Overview: The Nets put up a surprisingly good fight against the Cavaliers, but the Cavs were able to keep the Nets at bay throughout, winning 104-97 without ever being in real danger. LeBron James finished with 32 points and 11 assists, and Jawad Williams added a career-high 17 points.
The Cavs got punched in the mouth early by a game Nets team, but managed to keep their cool. The Nets came out with more energy, and Jarvis Hayes was able to pour in some deep jumpers to get the Nets out to an early lead.
The Cavs didn’t execute well early on offense, and had trouble finding scoring outside of LeBron. A big moment came at the end of the first quarter; the Cavs were down 7 with 43 seconds left to play in the period, but LeBron caught the Nets watching him on consecutive possessions. He found Jamario Moon and Jawad Williams for open three-pointers behind back-screens, and the Cavs were able to cut the lead to one by the end of the quarter.
The 2nd unit may have been the star of this one. The Cavs outscored the Nets 17-9 during the six minutes LeBron sat, with most of the damage coming from Shaq punishing the Nets inside. At one point, he was able to get Tony Battie off his feet with a beautiful series of up-fakes and slam it in; when I first saw it, I thought Shaq had pulled a veteran move on one of the Nets’ young players. Then I saw he pulled the move on Battie, who may have invented fire. Great stretch for Shaq.
Hickson made some nice plays, but looked absolutely lost on defense. Mike Brown was not amused, and Hickson got only 14 minutes of burn against the Nets. Since the Nets are a team that Hickson should be comfortable against, this was a tough setback to witness.
Fortunately, Jawad played very well, scoring 17 points and looking confident from beyond the arc.
Varejao had a great game, making some beautiful cuts through the Nets’ defense and making some slick layups in tight spaces. He also added six offensive boards, and looked like one of the few Cavs taking the game seriously.
LeBron was able to get to the rim at will, converting nine field goals off the rim. He did a particularly good job of moving without the ball, and seven of those nine layups or dunks were assisted. The Nets had no idea how to defend the Cavs’ inside-out game, and Shaq finished with five assists.
LeBron had a poor game from outside, making only two of his 10 shots outside the paint. He was able to contribute 11 assists, and continues to flourish as the Cavs’ primary playmaker.
Z had a rough night. He finished 1-10 from the field, and looked lost defensively. The low point for Z was when he missed four shots on one ugly volleyball possession, got his dunk blocked by Kris Humphries the next time down, then picked up a T arguing for a foul. Very rare to see Z lose his composure.
LeBron had to play the entire fourth quarter, but didn’t play it particularly hard. He looked like he was toying with the Nets the entire quarter, attempting flashy passes and ball-handling moves around the perimeter. When the Nets got close, LeBron would slice right into the paint and get easy points. LeBron likes to experiment when the game is comfortably in hand but not quite a blowout. It’s part of the experience.
Anthony Parker with an ugly -13 in 26 minutes. One thing the Delonte injury has made clear is that AP is a starter in name only. Show starting AP is probably the best way to use him, but he’s not a guy I’d be comfortable with playing 30 or more minutes in the games that matter.
Bullets of Randomness:
The Cavs may have stopped taking the Nets seriously when their first possession involved no passes and ended with Keyon Dooling taking a foot-on-the line jumper off the dribble with plenty of time on the shot clock. The Nets are really bad at offense.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until tomorrow, campers.