Overview: The Bobcats snapped the Cavs’ winning streak by outlasting them 91-88 on Sunday night, with former Cav Flip Murray hitting the go-ahead three with a minute to play. The game was the Bobcats’ third win on the road this season, and the Cavaliers’ third loss at home. The Cavs have now officially lost more games at the Q than they did all of last season.
-Another strange game. In a game between two teams that hang their hats on defense, the Cavs shot 48% from the field and 43% from three, with the Bobcats shooting 49%/44%. And neither team turned it over all that much.
-Even stranger was that LeBron and Mo both had strong scoring nights and the Cavs still managed to lose, and that almost never happens.
-LeBron threw up a 29/7/6 on 66% TS against the Bobcats and was doing the little things, sharing the ball, fighting Crash Wallace for rebounds, and getting some timely blocks, but had an oddly passive fourth quarter. He didn’t get his first assist of the quarter until there was 2:14 to play, his first point of the quarter until there was 1:15 to play, and his first field goal of the quarter until there were 15 seconds left. Maybe the lanes weren’t there, maybe Mo had openings, or maybe LeBron actually got a little bit gassed, but he didn’t go for the jugular in this one the way Cavs fans are used to seeing him do.
The good news is that LeBron had 10 points on 11 jumpers, and the better news is that he seems to be getting better at using his jumper to set up driving lanes for himself; there were a few times this game where LeBron was able to force a defender to try and take away his outside jumper, then blew by them for an easy finish.
-Mo was even better, hitting jumpers from everywhere (especially the left corner) and finishing with 27 points on 75% True Shooting. I’m not sure how to react to a game where Mo goes off and the Cavs lose, because it almost never happens. Although Mo did have six of the Cavs’ 12 turnovers on the night, which is a no-no.
-If that was weird, this is weirder: The problem for the Cavs tonight was Anderson Varejao. I definitely can’t remember the last time I wrote that sentence. I don’t think it’s happened this year, and maybe not in years prior. It’s an anomaly.
Andy went 1-8 from the floor, didn’t finish easy shots, got frustrated, took bad angles around the basket, and finished with a -8 mark the day after he took the league lead in overall plus-minus. Basketball’s a funny game.
If anything, this game made me realize just how good Varejao is. For all the good things Varejao does for the Cavaliers each and every night cleaning up garbage baskets, cutting and finding seams for layups when LeBron has the ball, working the boards on both ends of the floor, playing great defense, drawing fouls, providing energy, and increasingly showing real skill around the basket, the guy almost never has an off-night.
That’s insane. Think about how often Mo Williams, the other guy in the argument for the second-best player on the Cavs, has off nights all the time. Andy has them so seldom that I actually didn’t realize he was having one tonight until I checked the final box, because I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.
And when Andy does have an off night, the Cavs can lose to the Bobcats even with LeBron, Mo, and Delonte all having strong games. With Andy off his game, JJ Hickson had to play the entire third quarter and Shaq had to play the final eight minutes of the game. While both of them played as well as can be expected of them, going a combined 6-7 from the field, none of the frontcourts the Cavs threw out over the course of the second half had the same pop that they normally do. The Varejao/LeBron frontcourt wasn’t used to give the Cavs their usual shot in the arm offensively, Shaq being on the court for so much of the fourth played a role in LeBron being able to do his thing with the floor spaced, and overall the Cavs didn’t look nearly as dynamic on either side of the floor.
-Cavs with a rare loss in points in the paint tonight, with Charlotte edging them 40-38 in that area. This happened despite Boris Diaw scoring zero points in 38 minutes.
-Definitely some issues with execution down the stretch, as LeBron and Shaq each missed a free throw in the final minute and a half and the Cavs didn’t give the foul on Flip Murray, a 68% foul shooter, when they had him trapped, instead letting seconds tick off the clock and the ball get to Stephen Jackson, who drained both FTs.
-Flip Murray: 10 points on 6 shots and 2 free throws.
-The Entire Cavaliers Bench: 12 points on 23 shots and 4 free throws.
-Flip was a big factor tonight. Not only did he have the game-breaking three-ball off the dribble down the stretch, but he rolled off 7 points in the final 3:45 of the second quarter to cut Cavs’ lead the lead to only one at halftime after they’d led by as many as nine earlier in the quarter.
-Good night for Delonte, who played solid ball off the bench. He hit his third three of the year as well, which is a very promising sign, as tonight showed how important it is to have the floor spaced in crunch-time.
-More good news: Shaq again was on the floor to start the 2nd quarter with the second unit, and they scored 12 points and kept the lead steady at 6 while LeBron sat.
-Terrible night for Z, who went 0-4 and finished with a game-low -11.
-Jamario Moon also went 0-5 from the field; when that jumper of his looks bad, it looks bad.
Bullets of Randomness:
-Strong game for Diop, who went 5-6 from the field, had two big blocks, and finished with a game-high +11.
-Jackson was big for Charlotte in the second half, but I don’t like his game that much. He’s a chucker, will throw up a lot of bricks, and doesn’t really look to set up high-percentage shots for himself or his teammates. He get get his shot off and will get hot from time to time, but on a long enough timeline his style of play is a bad bet. Although he does make love to pressure.
-Anyone else kinda miss Flip sometimes?