In a fairly unexciting game, the Cavs kept the 76ers from ever seriously threatening by utilizing clean ball movement and a barrage of three-pointers, keeping a hungry and athletic young team from finding a foothold.
Really exciting first quarter of basketball; even though the Cavs couldn’t get anything to fall, they were getting out and running, moving the ball, working backdoor cuts and fly-throughs, and getting all the looks they wanted. Philly’s bigs did an absolutely amazing job making weak-side recoveries to stop layups and Andy missed some wide, wide, open shots, or else the Cavs would have made this a blowout from the very beginning. Even when the Cavs were behind, you could tell from the way they were running on offense that they were going to be too much for the 76ers tonight.
The other big thing was the threes; when the more talented team goes 12-23 from beyond the arc, they just aren’t going to lose. Seeing Delonte go 3-4 from beyond the arc is absolutely huge, although of course he goes 0-3 on twos. Delonte has so many facets to his game, but on a given night he’ll only have one or two going, even though the effort is always there. It’s awesome and weird. And Delonte must pick off his own man’s passes as much as any player in the NBA.
Gotta love Wally going for 18 points on 112.5% True Shooting. I’ll take that, please.
Andy and Z didn’t have good games from the field, but they were doing their work on doing their jobs and controlling their areas, and Andy actually wasn’t forcing all that much-Philly’s bigs are really, really, really good defensively, and Andy’s shot can be off. And it’s not pretty when that happens. Yipes.
This team was on it defensively, but the Cavs responded by playing some extremely disciplined ball on the offensive end, with LeBron and Mo combining for only one turnover. LeBron was challenged by Iggy all night and the rotating man, so he got gritty and put in more energy, moving off-the-ball like a madman and making determined drives to put himself on the line. He never bailed out the defense by trying to get easy scores by going over the top, and was passing the ball absolutely brilliantly to hot shooters when the defense overloaded.
The best pass of the night was the hockey assist of the year, with LeBron getting his man to follow him out to right about half-court and somehow whipping a 38-foot pass to Wally coming on a backdoor cut, who made the handoff for an easy layup. Absolutely amazing.
Ben came in and gave good minutes; he looks pretty comfortable out there, which you’d expect. We’re not going to risk injury to a starter to try for best record in the league.
LeBron got whistled for four fouls in this game. Intriguing. (I’ve got a rebuttal on that article coming when the internets start up again next week-discuss in the comments currently, but before I get my thoughts up I just want to remind everyone that this blog has standards of criticism and discourse and does not make caricatures, personal attacks, sweeping dismissals, or knee-jerk homer reactions against anyone, including members of the media.)
Bullets of Randomness:
There’s a lot to like about this team, but they just desperately need shooters-can someone remind me why dumping Kyle Korver’s salary was a good idea when Willie Green is starting for this team?
Speights was my guy in the draft. I really, really wanted him to float to us, and I feel like it was close. There’s always that little twinge of regret when someone drafted near your team’s slot that you liked becomes a stud, and I think he’s well on his way. Attack mode, offensive boards, midrange game that’s developing, athletically gifted with touch and a tough mentality. He’s got a bit less star potential than JJ, but he’s got less “downside.” He’ll be a very good power forward for a very long time in this league-I see him as an upgraded Andy-type in the future, which is a lot of value.
In fact, if I’m talking about guys I want for the next 2 years (2!) I say:
1. Thad Young
I mean, not only has Brand been a bust, but he’s a bust on a team with most of its blossoming talent at his position. Absolute nightmare.
Speaking of guys who went in your area, the player picked one slot ahead of Luke Jackson looked pretty good tonight.
I’m not sure what to make of Iggy at this point; he was amazing tonight. He’s an absolute bulldog and a beast going to the basket and gets his points efficiently; you’re not going to do much better than 26 points on 16 attempts agaist the Cavs’ defense. That’s just a really good scorer, one who can shoot but isn’t taking bad shots. Oh, and he was harassing LeBron for 40 minutes.
At the same time, this game kind of showed his celing. His court vision isn’t good enough to be the centerpiece of a great offense, and he can’t freestyle with the ball enough to quite take over with his scoring. This is his best game, but he really wasn’t imposing his will on the game at any point. But again, I am really impressed by his drive game and ability to get to the hole and finish-he BAPTIZED LeBron at the end of the first half. I’m not sure LeBron has ever been posterized like that. Does anyone else remember a similar punking of LeBron on that end of the floor?
Last note: when I think of Iggy, I think absolute physical marvel, a crazy athlete in the top 2 or 3 percentile in terms of gifted athletes in the NBA. The broadcasters brought up that the size difference between him and LeBron is two inches and 50 pounds. And those are listed differences; it could well be three inches and 60 pounds. Holy Christ, LeBron is a monster.
Lakers just lost. We go two out of the next three, we clinch the best record in the NBA. Wow. Wow. Wow. Just bask in that.
Two quick notes: Mr. Killer instinct, the guy whose “last-shot prowess” is the one reason why you HAVE to throw out all evidence when comparing him to LeBron, bricked three straight jumpers and threw the ball away on the four biggest possessions of the game down the stretch. LeBron hasn’t laid a crunch-time egg like that ONCE this season. The Cavs have lost two games by three or less; the Crab Dribble game and the double-foul game with Danny Granger. In both, LeBron had been the one who led the team to the tie with runs of baskets that immediately preceded his “chokes” (both of which were actually refree calls against him that, while probably right, could have easily gone the other way.) I know that the playoffs are where this ultimately has to be decided, but it drives me crazy how many people have their heads in the sand when it comes to nights like tonight and just spout platitudes instead of doing their homework. And of course, this happens on a Friday before everything shuts down.
I realize I’m making too much out of this, but I’ve been seeing “Crab Dribble” used in one way or another by Kobe trolls all freaking year and seeing that get blown into ridiculous proportions. You can’t do that and pretend games like Kobe’s tonight didn’t happen. Okay, rant over. I try not to rant.
Other note: The guy who made two consecutive threes to get the Lakers in the game in the fourth? Shannon freaking Brown. I’ve always thought it couldn’t get worse as a Cavs fan than losing to Kobe in the finals, but if Shannon plays the Kenard/PJ Brown role in that loss, that would be the absolute worst. I wanted him to pan out so badly.
(Going here more out of a love for irony than actual analysis: What if our scouts actually were right and Shannon’s better than Boobie after all? It’s a possibility, right?)
I love that I write a 1,400 word recap on a Friday. I actively am trying to sabatoge my “career.”
I know I’ve put some unsettling pictures up as my leads (they all have varying degrees of reasons to be up there, I assure you. This was the first picture to not make the cut on account of extreme creepyness. Not inappropriate in any way, just really creepy. Instead, I went with an adorable cat picture. I think clinching the East just broke my brain.
Shamless plug: Go check out the recap, when it’s up, at our new Philly TrueHoop blog, whose maiden post echoes some of my questions about Iggy from this one.