Overview: Despite not taking the final three quarters all that seriously, the Cavs were able to hold their early lead against the Nets throughout the entire game, winning 99-89.
Well, the first quarter was fantastic. Offensively, the Cavaliers got absolutely everything and anything that they desired. Shaq was absolutely dominating in the post, steamrolling Josh Boone every time the Nets tried to get away with single-covering him. LeBron was working off the ball beautifully, as he often does early in games, and cutting through the lane absolutely unimpeded as the defense focused on Shaq. To give you an idea of how easily the Cavaliers were moving the ball and destroying the Nets’ defense in that first quarter, the Cavs only took five shots outside of the paint in the first period, and made four of them. Meanwhile, the Nets took nine shots outside the paint in the first, only making one. The Cavs had yet another 30-point opening quarter, and other than Devin Harris getting to the line eight times in the first quarter, the Nets weren’t doing anything offensively either.
Just like when the Cavs played the Knicks at MSG a few weeks ago, the Cavs didn’t think the Nets belonged on the court with them after the first quarter, and it showed in their effort level. After the first quarter, the Cavs outscored the Nets by a grand total of two points, 69-67. So basically, a 2-22 team was able to hang with the Cavs for 36 minutes on Tuesday night. Take from that what you will; it’s not a condemning sign, but it’s not a good one, either.
After the first quarter, Brook Lopez started having an absolute hammer party inside, scoring 11 points in the second frame, and the Nets were able to mount some actual offense behind that. On the Cavs’ side of the ball, the Cavs completely lost their flow when the second unit came in with no Delonte West or Shaq to create shots, and they remained out of synch when LeBron came back in. LeBron had only one point and one assist in the second quarter, missed three jumpers, and committed two charges, signs that LeBron was trying to force himself back into the game rather than wait for the game to come to him like it had in the first quarter.
In the third quarter, the Nets hit the Cavs with a zone, and it completely flummoxed them for a little while. Near the end of the quarter, LeBron was able to get the ball in the soft spot of the zone and rolled off 9 straight Cavalier points, but overall the Cavs were only able to get 20 points in the third quarter. In the fourth, the Cavs were finally able to start running an offense again and put the pressure on the Nets’ D, scoring 27 in the quarter despite LeBron only scoring three points in the fourth. Even though the Cavs allowed Rafer Alson to have an ECF flashback and score 18 points in the fourth, the return of hustle and ball movement in the fourth was enough to secure a Cavalier win over the league’s worst team.
LeBron struggled with his shot again on Tuesday night, going 2-10 from outside the paint, but appears to be getting more comfortable getting deeper catches and making strong moves from the midpost area by the game. The worst news for LeBron is that the turnovers were back tonight. Six for LeBron in this one, coming on passes to nobody, two charges, and a nonchalant inbounds pass, off the top of my head.
Very workmanlike effort from Mo tonight. He had a spot-up three from the corner off of penetration and a timely off-the-dribble three in the fourth, had six assists, and, as Windhorst noted, managed to lead the team in rebounding with eight boards. One thing Mo’s done twice in the last week or so is make a beautiful lead pass from the top of the key to a cutter faking setting a screen and going backdoor, from what looks like a nearly impossible passing angle. Cool stuff.
One culprit for the energy issues in this game: Delonte was inactive for this game, and Andy was only able to play 19 minutes because of foul trouble. Outside of LeBron, those guys are easily the hardest workers on the court, and two of the players the coaching staff really counts on to not allow lethargic efforts like the one we saw tonight occur.
Odd game for Z, as he went 7-9 from the floor and got five of those seven baskets from inside the paint, which you rarely see anymore. We even got to see the (in)famous “sweeping hook” again when Z successfully attacked Josh Boone, who found out the hard way on Tuesday that he’s no Chuck Hayes.
The “Hickson the starter” thing is starting to veer towards performance art. Shaq and Andy are playing extended minutes together again, Hickson didn’t play all that badly at all but only got 12 minutes (D-Block got 13), and Hickson didn’t touch the court in the second half. What purpose is this serving now?
All the news about Moon tomorrow will be surrounding the hard foul he took from Devin Harris, but I’d just like to take a second and once again recognize how much Moon’s rebounding abilities help the team when he’s in the game, especially in the fourth quarter. It’s something that would make small-ball lineups work, if Mike Brown ever played LeBron at the four.
As for the foul itself, I think it was dangerous but not done with malicious intent, just like everyone else. I’d just like to comment on Shaq and LeBron immediately rushing to Moon’s defense. Can you imagine being Devin Harris in that situation? That’s about 600 pounds of angry human being in your face right there.
Bullets of Randomness:
I’m not sure what’s stranger: that Courtney Lee led the Nets in minutes despite going 3-14 from the floor, or that the Nets gave up 10 points in the six minutes Lee actually sat.
How weird is it to see the Alston/Lee backcourt on this team?
Gee whiz, Rafer Alston is a Cav-killer.
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Until next time, campers.