Overview: Despite LeBron James having one of the worst shooting nights of his career, The Cavs were able to beat the Atlanta Hawks 95-84 on the road. Six Cavaliers scored in double figures, Delonte West and Mo Williams combined for 37 points, and the Hawks went scoreless for the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter.
-Okay, that was a strange game. LeBron misses 14 shots, Jamaal Crawford leads all scorers, Delonte West dunks on Josh Smith, the Hawks starting backcourt combines to go 6-21 from the floor, and the 2nd-best offense in the league nearly gets shut out for the entire fourth quarter. But a win is a win is a win, especially on the road against a tough Hawks team.
-Delonte West. I enjoy watching him play basketball quite a lot. His jumper continues to slowly come back, with Delonte making a catch-and-shoot J from the 10-15 foot, 16-23-foot, and three-point range on Tuesday night. He was able to drive for a dunk and a pull-up jumper.
But of course, scoring tells so little of the story when it comes to Delonte. He made two absolutely gigantic coast-to-coast plays in the fourth quarter, getting a steal in traffic and drawing a clear-path foul on Josh Smith that broke the game open a little bit for the Cavs, and later flushing over Smith in transition in one of the plays of the year for the Cavaliers.
He battled on the offensive boards, grabbing two of them, getting a back-tap that led to a LeBron and-1, and drawing a huge loose-ball foul jumping over none other than Josh Smith to grab a one-handed rebound with his right hand.
And to top it all off, Jamaal Crawford had 21 points before Delonte checked into the game with 3 minutes to play in the third; over the next 15 minutes, Crawford banked in one three over a perfect Delonte close-out and made a shot with less than a minute to go.
And did I mention Delonte threw one down on Josh Smith? Because he did. Delonte West, Tuesday night’s champion of the lefty thunderdome and key player for the Cavs. I could finish by telling you that Delonte was a game-high +24 in 29 minutes, or I could finish by posting video of the dunk. I’ll opt for the latter.
(Hat-Tip to “Vlad” of RealCavsFans.com for the find on the video, and “PIP” for making the thread that contains it.)
-Another great game for Big Z, who went 6-8 from the field, got 7 points on 4 shots outside of the paint, hit the dagger three from the right corner, and passed Brad Daugherty for 2nd place on the all-time Cavs scoring list, behind only LeBron. Congrats to the big guy.
-And another very solid game for Shaq, who went 5-7 from the field, grabbed eight boards, helped hold Al Horford to one shot at the rim in 40 minutes, and even drew a charge. Again, I point out that all five of Shaq’s makes were assisted; help the big guy out and he’ll help the team.
-The Cavs were able to scratch out a win in the possession battle I mentioned in the preview; the Cavs only turned the ball over three more times than the Hawks, and both teams got the same amount of points off of turnovers. And on the boards, the Cavs actually got five more offensive rebounds than the Hawks did. All good stuff there.
-The less said about LeBron’s offensive game, the better. 6-20 from the field with only three free throw attempts is ugly, and there’s no getting around that one. Going 0-11 from outside the paint was the big culprit for that, and it was really just one of those nights for LeBron on jumpers. He missed catch-and-shoot jumpers, deep jumpers, midrange jumpers, off-balance jumpers, pull-ups, shots in rhythm, fadeaways, everything.
He was able to have some success driving the lane and in the post-up game, but being completely ineffective from the perimeter was an obstacle that LeBron couldn’t get around. Hopefully this game doesn’t shake LeBron’s confidence from outside and he can get his improved jumper back on track very soon.
The silver lining in terms of LeBron’s game is that LeBron will do a Daredevil-type thing when he’s struggling from the floor and step up his energy level in other areas, and he certainly showed that on Tuesday night. He had eight rebounds and nine assists, but where LeBron stepped his game up was on the defensive end. He was absolutely wreaking havoc on defense on both the weak side and on the ball, finishing with five steals, a block, and a stretch of absolute lock-down defense on Joe Johnson to set the tone for the Cavs’ dominant defense in the fourth quarter. When Delonte and Varejao are on the court and LeBron is fully engaged defensively, the Cavs are a flat-out scary defensive team, and that’s what will win them games when LeBron’s off.
Mo was an offensive catalyst in the first half, going 4-5 from the field and getting 12 points on 5 attempts in the Cavs’ 33-point second quarter. He couldn’t keep his hot hand going in the second half, but he did hit the 20-point mark, which is beginning to reach Lawler’s Law-level accuracy for the Cavs this season.
***Update*** Via the Twitter of WFNY’s Jacob Rosen, the Cavaliers are now 41-7 when Mo Williams scores 20 points or more since his acquisition, or 85.4% of those games. When Mo does not score 20, the Cavs are 59-21 (73.8%), including the playoffs. Not earth-shattering when he doesn’t hit 20, but the Cavs are darn tough to beat when he does. Thanks, Jacob.
Varejao: One field goal attempt in 33 minutes, second-highest +/- of the night with a +19. That’s a Varejao game right there.
Bullets of Randomness:
-How many times has Jamaal Crawford been called for steps on his signature shake-and-bake like he was tonight? I feel like that’s something that would happen all of the time or none of the time.
-Alright, that’s all for tonight. Let’s get ready to do it again tomorrow, folks.