Overview: In a game that featured spectacular bursts of scoring in between long stretches of offensive ineptitude, the Cavaliers were able to escape from Miani with a 92-91 win. LeBron James made the game-winning steal and free throws with four seconds remaining.
This is just getting ridiculous. Five of the Cavs’ past six games have come right down to the wire. The Cavs seem to have packed all of their bad breaks into the Sundiata Gaines game, and are 4-1 in those five games. It’s been fun to watch at times, there have been some agonizing moments, and I think all the stress has made me come down with a fever. The Cardiac Cavs are back.
Under the bad column, the offense. Not good. Boobie doesn’t look comfortable running anything, there’s no spacing to speak of, and the Cavs can’t get any sort of motion happening when somebody drives to the rim. Nobody was working well in tandem, and very few good things happened on the offensive end. The worst part is that there’s no clear solution to this problem in sight, other than getting Delonte and/or Mo back into playing shape.
-LeBron didn’t have his best all-around game. He struggled to find room to operate, turned the ball over, couldn’t find many lanes to drive or pass to. He also got baited into deuling with Wade late in the second quarter, and while he made a few jumpers, he took quite a few bad ones. 10 points on 17 shots from outside of the paint for LeBron tonight, which is not a good number. LeBron got forced into some of his bad looks, but he can probably find better ones if he’s really determined to.
Where LeBron was most effective in the game against the Heat was in the open floor, where the Heat had nothing resembling a chance of stopping him. At one point, the Heat had three defenders back in position, and LeBron just powered through all three of them for a layup. Transition opportunities were definitely what kept LeBron on track as he struggled to get good looks from the field.
Late in the game, LeBron shone. If there’s one thing I’ve tried to express about these types of situations, it’s that more often than not there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to why these things happen. With the Cavs down one and 41 seconds left, LeBron let the offense stagnate, fired up a three, and bricked it. Wade got fouled on a loose ball, and had two free throws to put the Cavs in serious trouble. He missed them both. What a break for the Cavs. On the ensuing a two-for-one opportunity, LeBron made just about the worst possible play, getting his eight-footer blocked and giving the ball to the Heat with 26 seconds left to play.
Then another lucky break came, and LeBron took advantage. With LeBron providing intense pressure on Wade, Wade inexplicably tried to make a cute behind-the-back pass to Udonis Haslem instead of calling time-out or waiting for an easier pass to present itself. LeBron made a fantastic steal, flew down the court, and got hammered by Wade going to the rim. (As many people on the Daily Dime Live pointed out, Wade grabbed the rim as he blocked the shot, which should have made the shot count automatically.) LeBron shook out the cobwebs, got himself ready, and knocked down the clutch free throws. On the Heat’s final shot, LeBron took the assignment on Wade, sniffed out his favorite step-back jumper going to his left, and forced him into a high-arcing, low-percentage heave. Game over. Cavs win.
LeBron got lucky, and he also submitted an incredible clutch performance. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, clutch performances are almost enabled by at least one lucky break. LeBron was almost the goat tonight. But Wade made some fluky mistakes, and LeBron was able to capitalize on them. Everyone gets lucky breaks sometimes. The difference is what they do with them.
-The Cavs have made it a signature of theirs to shut teams down late in games, especially their superstars. After a 30-point first half, Wade only managed two points in the entire second half. The Cavs threw traps at him up high, used their length, didn’t give cheap fouls, and made sure that Wade never had space to work. The only time the Cavs really got burned was when Udonis Haslem made three straight mid-range jumpers thanks to traps on Wade, and the Cavs even closed off that safety valve later on in the quarter. Mike Brown’s gotta be giddy about the way the Cavs played D down the stretch.
-Shaq served as an offensive safety net on Monday night. He was rarely given the ball in deep position, rarely put on the move, and rarely given good cutters to feed for easy baskets. He was tossed the ball on the left block 10-15 feet away from the rim and told to make the best of it. For the first half of the season, this strategy was a recipe for disaster. Against the Heat, however, Shaq found some of that old swagger. He put air under the hook shots he had previously leaving flat all season. He made strong moves to the basket. He punished the Heat every time they put him in single coverage. Even though the offense did get stagnant at times with Shaq simply sitting on the left block, it was a vital failsafe plan for the Cavs.
-Boobie Gibson, clutch assassin. Early in the chat, somebody said that Boobie would not be getting a shirt tonight. I told him to wait until the fourth quarter. Daniel Gibson may not be a point guard, but he’s won the Cavs two straight games with big shots. Two threes in the final quarter for Boobie, who went 4-6 from beyond the arc overall.
-JJ Hickson, on the other hand, had a bit of a setback game. 0-4 from the field, 1 rebound, and a -15 in 13 minutes. Not good stuff from JJ.
-Andy was his old self, making some clutch cuts, finishing around the basket, and swarming the Heat on the perimeter. He also made some great hustle plays, and got four gritty offensive rebounds.
-In games without ball movement, Anthony Parker does not look like much of a player on offense.
Alright, that’s it for me. I think I’m getting really sick. Fun game, see you guys tomorrow.