Archive for December, 2010

Well, everybody could have seen this coming

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Here’s an excerpt from Tom Haberstroh’s latest insider piece, courtesy of TrueHoop:

Credit must be given to the shrewd Celtics front office for recognizing that Shaq is a finisher, not a creator. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers incorporated Shaq into their offense by feeding him the ball in the post early in the shot clock. Shaq would then pound his post defender closer and closer to the basket before turning for a quick hook that would send the ball on a line drive directly at the basket. As we saw in the playoffs, this strategy rarely produced consistent buckets, now that Shaq has lost the quickness and the lift to work a high-percentage shot. More importantly, it simultaneously disjointed the offense and neutralized the powers of LeBron James.

If you’ve been paying attention this season, you’ll notice that Boston rarely runs the offense through Shaq. The Celtics still execute the same sets that are predicated on off-the-ball screens, motion and penetration. But unlike the Cavaliers last season, the Celtics feature multiple scorers — not just one really, really good one — who can penetrate to draw weakside defenders. But not only that, they have both the selfless attitude and passing ability to reward the open man. The Celtics were aware that, even at 38 years old, if Shaq can get the ball within one foot of the basket, nothing stands between him and a thunderous dunk. They just need to get him the ball there.

And they have. We’re seeing an enormous shift in Shaq’s shot types this season, thanks to the passing skills of his teammates. According to Synergy Sports Technology, 29.5 percent of Shaq’s offense has been generated off basket cuts, tripling his shot share in Cleveland last season. But post-ups essentially have been phased out. In a Cavs uniform, nearly two-thirds of Shaq’s offense came from bludgeoning opponents on the block, but that’s been cut to just 26 percent in 2010-11. Consequently, Shaq has been assisted on 76.9 percent of his field goals in Boston, drastically higher than his career norms. Even though he played a season and a half with Steve Nash in Phoenix, Shaq has never been delivered the ball as effectively as he has with his new Boston comrades.

So it turns out that force-feeding the ball to Shaq and risking a turnover on a bad entry pass, then watching Shaq settle for an awkward jump-hook outside of the paint  against single-coverage as his teammates don’t have enough space to make effective cuts is a less effective strategy than moving the ball and letting a giant man catch the ball near the basket and dunk it. Everybody except for Mike Brown knew this last season. It’s informally “There’s no way Mike Brown would have let the defense get this bad” week here on the blog, but one of my defenses of Mike Brown has always been that Shannon Brown is the only player to enjoy significantly more offensive success after leaving a Mike Brown team. (LeBron included!) Now that Boston is showing the NBA how Mike Brown should have used Shaq last season, that’s a tougher argument to make. Seriously, Shaq is shooting nearly 70% from the floor. I hate everything. Have a nice day.

Links To The Present: December 8, 2010

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

This bleakness is best summarized in quotes:

“[Byron Scott] has threatened them with lineup changes. He has screamed at them at halftime. Now he is challenging their pride and their manhood” [Jason Lloyd]

“At some point, pride has to enter into the equation for the Cavaliers.” [Bob Finnan]

“I might keep calling each game a debacle until the Cavs actually win, because each of the last five losses has been a pathetic display of basketball ineptitude.” [Michael Curry]

“‘Have they stopped listening to you?’ Scott was asked after the game.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“In less than a week, the Cavaliers have lost to the last-place team in three separate divisions.  Oh, the losses were also by an average of 21 points.  This came on top of the 28-point loss to the Heat that left many Clevelanders questioning the heart of this team.” [Brendan of WFNY]

On The Twitters

Brad Daugherty to Cleveland re: LeBron — “Get over it” http://bit.ly/hBwUSb #LeBron #Cavs” [Vince Grzegorek]

“Bulls come to town with a healthy Carlos Boozer and an MVP candidate in Rose. Could get real ugly real fast tonight.” [realcavsfans]

“Can a team pack it in 20 games into a season? Just wondering.” [Bob Finnan]

Recap: 76ers 117, Cavs 97 (Or, this is the worst team in basketball)

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

– Dear God, the horror. I don’t have much to say about this team tonight — not only was this yet another blowout loss, but Time Warner Cable has left me without internet for the last four days because of “scheduled maintenance,” which means I have to take a 20-minute walk to the library every time I want to write about the team or use my email. I am not in a good mood.

– The defense. Until the team plays defense, there’s not much to talk about. 44 points in the paint, 24 points from beyond the arc, 25 points from the line. That’s 93 points from high-percentage areas. Six teams give up less than 93 TOTAL points per game. Does anyone realize how awful this is? There’s no excuse for this. A 26/11 for Thad Young on 11-12 shooting? Really? REALLY? Dear lord. Shaq could guard the paint, but wasn’t much of an overall defender. Z had no chance on pick-and-rolls. LeBron didn’t try that hard on defense in 09-10 (to be clear, he was a legitimately great defender in 08-09.) Delonte’s spot in the rotation was never fully clear. Is the loss of those four players enough to excuse Byron Scott from taking a good defensive team and making it into an unbelievably atrocious one? That’s not a rhetorical question — I’m asking for opinions.

– Jamison and Boobie combined to go 6-9 from deep. Who’s looking for shooters at the deadline? It would be tough to trade Boobie, I know — we’ll discuss this at length later.

– Sessions — 11 points on 4-5 shooting. Blowout loss. Go figure. The good news is that there might not be many close losses or wins coming up, so Ramon will just look like he’s toiling on a bad team. Who wants an aggressive scoring guard at the deadline?

– IGUODALA WENT 3-12 AND THE SIXERS WON BY 20 POINTS.

– Like I said, I don’t have much more to say. This team is embarrassing itself on a nightly basis. The good news is that the Cavs have managed to win a third of their games up to this point. The bad news is that it looks like the team’s spirit is completely broken after a two-week “Yeah, who needs LeBron?” adrenaline surge. This team needs LeBron. It needs a lot of things. Heck, it might even need Mike Brown. Times are bleak. The early-season push means that the Cavs have a few weeks to right the ship and try to be anything other than a cellar team — if that doesn’t happen, it’s time to start working that trade machine and keeping tabs on draft prospects. By the way, the impending lockout will probably keep most good players from entering the 2011 draft. Have a great night, everyone.

Links To The Present: December 7, 2010

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

It’s terrifying what qualifies for consistent, solid play on this Cavaliers team, but one could argue that Antawn Jamison has been the best player for the Cavs over the last few games. Y’know, the ones where most of the team has rolled over and died. He’s averaging 16 points per game on 42.5% shooting in games against Miami, Minnesota, and Detroit. Regardless of how pedestrian those numbers are, he’s one of the best trade chips the Cavs have, especially if a contender can convince themselves that he’ll be able to play the stretch four and space the floor on offense. Despite the vague trade rumors swirling around Jamison, he’s been saying all the right things to the media because he’s the definition of a class act. He’s told the Plain Dealer that “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going out there to play well so they can increase my value as far as a trade.” See? The guy’s, a pro. Seriously though: Antawn, go out there and increase your trade value. It’s the best way you can help the team.

Speaking of Jamison, who captained the Wizards’ ship through the whole Gilbert Arenas fiasco last year, he says the Cavs level of panic is “not quite there yet. Not yet.” When you’re saying to yourself, “well, at least this isn’t as bad as the time one of our best players implored another player to shoot him in the knee with a real handgun, destroying our entire season in the process,” it’s been a rough year.

Rick Noland claims that any lineup tweaks Coach Byron Scott makes will be useless until this team starts playing with some genuine effort. As Noland notes, this team has gotten down lately and decided “eh, guess we’re going to lost tonight.” I’m not a proponent of lineup tweaks so much as sending in the rookies. One can presume they will, at the very least, hustle their butts off.

Yannis Koutroupis over at Hoopsworld thinks that, rather than trading for young players, draft picks, and/or cap room, the Cavs have to make a move for someone like Andre Iguodala or Rip Hamilton. We’ve discussed this on The Blog, but this seems sorta ridiculous, right? Acquiring an overpaid good to pretty good player in return for, say, part of our trade exception and J.J. Hickson just so that this team can finish 8-10th in the Eastern Conference seems foolish. I’m not nuts about Harrison Barnes, nor do I have tremendous faith in Perry Jones, but I’d rather roll the dice on a 19-20 year old with potential and a rookie contact than acquire an albatross of a contract that gives us a chance to be mediocre.

On The Twitters

“I’ll just ignore Amare posting up Corey Brewer and jack this long 3 instead. Money…..” [John Hollinger]

“If the league is struggling and hurting so bad, how are these teams getting bought up for premiums?” [Jeff Pendergraph]

“Like Varejao, I too “wouldn’t mind” retiring in Cleveland. Unlike Varejao, I’m not the most desired trade chip for a rebuilding franchise.” [Scott Sargent]

Motor City Mediocrity.

Monday, December 6th, 2010

If I would’ve made a post with this exact title a year ago, I’d surely be referring to the Detroit Pistons and their failed roster revamp. The Pistons, who would have just committed $100 million in salary to free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, would boast an 8-12 record, tight-roping the dividing line between the league’s best and worst teams. The Cavaliers on the other hand would draw only the tiniest bit of criticism, sitting a proud 15-5 atop the division.

I would yammer on about how a once great rivalry from the years of 2005-08 is dead, not just because of Joe Dumars’ inability to keep a championship core in tact, but also because of his attempts to keep the remainder of that core on life support. I would repeatedly preach how a team in Detroit’s position needs to blow up it up, forget the Rip Hamilton’s of the past, and suffer the pain of a few seasons with only a handful of wins. Then I would bash them for taking the opposite approach, signing former fan favorite Ben Wallace and issuing a five year $60 million deal to a guard entering his sixth season.

This year? This year I say that the Detroit Pistons have company, at least for the time being.

You see, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been showcasing some mediocrity as well this year, playing uninspiring basketball for stretches at a time. One of those stretches came Sunday night against the Pistons when the Cavaliers allowed Detroit to reel off eleven straight points early in the third quarter to take a 66-55 lead after the game had been tied. Ultimately, a deficit that this team should’ve been able to overcome was never cut to anything more manageable than eight points.

And such has been the case with the Cavaliers this year, particularly as of late. The same team that outworked a superior Boston Celtics squad in their season opener is routinely getting outplayed around the rim now. In their current four game losing skid the Cavs are getting outrebounded 182-147 and outscored in the paint 178-134. The same team that Byron Scott said wouldn’t lose a game because they were in worse shape than their opponent is consistently getting out-hustled. Over their past four games the Cavaliers have been outscored 62-46 in fastbreak points and haven’t won that category since their November 27th victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Such was the case Sunday night, when the Pistons took advantage of Cleveland for 17 fastbreak points, enabling their backcourt tandem of Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton to combine for 51 points, each scoring more points individually than anyone on the Cavaliers’ roster.

Here’s the catch, though; The Cavaliers are playing so bad over this four game stretch that they’ve skipped over mediocrity to just plain bad. While back-to-back home losses by a combined 47 points to the Celtics and Heat are disappointing, they are somewhat understandable considering the talent on the other end of the court. What’s hard to stomach, however, are the most recent losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons, two teams with a combined 12 wins, by a total of 44 points.

And it all culminated Sunday night, when two teams responsible for six straight Central division titles met and anchored the bottom two spots in the division with seven wins a piece. The Cavaliers have played so poorly over the last four games that Real Cavs Fans owner Ben asked fans on his twitter account what teams, if any, wouldn’t you trade the Cavaliers’ roster for and received only a handful of teams in the responses. Among those mentioned were Philadelphia, Toronto, Charlotte, and Detroit.

However, there are two sides to the story here. First is the current play, that projects the Cavaliers will never win consecutive games again, struggling to lose by fewer than ten points night in and night out. This is the Cavs team that, believe it or not, provides the most hope for next season and beyond. If the Cavaliers continue to play terribly and it reflects in their record, then they clear the way for a string of top five draft picks.

On the other hand, this can still be the same resilient team that has already responded to a multi-game losing streak with a three game road winning streak earlier in the year. In an 82 game season there are many ups and many downs, and this is the team that should frighten fans for the future. The team that isn’t quite good enough to make the playoffs, but good enough to spoil any hope of a top ten draft pick with fewer flaws than those players on the current roster.

So as I reflect on Sunday night’s loss, I struggle to identify which team is least painful presently. The team that defines mediocrity, responding to three point losses against the Kings with seven point wins against the 76ers, or the team that loses four straight games by 91 points.

While I understand that the latter paves the way for the future, the former is far less painful to watch on a nightly basis. Oh, how I wish I was writing this post exactly one year ago.

Make sure to join the discussion at Real Cavs Fans!

Links To The Present: December 6, 2010

Monday, December 6th, 2010

The Cavaliers lost to the Detroit Pistons 102-92 on Sunday night while shooting a meager six of 22 in the fourth quarter. The Cavs have now lost on the road to a team with a six-game losing streak (Minnesota) and a four-game losing streak (Detroit). In other words, they’re losing to some of the worst teams in the league. The Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer has a game recap; the postgame quotes feature the words “demoralizing,” “transition,” and “when it rains, it pours.” Sounds like the language of a team that’s downright punch-drunk at the moment.

The Cavs’ haplessness apparently isn’t just the product of a lack of talent. Byron Scott said after last night’s Pistons game that he wants “someone in that locker room to get [peeved] besides me” and for the team “to compete for 48 minutes.” The implication from these quotes is that the Cavs are accepting these losses rather than using them as motivation. They can’t compete for 48 minutes? They’re not mad? We might be looking at the worst team in the league if this continues.

The focal point of a lot of game recaps seems to be the play in the fourth quarter when the Pistons were allowed to run down the shot clock, get an offensive rebound, run down the shot clock again, grab a second offensive rebound, and hit a three to ice the game. How this sort of thing happens to an NBA team playing the Pistons, I haven’t the slightest.

It seems Byron Scott will look to overhaul the Cavs’ starting lineup and rotation in the coming week. He’s characteristically cautious, but it’s probably time to see if Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels can do something off the bench. Some ink has been spilled about whether or not playing rookies would be a white flag, but what does one call a 129-95 loss in Minnesota?

The Morning Journal’s Zachary Dzurick ponders if this apathy and losing will lead to the death of Cleveland’s basketball franchise. Things can’t possibly be this grim, but I sympathize with his sentiment.

On The Twitters

“Video to start your week — Top 10 Dunks of November http://dlvr.it/9qfMd #PBT #NBA” [Kurt Helin]

“Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. #Cavs” [realcavsfans]

Either Eyenga’s English is still a work in progress or he’s tapped into some divine profundity: “smart then u think they are but no smart they think the are. who can be???” [Christian Eyenga]

Recap: Timberwolves 129, Cavs 95 (Or, this team is not good at basketball)

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

epic fail photos - CLASSIC: Apology FAIL

Overview: The Minnesota Timberwolves set a franchise record for three-pointers when they went 18-26 from beyond the arc against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers have lost their last three games by an average of 27 points.

That was freaking horrifying to watch related-bullets:

Dear and honest lord. From an emotional/off-court/whatever standpoint, Thursday night was rock bottom. From a basketball standpoint, Saturday has to be rock bottom. Jamison said after the game that the Cavaliers are playing like the worst team in basketball right now, and nobody is arguing with him.

It all starts with the defense, which is so far beyond pathetic. Does anybody realize that the Heat’s best offensive performance of the season was one of the better defensive games the Cavs have had in the last two weeks? Everything about that is terrifying. At least LeBron and Co. had to make some contested mid-range jumpers while they were destroying the Heat, which most of the league hasn’t had to do.

18 three-pointers, and they were all wide-open looks until Wesley Johnson drained a semi-contested three off an on-ball screen in the third quarter. The Cavs’ defensive strategy in Minnesota was essentially that of a drunk person playing NBA 2K: they threw random double-teams at the Timberwolves around the three-point line and decided to see what would happen. Darko in the corner 23 feet away from the basket?Trap him! Pick-and-roll at the top of the three-point line? Everyone collapse! The Timberwolves, being NBA basketball players of sound mind and able body, would react to these double-teams by calmly swinging the ball to a wide-open shooter behind the three-point line for a shootaround-difficulty three.

Two defensive possessions really stick out to me, and both of them were Ramon Sessions’ doing: as the Timberwolves looked to set up a pick-and-roll, Sessions left Wayne Ellington alone behind the arc and cut off the paint before the Timberwolves guard had began to make a move. He passed to Ellington for a wide-open three. Another time, Sessions left his man wide open in the corner to awkwardly go for a steal when Kevin Love was posting up. He missed the ball and went past Love, who calmly found the wide-open shooter for a three. Oh, and a lot of times the Cavs would completely forget that Kevin Love can shoot threes. That was fun. I realize that some of the Cavs’ rotational issues were because of the anti-mobile Leon Powe replacing Hickson on Saturday, but there’s no excuse for the kind of defense the Cavs played.

107 of the Timberwolves’ 129 came from the paint, the three-point line, or the free-throw line. That is unfathomably horrible. On every level, this team seems to have no understanding as to what the purpose of an NBA defense is.

The offense was also horrible. Everything was a jump shot, and while I actually thought the Cavs got some good looks from three when they moved the ball, everyone’s outside shot was off. Sessions, as he is wont to do in blowout losses, had a very good night, going 7-10 from the field and finishing with six assists. Bully for him.

Harris and Samuels got some garbage-time run. I’d like to see Manny get rotation minutes, because garbage time seems like a chance for him to cultivate his bad habits — he’s playing AAU-style ball, but does have some gifts.

Jamison seems to be in full “the more I look like a stretch four, the better my chances of getting the hell out of here at the deadline” mode. 3-7 from deep and 2-6 from two-point range.

I don’t have much more to say. It doesn’t get much worse than this. The team’s lack of talent is incredible. Look at the starting lineup tonight. It included a second-round pick whom the Cavs got for Joe Smith and Damon Jones, a bargain-basement free agent who spent two years in the NBA before washing out and spending his prime overseas, a bargain-basement free agent who went unsigned in the 2005 draft, a second-round pick with no knees left that nobody wanted in free agency last season, and a guy we got (along with Drew Gooden) for Tony Battie and two second-round draft picks. There is one way to win with that kind of a roster in the NBA, and that’s to have some idea of what the hell is going on on defense. The Cavs clearly don’t, and that’s why embarrassments like this have been occurring on a regular basis.

Links To The Present: December 3, 2010

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Editorial statement: it hurts. It hurts a lot.

(Deep breath.)

Okay, let’s do this.

This is the kind of hateful creativity Cavs fans displayed last night. Unfortunately, the Cavs offense was, um, less creative.

This might be the most poignant moment of the night. As Dan Devine writes, “that’s a friggin cascade of boos.”

“On Thursday night, LeBron finally looked like LeBron again. Maybe he needed his old court. Maybe he needed to taste the bile of 20,000 Ohioans. But I thought it was one of his greatest nights; instead of folding like a portable stripper’s pole (like in the Boston series), he rose to the occasion and even relished it. Of course, greatness usually has a casualty: in this case, Cleveland. The fans made their point (and then some), never disgraced themselves and were betrayed only by their own players. They deserved better in July; they deserved better Thursday night. Even afterward, LeBron refused to show remorse or acknowledge that the fans affected him. They couldn’t even win that.” [Bill Simmons]

“James answered the fans by reminding them what they’d lost and did it the same way he’d won them over. Right down to the few square feet he made a centerpiece of during his days as a Cav.” [Brian Windhorst]

“The Cavaliers, 7-11, did not want to win Thursday’s game with anywhere near the intensity of their fan base. If they did, someone on their roster would’ve planted James on his rear early in the game. Some Cavalier would’ve sent James a message.” [Jason Whitlock]

“In a game that not only didn’t live up to the hype but was so one-sided that even the jilted fans barely worked up enough enthusiasm to continue their verbal onslaught, the star-studded Miami Heat finally looked like the team everyone thought they would be in a dominating 118-90 victory over the pathetic Cavs Thursday night in The Q.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“Throughout the first half, as LeBron James was trying to get into a flow, he could be seen smiling, joking, talking with Cavaliers coaches and players.  At different time, LeBron had some fun with Daniel GibsonChris Jent and J.J. Hickson.  To be completely honest, the sight of it sickened me.  What has been missing in LeBron’s game all season – the fun – came back tonight and much of it was provided and enabled by the Cavaliers.  It was like LeBron had never left.” [John Bena]

“It is all over now Cavs fans.  We have had our chance to say all the things that we were feeling since we were trounced upon so many months ago.  Despite the whole thing being put in a fishbowl as if Cleveland fans would provide the blood and gore of a grotesque cock fight, we came out looking very good.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.” [Craig Lyndall]

“By the end of the game, fans became aware that – at least on that night – they were on their own.  The night was about them more than it was the New Expression of a team they adore.  There was no cheering when Gibson was given a technical foul for jawing with Miami’s Eddie House.  There was no unified response to James as he walked off of the court and into the waiting arms of TNT’s Craig Sager.  The mortar that was holding together the fanbase of bricks had thinned on national television, leaving fans to wonder what it is they are cheering and giving unconditional support for every given night.” [Scott Sargent]

On The Twitters

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz and Tom Haberstroh collected a bunch of tweets made by NBA players and media throughout the night. It’s kind of disconcerting how many NBA players were in support of LBJ’s decision and were wishing him the best.

Dan Gilbert was understandably upset after the loss, and he took to Twitter in an attempt to reassure Cavs fans. Personally speaking, two tweets do very little to quell my violent nausea.

“Daniel Gibson said what looks like smiles & laughs with #LeBron weren’t. Some things were said last night that hurt friendship, he said.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“It’s 5:30am. I still aint closed my eyes. Cleve deserved a win tonight. We let u down. But know that our hearts was out there also.LOVE YALL” [Mo Williams]

Recap: Heat 118, Cavs 90 (Or, you can’t go home again, but you can beat the hell out of the Cavaliers)

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Overview: Former Cavalier LeBron James scored a season-high 38 points in three quarters as the Heat absolutely destroyed the Cavaliers. The final score was 118-90, and the game really wasn’t as close as the final score indicates it was.

Wow, LeBron James just completely destroyed us bullets:

So this is what it took. This is what it took for the Heat to look dominant. A weak defense, a hostile crowd, months of pent-up hatred. That’s what turned the Heat into the bullies the rest of the NBA feared they’d become.

Miami started the game off playing the same horrible offense they’ve been playing with all season — LeBron watching the ball, Miami being content with setting Carlos Arroyo with open looks, a complete lack of spacing, and the ball being casually rotated around the perimeter until there were about six seconds left on the shot clock. For a second there, it looked like the Cavs might have a chance.

Then the Cavs’ horrible defense shone through and began to give the Heat easy lanes to the basket and James Jones wide-open looks from beyond the arc. The latter was particularly awful — it wasn’t like there was penetration or Jones was moving, but the Cavs would continually load up on LeBron or play that “Spider zone” and completely forget about Jones beyond the arc. LeBron spent much of the first half deferring to his teammates, but he was able to set his teammates up with some easy looks at the basket and hit his first couple of jumpers, which has almost always spelled doom for his opponents.

Things were looking bad at halftime, but it was the third quarter when things really got ugly. LeBron started the half off by moving without the ball to get a layup and driving to the hoop for another one, and then he went into complete screw-you mode. The Cavs weren’t even giving James easy looks, but he was absolutely determined to hit every shot he put up and he did. He’s that talented. When the Cavs did lock James up, he found a teammate for an easy score. The Heat scored 36 points in the third quarter, and all but eight of those points were scored or assisted by LeBron. The Cleveland crowd awoke something in LeBron tonight — there was no way the Heat were going to lose this game. None whatsoever.

This is the Heat team people expected to see. The Heat still aren’t playing beautiful basketball (the Heat got “only” 36 points in the paint, and 80 of their 118 from the paint/the three-point line/the free throw line), but on Thursday night the best basketball player in the world showed up, and he had friends with him. This wasn’t a team that expected to show up and overwhelm their opponents despite sleepwalking through its sets. This was a team with something to prove. Wade didn’t work with LeBron much, but he was aggressive, made some nice cuts off of LeBron in the half-court and passes to Lebron in transition, and finished with 22/9/9 on 10-16 shooting. Bosh wasn’t dominant, but he took it strong a few times and kept the floor stretched with mid-range jumpers. Joel Anthony made his one shot and kept the Cavs from getting easy layups. James Jones and Mario Chalmers made their open threes. Big win for the Heat. We’ll see if they can keep it up when they pick on teams their own size.

One thing that stood out for me was that LeBron isn’t comfortable being hated. He looked genuinely thrilled to see Andy again and give him a pre-game hug, and he spent most of the game’s dead time chatting up Boobie or his former assistant coaches. Those guys in the stands don’t really know me. You guys do. We’re cool, right? Isn’t this wild? He had plenty of chances to show up the crowd, who at one point went after his mother, and never did. He didn’t flex after and-1s. He didn’t acknowledge the crowd with any gestures. He didn’t ask to go back in in the fourth, which would have been the ultimate “screw you.” He didn’t dance. In all honesty, he was much more reserved than he was when the Cavs would blow somebody out.

He was animated, and plenty of people will say he was being disrespectful, but he was not embracing the villain role in Cleveland. He just wanted to force everybody to respect him again. I very much doubt it worked — after all this time, LeBron still doesn’t understand just how deeply he hurt the 20,000 people that showed up on Thursday night. Remember in Taxi Driver when Robert De Neiro almost kills Albert Brooks for shooing him away from the girl he creeped out, or the scene in Fight Club when Edward Norton beats the living hell out of Jared Leto because he thinks Tyler Durden doesn’t like him any more? That’s what this felt like? LeBron is confused, frustrated, and good at basketball. How can you like them and hate me? I can beat them up! He doesn’t get that loyalty isn’t a choice for the fans at the Q.

Offensively, the Cavs had nothing for the Heat — a few contested threes from Boobie was the closest thing to an offense the Cavs could muster. The Heat were too fast, too strong, too active in the passing lanes, and it didn’t take long for the Cavs to get demoralized.

These were the Heat we all feared. When the Heat play like this, no team can beat them, especially if they have the kind of limited talent the Cavs do. This was also the first night the Heat really played like this, and they still have to prove themselves with another win over a plus – .500 team. This was the night Miami said “enough with the excuses, we are too good to do anything other than embarrass teams like this,” and that started with LeBron. The Eastern Conference Semis didn’t bring that LeBron out, at least not in game five. The pressure of being the most-hyped team in NBA history didn’t bring that out. Early-season panic after some bad losses didn’t bring that out. 20,000 angry people and a porous defense did. The Cavs may have awoken a sleeping dragon tonight. If that’s so, the rest of the league is in trouble. Or maybe LeBron and the Heat will revert right back to their early-season form if there isn’t an untalented team whose fans have the insolence to challenge their greatness. Until later, campers.

Preview: Heat at Cavaliers, December 2nd

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Miami Heat (11-8) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-10)

Relevant Statistics:

Offensive Efficiency: Miami 107.5 (6th) vs. Cleveland 99.0 (28th)

Defensive Efficiency: Miami 98.8 (4th) vs. Cleveland 105.1 (18th)

Pace: Miami 93.4 (21st) vs. Cleveland 95.3 (14th)

Notes:

The Heat are going to be playing five-on-six tonight, and that’s the key to the game. The longer the game stays close or the Cavs have the lead, the louder the crowd is going to get and the bigger the chances the Heat will fold become. The Heat are a jump-shooting team still figuring out how to play with one another — they do not want to have to perform under pressure.

I have a bad feeling that LeBron is going to go into destruction mode tonight and start attacking the rim, and I have a worse feeling that the Cavs aren’t going to be able to stop him if he does. This team has struggled to stop penetration, protect the paint and guard wings all year long, and that is not a good thing with LeBron and Wade coming to town. Still, it might just take a couple of stops or a couple of missed jumpers for LeBron to lose confidence and start deferring/launching jumpers. The first quarter is going to be crucial in this one.

I actually feel good about the Bosh/Varejao matchup. Andy should be able to contest Bosh’s jumpers, and he will make CB4’s life miserable every time he steps foot in the paint or goes for a rebound.

I don’t see how the Cavs can possibly contain Wade. Fortunately, the Heat have done a pretty good job of containing Wade and James all by themselves this season. Hopefully that continues.

Offensively, the Heat defend the paint well and are very mobile on the perimeter. The matchup to exploit is Mo vs. Arroyo — Mo should be able to beat Arroyo off the dribble and hit some jumpers before the bigs can step up to contest. Moving the ball will be so important — I actually think the crowd will help the Cavs a lot if it becomes a jump shooting contest because of the confidence factor. Pack the paint and force the Heat to make shots with the crowd dying to see them fail.

Alright, that’s all for now. I’m ready for this thing to get started already. I’ll be doing the dime, so stop by and say hi.