Recap: The Cleveland Cavaliers got the first double-digit win of the season against the Miami Heat. The Cavs shot 9 of 17 from beyond the arc, and J.J. Hickson led the Cavaliers with 21 points and 12 rebounds. LeBron James led all scorers with 27 points, and recorded his fourth triple-double of the season in defeat.
That could have gone much worse bullets:
Right from the beginning, the Cavs came out with a lot more energy. Baron Davis showed that he belongs in the starting lineup, at least in games that the Cavs really want to win. The Heat thought that they could walk right over the Cavaliers; if the Cavs had played like they did at the beginning of Sunday’s game, they would have been right.
But this was a different Cavs team. Baron started the game by drilling a three, and the Cavs never trailed after that. Early on, the Cavs were scoring, getting stops, and getting the crowd involved, and that energy was the deciding factor in the game.
The Cavs did two things exceptionally well — they controlled the paint defensively and they made threes on offense. Ryan Hollins was physical all game, and he absolutely gave Chris Bosh fits under the basket with his length, athleticism, and hustle. Bosh shot 5-14, Anthony didn’t make a field goal, and Dampier didn’t attempt one. The Cavs out-worked the Heat inside, and that was the key to keeping them from establishing their offense.
When the Cavs had the ball, the best thing they did was make threes. Baron had the one to start the game and that crazy buzzer-beater at the end of the 1st half. Eyenga hit a MONSTER three just before the end of the third quarter, although that was negated by LeBron’s 75-footer. Parker was an absolute assassin with timely three-pointers. Every March, we learn that outside shooting is the great equalizer, and that’s just as true in the NBA as it is in college ball.
Apart from the threes, the biggest thing the Cavs had going for them was the level of activity inside. Hickson and Hollins never stopped working, and they combined for 22 free throw attempts because of that. The Heat’s zone forced the Cavs to give up the massive lead they built in the third quarter, but eventually the Heat had enough timely shooting and good energy to take advantage of the Heat falling apart on offense.
Huge plays, great hustle, and you can’t say enough about the crowd effect. We’ve seen this team fold down the stretch time after time down the stretch, and despite the “The Heat choke” meme, they’ve been destroying people down the stretch since the advent of the Wade/LeBron pick-and-roll, and we’ve seen LeBron take over fourth quarters while wearing a Cavs jersey too many times to count. But the crowd was not about to let the Cavs lose tonight. The Heat couldn’t focus, and the Cavs refused to believe that they were going to miss. Unbelievable. Great performance.
Every court is just as wide as the next. The three-point line is in the same place. The lane is just as wide. The charge circles are painted the same. And yet there’s something about a special crowd that can change the outcome of a game. That’s what happened on Tuesday. A great win, and one the fans deserved.