Gut check. To say that the Cavs stole this game would an understatement. They were down the first 11 minutes of the fourth quarter and didn't take a lead until Anderson Varejao's layup with 11 seconds to go. Not only did they blow a 6 point lead in the 3rd period, they were also down 9 going into the fourth (where they trailed by 12 with 8:42 to go).
And I wasn't exactly encouraged by their method for the comeback. For one stretch during the fourth the Cavs made 3s on 6 out of 7 possessions; don't get me wrong, that's great, but that's not really something you can sustain. They did switch it up and go inside down the stretch but I was worried that they'd get themselves back into the game and just kind of fizzle out on a barrage of bombs. But thankfully they didn't fall in love with the jumper (too much).
One of those 3s belonged to Ira Newble. Yes, you read that right. Newble got some playing time because none of the other Cav defenders could keep Ruben Patterson from attacking the middle (out of the post). To his credit, Newble played good D on Patterson and actually hit his 3pt attempt. (Mike Brown pushed the right buttons. He had a line up of Newble, Snow, Marshall, Varejao and James down the stretch. That's a five consisting of James, a one-dimensional player, an offensive rebounder and two no-dimensional players. And it worked)
I'm not sure what Larry Hughes has to do to get benched, but he tried just about everything. Now, to be fair, this was really Hughes's first bad game since moving to the PG spot but, man, it was a real bad one. Hughes finished with 4 points, 4 boards and a surprising 6 assists- and those are his good stats. He shot an atrocious 1-9 (0-4 downtown), had 6 turnovers, 5 fouls and a couple of brain farts on inbounds plays. I call his assists 'surprising' because he does not give the ball up very easily. I know he's now the 'point guard' and all, but that doesn't mean he can't pass the ball ahead on the break. Also, while running a 'pick and roll', feel free to hit the 'roller' every now and then (it's much preferred to shooting a jumper with three guys in your face).
The first three and a half quarters were really, really frustrating. The Cavs had 20 turnovers, numerous offensive fouls and a ton of broken plays (which the Bucks always seemed to capitalize on). Hughes messed up not one, but two inbounds plays (first he was a statue while Gooden was trying to get him the ball and later on he threw it right to Mo Williams underneath the Bucks' basket) and James committed three charges (two were total crap while the other was borderline at best). The Cavs seemed to have decent energy but they were just sloppy.
The defense wasn't that great until Ira Newble came in to save the day. For the most part, Michael Redd got whatever he wanted, scoring early and late on a variety of jumpers and post moves (he finished with 29). And until Newble's arrival, the Cavs had absolutely no answer for Patterson in the post (who added 24). The defense didn't solidify until late in the fourth where Newble and Snow bodied up on Patterson and Redd (the Bucks didn't during the final 2 minutes).
Oh yeah, that LeBron James fellow. James started off slow (1-5) and didn't really assert himself until the second period (where he scored 12). He picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls in a 40 second span early in the third and the Cavs promptly fell apart (6 point lead to 9 point deficit).
James led the Cavalier comeback in the fourth with 16 points; he started off shooting (settling?) for long 3s, but they went in. After the 3pt barrage brought the Cavs back, James decided to take the ball to the rim, with devastating results. Would I have liked him to be more assertive early on? Of course, but the refs were letting the Bucks flop, so I can understand why he didn't force the issue inside. However, when the game was on the line, James switched gears (refs be damned) and took it to the hole.
Mother F%@$! Free Throws! What? The Cavs shot 86% from the line? They were 13-15? LeBron hit all four of his (that's right, four. James had three charges and four free throws. Ya, figure that one out).
The three headed power forward monster came through. Gooden had 13 points (though he missed a few gimmes), 8 rebounds and was one of the few Cavs you could say didn't play terrible in the first 3 quarters. Donyell Marshall had 19 points and gave the Cavs some great play down the stretch (he also finished with a Marshall-like 2 rebounds and was 5-7 from 3pt range). And Varejao? He had a pretty nondescript game overall (6pts, 10 boards), but he hit the go ahead layup with 11 seconds left to break the 92-all tie (he had a chance for a 3pt play, but missed the freebie).
Indiana tomorrow. Can the Cavs take their win streak to five? Can they win on a second day/night/evening of a back-to-back? Can they win there straight against Central Division rivals? Can they make anyone care about NBA basketball on Selection Sunday (BTW- the MAC deserves 2 teams)? Tune in tomorrow at 6pm and find out!