Recap: Cavs 85, Bucks 82 (Or, The Time The Cavs Collapsed Across The Finish Line)

December 19th, 2009 by John Krolik

Overview: A 24-12 third quarter and a +13 mark in made free throws was enough for the Cavaliers to scrape past the Bucks, despite scoring zero points over the final 4:35 of play.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-With the Cavs and Bucks coming into this game as two of the five best three-point shooting teams in the league, it was reasonably inferable that the team that got hot from outside first would end up winning the game. And in the third, the Cavs got hot from outside while the Bucks couldn’t buy a deep jumper. The Cavs got 16 points on 10 jumpers outside of 20 feet in the third quarter, while the Bucks only managed two points on nine shots from that distance.

-The other big difference in the game was free throws and fouls in general. The Cavs were the aggressors all game and took the ball right at Milwakee’s interior defenders, while the Bucks seemed much more content to play the drive-and-kick game. The Cavs attempted 12 less threes than the Bucks on Friday night, and ended up with six fewer points on three-point baskets than the Bucks.

However, the Cavs got 13 more points from the free-throw line than the Bucks on 17 more free-throw attempts. If you count two free throws as one shot “attempt,” than the Cavs got 13 points on eight “extra” attempts from the free-throw line as compared to six points on 12 extra attempts from the three-point line for the Bucks. The Cavs had a size and strength advantage on the Bucks, and they utilized that advantage by going to the hole and drawing contact.

The other effect that the Cavs’ aggressiveness had was to limit Andrew Bogut to 17 minutes with foul trouble, with Shaq drawing two of the fouls, Ilgauskas and Hickson drawing one each, and LeBron drawing one as well. When the Bucks don’t have Bogut, they have an extremely hard time generating points in the paint, and they were only able to get 24 points in the paint on Friday.

Also, Brandon Jennings was just off, missing jumpers from just about every spot on the floor and ultimately enjoying a 5-21 shooting night.

LeBron had a workmanlike 26/10/8 on Friday, getting to the line time after time and making 12 of his 14 free throw attempts. Thanks to the Cavs falling behind right out of the gate, LeBron wasn’t able to establish a game flow early like he generally prefers to do, and spent much of the game in “screw it, I’m getting us some points now” mode. This was perhaps best exemplified when LBJ got Cavs’ first basket of the game; Mbah a Moute tried to pick LeBron up in the Cavs’ backcourt, but LeBron exploded into high gear and drove about 60 feet for a layup without even crossing over.

He was also good about taking the ball to the post, making quick, punishing dribbles on Charlie Bell, passing out of the double-teams, and showing a very pretty fake pivot to turnaround J out of the midpost on the Cavs’ final basket of the game.

As for the turnovers, there were six of them, and a few were LeBron trying to do to much, like trying a miracle behind-the-back feed to Andy from the midpost, some were needless risks, like trying to hit Anthony Parker with a cross-court skip-pass behind a pick on an inbounds play, and some were just sloppy, like tossing Mo Williams the ball in the backcourt without sensing that Jennings was lurking. And even though LeBron’s gone away from that hesitation pull-up that was working so well and continues to look like he’s sitting down a bit on his jumpers, he still had a nice night shooting the ball, with 12 points on 12 shots outside the paint.

Mo Williams didn’t have his best all-around game, but was a huge part of the aforementioned third quarter takeover, making four of his five field goals in the third and scoring 11 points on six shots, including back-to-back threes from his absolute favorite spot on the floor, the left elbow three.

Another solid scoring game off the bench in Delonte, working his bulldog game around the basket to full effect. When he gets close enough to use the glass with his left hand, he gets the job done. If Jennings could finish around the bucket like Delonte, we’d be talking about an all-timer.

With how high Jamario jumps and how skinny he is, you do hold your breath a little bit every time he gets fouled going to the rack.

On the night where the Z/Shaq +/- situation went national, big Z led the team with a +11 in 16 minutes, while Shaq had a -7 in 18 minutes.

Hubie noted it during the broadcast, but it warrants a repeat: Andy’s steal in the backcourt with the Cavs up five and a minute and a half to go was a huge, huge play, and a microcosm of why Varejao is so valuable to this Cavalier team.

Bullets of Randomness:

Ilyasova can definitely knock down open jumpers, but a starting power forward should probably have at least one free throw attempt. Having extra weapons is awesome, but big men do have some basic responsibilities.

All five of the Bucks’ starters tonight were born on a different continent, if I’m not mistaken: Bogut in Australia, Ilyasova is Turkish, Mbah a Moute was born in Cameroon, Delfino in Argentina, and Jennings in Compton. And even the American in the lineup was drafted out of Italy. Cool.

Mbah a Moute’s one basket came because of a four-on-five situation created by Mo Williams needing to tie his shoe.

Is it me, or did Charlie Bell look like a very solid NBA two-guard on Friday?

Remember how badly Cavs fans wanted Michael Redd for so long, and how he became “the one who got away” in the Hughes quagmire? I feel a little better about all that now, although I maintain there was no way the Cavs could’ve gotten him back when he was a free agent. Alright, see you guys tomorrow.