Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cleveland 94, New Jersey 76

Good win, but it started off slowly. And ugly. Both teams committed a ton of turnovers and nobody cracked the 40 point barrier by halftime. At the start of the third, New Jersey had 12 field goals and 12 turnovers. It seemed like yet another game that the Cavs barely cared about.

And then something strange and wonderful happened: they went inside. LeBron James simply took over during the third period, scoring 15 of his 35 points and destroyed the Nets. And the best part was that it wasn't on an array of jumpers or crazy "I'm LeBron James" shots- he initiated the Cavs big third quarter by setting up inside and abusing his man. Now, if you've followed my recaps or blog for any length of time, you know how much I enjoyed the sight of James racing down court to establish post position. James was unstoppable down low (he even had a Greg Oden-esque power dunk) and hitting the post, the rest of the offense opened up (amazing how that works).

The Cavs shot 82% in the third period. Obviously, this wasn't simply because of LeBron's new found love for the post; Hughes got hot late in the period and drilled a few jumpers in a row and Gooden finished the period with a jumper as well. Sure, things were going the Cavs way, but it's not a coincidence that they scored as many points in the third (36) as they did in the entire first half once James made up his mind to go inside.

Took 'em long enough. Have they been playing possum? Have they been saving these "LeBron in the post" plays for the playoffs? Was this really that hard to figure out? Whatever it is, don't stop doing it. It was glorious.

The starters outscored the entire Nets team. Which is at once both nice and troubling. On the one hand, it's great that the starters played so well but on the other hand, the lack of consistent bench production scares me a little. And the starters were making their jumpers (well, Hughes was making them late. They weren't falling early on, I can tell ya that). Donyell Marshall led the bench bunch with 6 points, but only one basket came in non-garbage time minutes.

Richard Jefferson couldn't buy a bucket. Or a foul. RJ finished 2-13 and a few of those misses were dunks (it really wasn't his night). At the same time, the dude could've gone to the line multiple times (instead of just once) but the refs were letting the Cavs play.

Nice music. During a LeBron highlight reel, TNT was playing the song 'Party Pit' by The Hold Steady in the background. Delightful. I very much approve (I love that song).

Good rest. This game was nice for a couple of reasons; the blowout is, if nothing else, confidence inspiring and hopefully this will carry over through their last 3 games and into the playoffs. Secondly, Brown actually kept LeBron under 40 minutes (36 to be exact)- this is always good. And finally (and wishfully), if the Cavs somehow overtake Chicago for the 2-seed, they'll be facing this same Nets squad. This win will hopefully set the tone for the series (should that scenario play out).

and finally...

1 down, 3 to go. If the Cavs want any shot at the aforementioned 2 seed, they're going to have to win out (they certainly got off to a nice start) and hope Chicago falters. The Cavs won't play again until Saturday, when they take on Atlanta (with the blow out, coupled with the past few days off, the Cavs should be ready to go). Winning out doesn't guarantee the 2-seed, but they want any sorta of chance, beating sub-.500 teams this last week is a must.

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