Recap: Of Heat-Checks and Hip-Checks

January 24th, 2009 by John Krolik

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Overview:

In a chippy game that came down to the wire, the Cavs used a 33/14/9 night from LeBron James and 25 from Mo Williams to outlast a game Jazz team with a 24/15 from Paul Milsap and 17 points/16 assists from Deron Williams.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

LeBron came out of the gate swinging and made a beautiful backdoor cut for an absolutely VISCIOUS stuff on a slow-rotation Krylo Fesenko, who looks like a lost 15-year old made gigantic, and during the dunk Fesenko slapped him on the face, causing LeBron to fall to the floor in agony with no whistle. At that point, LeBron had 10 points and 3 assists, and the Cavs had a healthy lead. Whether it was anger at the Jazz for harassing him all over the court or at the referees for failing to get him to the line, LeBron went into full hero mode and started firing deep jumpers.

He hit a beautiful pull-up where he used his dribble to get to a spot just inside the key-great.

He then hit a three with a man in his face flying to his right. Okay, heat-check I guess.

Now, at this point, if you remember, LeBron should have established his jump shot enough so that he could drive to the basket. That’s the point of shooting jumpers when you convert 70% of your shots at the basket. But LeBron likes to just see what he’s capable of, and his next shot was a pull-up early in the shot clock from what must have been 37 feet away. I am serious. It was at the corner logo. And this wasn’t surprising to anyone familiar with LeBron’s heat-checks.

There needs to be an intervention here. Shooting progressively tougher jumpers until you miss enough to lose confidence in your shot does the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you want to accomplish with a perimeter game. It’s frustrating when a guy in the middle of nearly a perfect game lets a lack of discipline allow him to just start giving away possessions-and again, this game came down to a one-possession margin. He should’ve been benched for that shot. Okay, rant over.

So after effectively killing the momentum for what could have been a 50-point game with that little flurry, LeBron settled down and found lanes, working the pick-and-roll beautifully with Andy and finding his shooters and never giving up on making drives to the basket despite only getting 6 free throws all night.

Sloan sent a lot of hard, early traps at LeBron in the second half, and Mo was able to overcome another shaky start to make the Jazz pay from the outside, hitting 5-11 from three and coming up with a huge three-point play, a nice fast-break feed to Sasha, and an absolutely poetic alley-oop lob to LeBron in a half-court setting from outside of the three-point line. 

I would describe Sasha’s play tonight as “hilarious.” Only Pavs can follow up an ice-water three-pointer with a brilliant backdoor cut with no time on the shot clock to get to the line and then just miss the free throws and on the next intentional foul situation panic and THROW A PASS TO BEN WALLACE. Fortunately, he was fouled before the pass and hit the free throws. Only 4-6 more weeks of extreme Sasha!

He had no points tonight, but the people demand more Tarence Kinsey. He’s so active and doesn’t just sit for a shot on the weak side-he’s active and slashes, runs the floor and creates turnovers, and is the one guy currently in the rotation who can bring back the ball movement Delonte being out brings us. Out of the troika of Wally, Boobie, and Pavs, one guy is usually off, and Kinsey should get some minutes like that happens, like Boobie’s one point in 18 minutes tonight. 

Andy was back tonight like he was at the beginning of the year, not just catching those pick-and-roll passes but making the right moves to finish them around the basket and drilling those pick-and-pop Js he’s added. 

If I wanted to put together a JJ Hickson highlight tape, I’d use tonight. He slipped a ball-screen with LBJ and made a nice roll to force a foul to prevent a dunk, hit a 22-footer at the end of the quarter, and caught the ball under the basket and made the kind of patient play he hasn’t been able to make all year when he made an up-and-under step to get Milsap in the air before flushing himself. I honestly wrote that paragraph before I remembered his absolute scorched-earth tip slam over a clueless Fesenko. I heart JJ. 

Random Bullets:

Deron Williams had one of those games where he’s listed with 16 assists and I can only remember one or two. 

Milsap absolutely murdered us inside-LBJ and JJ were missing some rotations and he’s just a warrior inside. Add me to Milsap’s bottomless well of admirers. 

Dude, I don’t like Matt Harpring. There’s a line between being scrappy and being dirty; Andy and Harpring make a living toeing it. Tonight, I thought Andy was on the one side while Harpring was on the other. The Jazz broadcasters praising “physical play” like the evil coaches in a Disney movie didn’t make things any more fun. 

I’m happy with taking Hickson over Kosta. 

Play of the Night:

Mo’s alley to LeBron. Great play, savvy read, clutch situation. What more do you want.

Song of the Night:

You’re a Wolf” by Sea Wolf. It was a stressful stretch, but we made it. Soothe yourself.