Overview: In a competitive game, the Cavaliers were able to squeak out a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, escaping with a 101-98 win. LeBron James led the Cavs with 23 points, and John Salmons led all scorers with a 28-point effort.
-In the first half, the Bucks’ defense was able to get the Cavs out of their offense at times. Not a lot of good execution for the Cavs, but they were able to put points on the board thanks to Jamison playing very well, Mo hitting some shots, and the Cavs going to the LEBRONSMASH offense a few times. The latter term refers to the Cavs throwing the ball in the air around the basket, letting LeBron go up and get it, and watching him finish in traffic.
-Cavs did not have a good defensive game. A lot of that is due to Varejao being out; LeBron will likely make the All-Defense team, but Varejao is the more consistent defender. Too much dribble penetration, too many open jumpers, and Bogut was able to catch the ball in the paint too many times. If Jennigns had been on his game at all or any of the Bucks had been able to get to the line, this could easily have been a loss.
-The third quarter offense was up-and-down. Sometimes, the Cavs were patient, moved the ball well, and got a good looks. Other times, they settled for a deep jumper early in the shot clock and wasted possessions. When the Cavs made the extra pass and used their teammates, they were successful. When they settled, they weren’t. It’s that simple sometimes.
-Couple of new sets I noticed: the Cavs ran a nice double-screen pick-and-pop to free up Jamison for an open three in the first half, and Delonte and LeBron ran a nice low pick-and-roll that ended up freeing up Jawad for a three late in the third quarter.
-LeTakeover did end up happening against the Bucks, although it started a bit slowly. LeBron bricked a few jumpers after he came in off the bench, but got to work when the game was tied with 7:22 to go. He found Delonte for a mid-range jumper (note: Delonte made a nice step-back move, and that may have been a BS assist for LeBron), and then found Delonte for a layup on a 1-3 pick-and-roll play on the next possession. Jawad got some free throws, and then LeBron made an and-1 and hit a jumper with the shot clock winding down to cut the Bucks’ lead to one.
With the Cavs on the ropes down four after a Jerry Stackhouse three, LeBron found JJ in the paint, who got fouled, split the pair, then got fouled again after a Cavs offensive rebound and split the pair again to bring the Cavs within two. After that, LeBron found Mo Williams for an absolutely huge clutch three to put them up one. The Cavs celebrated by trapping Luke Ridnour, failing to rotate, and leaving Ilyasova wide-open for a three that put the Bucks up by two. After that, LeBron was able to draw a block on the perimeter and hit both free throws to tie it, and Salmons followed up with a miss.
Out of a Cavs timeout with 28 seconds to go, they decided to run…my favorite play ever. The decoy pick-and-roll. The Kraken. The play that never fails. Call it what you will, but it worked again, as Mo went baseline, Ilyasova got back-screened, and LeBron cut to the basket to drain a contested layup with 17 seconds to go. The Bucks turned it over, Mo drained free throws, and that was that. The Cavs’ best set worked on the most important possession of the game. Who would’ve thunk it?
-Other notes: subpar night for LeBron, who only made one jumper, looked frustrated at times, made turnovers, and missed a few easy ones at the rim. The good news is that LeBron can win the game even when he’s not on his game.
-Good to see Mo looking so confident out there, especially in big moments. When the Cavs needed him to come through, he came through from deep, off the dribble, and from the foul line. The Cavs will need him to do that in the playoffs.
-Great first half for Jamison, who made two jumpers and showed some nice moves on the block, but he started to force it in the second half. He has to know that he should only be taking early-clock jumpers if they’re wide open. Mo has the same problem.
-16 free throw misses? Really? It’s not a great sign that the game was this close when the Cavs took 36 more free throws than the Bucks did.
-JJ made two mid-range jumpers, but he must never take that mid-range fadeaway ever again.
-Hey, Jamario got some minutes! Unfortunately, he didn’t do very much with them.
-Delonte was on his game, making great passes, getting inside, and hitting some big mid-range jumpers. The effectiveness of the Mo/Delonte backcourt is the key to the playoffs.
-Wait, why was Charlie Bell guarding LeBron instead of LRMAM?
-Alright, that’s all for tonight. The magic number for best record in the NBA is now two. Until later, campers.