Overview: The Cavs survived a 1-12 night from Mo Williams thanks to strong performances by Antawn Jamison, Ramon Sessions, and Daniel Gibson, hanging on to beat the New Jersey Nets by a final score of 93-91.
The good news? The Cavs aren’t all that bad. The great news? It looks like they’re getting better.
For the first three quarters, the Cavs showed how dangerous they can be running the Princeton offense with all the versatile weapons they have on offense. The improvement that Varejao and Hickson made to their jumpers in the off-season is nothing short of stunning, and they both look really comfortable playing the high post, keeping the floor stretched when they’re left alone, and finding cutters from the high post and moving without the ball down low.
Everyone on the floor looks really comfortable making those quick reads, moving hard when they don’t have the ball, and letting fly when the defense gives them room. Almost all of the Cavs’ bad possessions were the result of being too aggressive rather than standing around and waiting for something to develop, which is exactly what you want to see from a young team figuring out a new offense. Jamison’s return really helped — he does such a good job of keeping the floor spaced and attacking the rim from a (I am required to say this) variety of angles when he gets the ball down around the blocks.
Mo couldn’t buy a shot tonight, and that’s something that will happen to him from time to time — he doesn’t get to the rim very often, and a lot of his game relies on letting those mid-range jumpers fly when he gets space. Everybody has cold nights from the floor from time to time — when they happen to Mo, he doesn’t have many ways to get himself easy points. I actually liked a lot of what I saw from Mo. He put pressure on the defense, moved the ball from side to side a lot, and probed for seams really aggressively before making the pass or pulling up for a shot. Not Mo’s night from the field, but he’s playing the game the right way.
In the fourth quarter: RAZOR RAMON TAKING OVER. Sessions showed some flashes early when he made a nice hockey assist off a drive-and-kick and had a couple of easy finishes at the bucket, but he was still driving recklessly and made one of his signature blocked drives that turn into a fastbreak opportunity.
Then, in the fourth, Ramon Sessions the point guard showed up. First he drove to the basket and found Boobie open beyond the arc for a three that cut the lead to two. On the next possession, he went baseline, kept his dribble, and found Boobie for another three that cut it to one. On the next possession, he got a rebound and pushed the break, which scrambled up the Nets defense and left Jawad Williams wide open for a transition three that gave the Cavs the lead. Then he hit a floater to put the Cavs up one.
Later on, he drove for a layup, found Hickson along the baseline for a dunk, hit a beautiful pull-up jumper, and found Jamison in the corner for a huge three. Again, Ramon did all of this in ONE QUARTER. After an incredible, clock-saving, contested, rainbow three by Anthony Parker, the game was all but over. The Cavs are 4-3 and 3-1 on the road. Jamison is back and making shots. Ramon Sessions might pan out after all. The bigs are looking like they can run this offense. It’s a good day.
This defense can work, and it’s because of Anderson Varejao. So many people underestimate him as a post defender because of his frame, but he’s got wiry strength, he’s long, and he’s always putting pressure on his man and staying so tight on him that he doesn’t have time to set up his moves. When the offensive big does try to create space, Varejao is usually sitting on the shoulder he wants to turn to and waiting to draw the charge. On a related note, Brook Lopez went 6-18 from the floor and drew all of four free throws on Tuesday night.
Hickson is starting to mix up his improved jumper and inside moves with the off-the-ball movement that made him effective in his first two seasons — beautiful secondary cut off a Varejao pick-and-roll for a dunk tonight, and the 4th-quarter dunk he got from a Sessions assist was beautiful.
Jamison: 3-4 from three, 0-3 from the free throw line. How we’ve missed you, Antawn. Also: Mike Fratello said on the broadcast tonight that people “sometimes forget” about Jamison’s ability to make threes. Austin Carr, who exclusively refers to Jamison as “The Jump Shooter,” does not have that issue.
Daniel Gibson was both being aggressive, making good decisions, and hitting his threes. Huge jumper in the fourth quarter to ice the game. Also, it’s kind of hilarious how much better the Heat would be if Boobie was their starting point guard. I’d say the same thing about the Lakers, but I renewed my one-year vow not to say anything bad about Derek Fisher during last year’s finals.
Al Thornton and Travis Outlaw, two very similar and not particularly good players, had huge nights against the Cavs on back-to-back nights. Should I worry? Nah. RAMON SESSIONS. Until next time, campers.