In their first game at home after a gut-wrenching road trip, the Cavs allowed the Knicks to hang around for three quarters but were able to pull away down the stretch. Mo Williams went for a team-high 23 on 13 shots, while LeBron added 19/8/10 .
The game ball tonight might go to Mo Williams, who seems to have experimented with missing in California and decided it’s not for him. He absolutely got whatever he wanted tonight, getting to his spots on the floor for three mid-range jumpers and banging home all five of the threes he looked at, including two step-back heaves that were just ridiculous. He was doing his thing all around the court as well, doing his part to bottle up Nate Robinson and notching 5 assists and 7 boards to boot.
LeBron really did not look like he wanted to take over this game with scoring for whatever reason-12 of his 17 shots were jumpers, and of the remaning 5 at least two or three were finishes on passes, which means he only completed two or three drives to the basket. That’s normally his bread-and-butter, so you’ve got to think something’s going on. Maybe he wanted to focus on controlling the tempo against this feisty Knicks team, or get the whole team back into a rythym and show that they could win in a healthy balance and have everyone getting their bearings. Although D’Antoni, in a characteristic move, employed a defensive scheme that replaced fundamentals with sheer moxie and had his defenders essentially give LeBron jumpers playground-style, which flustered him to the degree he missed some jumpers with his feet set he normally hits.
In any case, LeBron certainly found other ways to contribute, beautifully setting everyone up with 10 assists, many of them the good kind leading directly to a layup, 8 boards, and 4 steals and 3 blocks to complete his stuffing of the stats.
And after completing a 51-point performance where he only went 1-6 on midrange shots, LeBron seemed on a mission to show that he could do that, too, taking 9 of his 17 shots from midrange and hitting 5 of them. They’re all from 20 feet or further, which I think is more “long-range without the extra value,” but LeBron sets up the shots very nicely with his dribble and can get himself a pretty comfortable look with it, so it’s certainly an acceptable perimeter move. I’m just glad he’s using his drive to step into his shots now instead of relying on that step-back fading move that took his legs out of the shot. And on his three missed threes, everything about them was good except that they didn’t go in. Please stick with that stroke.
Delonte’s shot was completely and utterly off, going 1-8 on shots outside the paint, but he managed to contribute by scoring and drawing double-teams working inside on Nate Robinson.
Andy saved the day again, this time with a pair of great strong-side flashes and finishes with LeBron ISOed in the midpost in crunch time. When he moves on offense instead of thinking he has skills, he’s so valuable.
The big news is rotational shake-ups. Boobie Gibson and JJ Hickson both got DNP-CDed today. Boobie’s minutes went to Sasha Pavlovic, who went a tidy 2-9, although he was big in crunch-time and somehow got three blocks. But he should not drive the middle. Like, ever. YOU ARE EURO BOWEN. CATCH, SHOOT, DEFEND. Of course, we must take into account that this game was played in broad daylight, which naturally limited Sasha’s effectiveness.
JJ’s minutes went to Darnell Jackson, who did two good things, raising his season tally of good things to two. I’m confused by this move.
Tarence Kinsey: still benched. Windhorst is on board with me here. This must stop. It’s not like we like him because he’s a flashy scorer with hidden flaws; he’s a great defender who constantly does little things and fills in gaps while getting his points. Meanwhile, the guy who plays ahead of him ran into a help defender three times in a row. What am I missing here?
Oh Christ, I haven’t mentioned the defense yet. It was fantastic, as the Cavs kept the Knicks out of the middle the whole game and held them to under 40% shooting, with the Knicks’ only success coming off turnovers and three-ball heaves. Although with Duhon injured, getting into the paint would have required a Knick to dribble the ball multiple times without bombing a perimeter shot, and that’s just not something that’s likely to happen. It’s good to see us get into our fundamentals.
Bullets of Randomness:
I like Nate. Man was born to be a bench scorer. While there are huge differences in their play style, he reminds me of Delonte in his mixture of skill, energy, and toughness out on the court. That guy’s a keeper. But he’s not a starting point guard.
Larry’s back! And he’s going 6-17 with three assists! That’s the guy we know! I swear, seeing him go left for a step-back 21-footer and then pump fake, escape dribble, and throw up a 21-footer made me grin. If he makes those shots 20% of the time, I’d be shocked. And those are his Go-To Moves. Also featured: a bricked lefty layup and free throw. Larry was playing all the old hits in the Q tonight.
Thing of the Game:
“Wandering Star” by Portishead. This is really creepy and won’t get out of my head. Have a fun workday.