Overview: The Cavs overcame an extremely sloppy first half and weak defensive outing against a hungry Bucks team behind 23 points from Mo Williams and an absolute deluge from LeBron James, who scored 55, one shy of his career high, while setting his career high for three-pointers with eight.
Holy freaking crap. LeBron. First and foremost, that was absolutely insane. If anyone can remember the last time that many shots with that degree of difficulty were hit in a similar time-frame, please let me know. I’d say maybe Pistol Pete might’ve done it back when he was with the Jazz or the Hawks. That would honestly be my best guess. There is no shot LeBron James cannot make. Period. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life. Absolutely phenominal. And on a night where every one of the 55 and 9 assists was needed.
I have been saying in the last few recaps on this blog how LeBron’s stroke looks worlds improved in recent games, and he could be close to having a major breakthrough as far as how well he starts shooting from the outside.
This has absolutely nothing to do with that. None. He was showing great balance, a controlled jump, and assured finish on all of his shots, his form much closer to textbook than it’s looked to me in a while.
Tonight had nothing to do with textbook. These were 30-foot fadeaway bankers. Pull-up 27-footers still going forward. All off the dribble, none set up with the drive. Just pure, unadalterated impossible shots that he continued to make. I really don’t want to take away from that.
Is this what LeBron James with a perimeter game looks like? Is this the blueprint for LeBron finally turning the corner and adding an outside game to his unparallelled ability to take the ball to the hole? Because I don’t think that LeBron taking contested, off-the-bounce 27-footers is something defenses are going to give up the lane to defend. Ever. And if you’re going to follow up hitting tough outside shots by taking tougher outside shots, how is that opening anything in your game up?
Two other quick contrarian points:
-Part of this stems from the fact that any other player taking one of those shots would be immediately benched. I’d love to say LeBron’s the only one capable of making those shots, but NBA players can do insane things with a basketball. Given the chance, who knows who else could do it?
-It’s not like this was a spontaneous event-LeBron hitting a three, hitting a tough three, and trying an absolutely absurd three is a fairly commonplace occurance, and usually what happens is he bricks a 32-footer catistrophically. This was something that was very much attempted before.
Great as this was, it is a one-time event. This is not a blueprint. It is something to be amazed at, wonder. You may not see anything like this ever again.
I feel bad saying anything bad about this performance. From the bottom of my heart, I really do. I was holding my head in disbelief along with everybody else and jumping around the room. But what I ultimately watch for with LeBron is steps that point him towards the greatest player of all time. The missing piece is an elite perimeter game. When you drive as well as LeBron does, that means easy shots-post-up layups and turnarounds, pull-up jumpers in between the first and second man, flare cuts out for open catch-and-shoot threes on balance, stutter-step set up jumpers with created space. Watching Mo pour in his carefully orchestrated and repeatable beautiful on-balance perimeter jumpers that he’s worked on and implemented in his dual scoring explosions this year was far more enjoyable to me than this outside barrage, and I like LeBron a lot more than I like Mo as a player.
Spectacular plays on the drive to get to the hoop are my favorite thing in basketball and what makes LeBron LeBron, my favorite player to watch. But their form follows their function-they create a higher-percentage attempt for LeBron, and ultimately make him better than other players because he can make that extra split or explosion or hang in the air for longer to get a layup or dunk. With these shots, form came first. There were, without question, better attempts he passed up in order to take these shots, and doing that leaves a creeping feeling in the back of my stomach even as I go insane. Please, don’t think I’m trying to get comments or come up with a different angle on this. This stuff keeps me up at night.
And I’d be remiss to go this entire recap without talking about the sky-hook. That is just such a typically LeBron solution it’s amazing. He’s had trouble finding a move that works for him after he drives past the first defender but can’t get all the way to the hole. Does he post up or go to a pull-up? Nah. That’s the easy way out. I think I’ll use an unblockable, gorgeous shot with an off-the-charts degree of difficulty that I somehow make look easy. Much better than an 8-foot banker or floater.
Going 8-11 from deep, 6-15 from midrange, and 15-22 from the line is just LeBron. He had 60 if he was hitting the free throws. Hitting a 27-footer, hitting a 26-footer, missing two free throws, and immediately hitting two more 26-footers is the most hilarious thing ever.
Mo Williams will have absolutely nothing written about him for this game, but I absolutely loved the way he played-he was attacking the whole way through and looking to get layups or make plays and was only looking for the deep jumper when LeBron was off the court or he was set up with a catch-and-shoot opportunity.
Other than that, Z had 11 and those are your double-digit scorers. He played fantastic, but wasn’t all that involved offensively.
Andy’s energy is absolutely back-he looks revitalized out there and is all over every board. 5 fouls kept him off the floor and is an unfortunate byproduct.
Hickson: 4 points (on a beautiful turnaround J and finish off a LeBron drive), 3 rebounds, 11 minutes. His time to daydreams ratio is ridiculously high.
Boobie: 30 minutes, 0-3 from the field, 0 points. At this point, I would cut off my own wrist and give it to Delonte if it would get him back a day sooner.
Similar note: Wally -12 in 20 minutes and 3-7 from the field. Saddle up for a finals run, Wally.
Kinsey the starter: somewhat less of a man-crush than I have on Kinsey the energy reserve, but he’s still awesome, getting out there and playing defense beautifully and making a gorgeous cut for a hoop when LeBron was posting at the top of the key, and he even banged a three! Good times! However, maybe my favorite things about him is how much of a full-court dynamo he is, and that doesn’t shine through when he’s with Z on the first unit.
Defense really not a strength tonight, with Skiles’ offense working really nicely as cutter after cutter flew into the lane and got gritty buckets inside. Charlie V being hot only made matters worse.
Bullets of Randomness:
Fight stuff-nothing really to add. I don’t think Charlie V. will be suspended, and don’t really think he should be, seeing as Andy was up and grinning like 30 seconds later. Love Z stepping in, very much an earned techical. You go to war with Big Z.
Mbah a Moute really is that good defensively-LeBron, hot as he was, tried to punk him a few times and the rook was having exactly none of it. He’ll be in this league a long time.
LBJ’s defense seriously rattled Richard Jefferson.
That’s it. I’m at 1250 words. It’s 3:15 in the morning. I’m drained, guys. Have a good weekend.