Recap: That’s Why You Stay In On A Friday Night

March 13th, 2009 by John Krolik

 

Overview:

No. This game defies overview. We somehow won this game. That is all. 

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Um, holy crap. I know I say that a lot, but this team has a knack for it. 

Let me say this before I start, because it definitely warrants mentioning and I’ll forget it later: I got the Kings broadcasters on my LP feed tonight, and I want to give them major props. They are just about as classy and professional as you’ll find in a local booth. This was a VERY tough loss for their team, and one that wouldn’t have happened if the referees didn’t make some very tough calls to take, with nearly all of them going against the Kings.

(And remember, this is a fanbase that has a complex about getting screwed by officials.)

But they kept even-keeled the whole way through, even acknowledging that the calls made were correct, and stayed on the ball throughout the collapse, even remarking on how great of a game it had been as Mo Williams was on the line essentially icing the game. I’ve known and heard a lot of local broadcasters, and it’s both a tough job and one that can reward homerism and catch-phrasing over calm-heading analysis and a love for the game beyond getting paid to cheerlead. (Quick note: those are not veiled jabs at AC. I love AC more than life. It’s okay if you’re relentlessly positive and still provide insight, as he does.)

Okay, onto the game. 

Oh, also before I forget: The Kings broadcasters (see?) noted that the referees failed to go to instant replay and make what was clearly a long two by Bobby Jackson not count for three points near the end of the first half. Seeing as to how this game ended in a tie, had the Cavs lost they would absolutely have grounds to protest the game. 

First, the bad: this is maybe the worst team in the NBA. We should really not be going to overtime and barely winning against them. I really and truly almost had a heart attack this time. This is twice in a week. In fact, this game was a full-on regression to LeBron bailing us out, or playing like what I call the “Cardiac Cavs.”

Did LeBron play out of his mind to save us from an embarrassing defeat, including a fourth-quarter stretch where he essentially started burning down villages? Why, yes he did! To recap: 51 points on 38 attempts (TS at 67%), 9 dimes, and 4 boards, with 2 steals and 3 blocks. 

In the first half, LeBron was doing his thing, getting to the hole, setting guys up, peppering in the occasional deep ball (on a 51-point night, LeBron was 1-6 from midrange), and even getting a five-point play. That was all nice, and could certainly be analyzed. 

But let’s talk about the fourth quarter and overtime. The Cavs entered the quarter down 12 points. I don’t have ProTrade, but the win chances in that scenario cannot be good. The Cavs got to a tie by scoring 32 points in the fourth quarter. Here’s the crazy part: other than an Anderson Varejao tip-in in the fourth, LEBRON JAMES WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY FIELD GOAL FROM THE END OF THE 3RD QUARTER ON. 

I am serious. In the third quarter, LeBron went:

4-6 from the field (8 points)

8-9 from the line (8 points; total now 16)

2 assists for two-point shots (4 points; total now 20)

2 assists for wide-open Sasha Pavlovic threes (6 points; total now 26)

The other 6 points came on the Varejao tip-in and 4 free throws from off-ball fouls, which were free throws because LeBron had drawn four fouls by that point to put the Cavs in the bonus. LeBron had no turnovers in the period. So of the 14 possessions he used in the period, he created 26 points. That’s 92% efficiency. 

In the overtime, LeBron had 6 points on two shots and made the “hockey assist” for the Cavs’ only other field goal of overtime, penetrating and dishing to Joe Smith, who made an inside hand-off to Anderson Varejao for the layup. (The final two points came on Mo Williams free throws on an intentional foul.)

LeBron finished the game by running down the clock and missing three straight attempts at a “dagger” jumper, getting the ball back twice when he missed. So if we count the hockey assist, LeBron accounted for 34 points using 20 possessions in the fourth quarter and overtime to erase a 12-point deficit as the LeBron-independent offense accounted for two points as the result of offensive effort and eight points overall. Boy, I sure wish LeBron had some kind of killer instinct to finish games.

And even so, LeBron refuses to put a pretty enough bow on everything for those looking to make LeBron’s dominance a sufficiently pretty storyline; the one free throw he missed was one that would have given the Cavs the lead at the end of regulation instead of a tie, and instead of hitting a dagger or driving against a helpless defense to put the bow on the whole thing, he bricked three consecutive jumpers and allowed the Kings to get within one point. LeBron’s scope is too great for him to ever be perfect. Lament this at your own peril. It’s like he doesn’t want to make it too easy to appreciate him as the best player in the world. (Right down to having this game on a Friday night so most major sports sites and blogs won’t run tomorrow; this post will like as not be seen by precious few. This makes me mad.)

Oh, and LeBron also had two clutch defensive plays (two and a half, really) in the final 24 seconds, getting an amazing steal as the Kings were trying to run out the shot clock, then giving a very savvy foul on Kevin Martin as he started his move to the basket with five seconds left, then absolutely bottling him up and blocking his last-second three-pointer. 

AND ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH DRAINING A 28-FOOTER IN CRUNCH TIME? You just…what is there to say? Oh, except for that I believe he missed the last free-throw on purpose so that he could end the game with a cooler shot. (Just like Wade against Chicago.)

A signature performance. Here at USC, there’s a game we remember against Fresno State. It wasn’t the best team, it wasn’t the most important game, but on that night a player of unparallelled talent showing the world just exactly what he was capable of, just in case it wasn’t in the front of their minds anymore. That is what we got tonight. 

Okay, onto bad stuff. The defense was extra n0t-good. Kevin Martin is going to get his points. That man can flat-out play basketball. (Although I have no idea what role he plays on a championship team-is he a Ray Allen cold-blooded scorer who doesn’t need to dominate the ball or is he the world’s best 6th man?) And you live and let live with the threes, especially since so many of them were just bracket-buster contested bombs. (And they paid for it: 13-22 through the first three quarters, 1-12 in the fourth and OT) You live with some of that, but too much time in the paint and too many 2nd-chance points. This is a defense-first team, and this is two games where the defense has not shown up. Let’s use the time off and get our stuff together. 

Thing #2 that harkens back to the last couple of years: absolutely horrible backcourt play. Mo with two eggs in three games, although he was there to drain the clutch free throws. 3-14 with no threes: not good. 

Also, I immediately regret endorsing Sasha Pavlovic, who helped our starting backcourt combine for 6-24 shooting. It looked like him and Rashad McCants were having a competition to try and prove whether American College or Europe was better at producing crappy swingmen. Although Pavs did step up and nail clutch threes and provide good D down the stretch.

You can understand having to stick with Pavs for so long; it’s not like we have a guy WHO SCORED 7 POINTS IN 8 MINUTES ON 3-3 SHOOTING BURIED ON OUR BENCH. Although not many assistant coaches are going to have the huevos to go with TK in crunch-time. 

Andy saved the day. Period. 8-8 from the field, 5 absolutely crucial offensive boards, everywhere defensively. Dan Fegan is putting the DVD of this game in a safe. Really great stuff. 

Thing #3 from pre-this season Cavsdom: Z being mediocre, with 9 points on 9 shots and 7 boards. He just hasn’t returned to All-Star form since his injury. 

Thing #4-Boobie making shots and good things happening when he plays! 9 points on 4 shots and a +24 for Boobie.

Wally time! He’s good against bad defenses. There’s some ringing endorsement. 

Bullets of Randomness:

As we approach 1500 words on a Friday post nobody will read:

-Jason Thompson: keeper. They should’ve given him crunch-time minutes.

-K-Mart-baller. I might take him over Carmelo, honestly. Like Durant, he was put on this planet to score the basketball. He reminds me a lot of Eric Gordon in that he’s a great driver and shooter, but no real in-between game.

I think Bobby Jackson and Will Solomon deserve giant stuffed animals for the threes they were making tonight. 

Thing of the Game:

“Jock Jams,” by all that is good in the world. Things that you know are bad, but are just plain awesome. If you were under the age of 15 in 1996 and do not listen to this more than once, you have no soul.