Well, that's more like it. Obviously, it's nice to get the win (especially before the road trip) but I was happy to see that the Cavs looked like they actually gave a crap. There was a noticeable difference in effort on Friday compared to the home opener. Going against the Knick's defense makes a helps a bit, but the Cavs looked a lot more focussed.
The LeBron that showed up against Dallas wasn't anywhere near the Q. LeBron had 45 points, 7 boards and 7 assists (a bit better than his 10 point, 5 board and 4 assist opener). He looked like a completely different player; you could tell he was more into the game just by his body language. This is the kind of effort the Cavs will need from their MVP candidate every night. He didn't force too many shots, he got to the line (though he shot just 16-22) and he got a few easy buckets early on (it's nice when he can get points without having to go 1 on 4). The Cavs looked to James in the post in the first half, but went away from it in the second (the third quarter in particular was frustrating).
Daniel Gibson can shoot. Boobie scored 24 points while shooting 6-9 from beyond the arc (8-12 overall). Gibson got the Cavs off to a quick start (a four point play to open the game and 11 first quarter points) and he helped them put the Knicks away at the end. Gibson outscored the Knicks 9-3 in one minute span about halfway through the fourth to push Cavs lead from two (89-87) to eight (98-90).
Though his defense is alright. Gibson is a good defender but he's just too short. So far this season, teams aren't shy about exploiting Gibson at the defensive end. Dallas looked to get Boobie matched up with Jerry Stackhouse while New York tried to get him covering Jamal Crawford. He does OK, but the Cavs are going to have to help him out when he's caught down on the block.
The Cavs do miss Varejao. While I don't think his defense would've done much against Eddie Curry (18 points) or Zach Randolph (24 points), the Cavs did miss his rebounding (they were actually out rebounded 43-39). Z had a good night on the glass (12 rebounds) and Gooden was decent (6 rebounds) but the bench big men need to step up (the bench combined for just 8 boards). Dwayne Jones had just 3 rebounds and Donyell Marshall contributed just a single board; Jones hustles well enough, but gets beat while Marshall was basically a non-factor all night.
Shannon Brown didn't play. That's can't be a good sign. Brown didn't score and had 5 turnovers in the opener and the Cavs didn't pick up his option for next season. I'm sure his confidence is sky high right now.
Jamal Crawford always seems kills the Cavs (and he did on Friday). Crawford had 25 points on a variety of shots and also tossed out 6 assists. Whenever he got the ball he just attacked, mostly against Gibson and Hughes. I'm not sure what it is, but the Cavs seem to have trouble with him.
The Cavs defense got better as the game went on. Sure, the Knicks scored over 100 points, but they shot just 46% for the game (which isn't too bad, considering they were near 60% for the first quarter) and they made some big stops at the end. Curry and Randolph hurt them down low (a combined 39 points) but that's to be somewhat expected (those guys can flat out score). The Cavs also kept New York off the foul line (where the Knicks didn't help themselves by shooting 14-23).
Was this game a must win? I don't know if it was, but it was about as close to a must win as the second game of the year can be. They definitely need to wash the taste of the Dallas loss out of their (and the fans') mouth and they really didn't need to start their six game West Coast trip with a record of 0-2.