With a lineup at full strength for the first time in months, the Cavaliers absolutely blew the Pistons off the floor with a dominating performance that resembled the blowouts of the early season. Delonte West went for a game-high 25 in his return.
Oh, good lord that was fun. This team at full strength is something to behold. Delonte is so vitally important to this team. Of course hitting all five of your threes is a very, very good thing, but Delonte is so much more than a shooter-it’s the way he knows how to get himself set up for those triples, the way he moves the ball from side-to-side, how the ball never stops, everything. Delonte’s just great to have back.
When you have three playmakers (and Ben moves the ball, too), and that many shooters and add it to guys who can drive, all of a sudden you have a dynamic offense that can make a play from anywhere on the floor and the defense can’t load a side up. That extra playmaker to start plays and shooter to finish them can make all the difference, and Delonte fills both sides of that equation. No deadline acquisition would have been better for this team than Delonte coming back is.
LeBron played a completely different game than he did in his 55-point game. He was getting the ball later in the shot clock and moving without the ball, was a link in plays instead of doing it all himself, was patient and only took the seam when it was there, and was able to put in more energy on the defensive end and was able to get in the full-court more because of it, and took advantage of the fact that he had more options with the ball with movement and spacing to rack up 9 assists. He completely left his jumper at home (of course), going 1-7 from outside the paint, and forced a few shots in the waning minutes of the third quarter to keep his shooting efficiency for the game from being stellar.
But when the game was in the first half, this was a beautifully economic and efficient performance from LeBron that, in a lot of ways, I enjoyed watching more than his 55-point barrage. And as he always seems to do in national games, he made a few plays that nobody else can, like his continuation from the three-point line, his stuff of Iverson, and his wrists-only feed to Ben Wallace. I can’t remember the last guy who could come up with tough assists not just because of court vision but because he’s actually better at the physical act of passing, i.e. being able to make a basketball go fast and accurate because of his arm strength.
Profiles in things that made me giggle: At one point, the announcer predicted that LeBron might go for assists and, in his words, “Try and do something freaky with the helpers.” Should Steve Blake’s 14-assist quarter tonight be characterized as “pulling a Thomas Jefferson?” Actually, we’re using that from now on at this blog.
Ben might have been itching to get some against his former team, but 7 shots is at least 5 too many for him. Settle down there, Ben.
Not a lot of ball for Mo tonight with LeBron and Lonts both on their game, but he had an economic 4 assists and 11 points on 9 shots on the plays he made.
I’m a little bummed that Delonte’s return seems to have pushed our young and athletic contingent of Tarence Kinsey and JJ Hickson into garbage time, because I think they could soon develop into our best bench wing and big and the people over them (Gibson and Andy), weren’t setting the world on fire in their minutes tonight, especially Gibson, who’s become a ball stopper offensively who’s not hitting his shots.
I really like Wally as a microwave scorer who doesn’t have to apologize for firing shots when he comes in, and this was the first time we got to see how he plays since he found his stroke in January and we’re at full strength. The result was 15 points on 8 shots.
Bullets of Randomness:
This rivalry has already kinda lost its luster, huh?
Stuckey looks like a typical “looking at a plateau and seeing a mountain” young player to me.
Keeping it short because the Oscars are on. Go Mickey Rourke!
Thing of the Game:
“Second Coming.” We’re back. Also, try not getting pumped when you listen to this. Try.