After stumbling very hard out of the gate and facing a 15-point deficit, the Cavs absolutely dominated the next three quarters to comfortably put the Mavs away at home. The Cavs are now on a franchise-record 12-game winning streak and have won 60 games.
The first quarter. Do we acknowledge that basketball is a game of runs and teams are going to hit shots on you, chalk it up to Jason Kidd’s still-there wizardry, or get concerned that great point guards may have the ability to pick-and-roll us to death? I’m more inclined to be in the former category, because at some point really good point guards running pick-and-roll are just going to hurt you.
Yes, Mo was a sieve in Milwakee and isn’t quite Rondo in Cleveland, and big Z isn’t flying up to make hard shows, but they both play well within the system, buy in on that end, and are far from being a legitmate defensive weakness that can be exploited on pick-and-rolls.
That said, I’m confused as to why there wasn’t a lot more pick-and-roll throughout this game, because everything else Dallas did offensively was just shut down. Dirk and JET ISOing on the high post and perimeter was just not there-they got forced into help or contested cleanly, and Dirk’s chess-match slow fakes were replaced by rushed, off-balance shots.
The Shot Chart for the game shows Dirk shooting 4-18 from midrange, but the next-level data I have from Arnovitz says Dallas as a team went 3-26 from midrange. We’ll have to sort this discrepancy out the next time the LA TrueHoop faction meets in our volcano lab, but the moral of the story is that Dallas was pretty much fail when they went ISO and shot mid-range jumpers.
Talking LeBron: with a 50% TS, this wasn’t his best night scoring the basketball by any stretch of the imagination. He never quite went into beast mode taking the ball to the hoop and only shot five free thows, and spent a lot of time out on the perimeter (6-13 from outside the paint), and tried to go to the post a few times only to get completely shut down-they crowded him with a zone, and his footwork down there is still a work in progress.
In terms of passing the basketball, LeBron was phenominal. This is about as well as LeBron can pass the ball, which is about as well as anyone can pass the basketball. 12 assists without a turnover in three quarters is impressive enough, but the variety and decision-making involved in the passes was stunning. One-handed bounce lasers to a cutting Varejao and Mo Williams. Cross-court skip passes to guys setting up behind the screen in perfect rythym. Feeding the hot hand in Z on pick-and-pops for a quick run to start the third quarter.
Of course we never quite forget about LeBron’s passing ability, but on nights like tonight it’s impressive to behold just how good of a quarterback he is on that court, not just in the passes he can make but his sense of the right play at the right time. Grrr, this sounds like broadcast cliches.
Over this winning streak, I’ve documented a lot of fourth-quarter takeovers by LeBron; tonight he decided to take over the third quarter and rest in the fourth. What makes the third-quarter takeover fun is that LeBron did it with variety and a sense of wonder instead of the crushing force and creativity of his wing ISO-heavy fourth-quarter beatdowns.
As the Cavs outscored the Mavericks 30-11 in the third to win the game, LeBron scored or assisted for 26 of those points, running pick-and-pop with Z, slashing for layups on a fast-break, being the screener and rolling to the hoop with Delonte, getting hot for three midrange Js in a row, finding Mo for threes, and drilling threes of his own to end the quarter.
Mo was workman-like, overcoming a bad start to end up with an efficient 22, getting in the paint, and reinforcing the theory that as Mo goes, so goes the team.
Must mention Joe Smith, who was absolutely beasting all game long, owning the paint and cutting the lead at the beginning of the 2nd with LeBron on the bench. And how about that triple!
You’ve gotta love the Cavs’ antics, but the point about what happens when you’ve got your backs to the wall was a valid one.
Bullets of Randomness:
When you watch March Madness, it does make it even more jarring when a team just completely stops trying like the Mavericks did midway through the third quarter.
Did I catch this team on a weird night, or is Jason Kidd clearly the best player on that team with Dirk playing the “T-Mac on the Rockets” role at this point? Dirk’s far more efficient, but it seems like more good things are happening when the ball’s in J-Kidd’s hands.
LeBron on 60 Minutes tonight. I’ll watch-is there demand for some sort of short response post?