Friday, January 12, 2007

Phoenix 109, Cleveland 90

I'm back. If you missed me and were wondering where I had wandered off to, the answer is Arizona. I got to witness two debacles in the dessert (well, the OSU game from the parking lot). I missed the Cavs 4-in-5 goodness as well as their first win on the West coast trip. Onto the game...

It wasn't really that close. From the second quarter on, the Cavs were down somewhere between 20 and 30 points. The Cavalier scrubs outscored the Suns scrubs 31-18 in the final meaningless period. (To be fair, LeBron did go off to start the fourth, which really just gave coach Brown an excuse to give him more minutes. Instead of, you know, resting your star player during a 30 point shellacking on the second game of a seven game road trip).

Dear Marc Stein, I disagree. Sincerely, Ben Cox. In Stein's write up of the Cavs-Suns game, he implied that LeBron was a one man show and that the Suns' defense forced the Cavs into terrible shots and miscues. LeBron did finish with a 34-6-6 line, but 14 of those points came at the start of the 4th quarter when the Cavs were down 91-59. Don't get me wrong, those 14 points were delightful and impressive (he scored them within a 4:30 span) but was essentially garbage time. So ya, his teammates didn't do much, but it wasn't like LeBron was valiantly keeping the game close. As for the Suns defense forcing the Cavs into long jumpers... come on Marc, Toronto and New York "force" the Cavaliers into long jumpers. The reason why? The Cavs offense stinks.

That being said, the Suns forced (suckered?) the Cavs into playing their style. Here's what the Cavs needed to do: score inside (make the Suns work and slow the game down), avoid turnovers and play solid(ish) defense. They did none of these. They took 28 treys. Think about that for a second. Long jumpers lead to long rebounds which lead to fastbreaks which lead to the Suns kicking your ass. Good call hoisting 28 (making 9).

What's Larry Hughes got to do to get a call? The guy got mugged a couple times going inside. Not that it would've made much of a difference (it'd be like Ohio State bitching that Florida got some plays off after the play clock expired. Sure, an infraction, but not game changing). That being said, both LeBron and Hughes shot two free throws apiece- not good.

What's Boobie Gibson gotta do to get into the ballgame? Gibson's first appearance in the second half was at the 2:19 mark left in the third, with the score a glorious 83-52. The score at halftime was 67-41, obviously whatever the Cavs were doing wasn't exactly working. Maybe I'm an asshole, but after starting the half down 26 and not making a dent, I'd sub in Gibson, Duane Jones, Shannon Brown (I know he wasn't dressed, but I'd have him in uniform over Ira Newble. Especially against an offensive team like the Suns) and Pavlovic and just have them run around with LeBron. At the very least they'll be happy to be out there and give some effort. Seeing Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones hoist three's wasn't exactly inspiring.

Speaking of Newble... I'm a lucky guy, I've been to two Cavs games this year and both times I've gotten the privledge of watching garbage time. Nothing is more fun than watching Newble and Anderson Varejao hoist threes with no remorse. Delightful.

Moral victories people! The Cavs held the Suns under 100 points... through three quarters. Personally, my favorite moment of the game came during the garbage time when the Suns sent in 12th man/goofy white guy Pat Burke. The crowd was pumped and they wanted some Burke magic before heading home. As the Suns force fed him the ball to get that elusive bucket, Varejao D'd (deed? dee'd?) hardcore and forced Burke into some bad shots. Suck it Phoenix!

Suns fans are a weird bunch. This was my first Cavs away game (side note: my buddy and I were interviewed for Cavalier Access (Fastbreak?) before the game during the pre-game shoot around as 'Cavs fans supporting the team on the road'. I plugged Real Cavs Fans btw) and maybe I was just pissed that the Cavs pulled a collective Troy Smith, but the Suns fans bugged the crap out of me. This is going to sound weird, but they care/cheer too much. I know, I sound like an asshole, but hear me out. They go nuts at weird times. I understand the going nuts for the 3-ball or a sweet pass play from Nash. Makes sense, exciting plays=loud cheers. But they went nuts for a little Boris Diaw jump hook that put the Suns up to six points or something in the first. Like, this isn't a particularly big or important play. It wasn't exciting or game changing. It was a little jump hook. What's the big deal. And it's not just that; the Suns would miss a free throw while up 3o points in the fourth quarter and the place groans like their down 5 and are trying to make a come back. Same thing happened when a ref gave the Cavs the ball after it went out of the Suns. Sure it was a close call and if the game was even remotely close, I could see them getting upset about it. But they're up 30 and freaking out that the ball went off of Jumaine Jones instead of being called off of Pavlovic. Garbage time is no time to be arguing calls, garbage time is for watching rookies, guys past their primes (*waves to Jalen Rose and David Wesley*) and the goofy white guys. The game isn't competitive; a loose ball here or there isn't going to do anything- calm down.

I'm sure I'm coming off as a cynical douche. And you're probably right. The Suns play exciting basketball and their fans are into it and I'm sitting here ripping them. I guess they came off to me more as Suns fans than basketball fans. Maybe I'm just too jaded by Cleveland sports, who knows, but as a basketball fan, I found the oddly timed cheers and jeers a little disjointing. But hey, maybe if I got to watch a team that scores the basketball on a regular basis, I'd cheer every point and possession like it was life and death too (what me? Jaded? Nah).

Back to the game. Steve Nash had 14 assists at halftime and 21 for the game. The Cavs had 12 assists total. 12. Well done boys! Motion offense! Veteran point guards!

and finally...

As much as the Cavs got their butts kicked, I wouldn't be too panicked. The Cavs and most of the NBA play at a little less frantic pace than the Suns. Meaning, when the Cavs play in Phoenix once a year, it's hard for them to adjust to the speed for just one game. If (somehow) the Cavs and Suns would meet in the finals, I think you'd see Cavs play much better over the course of 7 games. Now, I'm not saying the Cavs should concede the game in Phoenix every year, but this game obviously wasn't going their way, there's no way I should be looking at box score that shows LeBron played 39 minutes in a 19-but-wasn't-really-that-close point loss. The defense looked overmatched and sluggish and the offense looked inept (which isn't exactly news); I would expect a much better showing versus the Clippers.


Erik said...

Stein by his own admission hadn't watched the Cavs in person yet this season prior to Thursday.

I don't know why Stein, Charley Rosen, etc. feel the need to keep perpetuating the myth that LeBron is surrounded by a barely functional supporting cast. Kobe Bryant is surrounded by a worse supporting cast with the Lakers, and they don't get half the flack the Cavs get from the national media.

Either those guys don't watch the Cavs that closely and just weigh in with the company line opinions they always weigh in with (kind of like some celebrity saying "Bush is a bad president," even though they haven't picked up a newspaper in five years.) or they are trying really hard to believe that LeBron doesn't have an adequate supporting cast for whatever reason suits them.

The next time Stein, Rosen, and their national media ilk write something positive about the Cavs will be the first time, so I say let them write what they're going to write. Whatever. Maybe they're right, maybe they're wrong. But I know for certain they aren't following this team on a daily, or even weekly, basis.

Ben said...

I wasn't all to pissed about the 'lack of supporting cast' stuff, cause well, the supporting cast played like crap. But acknowledge that LeBron didn't exactly keep it close.

My main beef with Stein was his 'Suns defense stifles Cavs' argument. Anyone who knows a tad bit a about the Cavs knows that their offense breaks down every now and then and they just start lofting jumpers (see the Toronto game earlier this year).

I still wouldn't bet on the Suns this year (or ever). It's nice what they do, but there's a reason they went 7 versus both LA teams last post season. Their frantic pace catches teams off guard and destroys them during the regular season. But see them for a few games in a row and you'll find a lot of holes in the defense.

Though, I'm probably the most negative Suns guy I know...

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