Archive for December, 2009

Links to The Present: December 31st, 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Just a few quick links as you get ready for the ball to drop:

-Chris Sherdian’s Daily Dime piece on LeBron’s birthday celebration and the clock malfunction has caused quite the stir in the comments today. I think he was being a bit more tongue-in-cheek than we were giving him credit for, but here’s what the fuss was about.

-I linked to this last night, but in case you missed it here’s me and Arnovitz shooting the proverbial breeze on TrueHoop. This was a lot of fun to do.

-A nice piece from Truehoop special guest editor Royce Young, who’s been absolutely killing it with Daily Thunder and did a great job with Truehoop, on learning to love the NBA.

-Also from Royce on Truehoop, a look at some new LeBron shoes that apparently say “I love NY” on the bottom and are in Knicks colors. Royce’s stint at Truehoop was one of misery, evil, and the destruction of all that is good and pure in the world.

-Hollinger’s top 10 players of the decade, with LBJ coming in at number six.

-Shaq bought LBJ a Rolls-Royce for his birthday. That’s a big-name car and certainly does some things very well, but with all the nice cars LeBron already has, will LeBron really improve his overall driving situation by allocating some of his time behind the wheel to the Rolls, especially when his other cars would allow him to be much faster on the road? This gift may look better on paper than it does on the road.

I kid. Shaq’s got a lot of money, but giving someone a Rolls is giving someone a Rolls.

Alright campers, have a great New Years. Until 2010.

Recap: Cavs 106, Hawks 101 (Or, It’s My Party, and I’ll Go Off For 48 If I Want To)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

soulsacrifice_flyingpig8-29-09banne.jpg image by acootis

Overview: The Cavaliers beat the Hawks 106-101 on Wednesday night, with a Cavalier stop aided by an artificially short shot clock and the first three of Anderson Varejao’s career down the stretch helping to clinch the victory for the Cavaliers. LeBron James had a 48-point game on his 25th birthday.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Well, other than the Cavs winning, pretty much everything went differently on Wednesday night than it did Tuesday night. Let’s get into it.

-Well, LeBron went ahead and followed up his worst scoring game of the year with his best scoring game of the year. 48 points on 80% true shooting (if you don’t count the technical and his and-1 free throw as an extra “attempt”), and LeBron was doing it from everywhere.

16 points on 10 shots outside of the paint, including 4 of 6 from downtown. 3 of the four threes were even assisted, with back-to-back threes from the top of the key off of Mo Williams feeds to cap off a stretch where LeBron scored 16 points in 7 minutes at the end of the first half to keep the sluggish Cavs in the game.

More than anything, LeBron’s jumper just looked better than it has in at least a week or two; he was balanced on all his shots, going straight up, holding his follow-through, and really stepping into all of his shots and just railing them in. He wasn’t letting himself lean and trying to flick the shot in, which does work sometimes but is a bad habit that caught up to him on Tuesday night. I don’t know if Tuesday prompted him to put in extra shooting work, concentrate a little more on his form during the game, or if it was just coincidence, but for whatever reason LeBron had a ton of success getting back to basics from the perimeter in this one.

The other best part about LeBron’s jumper in this game is that he didn’t take very many of them. He actually used his J to open up his driving lanes, and the result was LeBron going 8-10 at the rim (with 5 of those baskets being assisted) and getting 16 free throws, of which he made 14. LeBron also threw some post-up possessions against Marvin Williams early, and was able to exploit a Jamaal Crawford mismatch for a post-up and free throws late. LeBron was doing it from everywhere, and the result was a hyper-efficient 48 points on a night where the Cavs needed every one.

-Meanwhile, the night after the Cavs picked up LeBron in a major way and every Cav outside of LeBron and Jamario shot better than 50%, only LeBron and Andy shot better than 50% on Wednesday night, and non-LeBron Cavs went 21-53 from the field, or just under 40%. And outside of LeBron’s four threes, the Cavs only went 2-12 from deep, with one of those two threes coming from Anderson Varejao. Not what you want for a team that relies on drive-and-kick baskets off of LeBron’s penetration.

-On both ends of the floor, the Cavs just did not have the same energy that they did on Tuesday, especially on defense. There are a numbers of possible explanations for this, not the least of which is that the Hawks are the #2 team in the league and started to play like it in this game, with Bibby knocking down shots from the outside, Joe Johnson going off, and the Hawks only turning the ball over 11 times all game.

There’s a boring theory for why this happened, which is that the Hawks got fired up to avenge a tough loss, Cavs figured they’d easily beat a team they just beat on the road at home, and the motivation gap showed.

The other, more fun theory is that LeBron’s birthday and the upcoming party distracted the team, which makes very little sense, as the party was after the game, but one I decided to look into anyways for kicks.

-This is the fourth time the Cavs have played on LeBron’s birthday, but the first time they’ve ever won on LeBron’s birthday. They played on the 30th LeBron’s rookie year and lost 89-92 to the Pacers, lost 96-103 to the Bulls in 2006, and lost 95-104 to the Heat last season. So the Cavs’ current roster does not seem to bring their normal defensive intensity on LeBron’s birthday.

Not only have the Cavs never won on LeBron’s birthday before, but in the years they didn’t play on LeBron’s birthday, the Cavs never won the game before LeBron’s birthday. They lost 76-86 to the Hornets on the 29th in 2007, 91-96 to the Nets on the 27th in 2005, and 87-98 to the Rockets on the 29th in 2004.

Is there a logical reason why LeBron’s upcoming birthday party would cause the Cavs to play badly? Unless the team is part of the party planning committee and the stress of organizing the whole thing stresses them out, probably not. Is this a weird thing I felt was worth blogging about, and a made-up curse that the Cavs have now broken? Indeed it is. Good omen going into the new year.

-OH MY GOD DID ANDY SERIOUSLY HIT THAT THREE. That was absolutely insane. LeBron misses a free throw to put the Cavs up two instead of three, Joe Johnson answers with a layup, LeBron gets stuffed trying to look for a lane, Mo has absolutely nowhere to go and loses the ball, Andy picks it up, Crawford leaves Andy alone to prevent Mo from getting it back. Andy is left at the three-point arc with the shot clock winding down.

I thought Andy had put his foot on the line to get as close as possible, because even he knew he had no chance from out there, and was just hoping for the ball to hit off the rim hard enough to give the Cavs a chance at the board. Andy wanted none of that noise. Andy wanted all three. Andy measured the shot, leaned in, stuck that elbow straight out, and with the confidence, inspiration, and pure insanity of a man determined to take the ATM machine with him to Mexico, calmly drained the first three of his NBA career. Are you freaking kidding me.

For those of you keeping score at home, this is now the third time that the dagger in a down-to-the wire game has been a three-pointer by Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Anderson Varejao, who have made a combined total of 26 threes in 18 NBA seasons. So the Cavs have that going for them.

-Shaq started off nicely, hitting LeBron for a dunk on a nice cut-through, drawing some early fouls, and bullying Horford a bit, but gassed pretty early in the second game of a back-to-back, and had the low point of the season when Jason Collins absolutely shut him down on consecutive possessions. Collins can defend and all, but ouch. Shaq did not help matters by celebrating a 50-50 block call by dropping the ball and getting a technical for it, then only hitting one of the two free throws resulting for the block. Not a high point for Shaq, but he really shouldn’t be playing on the back end of back-to-backs.

-With Shaq and Z (2 points, 4 fouls, and a -13 in 14 minutes) both ineffective, Mike Brown was presented with two fail-safe options. The first was to extend JJ Hickson’s minutes, which he did in the third quarter. Hickson looked completely out of place, blew multiple rotations, and had no idea where to be offensively, although he did have one nice driving dunk. Now that I’m comfortable with the sight of Shaq on the floor, Hickson’s the one who makes me nervous every time he gets into a defensive crouch or tries to get a hold of a pass or rebound. I know I’m like two months late on this, but man are Hickson’s hands awful.

-Mike Brown’s second option, which he went with for the entire fourth quarter, was to go small with LeBron at the four, Andy playing center, and Moon/Parker/West/Mo/Boobie filling out the 1-3 spots, and the Cavs ended up outscoring the Hawks 29-16 in the fourth quarter, erasing a seven-point lead to start the fourth.

The only issue with the small lineup was that AP and Moon had a much harder time containing Joe Johnson than LeBron did, and Johnson had 11 of Atlanta’s 16 fourth-quarter points. However, with James on Josh Smith, Smith went 0-2 with a turnover in the final 7 minutes of the game (the turnover being controversial) after going 7-10 at the rim on Tuesday.

-In Boobie’s by-default return to the rotation, he made a huge 23-footer (possibly a three, but ruled a two) in the fourth, played great defense and forced two crucial turnovers, and had a game-high +12, because he only played in the fourth quarter. The box score won’t show the impact of Boobie’s return, but this shirt shall immortalize his contributions on Wednesday.

boobie shirt

-Anthony Parker has now gone four games without a three, but continues to be effective inside the arc, making a nice finger-roll type shot off a LeBron feed and a crucial layup in the fourth.

-Mo went ice-cold from the field for much of this one, but he did contribute 10 assists (although three of them did come on three rudimentary feeds to Lebron for three-pointers and one of his assists came on Andy’s three, which makes it the luckiest assist in the history of mankind), and drained an ice-cold pull-up with the Cavs down one with four minutes to play. You know what, pretty much all the baskets in the fourth were important.

Alright, no bullets of randomness tonight. What a night. I am exhausted, see you guys tomorrow and enjoy the Cavs going into the new year as the unofficial top dogs of the NBA.

We Interrupt This Recap One More Time

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Let’s just get the bad stuff out of the way first. On an absolutely crucial possession with the Hawks up a point with two minutes remaining, the shot clock at the Q didn’t reset, and the Hawks ended up turning the ball over with about one second left on a drive with one second left on the fake shot clock.

Whether or not Smith was conscious of the fake shot clock winding down, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was, and because of that the possession should’ve been started over with 1:57 left on the clock. (Kevin Arnovitz sums the situation up for TrueHoop here.)

The Hawks are planning to protest the game, and now somebody whose job I seriously do not want right now has to decide if the Hawks getting 10 less seconds than they were entitled to on a crucial possession is an important enough mishap to overturn the next two minutes of game action. Not a decision I would want to make by any stretch of the imagination.

My takeaway from this is that Mauer saw what had happened, saw there was a mistake, and (I’m assuming) had his hands tied by the rulebook, since there’s no concrete rule for taking away an opposing basket because of an earlier shot-clock mishap. (I found the 2004 edition of the rules, and there doesn’t seem to be a rule covering this situation, except for an extremely liberal interpretation of rule “j.”)

Now, what’s probably going to happen is that a rule governing this type of situation is going to be put into the rulebook very soon, or people will at least start clamoring for it.

But the greater issue here, in my opinion, is that crew chiefs need to have more discretion to use their common sense when there’s a strange situation like this with a completely obvious solution. It’s like theories on artificial intelligence; if you try to program a response for any and every situation, it doesn’t work, but if you give some guidelines that make sense and let behaviors emerge, then the program has a better chance of achieving its goals. If the goal is a fairly-officiated game, referees need to be able to use their common sense and actually make basic decisions in real-time instead of trying to predict everything that can possibly happen in an NBA game and planning a response.

So that’s unfortunate business, it does take away from the game, and Hawks fans are rightfully pissed. And of all the nights to have LeBron shoot more free throws than the opposing team, this was not the best one. Still, a great game did end up happening while the shot clock wasn’t malfunctioning, and the recap of it will be up in a little bit.

I’m On TrueHoop While You Process

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Hey folks, I’ll have the recap up after I eat some dinner and slow my heart rate down a little bit (what a crazy game), but while you wait I’m over on TrueHoop with a post I got to co-write with Kevin Arnovitz, which was awesome. Go check it out, and check back here in a little bit for a recap.

Hawks At Cavaliers Open Thread

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

It’s LeBron’s 25th birthday today, and the Cavs play the Hawks for the second night in a row. This is your open thread. Have fun and I’ll talk to you tonight.

Recap: Cavs 95, Hawks 84 (Or, In The Quarter Of The Offensively Challenged, The Team With One Delonte West Wins All)

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Overview: Despite LeBron James having one of the worst shooting nights of his career, The Cavs were able to beat the Atlanta Hawks 95-84 on the road. Six Cavaliers scored in double figures, Delonte West and Mo Williams combined for 37 points, and the Hawks went scoreless for the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Okay, that was a strange game. LeBron misses 14 shots, Jamaal Crawford leads all scorers, Delonte West dunks on Josh Smith, the Hawks starting backcourt combines to go 6-21 from the floor, and the 2nd-best offense in the league nearly gets shut out for the entire fourth quarter. But a win is a win is a win, especially on the road against a tough Hawks team.

-Delonte West. I enjoy watching him play basketball quite a lot. His jumper continues to slowly come back, with Delonte making a catch-and-shoot J from the 10-15 foot, 16-23-foot, and three-point range on Tuesday night. He was able to drive for a dunk and a pull-up jumper.

But of course, scoring tells so little of the story when it comes to Delonte. He made two absolutely gigantic coast-to-coast plays in the fourth quarter, getting a steal in traffic and drawing a clear-path foul on Josh Smith that broke the game open a little bit for the Cavs, and later flushing over Smith in transition in one of the plays of the year for the Cavaliers.

He battled on the offensive boards, grabbing two of them, getting a back-tap that led to a LeBron and-1, and drawing a huge loose-ball foul jumping over none other than Josh Smith to grab a one-handed rebound with his right hand.

And to top it all off, Jamaal Crawford had 21 points before Delonte checked into the game with 3 minutes to play in the third; over the next 15 minutes, Crawford banked in one three over a perfect Delonte close-out and made a shot with less than a minute to go.

And did I mention Delonte threw one down on Josh Smith? Because he did. Delonte West, Tuesday night’s champion of the lefty thunderdome and key player for the Cavs. I could finish by telling you that Delonte was a game-high +24 in 29 minutes, or I could finish by posting video of the dunk. I’ll opt for the latter.

(Hat-Tip to “Vlad” of RealCavsFans.com for the find on the video, and “PIP” for making the thread that contains it.)

-Another great game for Big Z, who went 6-8 from the field, got 7 points on 4 shots outside of the paint, hit the dagger three from the right corner, and passed Brad Daugherty for 2nd place on the all-time Cavs scoring list, behind only LeBron. Congrats to the big guy.

-And another very solid game for Shaq, who went 5-7 from the field, grabbed eight boards, helped hold Al Horford to one shot at the rim in 40 minutes, and even drew a charge. Again, I point out that all five of Shaq’s makes were assisted; help the big guy out and he’ll help the team.

-The Cavs were able to scratch out a win in the possession battle I mentioned in the preview; the Cavs only turned the ball over three more times than the Hawks, and both teams got the same amount of points off of turnovers. And on the boards, the Cavs actually got five more offensive rebounds than the Hawks did. All good stuff there.

-The less said about LeBron’s offensive game, the better. 6-20 from the field with only three free throw attempts is ugly, and there’s no getting around that one. Going 0-11 from outside the paint was the big culprit for that, and it was really just one of those nights for LeBron on jumpers. He missed catch-and-shoot jumpers, deep jumpers, midrange jumpers, off-balance jumpers, pull-ups, shots in rhythm, fadeaways, everything.

He was able to have some success driving the lane and in the post-up game, but being completely ineffective from the perimeter was an obstacle that LeBron couldn’t get around. Hopefully this game doesn’t shake LeBron’s confidence from outside and he can get his improved jumper back on track very soon.

The silver lining in terms of LeBron’s game is that LeBron will do a Daredevil-type thing when he’s struggling from the floor and step up his energy level in other areas, and he certainly showed that on Tuesday night. He had eight rebounds and nine assists, but where LeBron stepped his game up was on the defensive end. He was absolutely wreaking havoc on defense on both the weak side and on the ball, finishing with five steals, a block, and a stretch of absolute lock-down defense on Joe Johnson to set the tone for the Cavs’ dominant defense in the fourth quarter. When Delonte and Varejao are on the court and LeBron is fully engaged defensively, the Cavs are a flat-out scary defensive team, and that’s what will win them games when LeBron’s off.

Mo was an offensive catalyst in the first half, going 4-5 from the field and getting 12 points  on 5 attempts in the Cavs’ 33-point second quarter. He couldn’t keep his hot hand going in the second half, but he did hit the 20-point mark, which is beginning to reach Lawler’s Law-level accuracy for the Cavs this season.

***Update*** Via the Twitter of WFNY’s Jacob Rosen, the Cavaliers are now 41-7 when Mo Williams scores 20 points or more since his acquisition, or 85.4% of those games. When Mo does not score 20, the Cavs are 59-21 (73.8%), including the playoffs. Not earth-shattering when he doesn’t hit 20, but the Cavs are darn tough to beat when he does. Thanks, Jacob.

Varejao: One field goal attempt in 33 minutes, second-highest +/- of the night with a +19. That’s a Varejao game right there.

Bullets of Randomness:

-How many times has Jamaal Crawford been called for steps on his signature shake-and-bake like he was tonight? I feel like that’s something that would happen all of the time or none of the time.

-Alright, that’s all for tonight. Let’s get ready to do it again tomorrow, folks.

Preview: Cavs at Hawks, December 29th

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Relevant Statistics:

Pace: Cavs 93.4 (27th) vs. Hawks 94.7 (17th)

Offensive Efficiency: Cavs 107.5 (6th) vs. Hawks 110.6 (2nd)

Defensive Efficiency: Cavs 99.3 (4th) vs. Hawks 102.6 (13th)

Pre-Game Thoughts:

-As John Hollinger noted about a week and a half ago (insider), the secret to the Hawks’ offense is that they get more possessions than just about anybody else. They have the league’s lowest turnover rate, and that, coupled with their excellent offensive rebounding, usually means they end up taking more shots than their opponent on a given night. Turnovers have been a bugaboo for the Cavs at times this season, so it’ll be important for them to take care of the ball and the glass and keep Atlanta from winning the possession battle.

-Joe Johnson has long been a great 2nd banana thrown into the superstar role, and the stats bear that out; Bibby, Horford, and Josh Smith all have higher eFG%s than Johnson, so the more the Cavs can bait JJ into playing hero-ball instead of keeping the ball moving and getting high-percentage looks for his teammates, the better off they’ll be. The Cavs should have the mindset they’ll live with Johnson going off for 35, but won’t let Smith and Horford beat them down converting on alley-oops, quick iso drives, and tip-ins all night.

-I’d say that the Cavs should sag off Josh Smith and try to get him to shoot jumpers, but that would kind of be like putting a “do not douse yourself with this product and light a match” warning on a bottle of lighter fluid. You play Josh Smith for his jumper, you deserve whatever happens.

-Jamaal Crawford has always been one of those bizarre players who actually has a better eFG on jumpers than he does at the rim. This season, however, Crawford  is suddenly an amazing finisher at the rim, with a LeBron-like 74.6% eFG on “inside” shots. That is quite bizarre. I honestly can’t remember a precedent for that. Anyways, don’t let Jamaal Crawford get to the rim.

-Just like the Lakers, the Achilles’ heel of the Hawks might be their bench-outside of Crawford, the +/- gap between the starters and the bench is pretty massive. The Bibby/Johnson/Williams/Smith/Horford and Bibby/Crawford/Williams/Smith/Horford lineups are absolute juggernauts, at a +209 mark in 544 minutes this season, but the Hawks play like a .500 team when one of those two lineups isn’t on the floor.

-Two slightly undersized but hyper-athletic bigs in the Hawks’ starting frontcourt. Something to watch out for.

Recommended Reading:

Hoopinion

Errata:

-Alright, I’m living the chat tonight for the Daily Dime, so stop by and keep me company, and of course this is an open thread. Just be sure to pick up before you leave.

-Until tonight, campers. Also, BIRDS OF WAR.

Fear The Power of Rankings

Monday, December 28th, 2009

(Full disclosure: Above picture first seen in a basketball-related context on Sactown Royalty, so far as I know. But like the Mona Lisa, I believe something this grand cannot belong to only one being; it belongs to all of mankind. And cat-kind.)

So anyways, I missed this while I was linking you up with the present this afternoon, but after the Christmas day game and Baron Davis’ buzzer-beater, the Cavs have gone ahead and leapfrogged into the #1 spot on ESPN.com’s power rankings. Not bad for a team who’s had growing pains with their biggest off-season acquisition, is bringing three former starters off the bench, and seems 10-20% less dominant than they did in last year’s regular season.

As Cavs fans everywhere prepare to turn their calendars and officially enter into the (calendar) Year of Judgement for the franchise, remember that as 2009 ended, the Cavs were at the top of the heap. It doesn’t count for anything of course, but maybe it’s pretty to think that it does. Until tomorrow, everyone.

Links To The Present: December 28th, 2009

Monday, December 28th, 2009

“Do you know if the Dr. Dog show is sold out tonight?”

-Via The Sporting Blog’s “Moments of the Decade” series, here’s Shoals on the LeBron-TMac Christmas Day showdown back in 2003, when T-Mac was the best scorer on the planet and LBJ was a rookie. Good Stuff.

-CelticsHub’s Zach Lowe on the Celtics’ defensive strategy, which revolves around not allowing baskets in the paint or from beyond the arc, just like the Cavs’. Lowe is also down with a New Orleans Funeral for the mid-range jumper, as I generally am. However, I will note again the extremely bizarre thing I found this off-season while I was doing some research, which is that there was zero correlation at the team level between proportion of shots taken from mid-range and offensive efficiency, even though mid-range shots are far less efficient than shots at the rim and threes.

-Orlando Pinstriped Post with the definitive report on Matt Barnes at the trimester. Worth a look, as he was one of the ones that got away from the Cavaliers this off-season. As it stands now, the only guy I’m kicking myself over the Cavs not getting is Channing Frye. I mean, who knew? Ben’s report on Barnes seems to be that Barnes is playing smart, but not hitting his shots.

That’s pretty much how I’d describe Jamario, except exactly the opposite. I kid; Jamario will make you scratch your head, but he seems to have a knack for throwing down the alley-oop or making the three at the right time so far this season. By the way, when I was writing my Laker recap a few days ago, I actually forgot that Moon’s fourth-quarter three was banked in. If Jamario’s banking in threes, it’s officially not your night. Actually, if Jamario Moon banks in a three in the fourth quarter with his team up 10 or more, the game should just end right there. That should be like death cup.

-LeBron James is your Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Woot.

-Alright, that’s all for now.

Recap: Cavs 108, Rockets 83 (Or, The Time The Cavs Out-Rocketed The Rockets)

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Overview: After a 16-4 Houston run to start the game, the Cavaliers outscored the Rockets 104-67 over the next 44 minutes, cruising to a 108-83 behind a 32-15 third quarter and 49 combined points from Mo Williams and LeBron James. James was able to watch the entire fourth quarter from the bench.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Against a Houston team that relies on toughness, energy and superior execution to beat teams with more size and talent than them on a regular basis, including the first time they played the Cavs this season, the Cavs played with more energy, played tougher and executed better than the Rockets in almost every area on Sunday night.

When the Cavs lost to the Rockets in Houston, the Rockets outscored the Cavs 18-2 in fast break points, 22-15 in points off of turnovers, and only scored eight less points in the paint than the Cavs.

On Sunday, the Cavs beat the Rockets 19-12 in fast break points, 25-10 in points off of turnovers, and absolutely dominated them in the paint, outscoring the Rockets 52-16 in the paint and holding the Rockets 29 points under their season average of 45 points in the paint. The Cavs also dominated the boards, beating the Rockets 15-5 in offensive rebounds.

-The best thing about this game for the Cavaliers was definitely the level of offensive execution they performed with the entire game. That started with LeBron, who showed off almost every aspect of his offensive game and seemed to have a true sense of purpose every minute he was in the game.

LeBron started off establishing his teammates and working within the flow of the offense, with four assists and three baskets off of assists in the first quarter, which was good to see. LeBron’s been going for his own scoring in some first quarters recently, and while that isn’t bad, the team does become more dangerous when LeBron plays within the offense early and goes for the jugular late. That he stayed calm and kept playing within the offense instead of panicking and pounding the ball after that initial Houston run makes it even better.

-In the second quarter, LeBron busted out his post game, and showed some of the best moves on the block he’s shown all season, backing Zombie Battier all the way under the basket, staying patient, using his footwork instead of forcing a quick hook or fadeaway, and getting an easy layup off a pivot move.

The next time LeBron posted up, he went from the same side of the floor against Battier, got all the way down, and finished with the move he’d pretended to do the previous time, going to the middle of the lane from the right block and finishing with a lefty layup. Beautiful.

(The next time LeBron tried posting up, it wasn’t pretty, as LeBron’s footwork got crossed up and he ended up flinging an ugly turnaround that barely grazed the rim. Out of pure guilt, LeBron then stole the ensuing outlet pass, passed it to an open AP, then grabbed the offensive board when AP missed and put it back in for an And-1.)

After that, LeBron’s Quarter of the Post resumed, with LBJ catching it in the Malone-post, jab-stepping to get space, then drained a 17-footer in Battier’s face. The next time down, LeBron caught the ball in the same spot and, again, actually performed the move he deked, attacking Battier with a dribble-drive and spinning to the basket to draw the foul.

In the third, LeBron opened up his perimeter game, knocking down a 12-foot runner and consecutive threes to start the quarter, triggering a 22-6 Cavs run to start the third quarter and essentially end the game.

The dribble-drive game, passing game, moving without the ball, post game, and outside game were all in effect for LeBron on Sunday night, and the Rockets had no answer. Oh, and only one turnover for LeBron.

-Mo Williams was absolutely fantastic as well, pouring in 12 points on 6 shots during the dominant third quarter. At some point, teams are really going to have to learn not to give Mo any kind of look at that left elbow three-pointer, because he just doesn’t miss it; Mo went 3 of 4 from that spot on Sunday night, with his other three coming from the left corner. The Cavs did a great job of freeing up Mo from deep, feeding him on a Shaq post-and-kick and then setting him up with a great look from the corner behind a LeBron back-screen. The Cavs offense is starting to look more and more like a real offense than it has this season, especially when Shaq’s on the floor.

Shaq was great against the Rockets. He only shot 5-12 from the floor, but absolutely bullied the undersized Rockets frontline, wreaking absolute havoc. Shaq grabbed a season-high six offensive rebounds, drew eight fouls, helped hold Scola, Landry, and Hayes to a combined 7-19 shooting night, and forced the Rocket defense to collapse on him when he caught the ball down low.

-Shaq also had one of his better passing games as a Cav, finding LeBron for two layups from the post and setting Mo Williams up with two wide-open looks for three. His four assists matched his season high. Little by little, I’m becoming a convert.

-Jamario Moon doing Jamario Moon things, grabbing four rebounds, getting two blocks, and even racking up three assists. (Yes, the three assists are a season-high.) Jamario even had what may be the signature Jamario Moon sequence of the season, finishing an insane alley-oop dunk on the offensive end and breaking up a three-on-one fast break for the Rockets within the span of a minute.

-Four steals and two blocks for Andy tonight, and the Cavs had 10 steals and 10 blocks overall.

-Anthony Parker has now missed his last seven three-point tries. There is no such thing as automatic, I suppose.

-Z missed some easy ones inside, but his jumper continues to show signs of life, as Z drained 3 of his 6 attempts from outside the paint.

-No Cav had a negative +/- on Sunday, and no Rocket had a positive one. Domination.

Bullets of Randomness:

-Aaron Brooks just gives the Cavs the howling fantods. He’s a monster. What’s funny is that he looks like a faster, better Rafer Alston to an uncanny degree, from his style of play to his legs-splayed jumper, and Alston is another notorious Cav-Killer. If you told me that Brooks used to play streetball under the moniker of “Hopscotch” or something like that, I would not be remotely surprised.

-A big factor in the Rockets’ win over the Cavs in Houston was Trevor Ariza absolutely going off, scoring 26 points on 11-19 shooting and leading some Cavs fans to get bummed over the fact the Cavs seem to have narrowly missed signing Ariza in the off-season. Here’s an excerpt from Rahat Huq of Red 94’s game recap:

“I just don’t understand what is going on with Ariza.  I don’t want to just criticize; I want badly to just understand the rationale behind what is taking place.  I just can’t think of any logical explanation as to why this player is being allowed to frequently attempt feats which he has absolutely no hope of achieving.  It’s become mind boggling at this point.  I have said many times that I am all for experimentation and player development.  But these have to be within certain limits of realism.”

-So what I’m taking away from that is that Ariza was not as much of a positive factor on Sunday as he was in the Rockets’ previous meeting with the Cavs.

-Scola is now 6-18 from the field with no free throw attempts against the Cavs this season. He is the anti-Brooks.

Alright campers, two season highlights in a row for the Cavs. Let’s hope the Cavs can keep it going for a good while. Until later.