Overview: The Nuggets snapped the Cavs’ 13-game winning streak, beating them on a Carmelo Anthony jumper with 1.8 seconds left in overtime. LeBron and Carmelo had one of the best duels of the regular season, combining for 83 points between them.
-Well, the streak had to end sometime. And if it was going to end, this was a pretty spectacular way for it to happen. Regardless of the final outcome, this one was a pleasure to watch.
To have a 13-game winning streak, some breaks have to go your way. The Cavs won against Oklahoma City, Miami, and the Lakers during the streak, and all three games could’ve easily gone the other ways. Tonight, Denver made the shots when they needed to. Something that happens over the course of a season.
-No Z tonight, and no Antawn Jamison either. That left the Cavs thin in the froncourt, and it hurt them. Normally, the Cavs dominate during Z’s first stretch of the game, which comes in the second half of the first quarter. The Cavs’ regular starting five has a negative +/-, but the Cavs have the best scoring margin in the league in the first quarter. What that means is that the second lineup of the first quarter generally has a hammer party.
Z hasn’t looked very good when the game gets tough this season. But during that first quarter, when the ball is moving, everyone’s loose, and the game is prettier, Z has been very effective.
-Tonight, the Cavs had problems in the first quarter after Shaq went out. They tried a small-ball lineup. It did not work. When Shaq went to the bench, the score was 14-13 in favor of Denver. At the end of the quarter, the score was 31-21. 10 of the 17 points the Cavs gave up were on free throws or shots at the basket during that stretch. Things will greatly improve when Jamison joins the roster on this front, but it was a problem in this game.
Speaking of Shaq, he was a beast. He got the team back into the game in the second quarter. He was aggressive every time he got the ball in the first half. He missed some bunnies at the beginning of the game, but didn’t let that tweak his confidence. The free throws were bad, but that’s Shaq. The last two weren’t even close.
-This one came down to the little things. Too many missed free throws, and too many offensive rebounds for the Nuggets. Those extra possessions killed the Cavs in overtime. Denver shot the ball 100 times, 14 more times than the Cavs. When you factor in that the Cavs shot more free throws, the Nuggets still got 7 more attempts. Uncharacteristic for the Cavs, and a killer in a close game.
Microcosm of the issue: early in the fourth, the Cavs were up seven. They sent Chris Anderson to the line. Anderson split the pair, and Denver grabbed the offensive board. LeBron blocked the birdman, then turned it over in the backcourt. ‘Melo hit a three on the ensuing possession. The Cavs were about to start running away with the game, but they let the Nuggets back into it by not securing the ball. I had a bad feeling around then.
-One of the worst things about blogging the Cavs is when LeBron plays a phenomenal game and the Cavs lose. You’re supposed to act like it doesn’t count, but LeBron was incredible tonight. He only shot 3-15 from outside of 10 feet, but he was getting to the rim at will and his passing was spot-on.Nobody does that skip pass better than LeBron, and he was finding cutters all night long. He showed some post moves and some nice shots cutting through the lane. And he did make tie the game with the Cavs down by three with 48 seconds left in regulation and 23 seconds left in overtime. Of course, he missed an off-balance 28-footer as time expired. What a choker. By the way, 43/15/13 with two steals and four blocks has never been done before.
-Daniel Gibson’s defense has been one of the best surprises of this streak. He was in Chauncey’s kitchen all night long, and Billups finished 7-20 from the floor. Gibson has become very effective as a defender, and that will be what keeps him in the rotation.
-On the final possessions: the threes by LeBron didn’t go. They were the right play to make, though. The chances are never good when a team is down by three points with less than a minute to play. Best to go for it all. With 1.8 seconds on the clock, there aren’t great looks available. LeBron slipped, and didn’t make the crazy shot.
Denver took the shots Cleveland wanted them to take in overtime. Carmelo got three contested mid-range jumpers, and the degree of difficulty on Chauncey’s three was very high. They’re great shooters, and they made very tough shots. Tip your hat to them.
On whether or not the Cavs should’ve given their foul on Anthony: Anthony had LeBron faced up. He’s a very smart player. He had LeBron faced up. If LeBron tried to give the foul, he could have easily gone into his shooting motion. LeBron got him to take a contested 21-footer, one of the worst shots in basketball. Carmelo’s a great player, so he drained it. Carmelo shoots 37% from the 16-23 foot range. He was 3-3 from that range in overtime. Again, tip your cap.
-Delonte made some good hustle plays in that second quarter, and had a nice post-up on Ty Lawson. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much after that, and finished with only 3 points in 28 minutes.
-Mo returned! He didn’t look confident creating his own shot, but stuck two nice threes. Also, he was second on the team in assists, getting three of them in 18 minutes. Yes, LeBron had more than half of the team’s total assists again.
-AP looked really comfortable out there the entire game, and was making some really good cuts to the basket instead of only setting up for corner threes. He got the short end of the stick on the Cavs’ last possession of regulation, but a very nice game for him overall.
-Yes, Carmelo walked on Denver’s last basket of regulation. Not something to file a protest over. (Cue Wizards fans yelling about LeBron’s footwork.) It’s hard to tell how many steps guys taking going to the basket, especially on that spin move. It’s a great move if they don’t call it, and they didn’t.
-For all the flak Mike Brown gets for not being creative late in games, three Denver possessions ended with Kenyon Martin taking jump shots. Say what you will about LeISO, but it’s better than a Kenyon Martin jumper.
-Hickson showed why the Cavs didn’t want to trade him. He looked positively Amare-like with those finishes over Nene early, and he added a dunk from an odd under-the-basket angle later on. The biggest thing Hickson should be working on is finishing effectively from odd angles right now, so that was a great sign. Hickson did get quieter as the game went on. That’s the product of a lack of experience. Jamison won’t have that problem.
-66 points in the paint for the Cavs, but only 2 off Denver turnovers.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until tomorrow, everyone.