Overview: After opening the game with a 46-20 quarter fueled by an NBA-record tying 11 threes, the Cavs were able to cruise to an easy 114-89 victory. LeBron James led all scorers with 32 points, and six Cavaliers scored in double digits. The Cavs have now won eight straight games since the Sundiata Gaines game, and have not lost a game by more than three points since December 20th.
I thought the Cavs’ first quarter against Indiana was pretty darn impressive. This was insane. Let’s break it down:
-The Cavs started off the game attacking the basket. They got their first nine points on a JJ Hickson free throw, two layups by LeBron, a layup by Shaq, and a wide-open reverse dunk by LeBron courtesy of a beautiful outlet pass by Shaq.
-After that, they tossed the ball to Shaq in the post. Eric Gordon came over to double-team, the Clippers failed to rotate, and Parker knocked down a wide-open three when Shaq gave it up. On the next possession, Gordon again came down to double on Shaq, this time leaving Daniel Gibson wide-open from beyond the arc. The threes had begun to fall.
-On the Cavs’ next possession, it became apparent that something big was in progress. JJ Hickson had his shot blocked at the rim, and the ball began to roll towards the corner. LeBron went to chase the ball down, and snatched it just before it went out of bounds.
There was plenty of time left on the shot clock to set up a play. LeBron had enough space around him to set his feet and gauge a shot. LeBron did neither of those things. Instead, LeBron grabbed the ball and fired an off-balance turnaround three in one motion. When LeBron shot it, I started to scream, but just after the ball left his hand, I realized something: he’s going to make that.
I don’t know why I felt this, but I did. It’s a feeling I recognize. When LeBron takes a shot that difficult for no apparent reason whatsoever, I think my brain reasons that LeBron’s taking the shot because he’s absolutely positive he’s going to make it. And make it he did. From that point, the barrage was on.
-The next time down the floor, LeBron set Daniel Gibson up with a wide-open three in transition, which Boobie made. After that, LeBron just started going off. He made an off-balance three, and followed that up by sticking a three in transition. The next time down the floor, he caught a pass from JJ Hickson 30 feet away from the basket, and without a moment’s hesitation rose up and drained it. At this point, the score was 30-11, and the Cavs had scored 18 points in just over three minutes.
The Cavs settled down for a few possessions after LeBron finally missed a heat-check three, but then the bench started getting involved. Jawad Williams buried a catch-and-shoot three off of a setup by LeBron. Jamario Moon drained two wide-open threes from the short corner. As the clock wound down, LeBron drained a contested pull-up three from another county, tying the NBA team record for threes in a quarter with 11. The Cavs now held a 46-20 lead, and the game was effectively over.
-The Cavs didn’t play with much intensity for the rest of the game, which is understandable. They were especially lackluster in the third quarter, and allowed the Clippers to cut the lead to 12 early in the fourth before LeBron put them away.
LeBron scored or assisted on 14 Cavalier points in just under 9 minutes during the fourth quarter. That, along with Shaq’s eight points in the period, was enough to kill any thoughts of a miracle comeback by the Clippers. Not the best 48 minutes of basketball the Cavs have ever played, but that incredible first quarter kept the Clippers from ever seriously contending in this one.
-LeBron on Sunday, by location:
4-5 at the rim
1-9 from midrange
5-6 from three
LeBron was definitely rocking the extreme skew in this one. On the one hand, his (relative) struggles from midrange do help explain why LeBron doesn’t turn a 23-point quarter into one of those 50 or 60 point games. On the other hand, I’m not sure if LeBron’s the type of player who looks to get 50 or 60 point games.
-LeBron’s performance as the de facto point guard continues to amaze me. Of LeBron’s 11 assists tonight, 6 led to layups or dunks, and 4 led to threes. Once again, he was making great passes from everywhere on the floor. I was particularly impressed by his ability to make passes from the mid-post area; sets that start with LeBron backing his man down are really tough to defend. Also, LeBron only turned the ball over once.
-I thought Shaq tried to force his way through a few double-teams after his wonderful passing display early in the game, but he still finished the game shooting 7-12 from the field. That’s a great sign for him.
-Andy was able to find some space on his cuts tonight. He shot 5-6 from the floor, and made some beautiful finishes late in the game.
-Not only was Daniel Gibson 4-5 from beyond the arc, but he recorded a season-high six assists. He gets a shirt.
-Other than Z and Hickson, no Cavalier had a TS lower than 62.1% on Sunday nights. Whoa.
-You hate to see Danny Green take a fall like that in garbage time. I don’t think Thornton had bad intentions, though. It looks like he reflexively tried to stop Green, but missed the ball and ended up getting him on the head. Even still, at that point in the game he probably should’ve just let the rookie have his dunk.
Bullets of Randomness:
-Did not expect to see Eric Gordon end up 5-16 from the field. If he can’t be a consistent force, there will be major trouble in Clipperland.
-Baron Davis played a wonderful game, although when he plays like this it’s natural to wonder why he can’t do it more often.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until tomorrow, campers.