Overview: In a game where neither team shot better than 40% from the field, the Cavs overcame a sluggish start to grind out a 94-86 win over the Nets, who now have 30 losses on the season.
-Well, that one was ugly. The Cavs didn’t look all that perky in the early going, and the Nets aren’t a very good basketball team. The result was an eminently forgettable game of basketball.
-LeBron’s 28/9/7 was definitely of the “another day at the office” variety. Offensively, the plan was to look for easy baskets off the ball or find a seam and force a foul. The result was six of LeBron’s seven baskets coming at the rim, with five of those six baskets being assisted, and 13 free throws on 15 attempts at the line.
Off the top of my head, LeBron was fouled once on a jumper, so that would mean that 23 of LeBron’s 28 points came from attacking the rim. From outside of the paint, I believe I counted two LeBron airballs and one made jumper, which is normally not ideal. But on Saturday, there was a logic to the lack of creativity in LeBron’s game: nothing fancy was working for him or anybody else, the Nets aren’t good, and LeBron knew they’d have to foul him whenever he made an aggressive move. There are more fun things to watch, but it’s nice to have a superstar who can get a game-deciding 28/9/7 with his failsafe game.
(I will also point out that one make was classic LeBron; LeBron pulled up from three, airballed the shot about two feet short into the hands of Boobie, then went to the corner, demanded the ball, and drained a catch-and-shoot three from the corner without hesitation. What’s more, I knew the shot was going in. Weird. Something to watch: when LeBron screws up inexcusably and the ball remains in play, he generally hits the afterburners and does something spectacular out of sheer frustration right afterwards. For anyone else, it would be pressing, but LeBron pulls it off somehow.)
-Shaq had an up-and-down game. He pulled in rebounds, with his nine rebounds contributing to Cleveland besting the Nets 16-8 on the offensive glass. He helped get the Nets in foul trouble early in the second quarter, which came in handy when LeBron made six free throws en route to erasing the Cavs’ first-quarter deficit. Best of all, Shaq came in with the second unit for the third time in the last four games and beat up Tony Battie for seven points on 5 possessions as LeBron sat, which is just what the Cavs needed after falling behind in the first.
But he still forced a few too many shots from the post and committed three turnovers, and ended up needing 18 possessions to create 14 points. Shaq has to be more efficient than that if he fancies himself someone whom the offense can be run through.
-Andy had a great game. He bothered everybody defensively, got 12 rebounds (4 of them offensive), battled for loose balls, got seven field goals, and used his ESP connection with LeBron to break the game open late by finding seams when the defense loaded up on LeBron at the top of the floor to stop him from driving.
-And then there was JJ Hickson, who has become a full-fledged disaster area. JJ managed to miss five shots (four of them at the rim), turn the ball over, and commit a foul in his first six minutes on the court, during which time the Cavs were outscored 5-12. I’m not sure when the last time a talented young player got worse with each passing game was, but I do know that this is not good and should probably get fixed soon.
My best guess at the current plan is that the Cavs will replace Hickson with Powe in the starting lineup as a “show” starter, keep playing Andy starter minutes off the bench, and make JJ a limited rotation player. I’m not totally thrilled with this plan, as the reason the Shaq/Andy lineup didn’t work is that Andy can’t shoot and Powe can’t shoot either, but Powe should represent an upgrade in effectiveness over Hickson based on basketball IQ alone.
-Playing 34 minutes tonight for the Cavs: Anthony Parker. Parker broke his three-point drought, but went 0-4 from inside the arc to finish 1-6. You’re telling me that this guy is so good it’s necessary to limit Jamario and Boobie to 25 combined minutes to give him 34 minutes of burn? Maybe he was the only one who made curfew last night.
Bullets of Randomness:
90% of all the predictions I’ve ever made should be burned (I hate the internet sometimes), but let the record show that I had to be talked down from the ledge in a serious way when the Cavs passed on CDR to take Hickson. There’s some documentation of the moment, but it doesn’t say everything; this was pre-CiL live-blogging, when you had a massive gMail chat and someone had to edit it all down later. Rest assured, I was majorly ticked off, although not as much as I was after the Eyenga pick, when I nearly swallowed my own tongue.
Two other notes from this live-blog:
-It is also documented there that I was positive Brook Lopez would be a bust. And I was. I really hate the internet.
-When you google “Eric Gordon is Julian Wright’s bowling ball,” that chat is somehow the second site that comes up.
Anyways, love CDR’s game. Can catch-and-shoot, has a big crossover for a guy his size, knows how to score from midrange, can pass, and beat LeBron backdoor three times. He’d be a legit 6th man for a good team.
-Yi not being able to hit anything was a big reason the Nets couldn’t get a thing going offensively; they were actually decent at getting to the rim, shooting 60% at the rim (better than their season average) against one of the best teams in the league at defending the rim.
-Alright, that’s all for now. Cavs are doing it tomorrow at home against the Bobcats. See you then.