Overview: In a high-scoring game, the Cavs outlasted the Heat and 36 points from Wade behind 34 points from LeBron James and 3 other starters in double figures.
Mo Williams plays well, Cavs win. I thought Chalmers’ length was going to give Mo problems tonight, but I am more than happy to be wrong. Mo wasn’t tearing apart the defense with passing tonight, but he was scoring from absolutely everywhere on the floor. When he got anything resembling daylight, the shot went up and in. Mo is just unconscious from his favorite spot, a three-pointer from the left elbow extended, and he hit all three of the shots he took from there tonight.
The best news tonight was the revelatory play of the Cavs’ two hyper-athletic but erratic forwards, JJ Hickson and Jamario Moon, both of whom had their best game in a Cavs uniform tonight.
JJ in the starting lineup just worked again tonight-for the second night in a row, JJ led all players in +/-, and he’s been fantastic in that starting lineup. JJ isn’t exactly a stretch four, but he’s got enough of a stroke and he’s so explosive going to the hoop on one or two dribbles that teams have to at least pay attention to him on the weak side, and that’s been all the starting lineup has needed to make the spacing work.
But JJ was much more than just a dummy out there tonight-he was converting alley-oops, he had a nice lefty finish off a hop-step, he made a tough leaner in traffic, he got to the line, everything. He still does that maddening thing where he brings the ball down and gathers himself before he goes up, and that led to some blown finishes tonight. Also, he still doesn’t look completely sure of himself rotating defensively, but tonight was a huge game for him and hopefully a turning point for JJ going forward-if he can be a solid rotation 4, a lot of things look a lot better for this team.
Delonte’s absence forced Jamario into the lineup tonight, and he responded with some very solid play in his 31 minutes. He rebounded, got a steal and a block, stayed active, and best of all played well of the ball offensively. 3 of his 4 makes were at the rim tonight, and two of those were dunks of LeBron feeds (An alley-oop and a reward for running the break, both of which I hope to see become staples of his scoring), and the other was a finish off a Mo Williams feed. He’s clearly a guy who plays better when he has better players around him; you let him create and he falls in love with that jumper, and that’s when trouble starts. Defensively, Moon’s length helped him, but the pump-fake thing is comical and horrifying to watch. Just give him the 18-footer off the dribble, Jamario.
Onto LeBron. Well, I wanted more attacking off the dribble from LeBron this game, and I sure did get it. LeBron wasn’t working off the ball as much in this game, and his jumper wasn’t falling, especially from midrange, but he was taking it to the hole at every opportunity, and he either got the finish or got contact and nailed the free throws. He also controlled his turnovers, making 7 assists and only turning it over twice. Not the prettiest performance you’ll ever see, but it was enough to control the flow of this one.
Another really solid performance from Shaq. The other O’Neal did a great job keeping Shaq out of deep position, but Shaq didn’t force much, looked to make passes, played the weak-side and finished off of others, and got to the line. And he more than held his own defensively; his final +/- was +9, behind only JJ. The frontcourt experiment is working thus far.
As for last year’s frontcourt starters, this wasn’t a great night for them. Z continued his miserable slump by missing all three of his field goals, and Andy, kept on the bench by fouls and Hickson’s career night, only managed 2 points and was a game-low -8. It pains me to see Andy on the bench after playing so well in the early going, but I suppose too many good forwards isn’t a problem to complain about.
Anthony Parker and Boobie: 2-7 from three, 0-7 from inside the arc. Were it not 5 in the morning, I would attempt to find a way to make this interesting at this point in the year.
Another night where the 3-ball was key. 9-19 from beyond the arc tonight, with more than half of those coming from Mo. Cleveland’s league-best accuracy won out over Miami’s league-best 3pt defense tonight.
Bullets of Randomness:
Watching Wade and LeBron in the paint all night, it was interesting to see the differences in their quickness. Wade is basketball fast-he changes speeds and directions, and carves through the lane like he’s skiing a double-black diamond. LeBron is a basketball player who’s football fast-he sets his man up with his dribble, then explodes in a straight line and looks to get the corner. Both are equally effective, but it’s interesting how different similar players can get their results.
Mario Chalmers and Courtney Lee would be one of the all-time “solid young guard” backcourts. They’re both just very good at their jobs.
Jermaine O’Neal is BACK, especially on the defensive end.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Great two days of Cavs basketball, let’s hope they can carry this momentum and the JJ experiment keeps working.