Overview: After a surprisingly competitive first quarter, the Cavaliers outscored the Timberwolves 58-40 over the course of the 2nd and 3rd quarters en route to an easy 109-95 win. LeBron James scored only 12 points, but was one of six Cavaliers who scored in double figures. JJ Hickson set a career-high in scoring with 23 points.
-This game was exactly what the doctor ordered. After a few gut-wrenching games, the Cavs were able to sit LeBron for the entire fourth quarter. More importantly, after two games that featured some absolutely terrible offensive execution because of the Cavs’ current lack of a point guard, the Cavs were able to move the ball beautifully.
Here are some numbers:
Of the Cavs’ 109 points, only 25 of them came on shots outside of 10 feet.
The Cavs made 25 of their 32 shots at the rim, converting at a 78.2%. Basically, that means the entire team finished at the rim as well as LeBron James normally does.
If you count every two free throws as one shot at the rim (a rough metric, but much more true than not), than the Cavs shot 35-46 on total attempts at the rim. If you factor out the Cavs’ two and-1s, that number goes to the equivalent of 35-45. Basically, the Cavs got 70 of their points at the rim, and converted 78% of their opportunities at the rim.
It gets better. Of the Cavs’ 25 field goals at the rim, 19 of them were assisted. In contrast, the Timberwolves had four assisted field goals at the rim in this game. That’s a 30-point gap.
Long two-point shots are generally considered the least efficient shots in basketball. The Cavs took 14 shots from that range. The Timberwolves took 33.
-Everything looked as pretty on the floor as it did on paper. Interior passing, beautiful interior passing, all game long. Shaq would get it in the block, and crisp cuts would be made both on the interior and the perimeter. The correct option would be identified, and the ball worked around for an easy layup or dunk. Four assists for Shaq in only 19 minutes, and three of them led to shots at the rim.
-LeBron James tied his season-low for points with 12, but was making everything work as the playmaker on offense. He pushed the ball, was patient in the half-court, and set up a few plays from the mid-post. 11 assists looks impressive enough on its own. That 10 of LeBron’s 11 assists led to layups or dunks makes you realize that LeBron had an incredible night passing the basketball.
Strange facts file: While the rest of the Cavalier team was running a layup line, LeBron missed all three of his shots at the basket.
-Big Z went for 13 points on 5-8 shooting, and none of his baskets came from outside of the paint. He finished a few easy dunks inside thanks to nice interior passes from his teammates, and even returned to the post and drained two fadeaways. It can be nice when Z remembers that he’s 7 foot 3.
-Of course, the guy who was really making the interior passing game work was none other than JJ Hickson. JJ was flying to the basket from every conceivable angle on Wednesday night. Hickson made all seven of his shots at the rim, and six of those seven baskets came off of assists. He made finishes trailing the play. He snuck behind the defense when they focused on Shaq. He made powerful dunks and soft layups. He was using his energy and athleticism to make plays instead of trying to overthink everything and show off his skills, and the dividends were immediate.
-Also, 0 baskets from outside of 10 feet for JJ tonight, but the good news is that he only attempted two shots from that range. He’s much more effective providing space for Shaq by moving without the ball and cutting towards the rim than he is trying to knock down jumpers. Also, zero turnovers for JJ tonight. After a one-game hiatus, Hicksomania has returned.
-Jawad had one of his worst games. Not only did he miss all six of his shots, but he stopped the ball a few times on offense. He looked like he was pressing out there, which is out of character for Jawad. Hopefully he can get back on track.
-Fortunately, Jamario Moon made a triumphant return to effectiveness against the Wolves. 5-7 from the field, with four of those five baskets coming from outside the paint. I love to see that he’s getting his touch back from beyond the arc, but I will always cringe when Moon fires a step-back jumper. That thing just doesn’t look right. Also, tonight we learned that the “gooseneck” gesture comes from how Jamario’s neck looks when he shoots a three-pointer. I kind of preferred not knowing, personally.
-I love Danny Green’s game. No threes tonight, but every time he gets the ball he knows what he wants to do with it. Quick moves to the hoop, and he’s not afraid to go into the teeth of the defense.
Bullets of Randomness:
-The Wolves only turned the ball over eight times all game and had six more offensive boards than the Cavs. Because of this, the Wolves had 22 more field goal attempts than the Cavs in this game, and still got blown out. Weird stuff.
-My proposed nickname for Damien Wilkins is “The Human.”
-Yes, I like Kevin Love’s game.
-Sasha’s return to the Q: less than triumphant. I remember those bizarre pull-ups that he flung up tonight. I do not remember them fondly.
-I can’t believe Bill Laimbeer can even bring himself to look at a team that plays defense like the Wolves do, let alone coach them. They just have no concept of interior defense.
-I know I already posted one Sea Wolf video today, but I like at least four things about this music video as much as I like anything about any music video ever.