Archive for February, 2010

Links To The Present: February 25, 2010

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

1. Rick from WFNY exploring Z’s options: This means that after the 48 hour window is over Zydrunas would be free to sign a deal with any team he chooses.

Possible destinations include Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland, and Cleveland, says John Hollinger in his SportsNation Chat.

George Thomas reporting via twitter: Zydrunas Ilgauskas won’t know his plans until after the weekend, agent says.

2. D-Green and D-Block heading to the Erie D-League squad.

Windy tweeted his thoughts: Sending players to DLeague does not clear roster spots. But the Cavs are obviously evaluating both. One may go if Z returns.

3. Mary Schmitt Boyer on the Cavs trying to find a rhythmAsked if he was holding auditions for certain roles, Brown smiled and said, “Not really. It’s more of a feeling-out process for me, and also for the team, too, to see how comfortable guys are playing with certain guys.

4. From ESPN Boston: Rivers went so far as to suggest newcomer Marcus Landry could get some time guarding James (a challenge the rookie forward said Wednesday he’d covet).

5. Gene Wojciechowski’s got big plans for #23: LeBron could leave $30 million on the table if he ditches the Cavs.  I’d ditch them. If you’re really serious about creating a brand and a basketball legacy, do something that’s never been done before. Don’t max out; min out.

6. Pat McManamon writing for FanHouse on Antawn Jamison’s improved situation: The difference between the two situations? “Unbelievable,” he said.

7. From 82games.com
Boobie Gibson’s eFG% in “clutch situations” = .667
Mo Williams’ eFG% in “clutch situations” = .357

8. Larry Hughes to Charlotte?   That could have some first round implications for the Cavs.

Z Agrees to Buyout

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

According to the twitter of Windhorst, Zydrunas Ilgauskas has agreed to a buyout with the Wizards. Now it’s up to him whether or not he comes back to Cleveland, which is how it should be. He’s done enough for the franchise and the city to deserve support for whatever decision he ends up making. Hopefully he’ll decide to come back to Cleveland, but the most important thing is that Z’s fate is in his own hands. Honestly, the fact that Z can decide what happens to him from this point on is the most important thing for me.

All of that said, I’m counting the days until March 21st. Hurry back, Z.

New Site Addition and Other Notes

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

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(Side note: who else can only think of D2: The Mighty Ducks whenever they’re watching Olympic hockey? Also, it is outstanding how little sense everything about that movie makes in hindsight. Really impressive disregard for any kind of logic when they made that sequel.)

-Anyways. Good news, everyone: as you may know, my NBC job makes me far too busy during the afternoons to do Links To The Present on a daily basis. (Wednesday is actually my day off during the week, which is why I have time to write this.) I asked for applications for people who could help me out, and the response was overwhelming. Over 20 of you asked to do Links To The Present, and I truly thank each and every one of you. I’m sure all of you could have done a very good job.

-Ultimately, I went with Tom Pestak, who folks around here may know as the commenter “Tsunami.” Tom’s comments have always been excellent, his enthusiasm was great, and he showed knowledge of a wide variety of sources. He’ll be the new Links Editor here at Cavs: The Blog, so look forward to him getting the links up every weekday afternoon. Here are a few extra things from this afternoon:

-Ric Bucher of ESPN (Insider) is reporting that a Wizards buyout offer to Z is “waiting for his signature.” Hopefully he goes through with it and gets back to Cleveland as soon as possible.

-The Painted Area points out that LeBron is on pace to shatter the record for assists by a forward.

-RealCavsFans.com poster “MG1″ has some stats detailing how the Cavs play in relation to how many threes LeBron takes; basically, the Cavs are much more likely to win when LeBron shoots fewer threes. I think there’s some causation/correlation noise there, but it’s still very interesting stuff.

-Pierce update: Doc Rivers says that Pierce is “likely to miss” Thursday’s game against the Cavs.

Links To The Present: February 24, 2010

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

1.) Mary Schmitt Boyer, of the Plain Dealer, writes Furthermore, new faces or not, there’s no excuse for the sort of lackadaisical effort the Cavs put forth on defense and rebounding, especially in the second quarter, when they allowed the Hornets to shoot 70.8 percent (17 of 24) and outrebound them, 15-4. Shaq offered his feelings after the game:  “We got to man up,” he said. “There ain’t nothing wrong. We’ve got to man up. We have to play our man first and help last instead of always relying on help.”

I think part of the reason the Cavs struggle when adding/replacing pieces is because so much of their success is based on in-game chemistry.  The supporting cast is not made of  great individual scorers – their success is based on movement, spacing, and a steady diet of cross-court passing from LeBron.  Likewise, so much of their defensive prowess comes from excellent help defense, showing (and quickly retreating) on screens, and communication.  The Cavs needed a month to integrate Shaq, and it will likely take Antawn Jamison some time to figure out where he needs to be, especially at the defensive end.

2.) Bill Livingston addresses the psyche of Cavs Nation: Theologians argue that doubt can be the cutting edge of faith. But in Cleveland, doubt is the cutting edge that slices away the enjoyment of a splendid season.

3.) The NBA is the ultimate “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” league, writes Adrian Wojnarowski.  Good news for those of us that want Z to come home ASAP.

4.) From the Washington Post: The team is “making progress” toward buying out Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s contract, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. An agreement is not expected until Wednesday at the earliest.

The good news is that Z can return to the Cavs 30 days after the TRADE, not the buyout.  That means he’ll be back as early as March 21st.  Wanna know how I know that?

5.) Brian Windhorst told me so.  (A must listen)

6.) Much has been made of LeBron, Danny Ferry, and Mike Brown’s reactions to losing Z.  But the person that is probably most affected is Anderson Varejao.  Much like LeBron is  a big brother to younger players, Z has always taken care of the international players, especially Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic.  Joe Gabriele of Cavs.com wrote a piece on Varejao’s importance to the Cavs that includes some very heartfelt quotes from Andy.

7.) You knew it wouldn’t be long before SVG offered his thoughts on Z’s impending buyout.  Tim Povtak of Fanhouse has the story.

8.) Through 58 games the Cavs average attendance (home AND away) is 99.8% capacity, or 19,775 a night.  Forty years ago, the Cavs hoped for 4,000 a night.

9.) Paul Pierce remains day-to-day but Rob Mahoney doubts that Doc Rivers will keep him from Thursday’s marquee match-up.

10.) Larry Hughes has been waived by the Kings.  I can still remember debating the pros and cons of Larry Hughes vs Michael Redd.   Not exactly the same as the Amar’e Stoudemire/Antawn Jamison/stand pat debate that consumed the last few weeks of our lives.

Recap: Cavs 105, Hornets 95 (Or, Cavs Dodge a Pair of Baby Bullets)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

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Overview: In an up-and-down game, the Cavaliers managed to survive a 37-point outburst from rookie Marcus Thornton and hold on for a 105-95 win. LeBron James had 20 points and 13 assists, and Antawn Jamison added 18 points in his first start as a Cavalier.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Full disclosure: due to an unfortunate scheduling situation, I have Spanish class from 4:00-6:00 this semester. This means that I end up watching the first half of most Tuesday/Thursday games on archive. During class, I keep up with the game thanks to quarterly text updates on my phone, which say the score and leading scorer for each team. These were the two text updates I got during class on Tuesday (which I checked at appropriate stopping points during class):

End of 1st- CLE 28 NO 16

NO: D COLLISON – 4 pts, 2 reb, 2 ast

CLE: A PARKER – 6 pts, 2 reb, 0 ast

At this point, I was feeling pretty nice. The Cavs had gone back to dominating the first quarter, Jamison in the starting lineup worked like a charm, and the Cavs were spreading the ball around nicely on offense. Then, about a half an hour later:

End of 2nd – NO 56 CLE 53

NO: M THORNTON 23 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast

CLE: A PARKER – 10 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast

At this point, I may have started choking on my own tongue. It was not a fun final 20 minutes or so of class.

Pretty much every quarter was its own story in this game. Let’s take a look at what happened:

-In the first quarter, the offense looked beautiful with Jamison in there. Right out of the gate, Jamison slipped a pick and knocked down a jumper, then got Morris Peterson to close out on him and found a wide-open AP in the corner for three. Mo was setting up angles and finding guys inside for finishes. Jamison was going to work on the block and having success. The offense was clicking, and LeBron wasn’t even doing all that much.

The team even played well after Shaq went out, going on a 10-2 run to end the quarter. Help-and-recover D. Smart passing on offense. Almost everything was in the paint or a wide-open three for the Cavs in the first quarter. It looked like the mini-losing streak was about to become a distant memory.

-Then came the second quarter. And Marcus Thornton. Thornton is lightning-quick, and capable of stopping on a dime and nailing pull-up jumpers. When he’s hot like he was tonight, he’s the perfect player to exploit Shaq defensively. Against quick guards, Shaq is forced to concede the pull-up or risk a blow-by. Most guards can’t beat you with pull-up jumpers from the zone Shaq concedes, but Thornton sure seemed up to the challenge on Tuesday night. What made matters much, much worse was that the Hornets were consistently able to get Thornton the ball in the open floor, where he was all but unstoppable.

After Cavs misses or turnovers in the second quarter, Thornton went 7 for 7 from the field. After dead-ball situations (two Cavalier makes and one traveling violation), Thornton was 1-3 in the second quarter. Thornton added two more buckets after New Orleans offensive rebounds to cap off his monstrous quarter. After watching that quarter from Thornton, the smoke monster on LOST no longer seems difficult to stop.

The weird thing about the second quarter is that the Cavs weren’t doing all that much wrong. The Hornets went into a zone, and the Cavaliers did exactly what they should do, which is give the ball to LeBron in the high post and spread the floor with three-point shooters. The defense collapsed, LeBron found wide-open shooters, but the shots didn’t go in. With some of the best looks they’re going to get all year, the Cavs went 1-6 from beyond the arc in the second quarter, and three of those misses led to Marcus Thornton baskets on the other end.

-In the third quarter, LeBron and Shaq decided to have themselves some fun. They went at the basket aggressively, and every field goal in the quarter was scored or assisted by Shaq or LeBron. The Cavs also started making cuts at the rim against the zone rather than flaring out for three-pointers, and even got out on the break a couple of times themselves for easy layups.

The Cavs shut down Thornton in the third quarter by not giving the Hornets any opportunities to run. After Thornton came into the game in the third quarter, the Hornets only received the ball three times in a live-ball situation. The first time, LeBron stole Collison’s pass right back to end the possession. The two times the Hornets got defensive rebounds while Thornton was in, he scored on the ensuing possession. Those were his only two baskets of the quarter. Admittedly, one of those baskets was set up by a nice half-court play that freed Thornton up for a three off a double screen. But you’ve gotta admit that’s a pretty interesting stat all the same. You hear all the time about good defense leading to good offense. In the third quarter, good offense led to good defense for the Cavs.

-In the fourth, the Cavs continued to get good looks but miss them, missing two open threes and five shots at the rim in the first half of the quarter. Emeka Okafor did a good job of contesting everything at the basket for the Hornets, but those are still shots the Cavs should have converted.

Thornton had nine points in the final quarter. And yes, all of them came directly after Cavalier misses.

After an ugly stretch where the Cavs completely forgot how to attack the zone and allowed the Hornets to tie the game with 4:37 to play, the Cavs’ money players took over. Mo finally showed up to the party, getting just a little too much space from his favorite spot on the floor and draining a huge three to break the tie. On the next time down, Delonte came from behind to block Thornton’s jumper, trailed the break, and hit an absolutely massive three to put the Cavs up six.

After two missed free throws from Shaq and a lazy turnover by Mo, LeBron took the game over. The Cavs scored ten points on their final three possessions of the game, all of them set up or scored by LeBron. James found Jamison with a bullet of a mid-air pass after a post up, got an and-1 after catching the ball coming full speed from the weak side, hit a dagger three, and found Andy for a layup that put the icing on the cake. LeBron’s good.

Other notes:

-Antawn’s going to fit in just fine. I love the way he cuts off the ball, he’s a crafty finisher around the rim, he was making the correct pass, and he gives the Cavs another offensive look when they feed him in the post. Oddly, the thing I like least about his game is probably his outside shooting. I love that he stretches the floor, but don’t feel confident that he’s going to knock down the jumper when he gets it. His outside shooting numbers have never been that great, and he was only 2-8 on outside jumpers tonight. And all of his looks were pretty darn good. I like the idea of Antawn making jumpers much more than I like Antawn actually shooting jumpers. On the bright side, I really thought he was doing a good job showing and rotating back to his man on defense. I think he’ll be very solid as a system defender in time.

-Games against the Hornets and the Grizzlies always put me in a bad movie mood thanks to The Wicker Man, so I’m going to let an elected official sum up Mo’s performance from the field tonight:

Yeah, Mo’s had better shooting nights. The good news is that very few of his shots were forced. Also, Mo did do a good job setting up angles and penetrating the defense, which is something only LeBron’s been able to do for a while. The offense does run better when Mo’s in there. He just has to get his shot back. Playing Boobie probably would’ve been the better move for tonight’s game, but giving Mo a long leash was probably the right long-term move. Hopefully the one three Mo did hit will help him get his confidence back.

-Another great game for Shaq. He played extended minutes, and looked equally comfortable catching any pass around the basket area and finishing or destroying his man if they left him in single coverage. Shaq’s beasting.

-Five players played 30+ minutes tonight, and LeBron played 44 minutes. Think Mike Brown wanted this losing streak over?

-On a related note, Powe dressed tonight but the game ended up being too tight for Leon to make his Cavs debut. Looking forward to when it does happen.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until tomorrow, campers.

Preview: Hornets at Cavaliers, February 23rd

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

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Relevant Statistics:

Pace: Hornets 94.8 (17th) vs. Cavs 93.2 (25th)

Offensive Efficiency: Hornets 104.5 (13th) vs. Cavs 108.6 (4th)

Defensive Efficiency: Hornets 105.1 (18th) vs. Cavs 101.2 (7th)

Notes:

-The key matchup tonight is Mo Williams vs. Darren Collison. The UCLA rookie has been enjoying an insane month, averaging 20.7 points and 8.8 assists in February. He’s scored 24 or more points in five of his last six games. Meanwhile, Mo looked sluggish and out-of-whack on both ends against the Magic. If Mo’s back, things should be good.

-Hickson may be out tonight, and Jamison is getting the start. It was probably the right move to put him in the starting lineup even if Hickson was good to go. Also, tonight might be Leon Powe’s first appearance. (Update: Hickson has been medically cleared, according to Bob Finnian.)

-David West playing pick-and-pop should be a good test for how Jamison’s going to do in Mike Brown’s help-and-recover system. He also has to keep West off the line. West has shot 28 free throws in the Hornets’ last two games, both wins.

-Don’t leave Peja.

-The Hornets don’t defend the paint or the three-point line very well at all. We’ll see if the Cavs can get back to their offensive gameplan against this team.

Alright, that’s all for now. Let’s see if the Cavs can end this losing streak tonight.

Worse Record, Better Basketball.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Season 40 marks a year of XL expectations, but this Cavs team appears ready to deliver.

Thanks to the Orlando Magic, a foe that Cavs fans are more than familiar with, the Cleveland Cavaliers have experienced their first three game losing streak since March 29th, 2008. With losses against Denver, Charlotte, and Orlando, the Cavs are -25 over this three game span, coming up short by an average of 8.3 points per game. In March of 2008, the Cavs lost to the Bucks, Hornets, and Pistons by a combined 25 points as well, mirroring their current three game losing streak. But I think every fan knows that these Cavaliers, at 43-14, are better than that 2007-08 team that finished the season with only 45 wins.

However, I also believe that this Cavaliers team is better than last season’s Cavs, a team that held a 45-12 record after its first 57 games. In fact, even after losing to the Magic yesterday, Orlando is a great stepping stone to prove why this team is better.

For instance, last season the Cavaliers were 0-2 in the regular season at Orlando, losing those two games by a combined 40 points (-20 points per game), setting up a disappointing 0-3 record in the playoffs at Amway Arena (-8.3 points per game). So far this season the Cavaliers are 1-1 in Orlando (+1.5 points per game) and lead the season series 2-1 after losing it 1-2 last season.

And what can be seen against Orlando can be seen against the top teams around the league. Last season there were nine teams that finished at least 15 games above .500. The Cavaliers were 13-8 (61.9%) against these top teams, posting a sub-.500 mark on the road (5-6). So far this season there are currently nine teams that are at least ten games above .500. Even after the loss to Orlando, which is one of these teams, the Cavs are 12-6 (66.7%) when facing these skilled opponents, going 5-4 on the road against them.

Similarly, the Cavs have done a great job matching up against the best teams in the eastern conference so far this season. Just as it was last season, the top four teams in the east this year are the Cavaliers, Celtics, Magic, and Hawks. While the positioning has changed slightly (Orlando is ahead of Boston and Atlanta is much closer to the top three), Cleveland’s record against these three teams is the big difference between the two seasons. After going 6-5 (54.5%) against Atlanta, Boston, and Orlando last season, the Cavaliers are 4-2 (66.7%) against that trio so far this season. In addition to posting a better record, the losses are much closer games as well. In those six games this season the Cavaliers are +22 (+3.7 points per game), compared to just +10 (+0.9 points per game) in their eleven games last season. Lastly, Cleveland is now 2-1 (66.7%) on the road against these three eastern conference teams after Sunday, already trumping their mark of 1-5 (16.7%) in away games last season. That means that even if the Cavaliers lose both games in Boston and their remaining game in Atlanta, they’ll still post a better record on the road against teams seeded 2-4 in the eastern conference this season.

Additionally, don’t overlook how the Cavs have played against the teams that went the distance last year. Currently the Cavaliers are a  combined 4-1 (80%) against the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic, the two teams from last season’s NBA Finals. Even if the Cavs were to drop their final game against the Magic, this is easily their best record against the reigning conference champs in the regular season. Last season the Cavs were 2-4 (33.3%) against the previous year’s Finals tandem (Celtics and Lakers) and were 10-21 (32.2%) against reigning Finals teams through LeBron’s first six regular seasons.

The Cavs are 4-1 against the Lakers and Magic this season. Previously their best record against the reigning conference champs in the LeBron era was 3-3 against the Lakers and Pistons in the 2004-05 season.

But playing well against the league’s elite teams isn’t the only area in which this year’s Cavaliers have out performed last year’s team, as this season they have exhibited tremendous consistency in the face of massive role changes and multiple injuries. During the 2008-09 season, the Cavaliers had a seemingly human stretch where they went 9-5 from January 15th to February 20th. Over this span they were without Delonte West and lost Ben Wallace for a couple of games. This season the Cavaliers have been without Delonte West for several stretches and various reasons and have spent significant time without Mo Williams or Shaquille O’Neal in the lineup. Regardless, their worst stretch over a 14 game span has been 10-4 and they recently went 9-0 over a nine game stretch that saw them compete without either member from their starting backcourt tandem of Mo Williams and Delonte West from last season’s 66 win team.

And those numbers are a testament to how deep the Cavaliers are this year. With a diverse cast of offensively skilled players, one that now boasts the skillset of Antawn Jamison, the Cavs have several players who can expand their role when called upon. One of these players is Shaquille O’Neal, who is averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over his last ten games after seeing in increase in minutes. O’Neal’s efficiency over this span, making 61.9% of his field goal attempts, is not only refreshing, but essential to a well balanced offensive attack.

Furthermore, despite being criticized as a “lane clogging” presence, O’Neal has revitalized Cleveland’s approach to attacking the paint. Last season the Cavaliers averaged only 35.5 points in the paint per game, which was good enough for 26th in the league. One season later, the Cavs are 8th in the league in points per game, scoring 43.5 points per contest in the painted area. That’s an increase of 8.0 points per game in the paint and an improvement of +18 in the league rankings. Additionally, the Cavaliers are now number one in the league in opponent’s points in the paint, allowing only 35.4 points per game. Last season they were ranked 4th and allowed 36.0 points per game in the paint.

Shaquille O'Neal has provided an interior presence that the Cavs have been lacking for quite some time. And, as the spike in points per game in the painted area would suggest, he has been very efficient lately.

Sure there are some things the Cavs don’t do better this year, such as limiting turnovers (14.4 to’s per game this season compared to 12.7 last season) and opponent’s points per game (08/09 – 91.4, 09/10 – 95.0), which has really been troublesome as of late (Cavs allowing 106.3 points per game over their last six games), but this year’s team is much better as a whole. The team is playing more consistently on the road, particularly against the elite teams, and is matching up much better against the top tier teams around the league. Also, there is enough depth on this season’s Cavaliers team that would give even Hubie Brown trouble fairly allocating minutes to everyone. With several new scorers and a new sense of dominating the paint, it’s no surprise that this season’s Cleveland team trumps last season’s in both points per game and field goal percentage.

The final 25 games of the season will prove to be very interesting as the Cavs will reintegrate several new pieces such as Antawn Jamison and Leon Powe, have their injured guards, Mo Williams and Delonte West, reclaim their full rotation minutes, and hopefully return to their intense style of defensive play. Ultimately, even if the Cavs go on to lose their next three games, I’d still make the argument that they’re better than last year’s club. But let’s just hope I don’t have to.

Make sure to join the discussion at Numbers Don’t and Real Cavs Fans!

Links To The Present: February 22nd, 2010

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

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Good news: According to the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, the league would not block a potential Z return to the Cavs.

Kelly Dwyer thinks LeBron James takes too many long jumpers.

Sebastian Pruiti takes a look at some of the things LeBron did in the fourth last night.

Congratulations to Brian Windhorst for receiving an award for the Best Game Story of 2009.

Recap: Magic 101, Cavs 95 (Or, The Time The Cavs Lost Three Games In a Row)

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

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Overview:

In a battle of two of the NBA’s largest players, Dwight Howard and the Magic prevailed against the Cavaliers on Sunday. The Magic outscored the Cavaliers by seven points in the final quarter en route to a 101-95 win. This is the first time in two seasons that the Cavs have lost three games in a row.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-Jamison trade fallout: The Cavs have dominated in the first quarter for the last two seasons. They’re not quite as good in the first this year as they were last year, but they’re still a hair away from being the best first-quarter team in the league. In the losses to Denver and Orlando, the Cavs have been outscored by a combined 17 points in the first quarter.

-After Shaq comes out, the unit Z heads up has been extremely productive. That wasn’t the case against the Nuggets and Magic. The Nuggets went on a 13-3 run to end the first quarter on Thursday. The Magic went on an 8-2 run after Shaq exited the game on Sunday. All four of the Magic’s baskets were in the paint, with the deepest shot coming from seven feet out. Z’s lateral movement on defense may be glacial, but a 7-3 player keeps opponents away from the rim. The small lineup that currently finishes the first quarter is having trouble doing that.

-The good news of the Jamison trade fallout: the third quarter. The third quarter has long been a problem for the Cavaliers. They tend to get stagnant offensively, and often allow teams back into the game going into the fourth.

On Sunday, the third quarter was easily the best quarter for the Cavs, and Jamison was the reason why. Jamison started the third with an 8-0 run, really showing his versatility as a scorer. He posted up, he cut for a layup, and he banged in a pick-and-pop 20-footer.

Jamison did exactly what the Cavs want from him on Sunday. He made good cuts, he hit open shots, and he provided a scoring boost when they needed one. I’m not quite sold on his ability to keep defenders from driving on him, but he did a good job of staying with Rashard Lewis on the perimeter. Jamison finished with a game-high +10, and it was clear that he was helping the Cavs when he was on the floor.

-The big reason the Cavs lost this one was the play of Mo Williams and Delonte West. Both of them looked rusty, and they went a combined 3-18 from the floor with no threes. Delonte provided hustle, but very little else. Mo really looked out of it. He wasn’t running the offense, he wasn’t hitting open shots, he wasn’t making a good effort to set himself up with good looks, and he was getting abused on defense. Other than that, though, good game for Mo.

-The offense in general looked pretty bad. Last time the Cavs played the Magic, they started the game moving the ball as well as they have all year. This time, the offense looked terrible. They weren’t cutting, they weren’t spacing the floor, they weren’t setting back-screens to free up shooters, they weren’t running the corner dive, they weren’t using Mo in the pick-and-roll to get LeBron moving without the ball, they weren’t moving when Shaq had it in the post. That kind of offense isn’t going to get it done against a defense like the Magic. The team clearly needs some practices to figure things out.

-The Cavs: best three-point shooting team in the league. The Magic: 2nd-best team in the league at defending the paint, just behind the Cavs. The Magic are the 23rd-best team in the league at defending three-pointers. So I’d say the Cavs going 3-16 from beyond the arc was a problem. If you set threes up like the Cavs usually do, they’re good offense.

-LeBron may have had 30 points through three quarters, but he wasn’t playing his game. The Magic took away LeBron’s drives to the rim in the half-court and his passing lanes, and turned him into a scorer. LeBron flashed some mid-post moves, scored on the break, hit some jumpers, and drew some fouls, but he wasn’t able to control the game the way he likes to. LeBron also wasn’t shooting the ball well enough to carry the Cavs to a win, going only 3-12 from outside the paint.

LeBron was able to have success during the first three quarters, but in the fourth the Magic’s strategy paid off. LeBron went 1-5 in the final quarter, and the Magic were able to take the game late.

-What a battle between Shaq and Dwight. Shaq wanted Dwight to come in with something to prove, and he did just that.

According to ESPN stats and information, Dwight was actually winning the individual matchup against Shaq coming into Sunday’s game. Here’s what they did when matched up against one another in the first two games:

Shaq: 5 points, 2-7 shooting, 2 fouls drawn, 2 turnovers

Dwight: 19 points, 7-8 shooting, 6 fouls drawn, 1 turnover

Shaq was doing a good job keeping Dwight in foul trouble and from taking over the game, but Dwight was actually doing much better than Shaq when he did try to score on him.

Here’s how Dwight and Shaq did going up against each other on Sunday:

Shaq: 14 points, 6-7 shooting, 1 foul drawn, 1 turnover

Dwight: 9 points, 4-9 shooting, 4 fouls drawn, 2 turnovers

While Shaq might’ve gotten the better of Dwight one-on-one, Dwight played like he had something to prove the entire game. Dwight Howard is a cat-quick 265-pound man. A pissed-off Dwight Howard is a bad thing to be facing, especially when you’ve just traded a center.

Dwight played 44 minutes, snatched 16 rebounds, blocked four shots, drew nine fouls, and generally looked like he was ready to eat a car. He’s getting more skilled, too. He looks really comfortable going to his left from the right block, and made some nice passes for Magic buckets when the Cavs started (ahem, Shaq) doubling Howard in the fourth quarter. Although I might leave that 15-foot banker at home if I were Dwight.

-What broke the game open for the Magic were some 1-2 PnR sets from Jameer and Vince in the fourth quarter. The good news is that Mike Brown will have time to study that set before the playoffs.

-Daniel Gibson is significantly better on defense than Mo Williams. It has to be said. Playing him 20 less minutes than Mo was probably the right move long-term, but the Cavs would’ve been better off with Boobie out there tonight.

Well, that’s it for now. Three tough games, three losses, with two of them coming in winnable games. Jamison looked good. The Wiz and Z are moving towards a buyout. Delonte and Mo should get better. Although if the Cavs lose at home to the Hornets on Tuesday, I am going to seriously start worrying about the curse of Z.

Recap: Bobcats 110, Cavs 93 (Or, That Could Have Gone Better)

Friday, February 19th, 2010

epic-fail-mask-fail

Overview: The Bobcats handed the Cavaliers their second loss in a row on Friday night. They played stifling defense throughout, holding the Cavs to 39% shooting on the way to a 110-93 victory. It was also one of the worst defensive performances of the year for the Cavaliers, with the Bobcats shooting 55% from the floor. Antawn Jamison went 0-12 from the floor in his debut with the Cavaliers.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-I actually kind of like losses like this. What did the Cavs need to do better to win this game? Everything. They lost in every area. This was not a winnable game. Better to pack all the failure you can into one loss than to spread it out and lose multiple winnable games.

-The good news: this is exactly the kind of game Antawn Jamison was brought in to avoid. The Cavs got stagnant offensively, and they got frustrated. This is exactly where they want Jamison to spread the floor and create some offense of his own.

The bad news: Jamison was a smoldering pile of fail on Friday night. He almost literally could not have been worse. How bad was he? Historically bad.

Basketball-reference’s database for individual games goes back to the 1986-87 NBA season.

Since 86-87, 14 players have shot the ball 12 or more times without making a field goal. The last time it happened was in December 2008, when Vince Carter went 0-13 against the Raptors. It has happened five times since LeBron came into the league.

Jamison also only had two free throws, and they came in garbage time. A player going 0-12 or worse from the field and making two or less free throws has only happened seven other times since 86-87. Zach Randolph is the only one to accomplish the feat since LeBron entered the league.

Jamison also only had one assist. When you add that to the previous criteria, only four games qualify. The only players to go 0-12 or worse, make two free throws or less, and record zero assists in a game are Zach Randolph and Dino Radja. And Jamison’s assist set JJ Hickson up with a mid-range jumper.

So I’d say that Jamison had a bit of an off night.

Jamison started out the game aggressively going to the rim, but missed a three and had his shot blocked by Theo Ratliff. After that, Antawn had a nasty case of the yips. He forced drives, and got blocked five times. His shot was way, way off, and he had some ugly air-balls. The only shots I didn’t like from Jamison were those pick-and-pop jumpers from mid-range, which I think he’s a bit trigger-happy with.

Jamison had the howling fantods tonight. He will get better. Hopefully, much better. Not much else to say.

-Jamison’s defense was also bad. In his defense, everyone’s defense was bad. The Bobcats outscored the Cavs 48-24 in the paint, which is a huge problem. Raymond Felton absolutely loves playing against Shaq. Against most guards, the smart play is to sag back and concede that 15-20 foot jumper, but Felton loves to operate from that area.

-AP had no answer for Jackson. He made his bad shots and his good ones, and finished with 29 points on 17 shots. Wallace and Diaw were slashing into the paint at will. Only Tyrus Thomas had a poor shooting night for the Bobcats, but he contributed 12 boards and 6 blocks. One of the worst outings for the Cavs on both ends of the court on Friday.

-The Bobcats like to pack the lane on defense. In the first quarter, the Cavs countered that by pushing the ball and shooting threes. They hit six threes in the first quarter, and Lebron set five of them up. As the game went on, they got away from that. LeBron finished with 9 assists, and the Cavs made six more threes over the next three quarters. Since the Cavs were 20-53 inside the arc, getting away from the threes hurt.

Shaq and Varejao both looked out of sorts. They combined to go 6-18 from the floor, and had four of their shots blocked. This Bobcat frontline can play some defense. Adjusting to Antawn probably didn’t help them either.

-I put this on NBC earlier, but now I’ll put it here. Regardless of what happened at the deadline, the Cavs were going to play worse after the All-Star break. 10 of the 13 games during the streak were at home, the Cavs had no back-to-backs, played a bunch of teams who were on back-to-backs, and won three very losable games. So be careful with causation/correlation after the Cavs lose a road back-to-back game against a tough team. The Cavs had to be patient with Shaq. Now it’s time to be patient with ‘Tawn.

-None of that means I’m not scared of the Curse of Z, which may have killed all the Cavs’ Sundiata karma. I don’t believe in that stuff. I don’t think I do.

-Alright, time to turn the page on this one. I’m a worrier, so I’ll lose sleep on this one. But everything will more than likely turn out just fine. It was a dream month. Now it’s time to wake up.