Overview: The Cavaliers were able to prevail over a worn-out Miami Heat squad, outscoring them 46-34 in the second half of a 102-86 victory. LeBron James finished with a final line of 36/7/8, and Daniel Gibson added 7 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory.
-The Cavs started the game attacking the basket. LeBron was making a home at the free throw line, JJ Hickson was hyper-active and getting opportunities at the rim, and the Cavs were using their length to get out onto the break. Of the Cavs’ 56 points in the first half, only 15 of them came on shots taken outside the paint. Wade and Michael Beasley were able to keep the Heat in the game for the first half, making serpentine forays to the basket and soft mid-range jumpers, respectively. In the second half, the Heat’s fatigue showed, and they went cold offensively. Wade missed his first seven shots of the half, and there wasn’t much else working for the Heat offensively.
The Cavs are one of the best defensive teams in the league in the fourth quarter. The Heat are one of the worst scoring teams in the fourth quarter. So the Heat only managing 13 points in the fourth quarter wasn’t a huge surprise.
-With Daniel Gibson missing the first half of the game, the Cavs got a chance to showcase some of their all-length lineups. LeBron started the game at point guard, and 6-6 Anthony Parker was the smallest starter for the Cavs. Danny Green got some minutes in the first half, and the Cavs were able to use their length to pressure the Heat on the defensive end and get themselves out on the fast break.
The Cavs outscored the Heat 20-2 on the break, recorded 9 steals and 7 blocks, and played some of the best full-court basketball they’ve played all season. The alley-oops kept on coming, and LeBron was able to get plenty of chances to do his freight train act in the open floor.
-LeBron had a superb all-around game. After his free-throw barrage in the first half, LeBron got hot from outside in the second half. He went 5-6 on jumpers in the second half, and most of those were contested. Reggie Miller dropped the obligatory “if he’s making those, you can’t stop him” at one point, but I return to a point I’ve made a few times. There’s no way to stop any player who’s making deep, contested tw0-point jumpers. That’s the one shot a defense is forced to concede, because they’re the worst shot in basketball. When LeBron’s making them, it’s game over, but those shots are too difficult to be made on a consistent basis. But when they work, they sure do work.
-LeBron didn’t put on a passing clinic tonight, but he was still very effective as a playmaker. He recorded 8 assists, and many of them led to layups, open threes, or alley-oop jams. Once again, no Cavalier other than LeBron recorded more than one assist on Thursday night. That he can be effective with that little playmaking around him is a testament to just how good he is.
-JJ Hickson continues to look amazing. He’s finishing around the rim from a variety of angles, including awkward ones, and was chasing after every loose ball. He even made some highlight-reel blocks, and it looks like the defensive lightbulb is starting to turn on for him. Before this game, commenter kj noted that the Cavs are 20-0 in games JJ scores 7 or more points. That number is now 21-0.
-Shaq had a very solid game on the offensive end, but his best work was on defense. Wade is the best player in the league at putting the second defender on a string. He’s so good at moving laterally after he gets past the initial defender, and makes a living at getting the helping big out of position. When that happens, he steps into a layup or jumps into their chest to draw the foul. Shaq stayed at home every time Wade got into the paint, and the result was some stuffed drives and only two free throws all night for Wade.
-The Cavs did a great job defending Wade on the perimeter as well. They had his pet jumper from the left elbow well-scouted, and didn’t let him get that shot. Wade went 1-5 from the left elbow area, and three of those jumpers were from outside of 20 feet, which is outside of Wade’s effective range.
-Z missed some rotations on defense, and that led to him watching some easy Wade slams. He did do a good job offensively, and was active around the basket, hit a three from that right corner, and finished with an impressive +12.
-Despite Mike Brown showcasing the Cavs’ length, JaWario had a tough game. They combined to go 1-9 from the field, and the one make was a finish of an alley-oop.
-After missing the first half to tend to his pregnant girlfriend, Boobie had a strong second half, scoring 12 points and making some timely threes. Boobie also set a season high for free throws made and attempted, and came one shy of his career best for free throws made. Good game for Boobie, and thankfully Ms. Cole and her unborn child are doing well.
-I continue to love Danny Green. After air-balling a shot so badly that it barely stayed in the gym, Green hit his next two deep jumpers, showing confidence most rookies don’t possess.
Bullets of Randomness:
When Beasley’s hitting his mid-range jumpers, he looks like an All-Star.
Daequan Cook is the reason I wouldn’t be mad if no Cav got named to the three-point shootout.
36 minutes for Dorell Wright.
Is there a more randomly enjoyable broadcasting moment than when a jump shooter kicks out to draw a foul and Reggie Miller is broadcasting? Here’s the transcript from when Boobie kicked out to draw a foul tonight:
Miller: Looks like he might have done a World B. Free kick-out to draw the foul right there.
(Brief, awkward pause)
Fratello: Or a Reggie Miller kick-out.
Reggie: Why you gotta bring my name into that conversation?
Fratello: You used to kick out against anyone running by you! Players, coaches…
Reggie: Marv, you’re not going to back me up here?
Marv (deadpan): Broadcasters…
The moral of the story: People who went to UCLA will never admit to their sins, and Marv Albert is the lord of the deadpan.