Overview: In an ugly, frustrating game, the Cavs failed to establish any sort of offensive rhythm, and lost on the road to the Mavericks, who were playing without Dirk Nowitzki.
-Bleeech. When a team gets into the habit of playing sloppy and counting on their superstar or some well-timed bombs to bail them out, a game like this is going to happen eventually. And eventually turned out to be Sunday night for the Cavs.
-The Cavs needed LeBron James to have a big-time game if they were going to win tonight. Unfortunately for them, LeBron wasn’t up to his usual standard, going only 9-23 from the field and 4-14 on shots outside of the paint. LeBron’s even been a little sloppy over this stretch, forcing drives from weird angles, not playing off the ball enough, struggling to set up his teammates as cleanly as he usually does, and settling for a few too many off-balance jumpers.
He’s gotten away with it and turned in some great performances by hitting tough jumpers or getting to the free-throw line, but neither happened on Sunday night, and without LeBron making 20-foot leaners into lemonade, LeBron falling into his bad habit of pounding the ball and the lack of offensive flow caught up with the team.
-Outside of LeBron, the news gets even worse. Mo Williams and Jason Terry are very similar players; they’re shoot-first guys, and they improve an offense tremendously when they’re on but don’t bring much of anything to the table when they’re off. On Sunday night, Terry had 19 points on 12 shots and Mo had 8 points on 9 shots, even missing two free throws. With Mo unable to take pressure off LeBron, the Mavs were able to pack the lane, and that killed the Cavs’ momentum.
-Shaq went 1-7 from the floor, and turned the ball over twice. Games when LeBron struggles like this were supposed to be when Shaq would shine the brightest, but thus far he’s looked like a guy who needs other players to get the pressure off of him to play well.
-The bright spots of the game for the Cavs were the shooting guards. Anthony Parker looked smooth from everywhere on the floor, did a great job of finding his spots for catch-and-shoot threes and raining them in, and didn’t try to do too much with the ball. And as is often the case in ugly losses, Delonte West looked like the best player on the floor for extended periods of time, never allowing his energy level to wane one iota, driving hard to the basket, scoring when the offense stagnated, and always trying to make a play. He had 18 points on Sunday night, with 10 of those 18 coming in the fourth and six coming in what could be called garbage time.
Normally, that would be an indictment, but on a night where the Cavs’ effort was so inconsistent, Delonte’s relentlessness deserves some praise. (When he tried to put in that alley-oop layup off a full-court pass from Mo with .4 seconds to go, I found myself wondering if Delonte doesn’t look at the scoreboard at all when he plays, like how some pitchers ask for the radar gun to be turned off when they’re in the game.)
-The only Cavalier with a positive +/- on Sunday was Anderson Varejao, who finished with a +1 in 34 minutes, which means the Cavs gave up 8 points in the 14 minutes Andy sat.
Bullets of Randomness:
-Tim Thomas getting a team-high 22 points really, really, really should not happen. Definitely a micro example of how the Cavs didn’t take their opponent as seriously as they should have on Sunday night.
-Drew Gooden stuffing LeBron James on a drive: where did that come from? That is not the Drew Gooden I know. Gooden ignoring a wide-open Josh Howard in the corner, dribbling towards the basket, getting stopped, and then seeing Howard, by which time the help had come, that I recognize.
-A list you may feel free to add onto: Shooters who are not pure shooters by any stretch of the imagination, but will drain threes all day on a catch-and-shoot if their feet are set. The first names that pop into my head are Jason Kidd and Troy Murphy. What about you guys?
-Marion definitely bothered LeBron with his defense tonight. He’s still got it as a man defender, even if he’s not as explosive of a help-side defender as he was with Phoenix.
-And speaking of Phoenix, there’s no time to mope, because it’s the Suns on the road tomorrow. See you then.