Overview: After a 16-4 Houston run to start the game, the Cavaliers outscored the Rockets 104-67 over the next 44 minutes, cruising to a 108-83 behind a 32-15 third quarter and 49 combined points from Mo Williams and LeBron James. James was able to watch the entire fourth quarter from the bench.
-Against a Houston team that relies on toughness, energy and superior execution to beat teams with more size and talent than them on a regular basis, including the first time they played the Cavs this season, the Cavs played with more energy, played tougher and executed better than the Rockets in almost every area on Sunday night.
When the Cavs lost to the Rockets in Houston, the Rockets outscored the Cavs 18-2 in fast break points, 22-15 in points off of turnovers, and only scored eight less points in the paint than the Cavs.
On Sunday, the Cavs beat the Rockets 19-12 in fast break points, 25-10 in points off of turnovers, and absolutely dominated them in the paint, outscoring the Rockets 52-16 in the paint and holding the Rockets 29 points under their season average of 45 points in the paint. The Cavs also dominated the boards, beating the Rockets 15-5 in offensive rebounds.
-The best thing about this game for the Cavaliers was definitely the level of offensive execution they performed with the entire game. That started with LeBron, who showed off almost every aspect of his offensive game and seemed to have a true sense of purpose every minute he was in the game.
LeBron started off establishing his teammates and working within the flow of the offense, with four assists and three baskets off of assists in the first quarter, which was good to see. LeBron’s been going for his own scoring in some first quarters recently, and while that isn’t bad, the team does become more dangerous when LeBron plays within the offense early and goes for the jugular late. That he stayed calm and kept playing within the offense instead of panicking and pounding the ball after that initial Houston run makes it even better.
-In the second quarter, LeBron busted out his post game, and showed some of the best moves on the block he’s shown all season, backing Zombie Battier all the way under the basket, staying patient, using his footwork instead of forcing a quick hook or fadeaway, and getting an easy layup off a pivot move.
The next time LeBron posted up, he went from the same side of the floor against Battier, got all the way down, and finished with the move he’d pretended to do the previous time, going to the middle of the lane from the right block and finishing with a lefty layup. Beautiful.
(The next time LeBron tried posting up, it wasn’t pretty, as LeBron’s footwork got crossed up and he ended up flinging an ugly turnaround that barely grazed the rim. Out of pure guilt, LeBron then stole the ensuing outlet pass, passed it to an open AP, then grabbed the offensive board when AP missed and put it back in for an And-1.)
After that, LeBron’s Quarter of the Post resumed, with LBJ catching it in the Malone-post, jab-stepping to get space, then drained a 17-footer in Battier’s face. The next time down, LeBron caught the ball in the same spot and, again, actually performed the move he deked, attacking Battier with a dribble-drive and spinning to the basket to draw the foul.
In the third, LeBron opened up his perimeter game, knocking down a 12-foot runner and consecutive threes to start the quarter, triggering a 22-6 Cavs run to start the third quarter and essentially end the game.
The dribble-drive game, passing game, moving without the ball, post game, and outside game were all in effect for LeBron on Sunday night, and the Rockets had no answer. Oh, and only one turnover for LeBron.
-Mo Williams was absolutely fantastic as well, pouring in 12 points on 6 shots during the dominant third quarter. At some point, teams are really going to have to learn not to give Mo any kind of look at that left elbow three-pointer, because he just doesn’t miss it; Mo went 3 of 4 from that spot on Sunday night, with his other three coming from the left corner. The Cavs did a great job of freeing up Mo from deep, feeding him on a Shaq post-and-kick and then setting him up with a great look from the corner behind a LeBron back-screen. The Cavs offense is starting to look more and more like a real offense than it has this season, especially when Shaq’s on the floor.
Shaq was great against the Rockets. He only shot 5-12 from the floor, but absolutely bullied the undersized Rockets frontline, wreaking absolute havoc. Shaq grabbed a season-high six offensive rebounds, drew eight fouls, helped hold Scola, Landry, and Hayes to a combined 7-19 shooting night, and forced the Rocket defense to collapse on him when he caught the ball down low.
-Shaq also had one of his better passing games as a Cav, finding LeBron for two layups from the post and setting Mo Williams up with two wide-open looks for three. His four assists matched his season high. Little by little, I’m becoming a convert.
-Jamario Moon doing Jamario Moon things, grabbing four rebounds, getting two blocks, and even racking up three assists. (Yes, the three assists are a season-high.) Jamario even had what may be the signature Jamario Moon sequence of the season, finishing an insane alley-oop dunk on the offensive end and breaking up a three-on-one fast break for the Rockets within the span of a minute.
-Four steals and two blocks for Andy tonight, and the Cavs had 10 steals and 10 blocks overall.
-Anthony Parker has now missed his last seven three-point tries. There is no such thing as automatic, I suppose.
-Z missed some easy ones inside, but his jumper continues to show signs of life, as Z drained 3 of his 6 attempts from outside the paint.
-No Cav had a negative +/- on Sunday, and no Rocket had a positive one. Domination.
Bullets of Randomness:
-Aaron Brooks just gives the Cavs the howling fantods. He’s a monster. What’s funny is that he looks like a faster, better Rafer Alston to an uncanny degree, from his style of play to his legs-splayed jumper, and Alston is another notorious Cav-Killer. If you told me that Brooks used to play streetball under the moniker of “Hopscotch” or something like that, I would not be remotely surprised.
-A big factor in the Rockets’ win over the Cavs in Houston was Trevor Ariza absolutely going off, scoring 26 points on 11-19 shooting and leading some Cavs fans to get bummed over the fact the Cavs seem to have narrowly missed signing Ariza in the off-season. Here’s an excerpt from Rahat Huq of Red 94’s game recap:
“I just don’t understand what is going on with Ariza. I don’t want to just criticize; I want badly to just understand the rationale behind what is taking place. I just can’t think of any logical explanation as to why this player is being allowed to frequently attempt feats which he has absolutely no hope of achieving. It’s become mind boggling at this point. I have said many times that I am all for experimentation and player development. But these have to be within certain limits of realism.”
-So what I’m taking away from that is that Ariza was not as much of a positive factor on Sunday as he was in the Rockets’ previous meeting with the Cavs.
-Scola is now 6-18 from the field with no free throw attempts against the Cavs this season. He is the anti-Brooks.
Alright campers, two season highlights in a row for the Cavs. Let’s hope the Cavs can keep it going for a good while. Until later.