Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cleveland 99, Los Angeles Lakers 90

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.

and finally...

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.


BW said...

Excellent victory today. Even with Kobe being on fire as always, I never felt we would end up losing even after the Lakers made a run in the 3rd/beginning of the 4th quarter. Yeah we shot some jumpers in the 3rd but we never lacked focus. Im telling ya, our defense is good, really good. When we double team, we rotate properly (except for Drew Gooden). When Kobe started getting jammed up on the perimeter, our inside guys were keeping Odom and Bynum from getting inside buckets. Bynum started out pretty well, but the help D was there when he was 1v1 against Z. Good stuff.

What can we say about Sasha. Lebron's praise and him getting solid minutes has his confidence sky high. His jumper looks smooth, hes taking it to the whole with reckless abandon. Obviously, this delights us all. How bout that bench Benny. Good bench + good d scheme = unstoppable even when Bron as a bad game (relative to his averages). Gibson didnt do much today but he didnt make mistakes either. Against guys like Kobe, Wade, and any other dude who can play point, I dont mind Snow getting lots of minutes because his defense is clutch.

How do you think they will do on the 2 game west coast swing? I dont think Utah should be a problem if we can keep the pace fast and James/Hughes take it to the rack. Boozer and AK47 hold down the fort inside so we will have to make our outside game count. Hopefully James steps up big time. About the Laker game, i think we will see the typical kobe/bron show although I could live with the results we saw today. Again, our oppenents shot 20% from behind the arc. Seems they are making the old cavs mistake of shooting the J too much; that and our Swarming D is too much to take (exit sarcasm) Heres do going 5-0 going into the all-star break.

Ben said...

Obviously winning the final two before the break should be the goal. Win out. Go into the festivities with a 5 game streak.

As for predicting what they'll do, man, I got no fucking clue. When this team plays the right way (push the ball, work it inside, take good jumpers and play good defense) they can hang with anybody. When the effort isn't there or they settle for jumpers, they'll be beat by just about anyone.

I do think they'll beat Utah but I'm not sure how the Laker game will go. LeBron will have to step up to win that game (and the Utah game for that matter). Their strong play is encouraging, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they go out West and lay an egg.