the book, see the movie.

Recap: Not as Much, With The Relaxing

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Overview: 

In an ugly game from beginning to end, the Cavaliers were physically overpowered on both sides of the floor as the Celtics rolled over them with relative ease, taking the game by 11 points and increasing the number of Cavs-Celtics games won by the home team to 15 in a row.

Cavs-Related Bullets: 

This was not pretty. The Cavs never got into any sort of balance offensively and were absolutely failing at getting side-to-side movement, with every pass coming under duress and every foray to the basket encountering a Celtic defender.

LeBron could be a target of controversy, and quite frankly with Garnett out of the game I don’t know how they could have bottled him up that well. They had three bodies around him every time he went to the basket, controlled all of his catches and made him get the ball at the perimeter, and LeBron did little to get himself easier shots, showing nothing resembling a post-up or pull-up game to get easy looks while negating the double-team pressure. For as well as LeBron’s been shooting recently, especially from deep, and showing much greater form and discipline on his three-pointers, a perimeter game is ultimately not about how well you hit deep shots but how well you can get easy ones. With no shots in between 2 and 21 feet tonight, LeBron’s lack of that perimeter game was exposed. Although he was able to force the issue and get to the line to keep him at a decent 21 points on 21 attempts, Thibodeau’s rotational brilliance was able to keep James from being a dominant force. 

As is often the case when the offense goes stagnant, Mo Williams was our best offensive player, using his greatest strength, his ability to hit long jumpers off the dribble, to full effect and dropping 26 points on 15 shots. 

The defense was even worse. Paul Pierce, who the Cavs have generally been able to bottle up in the past, was in full effect, plodding through the paint and getting to his spots and passing intelligently out of traps. 

The big news was the Celtics’ bigs absolutely camping out and controlling the paint. This is where we miss Ben Wallace’s defense, because they were just getting layup after layup after layup. This was the ugliest kind of loss. And it’s Friday night, so I’m going to try and spend as little time as I can dwelling on it. Heat tomorrow, on our floor, with Dwyane Wade having no intentions of stopping his tear. 


Recap: Relax. We’re Making The Playoffs.

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009


 

Overview: 

In a taking-care-of business game outstanding for its normalness, the Cavs enjoyed a relaxing home win after a drama-filled road swing, completely stifling the Bucks defensively and crusing to a 18-point win.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

As a fan, a boring win is pretty much my favorite thing ever. As a writer, it’s less fun, but I’m still not complaining. 

The story for tonight is just how suffocating the Cavs’ defense was and how in-control and disciplined we played offensively, and the spark plug for both of those things was Delonte West, who I’m just out of superlatives for at this point. He is spectacular. He makes it all go. He is like an uncle to me. 

Delonte West absolutely gave the Milwakee Bucks the howling fantods from the opening tip to the final whistle. He was absolutely everywhere on the court tonight, especially on the defensive end, where his eight steals were actually more impressive than they look on the stat sheet because of how little he was gambling. He was picking passes coming towards his man, stripping guys clean off the dribble, snatching a pass directly out of the air, everywhere. He was all around the ball with his energy, and his toughness had him coming up with it almost every time and pushing the break. 

On offense, he was making the plays and working with the ball and making sure everything went smoothly and nobody was settling for constested jumpers, and was even working a very nice two-man game with Andy. The great thing was that he wasn’t really even shooting the ball all that well and he still had this much as a positive impact on the game. If you don’t love Delonte West, you are a bad man. 

LeBron James is pretty good too, and tonight he never had to come out of a comfortable gear, mixing in tough drives to the basket with solid playmaking, and, most notably, another fantastic display from beyond the three-point arc. He was a paragon of efficiency tonight, only taking shots form inside the paint or beyond the arc, which is exactly what you should do if the team is working well offensively and doesn’t need extra shots created. I don’t want to jinx this, but the stroke continues to look absolutely fantastic and once again he didn’t force anything tonight. His three breakdown:

1 on a catch-and-shoot after Delonte made the extra pass to an open LeBron in the corner.

1 to bail out Sasha Pavlovic as the clock expired, taking a hard dribble to the left to get space and rising, squaring, and stroking it very smoothly. 

1 on his new (awesome) move of using a hard dribble forward both to create space and get his momentum towards the basket instead of fading or stepping back. Turns out legs help jump shots!

1 step-back with the clock winding down from behind the basket, fading out of bounds, absolutely wearing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. That was ridiculous. Perfect efficient LeBron performance tonight.

Mo punched his timecard, hit threes, 15 points, win, thank you. It is really, really nice to have a player like that. I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime.

Wally looking like a decent scorer off the bench-he really needed a day off. 

The Kinsey Report is reading that I do not want Boobie at the moment. (In case that was weird, play freaking Tarence.)

With a rushed post-up attempt, endless activity, missed rotations, and one thunderous dunk from a stand-still position over two defenders that makes all of us drool, the “JJ Hickson, rotation player” era may be on hold for a while. We give it a teary salute. 

Bullets Of Randomness:

RJ can score.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Russell Westbrook might be the best defensive backcourt in the NBA, right? How did anyone score on those guys in college?

Ramon Sessions is one of those guys that can get 8 assists without me remembering any of them. I think that’s good. 

Damon Jones!

Thing Of The Game:

Damon Jones!