Overview: With Daniel Gibson and Antawn Jamison in the starting lineup, Manny Harris in the rotation, and Joey Graham and Ramon Sessions both getting DNP-CDs, the Cavaliers actually managed to compete with the Chicago Bulls before getting outscored 28-15 in the fourth quarter and losing by a final score of 88-83. Derrick Rose led all scorers with 29 points.
- Well, that certainly sucked less than it usually does. Byron Scott had the idea to play his best players a lot more than his worst players, and that ended up working pretty well for some reason. The offense didn’t look great, but keep in mind that the Bulls are an elite defensive unit — every time the Cavs tried to set up anything intricate with screens, the Bulls would shoot right through the screens, get up in the ballhandler’s face, and generally mess up the set. The Cavs were able to get some decent looks by putting four three-point shooters on the floor at once and keeping the ball moving, but they were never really able to get into the teeth of the defense. When a team shoots 30 three-pointers and 18 free throws in one game, it means they were having trouble getting inside, but the offense was decent enough.
- The two guys who really flourished offensively with the new lineup were Varejao and Parker. I actually really liked how Parker looked at the three — he’s so much slower than every other starting two in the league, and isn’t particularly effective as a three. But with Mo and Gibson keeping the pressure on the defense and moving the ball, Parker has a chance to get more open looks at three and put the ball on the floor when the defense isn’t paying attention. When he can do that, he’s not bad — he’s an extremely intelligent player when he can actually manage to get a step on the defense, and he showed that with a beautiful slip pass to Andy on a pick-and-roll during crunch time.
- Varejao also got more chances to finish plays, but he was also playing like a man possessed. I don’t know what it is about Noah, but he brought something out in Andy. He drilled some mid-range jumpers, almost killed himself for loose balls, and put a freaking dream shake on Noah successfully at least twice. When Andy has confidence, he’s a surprisingly skilled basketball player — it’s just very easy for him to lose that confidence in his skills.
- Jamison had a decent enough night. He’s a volume shooter. That’s what he does at this point in his career. A few nice mid-range jumpers, a few threes, some shots inside, and some forced shots from all areas as well. Jamison is pretty much Jamison. By the way, he went 3-7 from the line, and the Cavs could have REALLY used those four points.
- Manny Harris — hmm. He’s long, he’s athletic, he has three-point range, and he does seem to make things happen. On the other hand, he seems to have gone to the Ramon Sessions school of “driving to the rim with no real plan.” I’d like to see him stay in the rotation over Graham, if only because he might be able to help the team out on defense.
- Okay, let’s talk about the defense. It wasn’t horrible! A lot of that was because Sessions, an atrocious defender, didn’t play, and Hickson, who has been destroying the defense for years, only got 9 minutes of burn (about 2 minutes after he checked in, Taj Gibson got an easy dunk.) Graham, who tries defensively but is horribly unathletic, didn’t play. Parker matched up against a 3 instead of a two. Boobie, who is probably the best perimeter defender on the team, got major minutes. This poop is not rocket science. My caveat here is that the Bulls are not a good offensive team — they settle for mid-range jumpers, have no idea what to do with Boozer at the moment, and don’t seem to have any plays outside of running a double-screen for Rose. Still, the Cavs were actually getting up on guys, contesting shots, and forcing the Bulls to take shots they didn’t want. That’s a very, very big deal. Hopefully it continues.
- The end of the game was pretty simple: The Bulls have Derrick Rose, and the Cavs don’t. At the end of the game, Rose seemed to say “instead of setting up a play or looking for a teammate, why don’t I just blow by Mo Williams and get to the basket? That’s very easy for me.” It was, and he was able to make the key plays at the stretch while the Cavs had to rely on outside shots. That was the difference. Tough loss, but certainly a promising one. Until next time.