That's what I'm talking about! The Cavs actually played an entire ball game (that's right four quarters) against the Heat. They shared the ball and LeBron played like the LeBron of yesteryear (except for those pesky free throws). It was fun to watch and the Cavs basically beat Miami in every aspect of the game.
Home cooking is delicious. The Cavs played the Heat much better in Cleveland than in Miami (which isn't exactly a shock) and the fourth quarter really told the tale. Last week, the Heat outscored the Cavs 34-23 in the final period. Tonight? Cleveland won the fourth 34-22. And Wade still led everyone in free throw attempts, but instead of 24, he took just 9.
Hustle. The Cavaliers simply outworked Miami tonight. Gooden had 13 boards, Z had 10, LeBron had 7 and Varejao, Marshall and Pavlovic all finished with 5. Not too bad. Gooden and Z didn't play well offensively, but they both hit the boards really well (Z was an awful 1-8 from the floor. He looks like he has no confidence versus good teams, but against second tier teams like the Clippers he' a real force. I'm not sure if they need to drown him in compliments or what, but it'd be nice if the guy could show up versus Detroit and Miami). The defense was pretty good as well; they actually forced some players not named Wade to shoot the ball (it'd have been nice to have seen that last week at some point). They also decided to single cover O'Neal, which I liked (to be fair, Z did do a decent job on Shaq most of the night, especially in the second half. What? Shaq was tired because he's returning from injury? Um...)
LeBron looked like LeBron. I don't know if it's his toe feeling better, playing on ESPN or playing against Dwyane Wade and co. but LBJ was focussed and active all night long. I still thought he could've punished the Heat more by abusing Kapono (really? the guy the Cavs let go because he can't play defense is guarding LeBron? And they aren't running isos for him all game long? Jason Kapono?). He settled for jumpers a little too often for my tastes. But that's a small quibble on this night; James finished with 29 points, 7 boards and 6 assists.
Larry Hughes scored 16 points and shot 7-12 and I'm still a bit perturbed. The man doesn't just take too many jumpers, he takes too many bad jumpers. Fast break jumpers, 18 seconds left on the shot clock jumpers; if you find yourself screaming "no!" at a jump shot, Hughes is probably taking it. To be fair, he made his fair share tonight, but if he did that on a regular basis we wouldn't have a problem with him. Also, he had 1 rebound and 2 assists (also 4 turnovers)- not good. He did foul Wade when he was attempting a jumper... so there's that...
The bench stepped up. Sasha Pavlovic gave the Cavs 15 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. That's fantastic. Keep giving us games like that and we'll have ourselves a shooting guard controversy (whether Pavs should start over Hughes now or wait until next season). But Sasha wasn't the only bench player worth a damn: Eric Snow gave the Cavs 7(!) assists, Marshall hit two 3s (one that counted), Varejao had 8 points and 5 boards and Scot Pollard had 3 fouls in 3 minutes. Awesome.
Coach Mike kicked some ass. I really liked all of Brown's decisions tonight (well, LeBron did play 41 minutes). He yelled at the refs (he does have emotions), he actually had a defensive strategy and he took Snow out of the game at just about the time I got sick of seeing him out there. He actually got a tech when arguing about LeBron taking some hits (I've been waiting all year for this).
Could LeBron get some calls? Is it weird to ask that? I don't care- LeBron got hit in the face on a few drives tonight and received no whistle. You can't tell me that the refs would've 'let 'em play' if Varejao slapped Wade across the head.
The roller coaster continues. How come when the Cavs lose to the Heat it feels like there's no hope for them, but when they beat the Heat it feels like another solid win (ie: not that special)?
The Cavs are a much better team at home (the confidence difference is astounding) and it's becomes more and more apparent that they'll need home court if they want to do any damage in the playoffs. If they continue their strong home play on Sunday, they'll have beaten both Wade and Kobe on national television on the same weekend. That'd be nice.