Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cleveland 97, Washington 82

Solid win. It was nothing spectacular. It was nothing that exciting. But it was a win and it gave the Cavs a 1-0 series lead. The TNT game crew seemed surprised that the Cavs let the Wizards hang around and that they didn't step on Washington's throat. I'm pretty sure anyone who has followed this team weren't nearly as shocked.

The Wizards did hang around, for awhile at least. It was a 7-10 point ball game for most of the afternoon. Every time the Cavs would push it to 10 or 12, Washington would hit a big shot or go on a mini-run (Antwan Jamison was usually prominently involved). And while the Cavs never exactly put Washington away, there was never a point where you thought the game might have been in doubt. The Cavs eventually pulled away at the end, mostly because Washington ran out of gas. While the Cavs controlled the entire game, you would've liked to see them dominate the entire game instead.

Antwan Jamison can score the basketball. For some reason the Cavs decided to single cover Jamison for much of the first half and he made them pay. Jamison scored on a number of moves throughout the game (jump hooks, drives, up and unders, 3s, face ups, etc) but was much quieter in the second half when the Cavs sent a double team at him.

The minute distribution was pretty good. LeBron and Larry logged 44 and 45 minutes respectively and while it isn't ideal, at this point of the year its to be expected. The big thing for me was that Zydrunas got some playing time down the stretch and he delivered (16 and 8 in 35 minutes). I would've liked to see more of Pavlovic (4 fouls- 28 minutes) and Gibson (rookie-1 minute) and less of Snow (22 minutes), but thats a small quibble.

Larry Hughes played well. He had 27 points and 7 boards and had two big plays that really got the crowd involved (his buzzer beating 3 at halftime and his 3pt play fast break bucket). Did he still frustrate me with the jumpers and head scratching fast break decisions (I know two points = two points, but when the choice is between Larry Hughes free throws and a LeBron James monster dunk, in terms of momentum and crowd noise, the monster dunk is 'worth' more)? Yes. But overall he had a really good game.

LeBron was 'average'. He didn't dominate, but then again, he didn't really have to. Four Cavalier starters scored in double figures and the fifth, Pavlovic, finished with 9. At different points in the game Hughes, Gooden and Z were all hot (and being fed the ball) and James didn't really have to take over or control the game. With that being said, James finished with 23 points, 9 boards and 7 assists- not a bad 'average' game.

Free throws make things easier. The Cavs starters were 27 of 31 from the foul line. James and Z both had double digit free throw attempts (LeBron was 9-11 and Ilguaskas was 8-10) and the back court was 10-10 (Hughes 8-8, Pavs 2-2). Varejao was the only Cavalier to have any sort of problems from the stripe, going just 3-8 on the afternoon. If the Cavs can shoot a halfway decent percentage from the line, they'll be helping themselves out a lot.

and finally...

1/4 (1/16?) The Cavs didn't play their best and they weren't spectacular but they won. It was a nice win, but not exactly a great one. I'd have liked to see the Cavs just destroy the Wizards (so would've every TNT pundit) but it wasn't a bad game by any means. It all depends on what kind of lessons the Cavs take from this. If they learned that they need to come out with more energy and put Washington away early (like the Atlanta game at the end of the year).... good. If they learned that they don't have to play that hard (or don't need a lot from LeBron) and that this series is going to be a breeze... not good.


Erik said...

Hey, what do you know? The playoffs start, and suddenly Z and Hughes are more than dead weight on the roster.

Maybe this will clue Mike Brown in: Use Z frequently because he is a walking mismatch in this series. The Wizards are too small to defend his 15-footers, and without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, they aren't fast enough to force the game to become a track meet.

I still can't understand why Brown lets Hughes and Marshall bomb away from the perimeter willy-nilly with no consequences, while the instant Z misses a few shots, he disappears in favor of Andy.

So, as a quick reference guide for Brown:

Drive and kicks to Z from 15 = good

Mid-range stepback J's from Hughes = good

Marshall hanging out on the perimeter for catch-and-shoot 3's = bad

Hughes shooting from anywhere beyond 18 feet = bad

Z on the bench for huge stretches while Andy tries to guard Etan Thomas and Marshall camps out on the arc = bad

Ben said...

Here's the thing: Brown subs out Z (or Gooden) for Varejao and Pavlovic for Snow. This takes out two offensive threats and brings in a raw big man and an offensive liability.

This leaves LeBron a backcourt of Snow and Hughes, both of whom can't shoot. So he brings in Marshall, the 'Big Man Shooter'. So that leaves the Cavs no post play and no actual shooters. Awesome (and nevermind when Newble comes in for Hughes).

I continue to dislike Pavlovic getting under 30 minutes while LeBron and Larry each get 40 plus. Even that out a little bit, Sasha deserves it.

Also, don't do what Dallas did last night and let the lesser team dictate what you do. If the Wizards go small (and they'll pretty much have to), keep Z in there and let him 'run' amok.

Erik said...

Don Nelson is so far inside the Mavs' heads it's going to take a brain surgeon with barbeque tongs to get him out.

The rest of that series is going to be fun.