They made that a lot tougher than it needed to be. Washington was missing both Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler (who had the ESPN cameras on him all night for some reason) and, on paper, this was a game that the Cavs should've won going away. If you're surprised that they struggled Friday night, you haven't been watching this team all season.
LeBron had an off game. He just didn't seem interested for most of the game but he did turn it on in the late, scoring 14 of his 25 in the final period. But he finished just 7-25 from the floor (though he did shoot 11-14 from the line). His final line was 25 points, 6 boards and 5 assists- not a bad game by any means, but it wasn't anything that great either.
I don't understand the substitution patterns. Daniel Gibson didn't play at all. Ira Newble played 17 minutes (to his credit, he did well). Z, Gooden and Sasha all received less than 30 minutes. LeBron and Larry played 44 apiece. Someone explain that to me. First of all, neither LeBron nor Larry was playing well enough to warrant 44 minutes. Second of all, I realize that Sasha wasn't playing particularly well, but he wasn't that bad (and Hughes doesn't get yanked when he throws up 2-10 and Pavs was just 1-3). Third, how come Z wasn't used down the stretch? He had 18 points and yet he wasn't almost non-existent at the end. Eight of all, it's not a good sign that the Cavs needed (or felt they needed) 44 minutes from LeBron and Larry to beat a depleted Wizards squad. This game didn't need to be this hard.
And the lineups... my lord. A five of Snow, (a sometimes shoeless) Newble, James, Marshall and Varejao? Then Brown subbed out James and put in Hughes. I think I speak for all Cavs fans when I say, "terrific".
Yes, a shoeless Newble. He lost his shoe late in the first quarter and then picked up and had it in his hand while he was playing defense. This led to Bill Walton telling a story about how he lost his shoe once and then got a tech because he threw it at a Bob McAdoo shot. I'm glad he told that story for a number of reasons: 1) you can't tell me you weren't thinking what would've happened if Newble had tossed his shoe at a shot (cause I know I was) 2) I can picture a bearded Bill Walton throwing shoes and that is awesome and 3) any Bob McAdoo reference is a good reference.
The offense was awful. Jumpshots, jumpshots, jumpshots. No one moved. No one cut. No one was surprised by these events. Newble's play was actually a breath of fresh air because (shocking!) he moved without the ball. He got an easy dunk on a cut (Hughes got one as well, but never went back to it) and he crashed the boards- he gave the team a much needed boost. It's mind boggling that we all can see how easy they score when they go down low (LeBron's one play in the post) or feed the post (Z was scoring well and the big men will hit guys when they make a strong cut) and yet everyone settles for crappy jumpers (and only Sasha suffers the PT consequences). Every time they drive something good happens.
The defense wasn't exactly stellar either. The first half was particularly bad, as they let Washington get whatever they wanted. Six Wizards scored in double figures (including all five starters) but their free throws, or lack thereof, let the Cavs steal a victory. The Wizards shot a Cleveland-esque 12-22 from the stripe while the Cavs got 29 of 37 to go in. The Wizards also let the Cavs off the hook by giving the ball away a staggering 23 times (the Cavs had just 11 TOs).
The Cavs got beat in just about every other category. Washington outrebounded Cleveland 40-36, they out shot the Cavaliers 51% to 44% (and they actually scored more field goals too, 38-34) and they beat the Cavs from downtown as well (6-18 and 2-9 respectively). If Washington made their freebies and held onto the ball (and early on, the turnovers were mostly unforced. I'll give the Cavs credit for the second half; they did step the D up a little)
Every game counts. Am I annoyed by the lack of energy and sense of urgency? Of course. Am I pissed at the offense (or lack there of)? Hell yes. And am I still confused by the lack of Gibson? You bet. But a win is a win is a win is a win. They tried their darnedest to lose this game (and pull a New York/Boston/Charlotte/Atlanta game), but they gutted it out. It wasn't pretty, but it counts. It's these games that have cost them the 2-seed. The Miami loss hurts, but it counts just as much as the Knicks and Celtics losses. It's good they bounced back and got the victory. Now they get to go into Detroit playing like this. Awesome.