What a difference a week makes. After the debacle against Detroit last Sunday, all seemed lost for the Cavs. But just a week later the Cavs have beaten both Shaq and Kobe pretty handily.
A guy could get used to this. Good defense? Solid bench play? Beating a good team? Winning a game on ABC? Fantastic. The question is, will they keep it up?
It seems more likely if Brown keeps playing Sasha and Gibson. The young guys have given this team a shot in the arm. Pavlovic is simply playing outstanding basketball and Gibson's confidence grows by the game. A week ago I would've thought that a trade was a must, but now? Not so much.
More Sasha. He really won the game for the Cavaliers today. He took the ball to the rim, he hit his 3s (3-4) and his free throws (4-5) and he actually played defense. Sasha's final tally was 21 points, 3 boards, and 1 assist, steal and block. He was big when it counted, as 13 of his points came in the fourth period. If he plays half this well from here on out, the Cavs will be well off.
The rest of the bench stepped up. With Pavlovic leading the way, the Cavaliers' bench outscored the Lakers' bench 46-15. Anderson Varejao gave the Cavs 12 points (11 in the fourth quarter), Snow played tough defense on Kobe (while dishing out 6 assists) and Marshall hit a couple 3s.
The Cavs needed their bench, cause LeBron had an off night. James was just 5-12 for 18 points (8-12 from the line) but did give them 8 rebounds and 5 assists. James played halfway decent defense as well. As much as I'd like him to snap out of this funk, I have to admit, it was nice to see the Cavs beat a good team with James having an off night.
Z bounced back with a good game. Ilgauskas had a bad game against Miami on Friday (4 points, 1-8 shooting but did have 10 boards) but he bounced back with a 17 point, 7 board, 3 block and 2 assist effort (I really wish someone besides Eric Snow would cut to the hoop when Z is in the post. Just once). Z was also the only one worth a damn in the third period, when he scored 5 of the Cavaliers' 12 points. He also scored 4 points early in the fourth quarter that gave the Cavs a 72-69 advantage.
That's right, 12. What is it about the third period that messes with the Cavs' heads so much. The Cavs started the period with a 52-41 lead and ended it down 67-64. The problem, as always, was their penchant for jumpers. The Cavs stopped going inside and simply settled for jump shots; it was awful to watch. LeBron didn't score and Kobe had 11. To recap: Kobe 11, Cavs 12.
The fourth quarter was a tad better. Pavlovic had 13 and Varejao had 11 of his 12 in the final period. For the second game in a row the Cavs unloaded in the fourth period; against Miami they scored 34 in the final quarter and today they scored 35 (again, after scoring 12 the previous quarter). Again, James didn't have the best quarter (still too many jumpers) but Pavlovic and Varejao carried the load.
Kobe is good. That is all. 14 straight points to start the fourth quarter. His mid-range game is miles ahead of James (or anyone for that matter). For awhile there he was pretty much unstoppable; he even suckered the Cavs into a couple fouls on jumpshots (by kicking his leg out). Honestly, I thought he was going to carry the Lakers to the win, especially after the way the Cavs looked in the third period. However...
Mike Brown actually changed his defense. Down the stretch the Cavs doubled Kobe and made him give up the basketball. The Cavs sent James, Sasha and Hughes at Bryant and it paid off. Kobe didn't score in the last 3 and a half minutes.
It'd be nice if Hughes showed up. Larry did have a big steal down the stretch, but before that he was pretty much non-existent. Larry was 2-8, shot no free throws and had just 2 rebounds.
Rematch on Thursday. The Cavs have a quick 2 game West coast swing this week, where they get a back-to-back with Utah and the Lakers. It's not exactly an easy 2 nights, but they've played well this past week, so a split is a must but a sweep is by no means out of the question.