Thursday, January 18, 2007

Portland 94, Cleveland 76

That was ugly. I know that they were disappointed from blowing the Seattle game. Ya, it hurt. But they needed to get over it and focus on the Blazers. Coming into the game, Portland is 16-24 and lost 8 of their last 10. They were certainly beatable. This game should've at least been close; there's no reason we should've seen David Wesley.

Thanks guys. I just defended you guys and this is how you repay me? Gracias.

Nice start. The Cavs didn't score their first field goal until 3:50 remaining in the first period. Think about that, it took them over 8 minutes to make a basket. They scored 9(!!!) points in the quarter. Single digits for the first period. That is beyond awful. But hey, Mike Brown loves defense and the Cavs were only down 18-9 after the first period.

This was the best play all night (look who got a new toy):

Of course, LeBron missed the freebie.

Hooray for Boobie! Daniel Gibson came in with 3 minutes left in the first and didn't go back to the bench until the start of the third. He scored 10 points in the second quarter (more than the entire team in the first) and he scored the first Cavalier point that wasn't a jumper or free throws (an offensive rebound). It is not a good thing when your back up (3rd string?) rookie point guard scores your first bucket in the paint.

Starting back court = not good. Snow registered 0 points, 1 steal, 1 rebound, 2 turnovers and 2 fouls while logging just 15 minutes. Fantastic. Larry Hughes shot a blistering 25% from the field (3-12) and committed 4 turnovers. To be fair, Larry did take it to the hole rather often and he got 14 free throws (made 11). The starting backcourt had 0 assists. Wow that's bad.

Hughes did help out the second quarter run. The Cavs scored 28 points in the second quarter to close the deficit to 4 points at halftime (37-41). Hughes and Gibson led the way with 10 points apiece in the period. (Note: Snow was on the bench the entire quarter).

That quarter is what makes this team so baffling. Obviously, the Cavs didn't have their "A game" against Portland. These things happen and good teams are expected to win games where they aren't at their best (even on the road). The Cavs started out cold but pulled the game close. They showed they can fight through some rough stretches. They follow up a 9 point first quarter with a 28 point second. And they follow up that second with a 14 point 3rd. What do you even make of that?

The Cavs were close at the half because of free throws... and they had already missed 9. This is insane. The Cavs were only down four points at half time while A) non-Gibson Cavaliers were shooting 24% B) they shot 15-24 from the foul line and C) only getting 1 assist (which came when Gibson made a 3. Of course it was off a jumper). These guys frustrate the hell out of me. They can play so bad and yet still be in it. And they were bad.

The Cavs cut it to 2 in the 3rd period. Off an 'and1' by Zydrunas off a post feed by LeBron. The Cavs subsequently went on a jump shooting binge and the Blazers somehow went on a 10-0 run. Let's watch shall we?

I can't imagine how frustrated Z was during that time. He makes a nice move down low and the Cavs don't look his way for another 3 minutes. The jumpers they take aren't exactly good looks either (with the exception of Gooden's); they're taken early in the shot clock and the bigs aren't even in good rebounding position.

That last play was the straw that the broke the camels back. Z gets his pocket picked by Dickau which leads to a fast break (which the Cavs defend halfway decently) and the Cavs the Blazers 3 chances to score. Their power forward takes his time getting back and Eric Snow gave Gibson the rest of the point guard minutes by leaving Dickau wide open. Just like that, 10-0 run. The Cavs were done.

The problem is offense. The Cavs had quarters of 9 and 14 points. You can maybe get away with having one quarter like that, but you can't expect to win when you combine your point totals from two separate quarters and you only get 25. The Cavaliers had a pathetic 7 assists on the night (and Gibson had a couple of those in garbage time). They shot 35% from the floor, 16% from behind the arc and 62% from the line; those are terrible numbers.

And it's not like they're facing lock down defensive teams. The Cavaliers shot 35% against Portland and 41% versus Seattle; those are the teams ranked 26th (Portland at 47.35%) and 29th (Seattle at 47.88%) in opponent field goal percentage. Make 'em work.

Though it doesn't really matter if you can't make your free throws. LeBron was 6-13. 28-45 as a team. They missed 17 free throws while Portland shot just 21.

I still do not get the rotation. The Cavs are in the middle of a mid-January West coast road trip, they played the previous night in Seattle and they gave up some crucial offensive rebounds. You'd figure Mike Brown would use his extra big men against the Blazers and get some fresh legs out there. Nope. Scot Pollard didn't enter the game until there was 5:20 left in the fourth quarter and the Cavs were down 19. Makes sense to me. Gibson logged 33 minutes versus the Blazers, a night after getting a DNP-CD against Seattle. Boobie played the entire 2nd and 4th periods. Whats the deal? I can understand playing him big minutes versus the Blazers (Snow wasn't getting it done) but why the fluctuation? Gibson's minutes since the New Year read as follows: 5, 3, 9, 4, 6, 16 (blowout loss to PHX), 2, 0 and 33 (blowout loss to Portland). Gibby averaged 19 minutes for the month of December. Mike Brown, playing Gibson less is a terrible new years resolution.

This is why I bitch a lot about LeBron's minutes. For instance, he played 44 minutes the previous night versus Seattle, which is way too many considering A) you have a game the next night and B) you're in the middle of a 7 game road trip. When you play a guy 40+ minutes every night, are you really surprised when you get quotes like this:
"My legs weren't under my jump shot," James said. "For some reason, I just couldn't get under it. I started to attack late in the game but it was too late."
"They looked like they were a little tired," Randolph said of the Cavs.
Really, they looked "tired" and "for some reason" James couldn't get his jumper going? You don't say.... LeBron didn't leave the 4th quarter until there was just 3:33 left in the game (they were down 20 the entire quarter). Fantastic.

Of course, it'd be easier to rest LeBron (and Hughes) if Brown had developed his bench. Would it really hurt to give Shannon Brown 5-10 minutes a night here and there? He's really the only 2 guard on the roster besides Hughes. With the Cavs offense as bad as it is, Ira Newble is never going to get playing time, Pavlovic looks lost out there and David Wesley looks really, really, really old. Brown may stink for all I know, but giving him regular minutes every game could cut down the wear and tear on LeBron and Larry (who has played 36 and 35 minutes respectively since he came back from his quad injury). Having rookies like Brown and Gibson come off the could really help the Cavs in games like this; the starters weren't cutting it, the Cavs looked sluggish and having some rookies bring some youthful energy off the bench.

and finally...

This road trip started off so promising... 2-1 has turned into 2-3 with games left at Denver and Golden State. That'll be fun. The Cavs blew their chance versus Seattle and followed it up with a dreadful performance against the Blazers. If they split the two remaining games to finish the trip at 3-4... well, I'd be disappointed. Two weeks ago I would've been fine with 3-4, but after starting 2-1? Not so much.


JDW said...

There was a nice article in the NYT earlier in the week about the Mavs and free throws. Simmons made a similar comment about the Suns--free throws are important. To shoot a high percentage as a team is a big advantage and one that should be exploited at all costs. These are professional athletes--make an open 15 footer. If that means hiring a free throw guru then do so. I applaud Cuban for being proactive in this regard.

The Cavs give away so many points from the line it might be the most depressing part of the team this season. Even worse than the offense.

Last season the team wasn't much better; Z carried the crew. It took Mike Brown 3/4 of the season before he realized that those defensive three second violation free throws matter--in the first 3/4 of the season LBJ took them even though Z couldn't miss a free throw. Finally he let Z take them.

Little things. When you miss 9 or 11 or 7 free throws in a game -- and when the average margin of victory of defeat or victory falls within that range, as it does with the Cavs -- then perhaps it's worth emphasizing this aspect of the game.

Stepping off the soapbox...

Ben said...

LeBron needs to improve his free throw shooting. No ifs, ands or buts; it has to improve.

The team is shaky overall, Snow doesn't shoot enough to really have a good FT%, plus he isn't a good shooter anyways.

When your go-to guy and your PG aren't that great from the line, it hampers the team a bit.