Recap: Cavs get hyphy, play dumb, escape with nail-biter

January 24th, 2009 by John Krolik

Overview: Against a Warrior team spurred by the return of Monta Ellis and able to break the 100-point mark against the Cavaliers’ vaunted defense, the Cavs were able to steal a win thanks  to a buzzer-beating jumper by LeBron James, the first buzzer-beating game-winning jumper of his career.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Wow. Wow. Wow. That’s as high as my heart rate’s gotten all season. The cardiac Cavs are back in full effect. 

Let’s get the bad out of the way first: the score says it was a 106-105 game, but the Cavs’ offense was far more problematic than their defense. That the Cavs looked symied at any point against the worst defensive team in the league means there are some issues. 

In the first half, Mo decided to follow up his best game of the year with one of his worst and absolutely couldn’t buy a jumper. That, along with Andy reverting to one of his periods where he thinks he’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known here as FeganBall), was enough to completely choke our offensive flow and make us entirely LeBron-dependant. 

Let’s talk about LeBron. The first half was a nearly perfect half of basketball-18 points on 9 shots, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists (and two assists got taken away by desperation fouls on guys LeBron had set up with easy dunks-he could VERY conceivably have had a triple-double in the first half.) He was just doing whatever he wanted and getting to the hole and making plays entirely at will. There was no concievable answer to him. I thought we were going to see a 40/15/15 or something ridiculous like that. 

But, as has happened a few times since Z has left the lineup, the Warriors were eventually able to adjust and keep LeBron from getting into the lane at will, and LeBron reverted into playing hard instead of smart, flying around the court and looking for lanes at the expense of setting up angles (only one dime in the second half) and trying to get his jumper going, only tonight it wasn’t quite on, and the Warriors were actually able to bottle up LeBron, which was a little disturbing and definitely frustrating to watch. 

What saved the Cavs tonight was a 50% performance from beyond the arc and a series of absolutely massive plays down the stretch, including:

A 20-footer from Ben Wallace with no time on the shot clock to cut the lead to one. 

An absolutely massive three from Boobie, who seems to be back to his cold-blooded self.

A three from Mo, his only one of the night, after a drive-and-kick hockey assist by LeBron and a great play by Boobie to bait the defender into committing his way and then setting Mo up for a wide-open look. 

A great hustle steal and tough layup by LeBron after missing a shot at the basket.

A great “screw it, I’m LeBron James” drive to the bucket for contact and huge pair of free throws from LeBron, whose line struggles are peeking out again. 

And then, the last shot. Let’s break it down. This was, more or less, LeBron doing everything he’s supposed to have trouble with. 

-LeBron got it on the side instead of on the top thanks to a very savvy play by Stephen Jackson, who read the play and switched to the top man in order to cheat on the screen and deny LeBron the ball, which nearly led to a turnover the first time. LeBron, with a “fool me once…” bit of savvy, quickly went under Ronny Turiaf and flashed out to the wing to get the ball.

-With the ball on the wing and the defense able to zone up, LeBron saw that a drive would end with him being met by two defenders and wouldn’t create an angle for a shooter. So he made up his mind to shoot the jumper.

-From there, he put the ball on the floor once with a hard move to give himself space, then with an absolutely beautiful move he used a step-back between-the legs gather to get his balance. If he hadn’t put it on the floor, the move would’ve put him too far away, and if he’d tried to go straight up, Turiaf would have been able to tweak his shot.

-He was on balance, faded slightly to get it over the league’s best shot blocker, kept his legs under him and his shoulders squared, and made it clean. Absolutely perfect.  

-Wally continues to knock down three-point shots, get absolutely destroyed defensively. If I knew technology, I would cut together an audio montage of all the opposing broadcasters imploring whoever has Wally defending him to attack. It’s hilarious.

-KINSEY REPORT!!!!!!! Without this guy, we lose the game. He doesn’t appear to be a three-point shooter, but he’s our only other wing who’s comfortable in the open floor and he knows how to get the ball going towards the basket on offense. Turns out his not being in the rotation was one of Mike Brown’s random exilings.

-JJ was one embarassing rim-stuff on a dunk away from putting together another stellar game. 

-We gave up 7 points in the 2 minutes Darnell Jackson was on the floor. The “younger Joe Smith” stuff may have been premature. 

-Sasha continues to hit shots, but the rest of the game isn’t as strong. If we could combine him with Kinsey, we’d have a perfect backup wing. 

-Um, could we not let Ben Wallace do the thing where he tries to make a bucket in whatever way possible in the opening possessions of the game? It’s nice to get him involved or whatever, but as we saw tonight, every possession counts. 

Bullets of Randomness:

-SwaggerJack kept his reputation intact with two absolutely nails jumpers in LeBron’s face to give the Warriors late leads. He does, in fact, continue to make love to pressure. Tonight, pressure got around.

-Monta really is the difference between them being “amusing” and “dangerous.” He just absolutely flies to the hole and gets his shots close to the basket, and that’s what going to happen. When his jumper gets back into form, watch out. I love his game.

-I’m still amazed by Anthony Morrow. He might be the best pure shooter I’ve ever seen in my life. I caught him on a good night, but it seems like an open three is even more automatic for him than Ray Allen. Everything about his outside shot is beautiful. The form is absolutely perfect, the release is quick without being rushed, he steps into it and uses his momentum perfectly, it’s got finish without moving parts, it’s absolutely amazing. I could watch it all day. 

And again, EVERY TEAM IN THE LEAGUE PASSED ON HIM TWICE. 

I’m just going to daydream about him on the Cavs for LeBron to kick out to or, even crazier, if LeBron had Morrow’s shot. Holy schnikes. 

-I also like Maggette’s game-there’s no pretense to him. He’s just strong and everything is going to the basket, and he gets there. 

-Honestly, I have no complaints about the Cavs’ defense. This team is going to get its points on you. 

Play of the Game:

Um, duh. 

Song of The Game:

“Sound of Kuduro” by Baraka Som Sistema with M.I.A. This one’s more of a feeling.

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