Recap: Cavs 102, Thunder 89 (Or, The Time The Cavs Found A Win Far Beyond The Arc)

December 14th, 2009 by John Krolik

Overview: After losing the first half, the Cavs were able to rally and beat the Thunder behind a season-high 44 points from LeBron James and a half-court shot by Mo Williams in crunch time.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

Well, I guess the Cavs figure that they might as well get their money’s worth out of LeBron James. LeBron had a season-high 44 on 69% True Shooting, with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals, with a chase-down block thrown in for good measure.

But the numbers themselves aren’t the most impressive part; it’s when LeBron timed his points that made this a truly fantastic performance from LeBron. Near the end of the second quarter, the Thunder were starting to find their offensive groove while the Cavs were losing theirs, with their only points from 8:26 to 5:33 coming on an Anderson Varejao tip-in.

That’s when LeBron put the team on his back and scored the last 12 Cavalier points of the quarter, converting an and-1 (one of his four on the night), getting inside and nailing a 6-footer, picking Russell Westbrook and laying it up in transition, and hitting a three, and none of that was even the best part. The best part of LeBron’s run to end the half came when he grabbed the rebound, started the break, stutter-stepped at the three-point arc like he was about to launch a heat-check three, then turned on the jets and blew by his man for the dunk. Why I haven’t seen this a lot more from LeBron over the past few years, I’m not sure, but it sure did work that time. Beautiful to watch.

And at the end of the third quarter, with the Cavs down 6, LeBron went ahead and rolled off 10 points in 81 seconds, which helped. He hit a technical free throw, banged in a three off the dribble with the shot clock winding down, set up his next three by using an off-ball pick to get himself a catch-and-shoot three going to his left, and then said “you know what? I’m really good at this game,” and pulled up for a straight-on 26-footer. Say what you will about the heat checks (and I have, up to and including a paragraph ago), but when they work, it’s something to behold.

Update: From the “I forgot about this until 3:50 in the morning” file, I really liked what I saw from LeBron demeanor-wise on Sunday night. He gave Harden that show of respect after Harden made a crafty move bouncing the ball off of LeBron, he held the ball for the 24-second violation on the Cavs’ final possession instead of trying to pad his stats, and he seemed calm with the refs. As for the French-fry thing, tell me that doesn’t become a “we sure do love this quirky fellow” moment/meme if Arenas, Artest, Jax, or a number of other folks do it after converting a nice and-1. (Although between the weird carry thing LeBron did at halfcourt and the way he just sort of flung it up there after he got fouled, that looked less like a basketball play than any good basketball play I can remember.) With LeBron, it gets shrugged off at best and becomes “LeBron steals snacks from children!” for a good amount of the populous.

The fourth quarter was definitely a very good quarter for the Cavs that I never want to see repeated again. A Mo layup off a LeBron feed, two LBJ free throws, and a tip-in by Andy were the only points at the rim for the entire quarter.

Jamario and Mo hit extremely timely threes off of kick-outs, Mo hit a three of a Delonte feed the next time down, and then the offense stalled trying to awkwardly feed Shaq in the post, with the Thunder hanging around. That’s when Mo hit a 48-footer with a defender closing out on him, which ended up working nicely. Two dagger jumpers by LeBron, and it was time to call it a night.

Were the Cavs running great sets, getting easy opportunities, or setting a blueprint for how they should go about winning big games? No. But sometimes having guys who can make extremely difficult shots is the difference between winning and losing, and that’s what happened Sunday night.

While it was nice to see Mo provide a 20-point punch and support LeBron, the bigs were a definite area of concern. Hickson’s final line wasn’t terrible, but his energy level isn’t where it was, he’s not looking as hard for finishes on the weak-side, and he was the only Cavalier with a negative +/- tonight.

Shaq continues to struggle. Even with the Cavs feeding him with deep position, he’s just not making the little hooks he’s made for the last decade and change, and he’s gotten sloppy with his elbows on the block as well.

And of course, the alternative isn’t much better, with Z going 0-3 from the floor and getting no points.

Andy, despite only recording four points, was the Cavs’ best big by default tonight, contributing 5 offensive boards and finishing with a game-high +19 mark.

Good stuff out of Moon tonight. He provided energy, snatched some boards, and was even knocking down that funky jumper of his, and he provided a much-needed spark off the bench with Boobie out.

Overall, great performances from LeBron and Mo tonight to bail out the team, and over an 82-game season there’s no shame in needing that from time to time.

Bullets of Randomness:

Durant is just so pretty. That little move where Z was keeping him from turning the corner, so he cut back to the middle of the lane and drained the little pull-up? That’s a work of art right there. Durant’s going to get his points, especially when his jumper’s falling, but the Cavs did a great job making sure he didn’t get his teammates involved. Durant recorded 2 assists and 7 turnovers, and actually finished with a game-low -17 despite working his perimeter game very nicely.

Jeff Green appears to have turned that corner. He used to be a guy whose versatility allowed him to get away with not being all that efficient, but now he’s being aggressive and looking to make decisive moves and high-percentage shots wherever he gets the ball, which is the point of the whole endeavor.

What this team needs is a playmaker who can be consistent. Westbrook has all the talent in the world and will be a very solid player in this league for a long time, but he can’t be counted on to be the primary playmaker night in and night out, and Harden isn’t ready to fill that gap yet. If he can come into his own and balance out what Westbrook brings in the backcourt, the Thunder are going to flat-out start humming offensively.

Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until later, folks.