In Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ first game in Cleveland since re-signing with the team, the Cavaliers were able to defeat the Sacramento Kings by a score of 97-90. LeBron James and Antawn Jamison combined for 60 points to lead the Cavaliers.
-Do you realize how many more games the Cavs would have lost this season if LeBron was merely an All-Star level player? I try not to lead off with LeBron, but it was one of those nights where LeBron was the only thing that kept the Cavs from losing to a team like the Kings. The injury-depleted Kings.
-Fortunately, LeBron was on his game. He threw some absolute laser-beam passes, and four of his eight assists were for shots at the basket. Considering LeBron’s favorite pick-and-roll partner missed the game, that’s a pretty impressive stat. LeBron also mixed in a few of his bread-and-butter drives to the basket, bullying Omri Casspi for layups a few times.
This was also one of the few games where LeBron did more of his damage from outside than inside. LeBron scored 21 points on 17 jumpers, and hit three of his six attempts from beyond the arc. (Those numbers also look significantly better if you don’t count the last two threes LeBron took, which I’ll discuss later.)
A few of LeBron’s jumpers were of the “no…no…YES!” variety, but for the most time LeBron looked genuinely confident from deep, and was taking advantage of the room the Kings were giving him. He looked smooth on his deep twos, had plenty of loft on his shots from beyond the arc, actually got free for a catch-and-shoot three, and even pulled out his ballet-like spinning fadeaway on Casspi in the fourth.
At the 7:39 mark, the Cavs found themselves up a point when LeBron came in the game, just like they did against San Antonio. Against the Kings, however, LeBron and Co. did their thing to close out the game. LeBron came right in and followed up a punishing drive with the aforementioned spinning jumper, then found Jamison on a cut for a scoop shot to put the Cavs up seven. From there, a nice three by Jamison and a dagger three from LeBron were enough to put the Cavs up for good, even though LeBron freaking heat-checked with 1:23 to go in a seven-point game the next time down. I know there was like a 3% chance of the Cavs losing at that point, but yeesh. It’s like he needs to do something silly at the end of a nearly flawless performance so people won’t figure out that he is of another species.
-Antawn Jamison needed to step up with Varejao out, and that’s exactly what he did. Brown is starting to use him more at small forward, and he seems to be taking to it. He was great on the block, great with his wonky floaters, and he was drilling jumpers. When he’s on, he might be the best pure scorer LeBron has ever played with — even when Mo has it going, he can’t score from inside and out the way Jamison can. There are some things Jamison doesn’t do thrillingly well, but there were stretches when Jamison took over. And the Cavs needed him to.
-If Jamison/Powe is effective going high-low with the 2nd unit, imagine what Jamison/Shaq is going to look like.
-Mo ran the pick-and-roll very well at times. Other than that, this was not a good game for him. His shot was off, he was passive much of the time, and Beno Udrih had a 15-assist triple-double. You read that last part correctly.
-Big Z got a great ovation (although it wasn’t quite as effective as I thought it would be; like Windhorst, I blame saturation), and went on to play pretty well. He wasn’t a force on offense, but he did a very good job of protecting the rim. Z had three blocks, and more importantly the Kings only managed 30 points in the paint. A lot of that is because Tyreke was missing, but you could see that Z was changing a lot of shots around the rim.
-On the flip side, the Cavs did have some trouble handling the Kings when they want small, and didn’t really lock down until the fourth. Fortunately, they really locked down when they put their minds to it, giving up only 14 in the fourth.
-If Parker goes 2-5 from three instead of 1-5, it’s a very strong game for him. If he goes 3-5, it’s a great game. Even though he wasn’t hitting from deep, he did play a strong game. He looked good on defense, didn’t force shots, and made a gorgeous cut for a layup at one point. Still not sure if benching Jamario and Boobie to make sure AP gets 30 minutes a game is the right call, but he held his own against the Kings.
-Antawn is a genuinely talented rebounder. When a shot goes up, he knows where it’s coming down.
Alright, that’s about all I have for tonight. Five wins to go to guarantee home-court. Let’s see if they can pull it off.