Hooray for Boobie! My lord. The balls on this kid. Larry Hughes tries to play but just can't keep up physically and Gibson comes and gives the Cavs a huge lift (the crowd loves this kid). Gibson scored 21 points on 4-7 shooting (and one of those misses was a 58 foot end of quarter heave) and hit all 12 of his freebies. Boobie attacked the hoop (hence the 12 FTAs), made shots that weren't treys (like a sweet step back in the lane) and didn't back down on defense (despite the Pistons going right at him). I guess what I like best about Gibson is all the little things he does that don't show up in the box score; he'll take a good angle on the break to set up a lob for LeBron (Hughes would not have done that), he'll fight for rebounds and keep them alive and showed a little Reggie Miller style leg kick to draw a foul on Hamilton- not only does this kid have a sweet jumper, but he has a very high basketball IQ.
It was nice to have Hughes start. I'm sure it kept a little bit of the pressure off of Gibson (and the Cavaliers) and he bought some time for the bench. The more Hughes is out there, the less we see of Eric Snow and Damon Jones (though I'll give Jones some credit too- he can't guard a soul right now, but he didn't kill the Cavs either). Larry hit his first shot but you could tell he just didn't have it (he wasn't limping all the time, but it came and went), the Pistons started running him through screens and he couldn't keep up. And when Hughes took the first three shots of the third quarter (none of which I'd label as 'good') his time was up.
About that third quarter. To a surprise to absolutely no one, the Cavs were terrible in the third quarter. 15 points (their second best third quarter showing in the series! They've given us 14, 13 and 16 point quarters in the first three games, respectively). Maybe they need to be sprinting out of the halftime talk, maybe they need to be doing hyper layup lines to warm up- I dunno. If they could've put together a competent third quarter in one of the first two games, they'd have a lead in this series (or maybe even be done?) and they can't afford to have another clunker in Game 5.
But the fourth quarter was money. The crunch time lineup? Gibson, Pavlovic, James, Gooden and Z. Hmm... guards who can spread the floor, big men with good jumpers and polished post moves to go with a superstar swingman who can get to the rim and enjoys sharing the ball... there might be a reason why this lineup works. This should be the Cavs' crunch time lineup from here on out (and all of next season, etc). These players give LeBron the most space to work with and can hit the open spot ups if left open. I can't believe it's taken this long to see this five, but I don't care how we've gotten to this point- just keep this going.
When did Drew Gooden become clutch? Did I miss something? How the hell did this happen? For the second game in a row, Gooden hit some major jumpers down the stretch (and a key free throw to put the Cavs up 88-83 with 1:15 to go- oh, and this was after he intercepted a Billups pass meant for Wallace). Gooden finished with 19 points (on 8-14) and 8 boards and a hard foul on Rasheed that seemed to fire up the Cavs (and the fans). Now let's see if he can take his game on the road; Drew is averaging 15 points and 7 boards in Cleveland and just 5 and 3 in Detroit. The Cavs are going to need his production, because he can give James that same pick-and-roll option (as with Varejao), but actually has the polished moves to finish (or pop out to shoot a J, which Anderson can't do).
Oh ya, that LeBron guy. 25 points, 11 assists and 7 boards (slacker!). He attacked early, he attacked late (but not in the third) and his aggression led to baskets for himself (like a dunk that Rasheed wanted no part of) and his teammates (he got Marshall an 'and one' chance with a nifty behind the back pass in traffic). Though the big story, at least for me, is that LBJ hit two key free throws with 0:04 left to put the Cavs up four and seal the victory (and you could tell how thrilled he was when those went down. Hamilton tried to psyche him out but it didn't matter). It sure is nice to be seeing TNT showing LeBron highlights with a giant 'CLUTCH' pasted across the screen. When LeBron attacks like this he is basically impossible to guard (hitting ridonkulous 23 foot fade-aways doesn't hurt).
Golden State had Jessica Alba, we get Geraldo Rivera. Fantastic. Cleveland definitely got a raw deal when they were handing out celebrity bandwagon fans.
Hey everyone, come see how good I look. I'm just gonna state the obvious: the Cavs play great defense. Look, there's a good reason that the Pistons aren't hitting on all cylinders at the offensive end (and it's not because they aren't trying). It's the Cavs' defense. This is a team that plays solid defense and rebounds extremely well; people are acting shocked that Detroit isn't scoring at will against the Cavaliers. Brown is taking the ball out of Chauncey's hands and not letting Billups control the game. Sure, Billups had 23 points in Game 4, but he shot just 6-16 from the field and had 5 turnovers; this isn't an aberration, this is by design.
Pavlovic wasn't exactly money out there. Sasha seemed a step slow for the first 75% of the game. He was guarding guys, don't get me wrong (it wasn't like he was getting lost out there) but the extra pressure just wasn't quite there for the bulk of the game. However, when crunch time came around, Sasha was into Tayshaun Prince's jersey and you could tell he had that extra step back. Sasha was just 2-7 from the floor (1-2 from beyond the arc) and finished with 5 points (but he two point FG came on a break away with six minutes left to give the Cavs a three point lead that they never relinquished). Sasha attacked for awhile, but kept getting his shot blocked and you could tell he backed off a bit.
Sometimes I take a look at Detroit's big men and start to worry, then I realize it's no longer the 90s. This must've been on the days where Antonio McDyess's knees felt good. He was abusing the Cavs (and Donyell Marshall on a sick up-and-under move) during that wonderful third quarter; scoring 8 points and dishing out an assist or two; the Cavs are lucky that he can only go around 20 minutes a night, because I'd hate to see what he'd be able to do if he was healthy. McDyess finished with 12 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 24 minutes.
Z wasn't good, but he wasn't bad either. His post moves are OK, but he's favoring the middle of the lane too much. The defenders know exactly where he's going and he's making it hard on himself by not mixing up a few baseline drop steps or fade aways. He's been active on the defensive end and been getting himself some open spot ups (plus, I'll take the Webber-Z matchup any day) but he could be more effective if he varied his moves every now and then.
This all seems familiar. Stop me if you've heard this before, the Cavs get down 0-2 in Detroit, come home to Cleveland and even the series. Then they go to Detroit for Game 5 and win. Can the Cavs do it again? Can they win three straight against the Pistons? I think they can. The Cavs have held the lead at halftime for every one of these games thus far and had wide open looks to win in the games at the Palace (hell, if Marshall and Hughes make their shots, we're waiting for the Spurs to wrap things up). If the Cavaliers can actually put together four good quarters, they should be able to win Game 5.