This Larry Hughes character may not be all bad. Sure, he need 16 shots to score 12 points, but he also had 8 boards and 6 assists. We all know (at least we should all know) that Hughes isn't going to be a high percentage shooter, but when he gives you the other stuff, you don't seem to mind as much. Would I like him to shoot better? Of course. But I'll take 12-8-6 anytime. Oh yea, the Cavs are 3-0 him starting at the point.
Man, I hate the Pistons. I'm not used to this... see, the Cavs hadn't been in the playoffs for awhile, so Cavalier fans haven't had a team to hate. Sure, I still hated the Bulls, but they sucked too (and can a non-Bulls fan really hate Tim Floyd?) But then the playoffs happened. And it was great. Now, Washington bugs me a bit (mostly just Tom Knott of the Washington Times) but it's not a deep hatred. But the Pistons? I hate Detroit basketball. Hates it. I absolutely love to hate them. I've missed this.
LeBron James is back to being LeBron James. Just look at this: 41 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and a ridonkulous block on Rip Hamilton. He was also .1 second away from a game winner. He played almost exactly the way you'd want him to; he went inside early, he didn't settle for shots, he played tough defense, he (mostly) hit his free throws. Sure, he missed one of two late free throws in OT, but there's not much else you could criticize about his performance (but I'll nit pick: he allows himself to be pushed off the block too easily and he ends up receiving the ball 'posting up' about 18 feet from the hoop).
So does this mean he was coasting? LeBron has obviously taken his game to another level over the last few games. Was he conserving his energy? Was he coasting? I don't know. All I do know is that if he played with this kind of intensity every night, the Cavs would not lose many games.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a large man. This was probably Z's best game since his return. Sure, he had some points early on, but he also hung around late in the game as well. Z buried three jumpers late in the fourth quarter and in OT that really helped the Cavaliers out. Z hasn't played particularly well in big games this year (though, can you name me a Cavalier who has?) but after the game, Jeff Phelps dropped this quote: "Zydrunas now, in three games against the Pistons this year, averaging 14 points and 14.6 rebounds a game." Is that true? How have I missed this?
This is why Drew Gooden is Drew Gooden. Over the last 5 games, Drew was averaging 5.4 points and 6.8 boards. Not good. So it makes perfect sense that Gooden dropped 22 and 10 on the Pistons. Perfect. Sense. If Gooden played with that kind of passion every ni- No, I'm not going to say it. Let's not lament about consistency (or lack there of), let us bask in Gooden's fantastic game. Well done Drew.
Started things out right. The Cavs probably played their best quarter of the season in the first period. The out scored the Pistons 34-24, they pushed the ball, they shared the ball and they took good shots. My lord, it was amazing. But then the second quarter happened. The Cavs went ice cold from the field (and stopped pushing/going inside as much) and Detroit clawed their way back into it on blood, guts and free throws. The Cavs ended up taking a 2 point lead into halftime.
Starters? Good. Bench? Not so much. All of the starters played well, I've already addressed four of 'em and while Pavlovic didn't have a strong game points-wise (just 6), he did have 5 boards and 4 assists. Pavs did have trouble with Hamilton a bit (29 points), but I thought Sasha did a relatively decent job defensive job. As for the non-starters? Only Varejao was a factor (4 points, 7 boards and a nifty assist) and while I can't exactly say that Snow played poorly... I disliked having to see him out there so much. Also, according to the box score, Shannon Brown and Donyell Marshall both played and missed 2 shots each (again, not really poor play, but nothing to write home about either).
The refs were gawd-awful. By halftime, Detroit had out shot the Cavs at the foul line by a line of 29-10. Now, it started off innocent enough; the Cavs were either A) making their shots or B) settling for jumpers, so you don't expect them to get a lot of freebies. Plus, the Pistons made a concerted effort to get in the lane and get to the line; they weren't shooting as well, so they forced the issue. But by the time the game was close again (late second quarter) the refs were bailing out Detroit with phantom calls. Coach Mike got himself a well deserved (and timed) technical foul (and Damon Jones got off the bench to calm him down. That was the only time he got up). The refs tried to right the ship in the 3rd quarter, giving the Cavs some calls (and the Pistons FREAKED OUT. My lord, they got every call all game and Webber gets called for a charge (after he traveled twice) and they go insane. I hate the Pistons. So much).
There's more. They also broke out the rarely seen and rarely effective double foul. Yes, a double foul. Now, I've heard on double technicals (the Charles Oakley/Dennis Rodman classics), but never double fouls. The play was a block/charge call involving James and Jason Maxiell. Now (forgive me lord for what I'm about to do), it looked like James committed a charge; he bowled over Maxiell. But the refs called it a block. Obviously, I'm OK with this. But once you make the call, stick with it. Or at least if you're going to change the call, call the charge. But a double foul pleases nobody and pisses off everyone (and confused the home viewer). Well done.
Big brass ones. Not only did the Cavs show up and win in a hostile environment and beat a division leading rival but they did it in stunning fashion. The Cavs got a big lead early on (impressive) but then blew it in the second quarter (oops) but managed to take the lead back going into halftime (good). In the third quarter they fought hard, kept it close and basically treaded water (OK). But they started out the fourth tied and proceeded to let the Pistons go on a 11-2 run (oh shit). But the Cavs stuck around (good). They chipped away at the Detroit lead and actually went ahead with 2:31 to go (holy crap). LeBron hit what looked to be the game winning shot as time expired (holy mother of God YES!!!) but it was eventually was waved off and they had to go into overtime (gulp). The Cavs then had to go out and win a game that they thought they had already won (faaaantastic). And they did. Talk about mental toughness, that's about as good of a regular season win as I've seen and it's definitely their biggest win of the season.
Though we've seen this before. The Cavs play poorly, then they play well and it looks like they've "turned the corner" and they proceed to drop a big turd against a team they should be destroying. This has been going on since the first week of the season, do we have any assurances that they won't crap on us again? Nope. But I think it helps that they have a relatively tough schedule coming up (@ Mil, Ind, Sac, @ Mem, UTH) and their only real let down game isn't for another week or so. Plus, we're now into the crunch time of the season and the end is in sight; hopefully they can keep this intensity (and this lineup) throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
Suddenly I feel a lot better about things. I no longer want to strangle Larry Hughes, Pavlovic is playing well, the rookies both seem to be contributing (albeit at different times), LeBron is back to doing LeBron type things and somehow Z is averaging 14 and 14 against Detroit. Feels good, doesn't it?