Undermanned and outgunned, the Cavaliers were able to overcome the Blazers despite being much thineer because of the descrepancy between the Cavaliers’ and Blazers’ two best scorers. LeBron James finished with 34/7/14 and Mo Williams had a season-high 33 on only 19 field goals to allow the Cavs to hold off the Blazers, who had to suffer a combined 16-43 shooting performance from Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Tonight was a nice way of showing us all what can happen when we get what we wish for.
Wish #1: Mo Williams Has Been Nice, But I’d like to see him be more of a true second star instead of a very good role player.
Of all the #2 scorers on the four elite teams-Gasol, Pierce/Allen (whoever it is between those two), and Jameer, Mo’s probably the one least likely to drop 30 or go off for a huge game on you. As it turns out, there’s a reason for that-even though I won’t criticize any performance that yields 33 points on 19 shots, it’s more the principle that shows. LeBron has the ball in his hands a lot. He makes a lot of plays. He’s going to shoot a lot. No big men on the team are capable of creating their own shots, even when Z’s out. And with the slow pace we play, there aren’t a lot of shots to go around. So when LeBron and Mo are both out there putting up shots, you end up with them getting 49 of the team’s 78 shots.
Why this was necessary: I saw this as pretty much a direct reaction to Delonte’s absence-without him swinging that ball around the perimeter and slashing through to keep side-to-side action going, there’s a lot more one-on-one action. Mo definitely bailed the team out in this one by just being absolutely unconscious. Mo gets a gold sticker.
Wish #2: I Wish LeBron James Had a Better Jump Shot.
Now, everyone pretty much can agree that LeBron shooting more Jumpers would be a bad thing-the league’s absolute best jump shooters off the dribble shoot jumpers at around an eFG of 47%, and LeBron’s overall field goal percentage is at 50%, and when he’s at the basket he converts 72% of his opportunities, and that’s before you factor in the fouls he draws.
So the theory goes that him making more jumpers would not only help his percentage by having him make the shots he’s going to take anyways, but that having a good jumper would “open up” his game and allow him more space for drives to the basket.
Tonight’s game stood as direct evidence against that theory. For the second straight game, LeBron was uncharacteristically unable to finish at the rim early (4-9 in the immediate basket area), or get foul calls. (4 free throws all night, with two of them coming from a dead-ball foul)
So in the third quarter, LeBron went to the perimeter and started firing deep twos. And making them. LeBron had a 14-point quarter, but it didn’t open up any more driving lanes-in fact, it just made him shoot more jumpers, as every field goal attempt LeBron shot in the 3rd was from outside the paint. And since all of LeBron’s non-layup or dunk shots come against the 1st defender, it didn’t open up lanes for his teammates either-the offense became entirely dependant on LeBron making very tough shots, and LeBron went 1-6 on jumpers in the 4th before just deciding to screw it and flying through the entire defense for two left-handed layups, including one after they tried to double-team him 30 feet away from the hoop. Again, LeBron bailed the team out by making the shots.
That LeBron’s best outside shooting game of the year ends up with him scoring below his normal efficiency should tell us something-the issue isn’t LeBron’s jumper itself, but in the way he fails to set his jumper up with the rest of his game or use his jumper when it’s on to set up the rest of his game.
This could have been a reaction to:
Z’s midrange J really opens up space for LeBron on dribble-drives, and Z in the high post has been a huge way to get LeBron catches closer to the hoop. Without that, LeBron’s had to face defenses that have a much easier time bunching up on him.
Okay. Onto more bullets.
-LeBron did seem on a mission to shove it in Rick Barry’s face tonight?However, while his outside shooting display did help to show that questions about LeBron’s shooting form are off base, the aformentioned failure to use that shot to dissect the defense showed that Barry may be close to being on target w/r/t how LeBron uses picks.
-When Ben Wallace is on the floor, good things happen. It was true against the Lakers, and he should’ve gotten second-half burn. Tonight, he got minutes in the fourth and proved himself valuable. He led the team in the highly dubious +/- tonight, and his blow-by for a dunk on the one-time supposed “Next Bill Russell” was a highlight of the night.
-One effect of Mo and LeBron domination is Boobie only had two shots.
-Wally: 2-3 from deep. Put that fire out! Wally cannot be stopped! This guy is available! Pick up that phone, GMs!
-Why haven’t I said much about LeBron’s 14 assists? A lot of them were pretty rudimentary feeds to a red-hot Mo Williams, and other than some very, very nice dimes on the fast-break to Sasha, the assist total felt as much of a result of guys hitting an an abnormally high amount of shots than LeBron making particularly great dimes. Okay, I admit, this is the least excited anyone has ever been about a 34/7/14 ever.
-In a way, I’m kind of glad that the Cavs are having to get back into the “cardiac Cavs” style of last years-the playoffs are going to bring more close games than blowouts, and it’s important that we know how to be effective in those clutch situations like we were last season, especially Mo and LBJ.
Bullets of Randomness:
-LeBron works the first defender for his mid-range Js, which isn’t that bad-very few guys are able to get past the 1st defender and still have the COD and smoothness to pull up for a short J before the 2nd guy comes-Chris Paul comes to mind. Anyways, the point is that Brandon Roy is one of my favorite guys to watch working the 1st defender for a jumper. He can get to a good distance with that shuffle-step, get to his spot and pull it up so smoothly. It wasn’t falling for him tonight, but that’s such a nice weapon.
-Add to the pile of talented big men who need to fall out of love with their 20-footers: LaMarcus Aldridge. I sighed every time he fired up one of those Js in crunch-time tonight.
-Other notables int he Blazers’ harem of young players: Rudy Fernandez doesn’t have any sort of game plan out there, Bayless is going to be a Lowry-like solid guy at the point, Oden doesn’t have the pop to get to the highest level yet. (I’ll watch him closely next year when he’s had 2 years since microfracture.)
Play of the Game:
This one goes to a sequence: with the score 83-82 Cleveland with 5 to play, LeBron drove straight into a stationary Joel Pryzbilla and had the ball knocked, quite possibly off him, out of bounds. Not only did the refs not call a charge, they gave it back to the Cavs, and LeBron promptly pulled up for an early-in-the clock three, which he drained. One play later, he absolutely whipped a full-court outlet to Sasha for a dunk which put the Cavs in the drivers’ seat for the rest of the way.
Questionable decision-making, some lucky breaks, a tough shot at the right time, and a dash of amazing plays. That was the Cavs’ blueprint tonight. It worked. Count the W.
Song of The Night:
“The Hardest Button to Button” by the White Stripes. Sometimes, all you need is two people. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m the first on the network to get something made by Michael Gondry on his site. Hooray! That cheer was for me.