Archive for December, 2009

Links To The Present: December 21st, 2009

Monday, December 21st, 2009

-Windhorst on three power forwards who the Cavs could be targeting at the trade deadline: Anthony Randolph, Troy Murphy, and Antawn Jamison. My ultra-ultra quick thoughts:

-As an uber-upside guy who hasn’t done much at the NBA level, I really don’t see how Randolph getting traded from a rebuilding team to a contender makes any sense for either side, but Randolph is too intriguing to pass up and the Warriors have surprised me before.

-Murphy fits on paper, but he couldn’t make it work as a stretch four under Don Nelson, of all people, and he’s sporting a -16.5 on the Pacers. I’m really not a fan.

-Jamison would be a home run, so long as MB finds a way to work his rotations to make sure Varejao still gets plenty of time along Jamison when the other team doesn’t have a strong post-up center on the floor. But will the Wizards be willing to trade him, let alone to Cleveland?

-Jamario Moon on his season with the Globetrotters.

-The Daily Thunder’s Royce Young, writing for TheLostOgle.com, puts together a list of the greatest Oklahoma City Sports YouTube videos ever. Before you look away, you’ve got Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson in college on there, and Mike Gundy’s rant. A good way to waste 10-20 minutes.

By the way, I highly recommend the Lost Ogle in general. I had the following exchange on Saturday:

Friend: What are you reading?

Me: Oh, it’s like Gawker, but exclusively centered around Oklahoma City.

Friend: Krolik, there is something wrong with you.

-Leon Powe is getting closer to returning.

-I mentioned this in my recap Saturday, but it bears repeating: All five of the Bucks’ current starters were born in different continents.

-Ilyasova: Turkey

-Mbah a Moute: Cameroon

-Bogut: Australia

-Jennings: USA

-Delfino: Argentina

-For fans of Delonte, scary news about Kirk Snyder’s personal demons.

-Alright folks, see you after the game tonight.

Recap: Mavericks 102, Cavs 95 (Or, Landry Bites Dirk In Elbow, Cavs’ Bad Habits Bite Them In The Butt)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

epic fail pictures

Overview: In an ugly, frustrating game, the Cavs failed to establish any sort of offensive rhythm, and lost on the road to the Mavericks, who were playing without Dirk Nowitzki.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Bleeech. When a team gets into the habit of playing sloppy and counting on their superstar or some well-timed bombs to bail them out, a game like this is going to happen eventually. And eventually turned out to be Sunday night for the Cavs.

-The Cavs needed LeBron James to have a big-time game if they were going to win tonight. Unfortunately for them, LeBron wasn’t up to his usual standard, going only 9-23 from the field and 4-14 on shots outside of the paint. LeBron’s even been a little sloppy over this stretch, forcing drives from weird angles, not playing off the ball enough, struggling to set up his teammates as cleanly as he usually does, and settling for a few too many off-balance jumpers.

He’s gotten away with it and turned in some great performances by hitting tough jumpers or getting to the free-throw line, but neither happened on Sunday night, and without LeBron making 20-foot leaners into lemonade,  LeBron falling into his bad habit of pounding the ball and the lack of offensive flow caught up with the team.

-Outside of LeBron, the news gets even worse. Mo Williams and Jason Terry are very similar players; they’re shoot-first guys, and they improve an offense tremendously when they’re on but don’t bring much of anything to the table when they’re off. On Sunday night, Terry had 19 points on 12 shots and Mo had 8 points on 9 shots, even missing two free throws. With Mo unable to take pressure off LeBron, the Mavs were able to pack the lane, and that killed the Cavs’ momentum.

-Shaq went 1-7 from the floor, and turned the ball over twice. Games when LeBron struggles like this were supposed to be when Shaq would shine the brightest, but thus far he’s looked like a guy who needs other players to get the pressure off of him to play well.

-The bright spots of the game for the Cavs were the shooting guards. Anthony Parker looked smooth from everywhere on the floor, did a great job of finding his spots for catch-and-shoot threes and raining them in, and didn’t try to do too much with the ball. And as is often the case in ugly losses, Delonte West looked like the best player on the floor for extended periods of time, never allowing his energy level to wane one iota, driving hard to the basket, scoring when the offense stagnated, and always trying to make a play. He had 18 points on Sunday night, with 10 of those 18 coming in the fourth and six coming in what could be called garbage time.

Normally, that would be an indictment, but on a night where the Cavs’ effort was so inconsistent, Delonte’s relentlessness deserves some praise. (When he tried to put in that alley-oop layup off a full-court pass from Mo with .4 seconds to go, I found myself wondering if Delonte doesn’t look at the scoreboard at all when he plays, like how some pitchers ask for the radar gun to be turned off when they’re in the game.)

-The only Cavalier with a positive +/- on Sunday was Anderson Varejao, who finished with a +1 in 34 minutes, which means the Cavs gave up 8 points in the 14 minutes Andy sat.

Bullets of Randomness:

-Tim Thomas getting a team-high 22 points really, really, really should not happen. Definitely a micro example of how the Cavs didn’t take their opponent as seriously as they should have on Sunday night.

-Drew Gooden stuffing LeBron James on a drive: where did that come from? That is not the Drew Gooden I know. Gooden ignoring a wide-open Josh Howard in the corner, dribbling towards the basket, getting stopped, and then seeing Howard, by which time the help had come, that I recognize.

-A list you may feel free to add onto: Shooters who are not pure shooters by any stretch of the imagination, but will drain threes all day on a catch-and-shoot if their feet are set. The first names that pop into my head are Jason Kidd and Troy Murphy. What about you guys?

-Marion definitely bothered LeBron with his defense tonight. He’s still got it as a man defender, even if he’s not as explosive of a help-side defender as he was with Phoenix.

-And speaking of Phoenix, there’s no time to mope, because it’s the Suns on the road tomorrow. See you then.

Recap: Cavs 85, Bucks 82 (Or, The Time The Cavs Collapsed Across The Finish Line)

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Overview: A 24-12 third quarter and a +13 mark in made free throws was enough for the Cavaliers to scrape past the Bucks, despite scoring zero points over the final 4:35 of play.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-With the Cavs and Bucks coming into this game as two of the five best three-point shooting teams in the league, it was reasonably inferable that the team that got hot from outside first would end up winning the game. And in the third, the Cavs got hot from outside while the Bucks couldn’t buy a deep jumper. The Cavs got 16 points on 10 jumpers outside of 20 feet in the third quarter, while the Bucks only managed two points on nine shots from that distance.

-The other big difference in the game was free throws and fouls in general. The Cavs were the aggressors all game and took the ball right at Milwakee’s interior defenders, while the Bucks seemed much more content to play the drive-and-kick game. The Cavs attempted 12 less threes than the Bucks on Friday night, and ended up with six fewer points on three-point baskets than the Bucks.

However, the Cavs got 13 more points from the free-throw line than the Bucks on 17 more free-throw attempts. If you count two free throws as one shot “attempt,” than the Cavs got 13 points on eight “extra” attempts from the free-throw line as compared to six points on 12 extra attempts from the three-point line for the Bucks. The Cavs had a size and strength advantage on the Bucks, and they utilized that advantage by going to the hole and drawing contact.

The other effect that the Cavs’ aggressiveness had was to limit Andrew Bogut to 17 minutes with foul trouble, with Shaq drawing two of the fouls, Ilgauskas and Hickson drawing one each, and LeBron drawing one as well. When the Bucks don’t have Bogut, they have an extremely hard time generating points in the paint, and they were only able to get 24 points in the paint on Friday.

Also, Brandon Jennings was just off, missing jumpers from just about every spot on the floor and ultimately enjoying a 5-21 shooting night.

LeBron had a workmanlike 26/10/8 on Friday, getting to the line time after time and making 12 of his 14 free throw attempts. Thanks to the Cavs falling behind right out of the gate, LeBron wasn’t able to establish a game flow early like he generally prefers to do, and spent much of the game in “screw it, I’m getting us some points now” mode. This was perhaps best exemplified when LBJ got Cavs’ first basket of the game; Mbah a Moute tried to pick LeBron up in the Cavs’ backcourt, but LeBron exploded into high gear and drove about 60 feet for a layup without even crossing over.

He was also good about taking the ball to the post, making quick, punishing dribbles on Charlie Bell, passing out of the double-teams, and showing a very pretty fake pivot to turnaround J out of the midpost on the Cavs’ final basket of the game.

As for the turnovers, there were six of them, and a few were LeBron trying to do to much, like trying a miracle behind-the-back feed to Andy from the midpost, some were needless risks, like trying to hit Anthony Parker with a cross-court skip-pass behind a pick on an inbounds play, and some were just sloppy, like tossing Mo Williams the ball in the backcourt without sensing that Jennings was lurking. And even though LeBron’s gone away from that hesitation pull-up that was working so well and continues to look like he’s sitting down a bit on his jumpers, he still had a nice night shooting the ball, with 12 points on 12 shots outside the paint.

Mo Williams didn’t have his best all-around game, but was a huge part of the aforementioned third quarter takeover, making four of his five field goals in the third and scoring 11 points on six shots, including back-to-back threes from his absolute favorite spot on the floor, the left elbow three.

Another solid scoring game off the bench in Delonte, working his bulldog game around the basket to full effect. When he gets close enough to use the glass with his left hand, he gets the job done. If Jennings could finish around the bucket like Delonte, we’d be talking about an all-timer.

With how high Jamario jumps and how skinny he is, you do hold your breath a little bit every time he gets fouled going to the rack.

On the night where the Z/Shaq +/- situation went national, big Z led the team with a +11 in 16 minutes, while Shaq had a -7 in 18 minutes.

Hubie noted it during the broadcast, but it warrants a repeat: Andy’s steal in the backcourt with the Cavs up five and a minute and a half to go was a huge, huge play, and a microcosm of why Varejao is so valuable to this Cavalier team.

Bullets of Randomness:

Ilyasova can definitely knock down open jumpers, but a starting power forward should probably have at least one free throw attempt. Having extra weapons is awesome, but big men do have some basic responsibilities.

All five of the Bucks’ starters tonight were born on a different continent, if I’m not mistaken: Bogut in Australia, Ilyasova is Turkish, Mbah a Moute was born in Cameroon, Delfino in Argentina, and Jennings in Compton. And even the American in the lineup was drafted out of Italy. Cool.

Mbah a Moute’s one basket came because of a four-on-five situation created by Mo Williams needing to tie his shoe.

Is it me, or did Charlie Bell look like a very solid NBA two-guard on Friday?

Remember how badly Cavs fans wanted Michael Redd for so long, and how he became “the one who got away” in the Hughes quagmire? I feel a little better about all that now, although I maintain there was no way the Cavs could’ve gotten him back when he was a free agent. Alright, see you guys tomorrow.

Cavs At Bucks Open Thread

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Pay no attention to the life behind the curtain: as it turns out, I’m about to embark on an impromptu weekend trip and there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to watch tonight’s game in as timely of a fashion as I’d like, so I might not have my recap up until tomorrow afternoon or so. I apologize for the inconvenience, and encourage you guys to try and fill the gap by doing some citizen recapping in this right here open thread.

The Bucks are definitely going to be motivated after a very tough loss to the Lakers in overtime that hurt in just about every way possible, so let’s hope the Cavs bring their A game, move the ball to keep LeBron from having to work against Mbah a Moute for all of his points, keep Jennings from getting hot, and make Jennings work on defense.

On a completely random note, saw Avatar at midnight last night. You should see it in 3-D immediately. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before, visually. And I’m not a blockbuster movie kind of guy. Whoa. The epitome of getting your 10 bucks worth. And the script is more than good enough to justify the spectacle; some of the dialog is predictably getting ragged on as a form of cultural posturing, but does anyone remember some of the clunker lines from The Dark Knight, supposedly the greatest and most nuanced blockbuster for geniuses ever?

Alright folks, have a good weekend and I’ll try to get a Bucks recap up as soon as I can.

Links To The Present: Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

jr0j.jpg

-Delonte West is starting to break his media silence. Here’s a fabulous article on Delonte and some of the issues he’s faced this season from the Philadelphia Daily News.

-Well, this is a fascinating Wizards-related contest.

-Adventures in meta-notes: Fearless leader picked me up for the bullets today, and decided to quote the paragraph where I attributed Holliday and Mbah a Moute’s defense to evil magic obtained by selling their souls. I really hope that the fact I’m a junior at USC and was being satirical comes through in that context.

-National television shows the world what the privileged few already knew: Tyreke Evans is a freaking beast. I was definitely thinking this when Tyreke made that one-handed running back drive to the hole in the first quarter, and Colin from Cavalier Central tweeted it: The kid looks like a point guard version of LeBron James, and Evans’ 20/5/5 average seems to support the comparison.

-Going to the 82games to compare Tyreke’s season to LeBron’s rookie season, all the numbers are pretty similar in terms of their shot efficiency and tendencies, save for one. Despite the fact Evans is a pretty bad jump shooter, with a 37.1% eFG that’s well under league average, defenses have been completely unable to keep Tyreke out of the paint. He takes more than half of his shots at the rim, and he averages 20 points a game. That is absolutely off the charts for a high-volume perimeter scorer.

The caveat in comparing his rookie numbers to LeBron’s rookie numbers is that LeBron made one of the biggest rookie-to-sophmore leaps ever, improving significantly in almost every aspect of the game, and that’s not something that can be expected to happen. In particular, his finishing percentage around the basket went up over 10%, and that’s usually a number that stays pretty static. Still, keep both eyes on Tyreke as he matures his game and improves his jumper.

Tweet of the day, from N’Gai Croal: “James Cameron to Michael Bay, McG, and other pretenders: ‘Daddy’s Home.'”

Recap: Cavs 108, 76ers 101 (Or, Winning Is a Mindset, and/or What Happens When You Score More Points Than The Other Team.)

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Overview: The Cavaliers were able to pull out a win on the road against a young and athletic 76ers team, who repeatedly tested the Cavaliers’ transition defense. LeBron James had a game-high 36 points, including two momentum-changing three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Another first-quarter explosion for the Cavaliers, with the Cavs scoring 32 out of the gate, but this time the offense looked random and discombobulated to start the game, rather than showing fabulous ball movement, spacing, and ability to get LeBron working off the ball early and then completely abandoning that more and more as the game went on.

Shaq had his second big first quarter in a row, getting deep position, making one of those running righty hooks across the lane that I hate, converting a dunk off some nice interior passing, and getting to the line and actually making his free throws.

But overall, the offense was not flowing quite right on sets that began off the dribble, even in the first half, and it was apparent. LeBron James should not be taking clock-saving one-footed threes when the Cavs are trying to establish their offense. (That statement was in no way meant to take away from the awesomeness of said one-footed three.)

A big reason for that ineffectiveness wasn’t anything the Cavs were doing wrong, but what Jrue Holliday was doing right. Holliday is big, has a huge wingspan, is athletic, and can flat-out play man defense. He absolutely gave Mo Williams the howling fantods all game long, and Mo had a lot of trouble getting his shots or initiating the offense because of it. And when Delonte was running the point against Holliday in the fourth, Jrue shut him down as well.

I don’t know what it is about UCLA, but Holliday and Mbah a Moute are definitely two of the absolute standout perimeter defenders I’ve seen play so far this season. Could be Howland’s coaching philosophy. Could be evil dark magic obtained by the selling of one’s soul. I’m going to go with evil magic, personally.

Mo was able to get free off some 3-1 PnR sets in the fourth quarter to hit some big shots, but how much he struggled to get free from Holliday is a concern, especially if the Cavs end up seeing Rondo and the Celtics in the playoffs.

For some possible news on the future playoff matchups front, a big reason the 76ers were able to stay in the game was that they outscored the Cavaliers 30-14 on the fast break, and none of the current Eastern contenders play at or above a league-average pace. So that particular weakness probably won’t kill the Cavs.

A related note on that front: A rare sight in this game, as Iguodala got the ball off a turnover and started towards the basket with LeBron about two or three steps behind him. LeBron started to rev up for the chase-down opportunity, then quickly realized that Iggy was too fast and finished too strong for him to have a chance at the block, and gave up. You don’t see a lot of guys who occupy the same athletic stratosphere as LBJ, but Iguodala is one of them.

As for LeBron’s game, he was definitely bailing out the team again on Wednesday night, and while it wasn’t his most textbook game, he got the job done. As was mentioned, he wasn’t moving off the ball in the first half the way we’ve become useful, and he did stall the offense a few times throughout the gate.

Also, his perimeter game looks like it’s regressed a bit in terms of form. He’s not setting up that 18-20 foot jumper with a hesitation dribble and then rising straight up on it like he was earlier in the year, and he’s leaning on a lot of shots inside the arc. That said, he hit some big shots when they needed to be hit, and ended up with 15 points on only 13 shots outside the paint. The Cavs needed LeBron to hit tough shots to win the game tonight, and hit them he did. The other notable things about LeBron tonight were that he was only 4-10 on shots at the rim, which is well off his 73% mark on “inside” shots, and only recorded three turnovers.

Really good stuff from JJ in relatively limited minutes tonight, as he played within himself really well and finished 4-5 from the field, showing good patience around the rim and even some interior passing.

Getting 27 points on 15 three-point attempts helped out a great, great deal.

Speaking of that, Boobie went 3-3 from deep, making the most of the looks he got from some good ball movement around the perimeter and rewarding pretty basketball. Really, this shirt is not only for him, but for the second unit’s fine play in the second quarter and the small-ball unit of West/Gibson/Moon/James/Varejao that played a limited stretch in the fourth.

boobie shirt

Bullets of Randomness:

For the second night in a row, a young big man on the other team looks like the best player on the planet in the first half and completely disappears in the second. I have no idea whether Thad Young and Brook Lopez are The Future or two guys who will get massive extensions based on their reputation and cripple the team’s cap. I want to name this type of player after LaMarcus Aldridge somehow, but the best I can currently come up with is “LaUntouchables.” Help me out here.

I have a very hard time thinking of Roy Halladay as an American, I’ve realized.

Poor Ryan Howard. He’s lost like 30 pounds over the past two years, and the 76er sideline reporter asks him where the best cheesesteaks in the city are. That’s just tempting the man.

Kapono: DNP-CD. It’s taken a while, but I am no longer mad about the Cavs losing him in the expansion draft. Remember when nobody on the team could make an open three and Kapono was shooting 50% from beyond the arc with the Heat? Fun times. Until later, everyone.

Recap: Cavs 99, Nets 89 (Or, That Was Just As Good As Any Other Regular Season Win! Technically Speaking!)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Overview: Despite not taking the final three quarters all that seriously, the Cavs were able to hold their early lead against the Nets throughout the entire game, winning 99-89.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Well, the first quarter was fantastic. Offensively, the Cavaliers got absolutely everything and anything that they desired. Shaq was absolutely dominating in the post, steamrolling Josh Boone every time the Nets tried to get away with single-covering him. LeBron was working off the ball beautifully, as he often does early in games, and cutting through the lane absolutely unimpeded as the defense focused on Shaq. To give you an idea of how easily the Cavaliers were moving the ball and destroying the Nets’ defense in that first quarter, the Cavs only took five shots outside of the paint in the first period, and made four of them. Meanwhile, the Nets took nine shots outside the paint in the first, only making one. The Cavs had yet another 30-point opening quarter, and other than Devin Harris getting to the line eight times in the first quarter, the Nets weren’t doing anything offensively either.

Just like when the Cavs played the Knicks at MSG a few weeks ago, the Cavs didn’t think the Nets belonged on the court with them after the first quarter, and it showed in their effort level. After the first quarter, the Cavs outscored the Nets by a grand total of two points, 69-67. So basically, a 2-22 team was able to hang with the Cavs for 36 minutes on Tuesday night. Take from that what you will; it’s not a condemning sign, but it’s not a good one, either.

After the first quarter, Brook Lopez started having an absolute hammer party inside, scoring 11 points in the second frame, and the Nets were able to mount some actual offense behind that. On the Cavs’ side of the ball, the Cavs completely lost their flow when the second unit came in with no Delonte West or Shaq to create shots, and they remained out of synch when LeBron came back in. LeBron had only one point and one assist in the second quarter, missed three jumpers, and committed two charges, signs that LeBron was trying to force himself back into the game rather than wait for the game to come to him like it had in the first quarter.

In the third quarter, the Nets hit the Cavs with a zone, and it completely flummoxed them for a little while. Near the end of the quarter, LeBron was able to get the ball in the soft spot of the zone and rolled off 9 straight Cavalier points, but overall the Cavs were only able to get 20 points in the third quarter. In the fourth, the Cavs were finally able to start running an offense again and put the pressure on the Nets’ D, scoring 27 in the quarter despite LeBron only scoring three points in the fourth. Even though the Cavs allowed Rafer Alson to have an ECF flashback and score 18 points in the fourth, the return of hustle and ball movement in the fourth was enough to secure a Cavalier win over the league’s worst team.

LeBron struggled with his shot again on Tuesday night, going 2-10 from outside the paint, but appears to be getting more comfortable getting deeper catches and making strong moves from the midpost area by the game. The worst news for LeBron is that the turnovers were back tonight. Six for LeBron in this one, coming on passes to nobody, two charges, and a nonchalant inbounds pass, off the top of my head.

Very workmanlike effort from Mo tonight. He had a spot-up three from the corner off of penetration and a timely off-the-dribble three in the fourth, had six assists, and, as Windhorst noted, managed to lead the team in rebounding with eight boards. One thing Mo’s done twice in the last week or so is make a beautiful lead pass from the top of the key to a cutter faking setting a screen and going backdoor, from what looks like a nearly impossible passing angle. Cool stuff.

One culprit for the energy issues in this game: Delonte was inactive for this game, and Andy was only able to play 19 minutes because of foul trouble. Outside of LeBron, those guys are easily the hardest workers on the court, and two of the players the coaching staff really counts on to not allow lethargic efforts like the one we saw tonight occur.

Odd game for Z, as he went 7-9 from the floor and got five of those seven baskets from inside the paint, which you rarely see anymore. We even got to see the (in)famous “sweeping hook” again when Z successfully attacked Josh Boone, who found out the hard way on Tuesday that he’s no Chuck Hayes.

The “Hickson the starter” thing is starting to veer towards performance art. Shaq and Andy are playing extended minutes together again, Hickson didn’t play all that badly at all but only got 12 minutes (D-Block got 13), and Hickson didn’t touch the court in the second half. What purpose is this serving now?

All the news about Moon tomorrow will be surrounding the hard foul he took from Devin Harris, but I’d just like to take a second and once again recognize how much Moon’s rebounding abilities help the team when he’s in the game, especially in the fourth quarter. It’s something that would make small-ball lineups work, if Mike Brown ever played LeBron at the four.

As for the foul itself, I think it was dangerous but not done with malicious intent, just like everyone else. I’d just like to comment on Shaq and LeBron immediately rushing to Moon’s defense. Can you imagine being Devin Harris in that situation? That’s about 600 pounds of angry human being in your face right there.

Bullets of Randomness:

I’m not sure what’s stranger: that Courtney Lee led the Nets in minutes despite going 3-14 from the floor, or that the Nets gave up 10 points in the six minutes Lee actually sat.

How weird is it to see the Alston/Lee backcourt on this team?

Gee whiz, Rafer Alston is a Cav-killer.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until next time, campers.

Cavalier Video Breakdown By Nets Are Scorching’s Sebastian Pruiti

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

To supplement my terrible and sleep-deprived game preview, here’s a YouTube video of some of the Cavaliers’ strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies by Nets Are Scorching’s Sebastian Pruiti, who has one of the finest pure basketball minds on the entire network. Watch, learn, and discuss. See you in a few hours.

Preview: Nets at Cavaliers, December 15th

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

IF THE CAVS LOSE TO THE NETS AT HOME, SOMETHING WILL HAVE GONE HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY WRONG. THAT IS ALL.

It is 5:10 in the morning and I have been working on a paper since 10. That’s the kind of preview that will end up happening in these circumstances. On the plus side, I’m pretty much done for the semester, so get ready for a lot more content over the next few weeks.

Recap: Cavs 102, Thunder 89 (Or, The Time The Cavs Found A Win Far Beyond The Arc)

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Overview: After losing the first half, the Cavs were able to rally and beat the Thunder behind a season-high 44 points from LeBron James and a half-court shot by Mo Williams in crunch time.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Well, I guess the Cavs figure that they might as well get their money’s worth out of LeBron James. LeBron had a season-high 44 on 69% True Shooting, with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals, with a chase-down block thrown in for good measure.

But the numbers themselves aren’t the most impressive part; it’s when LeBron timed his points that made this a truly fantastic performance from LeBron. Near the end of the second quarter, the Thunder were starting to find their offensive groove while the Cavs were losing theirs, with their only points from 8:26 to 5:33 coming on an Anderson Varejao tip-in.

That’s when LeBron put the team on his back and scored the last 12 Cavalier points of the quarter, converting an and-1 (one of his four on the night), getting inside and nailing a 6-footer, picking Russell Westbrook and laying it up in transition, and hitting a three, and none of that was even the best part. The best part of LeBron’s run to end the half came when he grabbed the rebound, started the break, stutter-stepped at the three-point arc like he was about to launch a heat-check three, then turned on the jets and blew by his man for the dunk. Why I haven’t seen this a lot more from LeBron over the past few years, I’m not sure, but it sure did work that time. Beautiful to watch.

And at the end of the third quarter, with the Cavs down 6, LeBron went ahead and rolled off 10 points in 81 seconds, which helped. He hit a technical free throw, banged in a three off the dribble with the shot clock winding down, set up his next three by using an off-ball pick to get himself a catch-and-shoot three going to his left, and then said “you know what? I’m really good at this game,” and pulled up for a straight-on 26-footer. Say what you will about the heat checks (and I have, up to and including a paragraph ago), but when they work, it’s something to behold.

Update: From the “I forgot about this until 3:50 in the morning” file, I really liked what I saw from LeBron demeanor-wise on Sunday night. He gave Harden that show of respect after Harden made a crafty move bouncing the ball off of LeBron, he held the ball for the 24-second violation on the Cavs’ final possession instead of trying to pad his stats, and he seemed calm with the refs. As for the French-fry thing, tell me that doesn’t become a “we sure do love this quirky fellow” moment/meme if Arenas, Artest, Jax, or a number of other folks do it after converting a nice and-1. (Although between the weird carry thing LeBron did at halfcourt and the way he just sort of flung it up there after he got fouled, that looked less like a basketball play than any good basketball play I can remember.) With LeBron, it gets shrugged off at best and becomes “LeBron steals snacks from children!” for a good amount of the populous.

The fourth quarter was definitely a very good quarter for the Cavs that I never want to see repeated again. A Mo layup off a LeBron feed, two LBJ free throws, and a tip-in by Andy were the only points at the rim for the entire quarter.

Jamario and Mo hit extremely timely threes off of kick-outs, Mo hit a three of a Delonte feed the next time down, and then the offense stalled trying to awkwardly feed Shaq in the post, with the Thunder hanging around. That’s when Mo hit a 48-footer with a defender closing out on him, which ended up working nicely. Two dagger jumpers by LeBron, and it was time to call it a night.

Were the Cavs running great sets, getting easy opportunities, or setting a blueprint for how they should go about winning big games? No. But sometimes having guys who can make extremely difficult shots is the difference between winning and losing, and that’s what happened Sunday night.

While it was nice to see Mo provide a 20-point punch and support LeBron, the bigs were a definite area of concern. Hickson’s final line wasn’t terrible, but his energy level isn’t where it was, he’s not looking as hard for finishes on the weak-side, and he was the only Cavalier with a negative +/- tonight.

Shaq continues to struggle. Even with the Cavs feeding him with deep position, he’s just not making the little hooks he’s made for the last decade and change, and he’s gotten sloppy with his elbows on the block as well.

And of course, the alternative isn’t much better, with Z going 0-3 from the floor and getting no points.

Andy, despite only recording four points, was the Cavs’ best big by default tonight, contributing 5 offensive boards and finishing with a game-high +19 mark.

Good stuff out of Moon tonight. He provided energy, snatched some boards, and was even knocking down that funky jumper of his, and he provided a much-needed spark off the bench with Boobie out.

Overall, great performances from LeBron and Mo tonight to bail out the team, and over an 82-game season there’s no shame in needing that from time to time.

Bullets of Randomness:

Durant is just so pretty. That little move where Z was keeping him from turning the corner, so he cut back to the middle of the lane and drained the little pull-up? That’s a work of art right there. Durant’s going to get his points, especially when his jumper’s falling, but the Cavs did a great job making sure he didn’t get his teammates involved. Durant recorded 2 assists and 7 turnovers, and actually finished with a game-low -17 despite working his perimeter game very nicely.

Jeff Green appears to have turned that corner. He used to be a guy whose versatility allowed him to get away with not being all that efficient, but now he’s being aggressive and looking to make decisive moves and high-percentage shots wherever he gets the ball, which is the point of the whole endeavor.

What this team needs is a playmaker who can be consistent. Westbrook has all the talent in the world and will be a very solid player in this league for a long time, but he can’t be counted on to be the primary playmaker night in and night out, and Harden isn’t ready to fill that gap yet. If he can come into his own and balance out what Westbrook brings in the backcourt, the Thunder are going to flat-out start humming offensively.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until later, folks.