Overview: LeBron James scored a franchise-record 35 points in the first half against the Knicks, including 24 straight points. Although the Knicks were able to cut a 24-point deficit to as little as three in the fourth quarter, the Cavs were able to hold on for a 113-106 victory.
In two games against the Knicks this season, the Cavs have outscored the Knicks 84-45 in the first quarter. In the other six quarters combined, the Knicks have outscored the Cavs, by a count of 152-129.
The Cavs started out the game attacking the rim. The Cavs’ first 15 points came on dunks, layups, or free throws. David Lee had no chance against Shaq inside. JJ Hickson continues to look like a new man, especially early on. The lightbulb seems to have gone off for him on the offensive end. He was making sharp cuts to the rim, making catches in traffic, and finishing with authority.
25 of the Cavs’ first 30 points came at the rim. Then, with 1:55 remaining in the quarter, the real fun started. LeBron made five consecutive jumpers. The first came from 25 feet, the next from 20, the next from 26, and the final two from 32 feet. He scored 14 points in just under two minutes, and only used five possessions in doing so. He stayed hot at the beginning of the second quarter, making a layup and three straight mid-range jumpers to push the score to 52-31 with 9:38 remaining in the second quarter.
During his torrid stretch, LeBron scored 24 straight points on 10-11 shooting from the field. It took him just over four minutes to do it. There’s not much to be said when LeBron goes off like that. It looked more like a glitch in The Matrix than basketball. It’s awe-inspiring, demoralizing, unstoppable, unsustainable, terrifying. LeBron finished the half with a layup and two free throws, giving him a franchise-record 35 points in the half. In that first half, LeBron had 20 points on 11 shots outside of the paint. Unreal.
In the second half, LeBron cooled down from the outside. That was inevitable. The Cavs having no idea how to attack the zone defenses the Knicks started throwing at them wasn’t inevitable.
The ball stayed on the perimeter, and all the Cavs’ attempts to go inside were home-run attempts that the Knicks had little trouble picking off. When the ball did move, it was just around the perimeter. The ball would stay on one side of the floor for far too long, and LeBron wasn’t involved in the offense when he didn’t have the ball. At no point was an effort made to get LeBron in the high post at the middle of the floor, which is how the zone should’ve been attacked. Between LeBron holding the ball and forcing jumpers, the Cavs having no point guard to initiate the offense, and the Cavs letting up because they had a big lead, it was a perfect storm of bad offense.
With the Knicks knocking on the door in the fourth quarter and LeBron struggling from the field, LBJ kept his cool. He scored six straight points to close out the game. He utilized a “screw this, I’m going left” drive to get two free throws. On the next Cavs possession, LeBron made a great catch of an attempted Anderson Varejao lob, dribbled out like he was going to re-set the offense, then calmly turned around and drilled a mid-range jumper. Finally, LeBron got Jordan Hill on a switch, used his dribble to get space, and pulled up for a 20-footer to ice the game. It wasn’t quite as amazing as what LeBron did in the first quarter, but it was what the Cavs needed to prevent what would have been a very bad loss.
According to ESPN’s stats and information department, the Cavs scored on 74% of LeBron’s possessions in the first half, with those possessions producing 49 total points. In the second half, the Cavs only scored on 32% of LeBron’s possessions, which produced 16 points. LeBron’s game is more feast-or-famine than other superstars’, and that’s something Cavs fans just have to accept. Overall, LeBron finished with a line of 47/8/8 with 5 steals, on 69% True Shooting. I’ll take that.
-The Cavs’ defense was an issue. On the one hand, it’s completely understandable why they would allow themselves to let up a little after jumping out to an early start. The Knicks were also red-hot, shooting 12-27 from deep. Nate Robinson was making everything he looked at, launching quick-release threes and hitting five of the seven he took. Even still, the Cavs should not be getting beat in transition and allowing stretches where the opponent makes 10 of 11 shots from the field.
-The night definitely belonged to LeBron, but a few other Cavs had nice games. As I mentioned, David Lee had no answer for Shaq early. The Cavs had trouble finding him after the Knicks zoned up, but Shaq still finished with 19 points on 8-13 shooting from the field.
-Anderson Varejao continues to have some trouble getting shot attempts without Williams and West playing, but he still provided energy. He shot 3-5 from the field, and was able to add four offensive rebounds.
-Anthony Parker was aggressive, making some tough shots in the lane and scoring in double digits for the first time in a while.
-I’d love to see more plays like that And-1 to end the third quarter from Jamario Moon.
-Gibson, James, and Jawad combined for 20 assists against the Knicks. Everyone else on the Cavs accounted for two.
-LeBron played some very good defense on Al Harrington to close out the game.
Bullets of Randomness:
-Sadly, no Larry Hughes for the Knicks tonight, who was out with a toe.
-David Lee had a great line, finishing with 20 points on 10-14 shooting. However, both him and Gallinari were sitting as the Knicks made their big push. Interesting.
-Jordan Hill can play. He might always be the guy the Knicks drafted instead of Jennings, but he’s a great athlete, and showed some nice touch around the rim.
-Alright, that’s all for tonight. Next up, the Nets.