Overview: In a commanding performance from start to finish, the Cavaliers cruised to their first win of the year over the Timberwolves, with 5 Cavs finishing in double-digits and LeBron James and Mo Williams getting 24 and 20 points.
I mean, whoa. This team just looked completely different in every possible way. The ball movement and spacing tonight was absolutely unbelievable-Shaq drew a double-team and found LeBron cutting down the middle for a crushing slam, Mo was getting into the paint and finding people, LeBron was dropping look-away lasers, and on a few possessions the Cavs flat-out looked like the globetrotters. This is the team I signed up for-I get that I’m going to end up in cardiac arrest sometime in June (hopefully), but I expected a nice, leisurely cruise through the regular season. And that’s what happened tonight. The ball was moving, the passes were audacious, the threes were raining, no-looks led to dunks, and the team just looked like it was having fun.
LeBron definitely set the tone early by raining down buckets in the first quarter, but almost all of them were within the offense. He let the jumper fly when the defense went under the screen, he got the aforementioned dunk on a nice cut to the hoop when Shaq was posting up, he got out on the fast-break, and took the seam when it presented itself. His jumper was on, his passes were crisp and audacious, and he got it to the hoop when he needed to. His final line of 24/9/6 doesn’t seem all that gaudy by LeBron standards, but everything was in the offense and pretty. He wasn’t ISOing up in the middle of the floor and trying to force a drive or contact, which his three free throws show. He was setting the pace and controlling the game without ever having to go into overdrive, and it was wonderful to see.
Shaq looked good tonight. We got to see some of that vaunted passing from the low-post, he was able to get baskets off of others, and just looked far more comfortable in the team game than he had before, even playing very good D on a still-hobbled Al Jefferson. The caveat is that Minnesota runs screen-roll less than just about any other team in the league and tries to start its offense with post-ups, which of course plays right into Shaq’s defensive game. And the fact he only played 17 minutes sure didn’t seem to hurt-at this point, I’m a proponent of Shaq in small doses.
A lot more of the original Z/Andy frontcourt tonight, and it worked wonders.
Also: Mo Williams! We knew you’d show up! Raining threes when someone else made the play, driving and finding teammates when he had to do it himself. That he managed to have an extremely solid night without his midrange game working is a hugely promising sign-he just looked like he had so much more space and confidence out there tonight.
The fact people continue to bite on Andy’s pump-fakes is going to be the most hilarious running storyline of this season. It’s not that people fear his jumper, it’s just that they’re absolutely positive they’re going to get a block. Nobody has a clue Andy knows how to pump-fake. We’ll see how long it stays that way. Andy rounding back into form tonight as well.
Continuing the trend, Z looked very comfortable and was raining in some jumpers, although he’s still a step or two further out than he should be on those-needing 14 shots to get 15 points isn’t much to write home about as a big man.
BOOBIE. Two games in a row going 4-8 from beyond the arc, and he didn’t turn the ball over or attempt a two-pointer. This is sufficient grounds for the first awarding of the shirt this season.
Huzzah on this grand occasion.
Under the bad news file, the unit that starts the 2nd quarter still does not have Shaq in it and promptly blew the lead. Shaq got in there fairly quick, but this kills momentum every single night. In the fourth, Shaq came out while LeBron sat, and the bench unit actually extended the lead. Funny how that works.
Anthony Parker: little things good, bad mid-range jumpers not. Still, he wasn’t stopping the ball or hurting the team made some nice defensive plays, and did finish with a +23.
Bullets of Randomness:
I’m on the Jonny Flynn bandwagon. He took some bad jumpers and forced some plays, but he’s got the tools and he’s fearless. Very excited about the young crop of point guards this season; between Flynn, Evans, and Jennings, you’ve got some leaders in the making, and that’s even before you get to Curry and Lawson. Tyreke might actually need to tone it down a peg-he took a horrible three and forced a hopeless drive on two crucial end-of-game possessions tonight. You love the moxie, but dude might want to chill the beat a little bit. And Jennings’ near triple-double just made the NCAA gulp. He wasn’t even good in Italy.
Heck, I liked what I saw from Wayne Ellington, and he went 1-8. He just looked like he belonged. Sorry if that sounds to sportswriter-y. From now on, we’ll call me liking a player for shaky objective reasons “giving Kinsey points.” Ellington got some Kinsey points tonight.
Was it just me, or was Pavs looking for some revenge tonight? He looked amped up. And yes, he outscored Shaq.
Good to see Corey Brewer start to figure it out-I really liked his game in college.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. I gotta get to Halloween weekend-my costume is Balloon Boy. I am excited about this. Hopefully the good times continue to roll tomorrow.