The first half, especially the first quarter, was amazing. The Cavs were extremely aggressive and scored 32 points in the first quarter. They had a season high 62 at the half a 10 point lead. The only downside was that Ira Newble got his first minutes of the season (and played some awful defense and missed badly on two 3 point attempts).
LeBron set the tone early. LeBron finished the first period with 12 points with most of the damage coming inside. For the last few games, LeBron seemed to ignore his own shot in the early going; not so tonight. LeBron's aggressiveness set up open kick outs for the rest of the starters.
But after halftime... Maybe Mike Brown told the Cavs to shoot a lot of jumpers and blow a 10 point lead after halftime, I really don't know. Cause if he did, they heeded his every word. The Cavs built themselves a comfortable halftime lead and let the Hawks right back into it with a combination of jump shots, lack of movement and porous defense.
Fortunately, the fourth quarter righted the ship. LeBron attacked the hoop and the Cavs went back inside. Amazing how that works. More of this please.
I'm really getting sick of Fox Sports Net. I'm finally getting used to the announcers (who I'm still not found of, but they don't bother me that much anymore) but the camera work is just awful. For some reason they just going to this sideline floor camera; it would focus on the ball handler but the rest of the players (plus the rim) were out of the shot. And for some reason they kept showing the coaches while the ball was in play. Don't get me wrong, I love shots of Mike Brown standing there with his hands in his pockets as much as the next fan, but I'd rather see the actual ball game. But I'm hard to please like that. Needless to say, they got an angry email.
A win like this makes you forget all those problems after the Knick game. LeBron played defense, LeBron attacked the hoop, the rest of the Cavaliers got involved and I wasn't pissed off at Mike Brown's substitution patterns. Plus, the Cavs didn't play down to a lesser opponent. Doesn't this feel good?
The rookies played. Both of 'em. In the same game! Shannon Brown got his third straight start and played pretty well. The big news (at least to me) was that when Brown went to the bench he wasn't glued there for the rest of the half. He came back in. Dan Gibson got 18 minutes (after two straight DNP-CDs) and looked impressive again. Gibson is fearless on offense; he's not afraid to shoot and he looks like he belongs out there (he hit two 3s and finished with 8 points). But he still needs some defensive work; he gambles and helps out a lot, which leaves his man open for a kick out jumper and he also still has trouble staying in front of his man. Gibson is far and way the quickest guard on the roster, but he still doesn't seem quite used to the speed on defensive end.
The rest of the bench played well. Damon Jones hit some big 3s and had 15 points (he's been playing out of his mind since that game in New York), Donyell Marshall had 9 points and Varejao had 7 points and 4 rebounds in just 16 minutes (looked like Brown limited his minutes in anticipation for the following night's game in Houston.
LeBron dominated (especially the first and last quarters). LeBron had six(!) 'and-ones' and took the ball inside at will. Six!! Ridonkulous. He only shot 6-10 from the line, but he made his presence known. He rebounded better, gave a better effort on defense and just put his imprint on the game in every aspect; he finished with 31 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
It's amazing how good this team looks when the offense clicks. Z had 9 points, Gooden had 10 and Snow had 13 points and 8 assists (he took the ball to the rim all game long and made himself a factor on offense). When the Cavs share the ball and take quality shots they're very tough to beat. The offense moved the ball, they threw it inside and attacked the basket (LeBron even set a pick, which I would love to see more of). I know it was just the Hawks, but it was nice to see this kind of performance.
Yao Ming on Saturday night. The win versus the Hawks was big because it put a lot less pressure on the Houston game. No one wanted to see Cleveland go into Houston trying to snap a 2 game losing streak. It's nice to get that sour taste from the Knicks game out of everyones' mouth and go in there a win and some confidence. Going by their recent history, the Cavs should be alright versus the Rockets; they seem to show up against the good teams- it's crappy ones that worry me.