Overview: In an ugly game, the Cavs were able to escape from Atlanta with a one-point win on LeBron James’ free throw with 1.6 seconds to go, holding off a second-half surge from a young and scrappy Hawks team.
Okay, I can breathe now. I’m not sure where to start with on this one, so I’ll just start with LeBron. The defense was definitely there all night for the Cavaliers, with a lot of activity and stuffing of driving lanes, and the Hawks were never really able to get a clean offense going. Joe Johnson had a nice night creating his own shot, but other than that the combination of the Cavs’ defense and Mike Bibby being rendered ineffective by the flu was too much for the Hawks to overcome. They registered 11 assists as a team, and most of the time their best offensive option was having Flip Murray try to freestyle. There’s always a better play than an ISO for Flip Murray.
In the first half, the Cavs were able to establish an offensive balance due to LeBron being able to make plays, with four assists in the first quarter, and Zydrunas and Mo Williams hitting absolutely everything they looked at. Everything was a quality shot and nothing was forced, with everyone staying in the offense and getting baskets.
After that, things broke down for the Cavs. A lot of that had to do with the Hawks being so long and active defensively and keeping everyone off-kilter, and some of that had to do with the Cavs having trouble keeping everyone honest on LeBron’s drive game. LeBron was 3-11 on shots from the perimeter. A lot of those were good looks-no two shots looked alike tonight, and he seems to be having a rough period in terms of changing his shot, although two or three of his shots were late-in-the shot clock forces.
The other major culprit was Delonte West, who had one of my least favorite offensive games as a Cavalier-where he’s normally taking the ball from side to side, never dribbling in a circle, and getting the ball where it needs to be for forward progress, tonight he spent a lot of time pounding the ball, keeping it on one side of the floor, and trying to force shots and dribble into coverage. For a ballhandler as weak as Delonte, that’s a recipe for major trouble. The line shows it, with Delonte going 5-16 from the field and finishing with two assists against 5 turnovers. (It should be noted that Delonte was FANTASTIC defensively on three-time All-Star Joe Johnson, and actually finished with the highest +/- of the game because his effort on a player who has been to the all-star game three times.)
Another reason things went badly on the offensive end-the three guys out there as spot-up shooters went 0-8 from downtown.
The good news is that big Z’s spot-up jumper was money all night, and that Mo Williams was absolutely on fire. He finished with 20 points on 15 shots, but honestly that’s a product of great defense by the Hawks. Every time Mo was able to catch and shoot without a hand in his face, it was in. The Hawks did a great job knowing the book on his pull-up moves and changing the release on his deep twos more than I’ve seen any other team able to do.
Andy’s tough roll to get the and-1 off the LeBron dish is the Andy of two years ago, and the guy we’re going to need if we’re going to keep up our play with Ben out. That was absolutely huge.
You can’t sum up this game much better than the final two possessions from the Cavs, which consisted of LeBron getting stuffed on a drive and air-balling a lefty scoop shot and promptly coming up with his own rebound and hitting Mo Williams for a game-tying three. Just like we drew it up.
And then you had something do what only LeBron can do-with everyone knowing he was driving on the final play of the game, LeBron, without so much as a screen, just fired right through everyone and flew to the rim to get contact, only to terrify Cavs fans everywhere by MISSING THE FIRST FREE THROW before rattling the second one home. Only LeBron.
And boy, that last shot from Thrice an All-Star and yet still underrated Joe Johnson was a good look when LeBron got caught on the screen. However, even a player with his credentials, which include three appearances in the all-star game, wasn’t able to deal with a flying LeBron (how does he keep from fouling there?) and knock down the shot that would have been nearly as impressive as his three consecutive all-star appearances.
JJ was a factor on every rebound and loose ball, which is what he’ll need if he wants to stay in this rotation when/if Joe Smith signs with us after being bought out today. Mike Brown should be very happy with JJ tonight.
Bullets of Randomness:
Mike Woodson, you gotta find more court time for Josh Smith. He’s one of the only guys in the league who can come from the weak side and stop LeBron at the rim, and you didn’t think it would be a good idea to have him in at crunch-time. I realize that Joe Johnson has been to the all-star game three more times despite nobody knowing who he is, but you’ve gotta run some motion sets that get him moving backdoor or off curls and let him work in motion instead of playing for scraps. If that happened, maybe he wouldn’t fall in love with his jumper, which is truly God-awful. You know he has weaknesses. Use his strengths.
Okay, I kinda miss Flip Murray.
Zaza is a warrior.
Horford’s on a plateau. (We’re nearing 1,000 words)
God, I wish anyone would say something nice about Joe Johnson instead of confusing him with fast food workers. Did you know he’s been to the All-Star game three times?
Thing of the Game:
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” I can’t seem to remember how many times Joe Johnson has been to the All-Star Game.