In an absolute throwdown between two of the league’s best players, LeBron and Dwyane Wade fired 40-point games at one another, but the Cavs were able to prevail by overcoming a double-digit lead with a 31-18 fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers are trying to kill me. I’ve become convinced of this. I don’t know how I’ve avoided going into cardiac arrest after back-to-back games like this. This one was actually more stressful to me than the last one because we were playing good basketball the whole way through and it had so much more of an epic feel to it than yesterday’s ugly one we somehow escaped.
Where do I even start with this one? Let’s start with LeBron. This might have been my favorite LeBron game of the year. With real stakes on the line playing a real team, LeBron scored a pretty 42 with a True Shooting of 80%. And the perimeter game! Absolutely thrilling. I’d much rather see that than what he showed against Milwakee. There was absolutely zero heat-checking involved in the making of those threes. The breakdown:
2 in the open court on broken plays in the up-and-down playground basketball stretch of the first quarter.
2 on a move where he got space on the perimeter, took one hard dribble forward and went straight up into a shot with his momentum taking him towards the basket.
1 on a pick-and-pop with Mo Williams during crunch-time
1 on a back-tap that came right to him after he ran the same play with Williams but Williams elected to shoot. Also during crunch-time.
The new stroke he’s been trying to get himself into seemed in full effect tonight-he didn’t fade, he kept the elbow in and the wrist extended, and he kept his lower body quiet. The ultimate goal is to have perimeter moves from 15-18 or behind a pick-and-roll that can get clean, repeatable looks from high-efficiency spots on the perimeter. If that isn’t there, working off the ball and being patient for perimeter looks like LeBron was tonight is infinitely preferable to indiscriminately jacking up bombs off the bounce to show everyone you can. With the two midrange jumpers LeBron added tonight, he went 8-14 (11-14 effectively) on non-layups tonight, which is pretty darn impressive.
This is what a sound perimeter game looks like: all the shots were with his feet set, he didn’t force anything, and he did it for a legitimate reason, given that Moon and co. were doing a great job using their length and athleticism to frustrate LeBron on Pick-and-Roll situations. (LeBron was a human 5-10 from the immediate basket area tonight, with only four free throws going to the hoop and six turnovers.) And the 6 free throws he got by drawing fouls on three-pointers were just savvy and fun to watch.
As far as playmaking goes, Miami did a great job controlling his catches for the most part and disrupting his driving and passing lanes with good, aggressive soft traps, and Z, his safety valve, went 2-8 from midrange while his roll guys found a rotating man at the basket time after time.
And let’s talk about the dunk to seal the game. Je-sus. What happened as Miami’s pick-roll defense, which had been great, broke down was as follows:
Mario Chalmers goes under the screen and puts himself in no-man’s land, not showing and hovering directly behind the screener. (Notice how even as LeBron was 6-7 from deep at that point, the Heat were not about to play him for the outside shot.) LeBron capitalizes on the rookie’s mistake and gets directly to the help man, Jermaine O’Neal, with room to make a move. His move is to lull O’Neal to the outside with a hesitation dribble and then just GO. I mean, he was slowing down and then he was just gone, staying above the rim while flying at full speed away from O’Neal before slamming it on his head while flying the opposite direction. There’s only one man who can do that, folks.
Oh, and for the second straight game LeBron showed a willingness to catch the defense napping and utilize back-door cuts to get buckets. Really great game from LeBron. And we’ll get to defense later.
Fortunately for LeBron, Mo Williams and Delonte West were more than willing and able to pick up the playmaking slack tonight.
In fact, they each get their own paragraph. Mo was an absolute monster tonight. He was hitting mid-range jumpers right as we needed them, hit two clutch threes as the defense overplayed LeBron late in the fourth quarter. Without him, we do not win this game. And he was the guy making plays for most of the night as LeBron was having trouble initiating offense when he started the play with the ball.
And Delonte-LOVE DELONTE. He couldn’t contain Wade (who can this week?), but he was in there jumping on every single loose ball and scrapping for five gritty steals, didn’t hold the ball and had six assists against six shot attempts, and knocked down 2-3 shots from deep to keep the defense stretched. In a crazy game like this one, you need scrappers to win, and Delonte was everywhere tonight.
Andy didn’t rebound much tonight, but he was doing great stuff in every other area, getting to the right spots on offense and defense and generally making many more good things happen than bad ones.
Z was also great at being around the basket and getting tips, although he seemed a bit more fatigued than everyone else by the four games in five nights and the all-night stay in an Atlanta airport last night, having trouble controlling his tips and missing his mindrange shots.
And finally, let’s take our hats off to Mike Brown. With the Cavs down 11 in the fourth quarter, he made a key adjustment and switched to a Kamikaze trap defensive scheme on Wade, double-trapping him hard with LeBron at the top of the floor whether or not he was using a screen. After that, Wade stopped absolutely torching the Cavs and was rendered essentially ineffective as the Cavs were able to get out on the break. This worked because it exploited Wade’s tendency to make the home-run play and get turnovers and the youth and inexperience of his supporting cast-the Heat didn’t have enough savvy guys or shooters to make the Cavs pay for double-trapping, and rookie Mario Chalmers couldn’t be relied on to get Wade the ball in places where he couldn’t be doubled as easily. Also, it fully utilized LeBron’s insane athleticism, length, and energy at the defensive end to absolutely wreak havoc when he plays that free safety-type position. Not sure how many other players that scheme pays off with.
The fatigue of the team also showed when THE CAVALIERS COULD NOT GET A REBOUND IN THE FOURTH QUARTER, and for the game uncharacteristically gave up a huge offensive rebound rate, allowing 15 Heat offensive boards to 28 Cavs defensive boards. Of course, this could have been because they are trying to kill me.
Other evidence: Boobie Gibson playing and only doing horrible things while Tarence Kinsey was DNPd. We need a Superfund for Boobie at this point. It’s tough to watch. Wally was also completely inept. In fact, our bench went for a combined 9 points tonight. (That was better than the Heat’s 8 bench points, all of them coming from Beasley.)
JJ played well, and had a great game except for getting stuffed on dunks twice after making a great roll to the basket and making the correct play, only to lose a tangle with Beasley and have Wade make a ridiculous stuff on him. That was insane.
Bullets Of Randomness:
Wow, Wade is ridiculous. He has been a house of fire this week, and that didn’t change tonight. You forget just how ridiculous his combination of explosion and COD is when he’s driving to the basket-he was absolutely in the paint at will. And he’s a much better passer than he gets credit for-he finds guys on the moves for easy layups and dunks when he’s in that lane. He’s not the best playmaker from the top down, but he doesn’t pad his assist totals either. He’s a great passer. And he was EVERYWHERE defensively. Until we went for broke with the traps, we had absolutely no answer for Wade. Although hearing the Heat broadcasters stump about why anyone who actually knows basketball knows he’s MVP for 48 minutes wore thin fairly fast. Do they not think people can figure out that they’re local broacasters?
I also really like Moon’s game-I’d rather have him than Marion at this point in their contracts/careers. Great trade, Toronto.
I don’t really love JON’s game anymore-it’s all mid-range jumpers now. When you have to be feeling it to get 16 points on 13 shots, you need to have a better plan.
Chalmers’ half-court shot because he thought a timeout was called that led to a Cavs three-pointer to start a run was one of the most bizarre and fantastic plays I’ve ever seen. I love it.
Okay, we’ve gone to 1500. Have a good one, all.
Thing of the Game:
“Hold On” by KT Tunstall, from the KFOG archives. KFOG is awesome. I could say that this is because we somehow held on to wins on back-to-back nights, but mostly this relaxes me.