Overview: The Cavs avenged one of their home losses this season by turning in a solid effort against the Bulls, with the game turning on a 29-15 domination of the third quarter for the Cavaliers.
-Apologies for the lateness, everyone. Onto the game:
-This game illustrated a few of the points I made in my last post. The Cavs are excellent at shutting down the paint and the three-point line, and the Bulls don’t do very well scoring from either area. The end result was that the Bulls only scored 35 combined points from the paint and from three, compared to 54 points from the Cavaliers in those areas.
-The Bulls were able to have success offensively in the first half because they’re comfortable shooting mid-range jumpers, and the Cavaliers are comfortable giving those looks up. In the first quarter, the Bulls went 9-14 from midrange, and that allowed them to stay in the game despite the Cavs coming out of the gate with another 30-point explosion.
-Taj Gibson was particularly effective as a Z-like catch-and-shoot big playing the role of “release valve” when the Cavs D overloaded, going 4-5 from outside the paint in the first quarter. From watching Taj play at USC for a number of years, I can tell you that the Cavs were playing the percentages with Taj by giving those shots up, but he was making them. When I talked to Taj at Staples earlier this year, he told me his face-up game is the area he’s been working on the hardest since he got to the NBA, so it was interesting to see that that work has been paying off.
-The Bulls were able to win the second quarter because the second unit completely melted down. That unit has to play smart and controlled to make up for the dearth of talent on it; on Friday, they played with all the composure of Snookie from Jersey Shore. Bad shots, missed free throws, way too many turnovers, and it continued even after LeBron got back into the game. Fortunately the Bulls’ offense wasn’t doing much of anything either, which is why that putrid quarter didn’t kill the Cavs.
-In the third, the Cavs got their offensive composure back, while the Bulls’ mid-range shots stopped falling for them. The Bulls went 3-13 from midrange in the third quarter, and it resulted in a 29-15 quarter that won the game for the Cavaliers.
-Good and bad from Shaq in this game. On the bad side, Shaq has been assertive about getting the ball in the post and getting his shots this year, but his post play hasn’t been all that stellar. He’s floating to the middle of the paint from the left block and settling for a little hook across the lane rather than really powering straight towards the rim and getting close enough so that he can go over either shoulder when he makes his move. This was extremely apparent against Joakim Noah tonight. Noah has a lot of length but doesn’t have all that much strength, but Shaq was willing to settle for his mid-paint hook a few times against him, with limited success. However, when he finally took a power dribble and used his counter-move over his right shoulder, he completely negated Noah and got an easy dunk. I’d like to see more of that from Shaq when he goes to the post.
-On the good side, one of my other complaints with Shaq in the post is that he’s tried to shoot over or power through double-teams instead of passing out of them and seeing if there’s a better shot to be found. Tonight, he was much more of a willing passer from the post, and the offense was able to flow with Shaq in there better than it had before.
-LeBron left some points on the floor by having a poor night finishing at the rim (only 5-10 at the rim, well off of his normal 75% mark), and at the line (4-8), but had a decent night shooting the ball (7 points on 7 outside shots), was passing the ball beautifully, and even doing some work from the low post. And to give you a preview of my next “to-do” list post, his 7-footer coming across the lane is something I’d like to see more of from LeBron.
-On the Noah thing: hey, it’s what he does. It’s not against the rules or anything like that, so it’s his choice how he wants to carry himself on the court, and there is some upside in terms of team chemistry. It’s not exactly how I’d like to see him carry himself, and backlash like what we saw from Noah tonight will happen, but it’s his choice.
-Boobie Gibson with an uncharacteristically good night, making six two-point shots (which Windhorst on a few deep jumpers and even some finishes at the rim, which raised his percentage at the rim to 33% on the season. Even still, 15 points in 9 shots off the bench is a good thing. He gets a shirt.
-The worst Cavs news of the night comes from that Windhorst article: Delonte took a step back in terms of his mood tonight, and only played five minutes because of it. I recommend checking out that link, as it sheds a lot of light on why Mike Brown’s been forced to be so erratic with Delonte’s minutes this season.
-Nice to see Mo contributing with seven assists on a night where his shot wasn’t falling all that often, especially from mid-range.
-Alright, that’s all for tonight. Get ready for Brandon Jennings and the Bucks on Sunday.