Overview: Despite giving up a season-high 108 points, the Cavs beat the depleted Warriors behind huge performances from LeBron James and JJ Hickson, who combined for 52 points.
JJ Hickson. The honeymoon continues. This is absolutely amazing. This was the perfect game to shine for him, and he did. Hickson’s greatest weakness at this point is an inability to finish at the basket (a full 20% of his “inside” shots have been blocked); fortunately for him, the Warriors have absolutely no interior defense, and JJ took advantage. 9-9 shooting from the field, and 21 points for his third consecutive game setting a career-high in points. (Elias, help me out; what’s the longest streak of career-high scoring games?)
Breaking down how JJ got his buckets tonight:
1 dunk off an Anthony Parker feed
1 layup off a Mo Williams feed
1 9-footer off a LeBron James assist and an unassisted 20-foot jumper
2 baskets cleaning up on offensive rebounds
1 dunk off a beautiful counter-motion play with a Mo Williams handoff
1 fast-break alley-oop from James
1 inside shot off a LeBron assist
Everyone’s starting to look for JJ, and he’s rewarding them, even from mid-range. The power forward of the future has become the power forward of the present, and it’s been beautiful to watch. By the way, JJ’s 9 rebounds tonight tied his career-high. It just keeps getting better. However, JJ’s streak of having the best plus/minus rating of anyone has been snapped, as his +4 mark was bested by LeBron’s +8.
LeBron was, of course the other major reason the Cavs won tonight. It’s just too easy for LeBron when he’s facing a defense this bad. It really is. 31 points on 65% true shooting and 12 assists tonight, and one gets the feeling LeBron could have done a lot more if he’d decided to go for the jugular early on. LeBron racked up 12 assists in this game, 8 of them coming in the first half. In the third quarter, LeBron realized that nobody on the Warriors had a chance at stopping him, and rained in some jumpers from the left wing and crushing dunks through a Warrior defense that is currently protesting making rotations. In the fourth, LeBron put the game away with two deep jumpers, one of them from three, to cap off a night where he went a very nice 6-12 from outside the paint. This defense had no chance against LeBron; part of me wishes they were wearing orange and blue so LeBron would have felt compelled to roll off a 50+ point performance, but that’s not the kind of player LeBron is.
And LeBron’s two blocks tonight were both incredible-I’m surprised the ball didn’t pop when he packed Monta Ellis’ layup off the backboard on a chase-down, but perhaps even more impressive was LeBron’s block of Anthony Randolph’s dunk attempt-that’s the first dunk Randolph’s missed this year, and part of me is surprised that the universe didn’t collapse upon itself when those two met at the rim.
Almost as good as seeing JJ continue to take off is seeing big Z looking like himself again. Finishing at the rim, draining a few midrange jumpers, scoring 14 points on 12 shots-he’s gotta get his swagger back in a major way, so it’s nice to see him making a positive step.
Delonte was back in the lineup tonight, and he was pressing both in a good way (making a lot of effort plays, coming up with a block, feeding his teammates, pushing the ball) and bad ways (forcing some mid-range shots). Honestly, this is a tough situation to write on. Clearly he’d be more comfortable being back in the starting lineup, playing with the teammates he knows, and getting consistent minutes, and the team would ultimately benefit if that happened, but his off-court issues make it so that MB can’t count on him playing starter minutes. Hopefully this can have a happy ending this season, although it’s looking increasingly unlikely.
Not Anthony Parker’s best game, but that was to be expected. The Warriors’ backcourt speed is tough for AP to keep up with defensively, and his lack of two-point prowess meant he had a hard time punishing the mismatch on the other end. Not a great game for AP, but he did get into the passing lanes and snag two steals-he’s a heady player, unless he’s got the ball in his hands inside the three-point line.
Mr. Gibson banging in three timely threes on four attempts, and even shooting 50% from inside the arc. Give it the shirt? Give it the shirt.
Checking the Mo-rometer: Mo had an average performance tonight, with 16 points on 14 shots and 6 assists. The Cavs had a somewhat lackluster victory. The theory continues to be freakishly accurate.
Honestly, Shaq really would have helped the Cavs put this team away-the Cavs leaked a lot of their lead when LeBron sat at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and Shaq in there punishing Randolph and Radman would’ve been a thing of beauty. Alas, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be back tomorrow against the Wizards, who Shaq had his best game as a Cavalier against.
Defensively, this was not a thrilling performance. Monta had to work to get his, but there was a lot of penetration and kick-outs to Anthony Morrow (toldja he doesn’t miss), and that was hurting the Cavs defensively. And offensive rebounds were a killer-the Warriors beat the Cavs 12-6 in that department, with Corey Maggette getting 5 offensive boards on his own. The Cavs got away with not taking this game terribly seriously and getting caught up in the Warriors’ style of play tonight. Having Varejao and more minutes for West definitely would’ve helped, but even so you know MB is not going to be pleased with the defensive effort tonight.
Darnell Jackson: definitely looking like a youngster out there despite his advanced age for a sophomore, with 4 fouls and 4 turnovers in only 14 minutes. Maybe MB should try starting him.
Bullets of Randomness:
Steph Curry is quite crafty for a rookie.
I can’t tell if Monta Ellis is in “this is MY team now” mode or “screw this, I’m gunning for mine” mode post-Jax trade. Either way, he sure does like to shoot.
Every team in the NBA passed on Anthony Morrow twice, recently.
Anthony Randolph should definitely be starting-he’s got some rookie tendencies, but should absolutely have the comfort to work them out right now-look what a vote of confidence did for JJ.
Lackluster win? Maybe. But this is one of those times where it seems appropriate to mention that the Cavaliers, despite two straight losses to start the season, a “we’re playing for the playoffs this year” mentality, a former starter floating in and out of the lineup with personal issues, and integrating Shaq, the Cavs are a play away from having the least losses in the league right now. Until tomorrow, campers.