Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cleveland 106, Golden State 104 (OT)

Are you kidding me? Midway through the second quarter the Cavs looked dead. They were tired, their legs were gone and it looked like they just wanted to go back home. Here's how bad it was: with 5:13 to go in the 2nd, the Cavs were down 42-40. The halftime score? 62-44. A 20-4 run in 5 minutes. However, something crazy occurred at halftime...

Mike Brown decided to start Anderson Varejao in the second half. Wild Thing gave the Cavs some extra energy to begin the half and it showed. They rebounded, they played defense and they cut the lead to 2 points with 4 minutes to go in the third.

But they couldn't sustain it. Golden State pushed the lead back up to 12 to end the period, but there was a change in the mood of players; this game was winnable.

Effort, glorious effort. In the second half, the Cavs blocked shots, swiped at balls and dove for rebounds. They hustled and fought. I credit this to Brown's decision to start Andy. He not only gave his usual contributions, but he was yelling and getting in his teammates faces. He gave Z a giant bear hug after finding him for sweet three point play, he kept giving Gooden some encouraging words and he kept talking up LeBron. In short, he looked like a leader. (Am I going to far here? I'm writing this right after the game, so maybe I'm just too excited, but I was impressed with Varejao tonight. I think we've all been waiting for someone on this team to step it up and get in guys' faces; have 'em show some heart.)

WTF? David Wesley? Sasha Pavlovic? Never in a million years did I expect those two guys to step it up and help the Cavs win a game this year, let alone the same game. I've been giving Sasha some grief the past couple weeks (not unjustly I don't think) but he shut me up with how he played tonight. He played pretty good defense, rebounded the ball extremely well and was a factor on offense. He hit 2 threes, took the ball to the rim (Scott Williams called one of his drive s'Jordanesque', which is the first and last time I ever want to hear Pavs compared to MJ) and even had a nifty assist to Varejao off of a baseline drive (I was about 80% sure he was going to commit a charge there).

David freaking Wesley? I wasn't even sure why this guy was still dressing for games. But man did he step up. David at the same time gave the Cavs a chance to win and almost cost them the game. He played some huge defense down the stretch (2 steals), had 6 boards (in just 15 minutes) and hit a huge three in overtime. However, he also missed 2 critical free throws that could've put the Cavs up 4 points and allowed the Warriors to have a shot at winning the game with a last second three. Thankfully, Stephen Jackson's shot rimmed out (now that would've been heart breaking loss).

Is it just me, or does Stephen Jackson always kill the Cavaliers? It seems like he always plays with a little extra fire against LeBron and co. I could be wrong, but it feels right. Anyway, Jackson played huge in his first game as a Warrior, scoring 29 points with 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. For those of you wondering, he played 46 minutes (to be fair, it was an overtime game).

LeBron played defense! LeBron had a huge strip on Matt Barnes potential game tying drive (the loose ball went to Wesley, who was fouled and missed the aforementioned free throws). LeBron followed up his first triple double of the season with another near triple double, but not the good kind. LeBron led everyone with 32 points but he also led the game with 9 turnovers. The Cavs coughed it up a whopping 27 times against Golden State and a lot of those were unforced (terrible passes into traffic, long cross court passes and general miscommunication).

Well, I was wrong. After the Denver game, I mentioned how it seems that the Cavs never win ugly. They either look really good and win or looks absolutely awful and lose. But they sure won ugly against the Warriors. Not only did they commit 27 turnovers, they only shot 50% (THIS NEEDS TO IMPROVE) from the line (14-28) and a dismal 6-25 from behind the arc. Brown had to sub out the starters and use his bench more than he's used to and the Cavs had to fight through their tiredness. I loved it. The Cavs could've easily folded up shop and called it a trip. Down 18 points and playing the 4th game in 5 nights? With they way they've been playing lately, no one would've been surprised if they packed it in. But they fought back and showed some the passion that's been missing over the past 5 days.

What? Larry Hughes? Hughes chipped in 15 points, but those seem pretty empty. Larry shot only 1-6 from behind the line, got his shot blocked a couple times, missed the only 2 free throws he took and had three turnovers (I could've sworn there was more than that). Hughes played the entire third quarter, started the fourth on the bench and never returned. He too often settled for jumpers that the defense was more than happy to give to him (there is no reason for him to have 6 three point attempts). Anyways, here's the first paragraph of the AP's game wrap:
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- LeBron James scored 32 points and Larry Hughes had 15 as the Cleveland Cavaliers put an impressive finish on their seven-game road trip, rallying from a big halftime deficit for a 106-104 overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
If you read that, you'd figure that Hughes chipped in during their late surge. Nope.

Other guys who stepped up: Z, Snow and Marhall. Both Z and Marshall had a couple big blocks, Z had a few baskets in the third, but stayed on the bench in favor of Marhall and Andy for most of the fourth (Brown actually stayed with the hot hands. Fantastic). Both Z and Snow finished with double-doubles; Snow had 12 points and 11 assists while Z finished with 14 points and 12 boards. Marshall played some of the best defense I've seen him play as a Cavalier and was a big factor in a game in which he wasn't scoring.

and finally...

I'm still pumped after that game. Ah, to see a Cavs team play with passion and win a game in which they weren't their best. Great isn't it? Plus, they finished up the road trip at 3-4, which is quite decent. If you would've told me three weeks ago that they would've gone 3-4 on the trip, I'd have been thrilled. If you would've told me after their 2-1 start... well... not so much... Anyways, the Cavs aren't going to get a lot of rest as they play host to Orlando on Monday (ya, that's right, they end their trip Saturday night and get one day off before playing again).


BW said...

Im too drunk to write a whole lot of coherent analysis but here goes: Andy was awesome tonight. I might be mistaken, but did he blow up at Lebron in the 3rd quarter? Bron took a pass from snow at the corner then drove baseline against TWO defenders only to be forced out of bounds for a turnover. I swear when they were going back up court Andy just turned to him and looked REALLY fuckng mad. LIke not encouraging criticism but just pissed. I could be wrong...Also, did larry not take a few jumpers off of 1 foot? I seriously think he might be playing on 1 leg. He shot a 3 from the left wing and it looked like he had ZERO weight on his bad ankle. Who knows. Im just happy they got the win.

Ben said...

Larry was obviously tired these last couple days. He had no legs in his shots and he kept settling for those beautiful jumpers.

They need to develop Pavs or Brown (or even Gibson at this point) into a reliable back up shooting guard to relieve Hughes (or LeBron) of some of his minutes.