My time is short. Cavs looking to avenge their LeBron-less loss. Stop the Bogut/Jennings pick-and-roll. Make Jennings beat you by taking it at the basket. Watch the LeBron-LRMAM matchup. Read Bucksketball and Brew Hoop. Open thread.
-On the LeBron/Jordan hype and hysteria: look world, I’m sorry. I wish as much as you do that LeBron had a ring or two so his accomplishments could be seen as “legitimate.” That hasn’t happened for him yet. That doesn’t mean the fact that LeBron has been producing at the highest possible level for the past two seasons (including last year’s playoffs, despite the fact the Cavs lost) should be ignored. In fact, ignoring LeBron’s production would be irresponsible. It would be wonderful if LeBron was The League’s Best Player instead of The League’s Best Player*, as silly as the reasons behind that asterisk may be.
LeBron shouldn’t have to pay penance for the Cavs losing in the playoffs last season by having what he’s done over the course of this season ignored. Sportswriters have taught us for years that winners win because they are winners and winners win because they are winners. Saying LeBron is the best player in basketball requires you to reject that line of thinking, which in turn requires going against taking the path of least resistance.
I don’t like doing that. I really and truly just want to talk about basketball. I’d love to put away the notion of “the games really just show who was born a winner and who was born to lose” and let things play out naturally. Unfortunately, LeBron has been so good and so dominant by any possible individual measurement that calling him anything other than the best player in basketball would set back the discussion. I wish the answer to the “who’s the best player?” question didn’t make things so complicated. Honestly, I do.
-One completely random note: the “gooseneck” and “3-3-0″ gestures LeBron does have been called satanist gestures. I don’t think there’s anything malicious going on when LeBron and the rest of the Cavs make those hand signals. However, when Lady Gaga makes those same gestures in her music videos (full disclosure: I kind of think Lady Gaga is awesome. Again, I’m sorry), I’m fairly sure she is trying to make references to satanic culture, if only to mess with people. This makes embracing the “gooseneck” thing that much more complicated for me.
-Putting up 20/10 lines for an imploding Clipper team always was Drew Gooden’s destiny.
-This applies to the men’s tournament as well, but I’ll use a women’s tournament example here: one reason I can never get all that into the March Madness thing is that I always feel much worse for the losers of close games than the winners. That poor Xavier girl who missed two wide-open layups right before Stanford made a buzzer-beater to go to the final four? She’ll remember that every day for the rest of her life. I can never quite get over that. Same thing with the Olympics. At least pro athletes in the major sports get paid millions of dollars regardless of whether or not they screw up, and will probably play for a different team at some point. The “pure” joy that amateur/semi-amateur athletes feel comes at the expense of some very pure misery.
-I think “LeBron vs. X” arguments are a big reason why I’m such a big MMA fan; it’s a sport where two guys get into a cage and one ends up victorious. In theory. I used to think “Fedor would kill X” stuff is the best example of why MMA proves that all sports fans are essentially the same, but the anti-GSP stuff may have taken the lead. He tried to finish the fight. The best chance he had of finishing the fight was taking it to the ground. He almost did it, but couldn’t quite get the sub.
The knee-jerk reaction has been that GSP isn’t truly a great fighter because he didn’t stand and trade with Hardy, even though Hardy landed one leg kick when the fight was standing and GSP probably wouldn’t have been able to finish him on the feet. Sports fans will always fall in love with the knee-jerk contrarian angle. Realizing this is probably for the best. GSP is a great fighter. That much is obvious. Agreeing with the obvious doesn’t make you dumb. Occam’s Razor can be your friend sometimes.
-I’ll elaborate on this when it becomes a legitimate possibility, but I really like Nazr Mohammed as the center of the future for the Cavs. He does have an ETO that would make him a free agent this summer. Something to think about, perhaps.
-Alright, that’s all I have for tonight. I’m a bit burned out, and more than ready for the playoffs. I have a few posts on tap, but it’s not the right time to bring them out yet. Until then, campers.
-Your “I am terrified of the Bobcats and don’t want to see them in the first round at all” update: the Raptors gained a game on the Bobcats by squeaking out a win tonight, but the Bobcats still lead the Raptors by two games for the 7th spot in the East. The Raptors are only a game up on the Bulls, who are absolutely the team I want the Cavs to see in the first round.
Although even the Bulls did put up that fight against Boston last season. And Derrick Rose could give Mo fits. And they’ve defended LeBron really well in the past. I’m going to be freaking out until the Cavs get at least two games up in their first-round series. And second-round series. The playoffs are just not going to be a fun time for me, now that I think about it.
-Here’s a link to the Pit Bull breeding company owned by Mo Williams. It’s called “La Familia Pits,” because Mo loves the nickname he gave himself. David Noel and Lil Boosie both have testimonies up speaking to the quality of the dogs. I love dogs, and the ridiculousness level is fairly low on this, so good for Mo. Although the pictures of the model with the pit bulls are a tad ridiculous, now that I think about it.
-Lakers lost, making the Cavs’ odds of home-court throughout the playoffs that much better.
-Via Shaq’s twitter, here’s an example of Shaq engaging in schadenfreude. I point out that this is not technically Shaqenfreude, which involves Shaq himself doing something. The Owl City music video, for example, was Shaqenfreude. Somebody has to care about these things. Actually, that’s a lie.
-Sometimes I think Hedo Turkoglu only exists to drive bloggers crazy. Tonight was an elegant demonstration of this.
-Semi-preview: when I think about what being defended by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would feel like, I imagine it would be analogous to swimming with this freaking thing.
-Pain tolerance, luck, genetics, and yoga training have all played a big part in LeBron never having missed more than a few games with ankle injuries despite having twisted one like 3,000 times in a game. That being said, let’s take just a moment to salute seven years of LeBron’s giant war boots. I’m not the target audience for those, because I’ve never spent real money on sneakers in my life. From what I’ve heard, they are gigantic, heavy, and were generally built for terminators. But they’ve never slowed LeBron down, and have allowed him to fly all around the court while keeping his ankles safe. War boots, we salute you.
-Not only has French Rondo been beasting throughout his rookie year, but it’s gotten to the point where “French Rondo” may be a restrictive comparison. Dude can shoot. I don’t care who was playing defense, if you can go 9-11 from three in an NBA game and be that fast, you’ve got a future. I still cannot believe how many chances OKC passed up to have the coolest backcourt ever.
-Alright, that’s all for tonight.
In Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ first game in Cleveland since re-signing with the team, the Cavaliers were able to defeat the Sacramento Kings by a score of 97-90. LeBron James and Antawn Jamison combined for 60 points to lead the Cavaliers.
-Do you realize how many more games the Cavs would have lost this season if LeBron was merely an All-Star level player? I try not to lead off with LeBron, but it was one of those nights where LeBron was the only thing that kept the Cavs from losing to a team like the Kings. The injury-depleted Kings.
-Fortunately, LeBron was on his game. He threw some absolute laser-beam passes, and four of his eight assists were for shots at the basket. Considering LeBron’s favorite pick-and-roll partner missed the game, that’s a pretty impressive stat. LeBron also mixed in a few of his bread-and-butter drives to the basket, bullying Omri Casspi for layups a few times.
This was also one of the few games where LeBron did more of his damage from outside than inside. LeBron scored 21 points on 17 jumpers, and hit three of his six attempts from beyond the arc. (Those numbers also look significantly better if you don’t count the last two threes LeBron took, which I’ll discuss later.)
A few of LeBron’s jumpers were of the “no…no…YES!” variety, but for the most time LeBron looked genuinely confident from deep, and was taking advantage of the room the Kings were giving him. He looked smooth on his deep twos, had plenty of loft on his shots from beyond the arc, actually got free for a catch-and-shoot three, and even pulled out his ballet-like spinning fadeaway on Casspi in the fourth.
At the 7:39 mark, the Cavs found themselves up a point when LeBron came in the game, just like they did against San Antonio. Against the Kings, however, LeBron and Co. did their thing to close out the game. LeBron came right in and followed up a punishing drive with the aforementioned spinning jumper, then found Jamison on a cut for a scoop shot to put the Cavs up seven. From there, a nice three by Jamison and a dagger three from LeBron were enough to put the Cavs up for good, even though LeBron freaking heat-checked with 1:23 to go in a seven-point game the next time down. I know there was like a 3% chance of the Cavs losing at that point, but yeesh. It’s like he needs to do something silly at the end of a nearly flawless performance so people won’t figure out that he is of another species.
-Antawn Jamison needed to step up with Varejao out, and that’s exactly what he did. Brown is starting to use him more at small forward, and he seems to be taking to it. He was great on the block, great with his wonky floaters, and he was drilling jumpers. When he’s on, he might be the best pure scorer LeBron has ever played with — even when Mo has it going, he can’t score from inside and out the way Jamison can. There are some things Jamison doesn’t do thrillingly well, but there were stretches when Jamison took over. And the Cavs needed him to.
-If Jamison/Powe is effective going high-low with the 2nd unit, imagine what Jamison/Shaq is going to look like.
-Mo ran the pick-and-roll very well at times. Other than that, this was not a good game for him. His shot was off, he was passive much of the time, and Beno Udrih had a 15-assist triple-double. You read that last part correctly.
-Big Z got a great ovation (although it wasn’t quite as effective as I thought it would be; like Windhorst, I blame saturation), and went on to play pretty well. He wasn’t a force on offense, but he did a very good job of protecting the rim. Z had three blocks, and more importantly the Kings only managed 30 points in the paint. A lot of that is because Tyreke was missing, but you could see that Z was changing a lot of shots around the rim.
-On the flip side, the Cavs did have some trouble handling the Kings when they want small, and didn’t really lock down until the fourth. Fortunately, they really locked down when they put their minds to it, giving up only 14 in the fourth.
-If Parker goes 2-5 from three instead of 1-5, it’s a very strong game for him. If he goes 3-5, it’s a great game. Even though he wasn’t hitting from deep, he did play a strong game. He looked good on defense, didn’t force shots, and made a gorgeous cut for a layup at one point. Still not sure if benching Jamario and Boobie to make sure AP gets 30 minutes a game is the right call, but he held his own against the Kings.
-Antawn is a genuinely talented rebounder. When a shot goes up, he knows where it’s coming down.
Alright, that’s about all I have for tonight. Five wins to go to guarantee home-court. Let’s see if they can pull it off.
Pace: Sacramento 96.7 (6th) vs. Cleveland 93.2 (25th)
Offensive Efficiency: Sacramento 102.2 (21st) vs. Cleveland 109.3 (2nd)
Defensive Efficiency: Sacramento 106.8 (21st) vs. Cleveland 101.0 (8th)
-No Hawes, Tyreke, Garcia, or Brockman for the Kings. Andy won’t be playing for the Cavs.
-Not having Andy will make things tougher than people realize, but this should be a fairly hitch-free homecoming for Z.
-Open Thread. Chime in about the game and the Z reception/ovation here.
Overview: The San Antonio Spurs were able to snap the Cavaliers’ 8-game winning streak, beating the Cavs 102-97 behind Manu Ginobili’s 30-point effort. LeBron James had 27 points to lead the Cavaliers, who played without Anderson Varejao in the second half.
-The Cavs are generally ludicrously good in games like this. The game was up in the air with about seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Generally, that’s the part of the program where the defense locks down and LeBron takes over.
-In what 82games.com define as “clutch” situations (less than five minutes to play, neither team leading by five points or more), the Cavs have been a crushing machine. In those situations, the Cavaliers have an offensive efficiency of 119.4 and a defensive efficiency of 81.3. That’s 38 net points per 48 minutes of crunch time.
-Against the Spurs, the Cavs didn’t gain a single point in the final five minutes, and were outscored by six points after LeBron entered the game in the fourth quarter. Most of the fingers will be pointed at the offense, but the fact is the Spurs were unstoppable down the stretch. With Manu Ginobili slicing through the lane and raining threes, the Spurs managed to score 15 point in just over five minutes during the time spanning from when LeBron entered to when Tim Duncan hit a five-footer to make it 92-86 with 1:43 to play.
-The big issue here was Anderson Varejao missing the second half with a tight hamstring. The Cavs normally give up 23 points per game in the fourth quarter; on Friday, the Spurs scored 33. Not having Varejao to show out on Ginobili and defend the paint was huge.
-The Spurs also had some success trapping LeBron in the third. Normally, the Cavs counter on-ball doubles of LeBron by having Andy find room on the weak side or Mo hit an outside shot. With Andy in the locker room and Mo ice-cold, the Spurs were able to frustrate LeBron.
-LeBron’s line looks nice, and he was scoring from everywhere on the floor. However, the Spurs were able to take away some of his greatest strengths. LeBron missed five shots at the rim by my count, and only three of his 10 assists led to shots at the basket. Mike Brown’s a great defensive coach, but remember who taught him what he knows.
-In a five-point loss, Antawn and LeBron missing seven of 14 free throws is VERY frustrating to see. It might be time to get ‘Tawn to a hypnotist.
-Jamison is what he is — he rebounds, gets shots up, and makes about as many as he misses. 24 points on 20 shots for AJ, who also missed four shots in the paint. Tim Duncan is still a really good defender. Don’t forget this.
-Good game for JJ, who got a few dunks off of cuts and did a great job on the offensive boards, snagging five and putting them right back up for a few second-chance points.
-The Cavs did have a lot of success on the break, scoring 32 points in transition. Unfortunately, they found themselves living off those baskets, and that didn’t cut it in crunch-time.
-Powe probably would’ve helped more than Z out there, but let’s give Z a week to get his timing back before we make any snap judgements.
-Man, the rotation is a logjam right now, and Shaq isn’t even back yet. Good problem to have, I suppose.
-Alright, that’s all for tonight. Nine games left. The Cavs need six of them to guarantee home-court throughout. Six are at home, but two of those six are against Atlanta and Orlando. Z returns to the Q on Sunday. Get excited. Until later, campers.
Pace: Cavs 93.2 (25th) vs. Spurs 93.8 (23rd)
Offensive Efficiency: Cavs 109.4 (2nd) vs. Spurs 107.1 (9th)
Defensive Efficiency: Cavs 100.9 (7th) vs. Spurs 102.3 (9th)
-I don’t think Tony Parker plays in this one, which is a break for the Cavs. When he plays, I get 2007 flashbacks.
-Duncan’s coming off a 2-11 game; he didn’t get to be known as one of the most consistent superstars ever by stringing together bad performances.
-Spurs are a big team — we’ll see if Z can help in his 2nd game back.
-The Cavs found out the last time they played the Spurs that Manu is now more likely to beat you with threes than he is slashing. Let’s see if they can stay up in his grill.