Monday, November 05, 2007

Phoenix 103, Cleveland 92

It actually was a closer game than the final score makes it appear. Sure, most Cavs fans won't find solace in that, but the game was pretty close throughout.

Actually, the Cavs had a lead at halftime, 45-38. That's right, they held the Suns under 40 points in the first half. The Cavs slowed down the tempo, played tough defense (only 6 Phoenix fastbreak points) and took advantage of Amare Stoudemire's absence by routinely going inside to the bigs (plus they outrebounded Phoenix 35-17). Of course, it also helped that the Suns were ice cold from the floor in the first half (though the Cavs did hold them mostly to jumpers).

Then the 3rd quarter happened. So the Cavs led 45-38 at halftime... and with 7:00 to go in the 3rd period they led 47-46. 5 minutes. 2 points. Yuck. Plus it was really really fun to watch; it wasn't like those 5 minutes were filled with 20 foot jumpers (1-6) and poor turnovers (including a traveling call, a 3 seconds call and multiple terrible passes) or anything...

Also, they stopped going to the big men down low. I don't get it, they simply stopped exploiting their height advantage and settled for jumpers. They went inside later in the game, but by that time (late 4th quarter) they were playing catch up. The Suns made a run to get back into the game and the Cavs blinked; they settled for jumpers and got off their game plan.

Larry Hughes and Damon Jones don't know how to pass. I'm not saying they're selfish or anything, but they don't see passing angles that well (they'll miss open guy or will simply force the issue). Also, the entire team needs to get better at post entry passes, it's pretty pathetic. It's OK to utilize bounce passes every now and then.

Some of that could be the new offense. The Cavs didn't look as unsure as they did against Dallas, but they still don't quickly recognize when to pass the ball and to hold on to it. LeBron is going down low quite a bit and they need to exploit that more often. If he gets a smaller man on him, they need to make that pass inside (bounce, lob... however).

For the season, Larry Hughes is 9-33. That's a blistering 27%. I don't care for his jumpers, but I did like his drive on Steve Nash. I wish he'd do that more often...

LeBron played pretty well (especially defensively). 27 points, 8 assists, 5 boards, 4 blocks(!) and 2 steals. Plus, he was 3-5 from beyond the arc and he got easy points by hanging out by the hoop and taking advantage of the Suns' lack of height (though he still gets pushed away from the block too easily).

However... LeBron's first field goal came after 6 minutes went by in the first period. His last field goal came with 6:07 to go in the 4th. Over the last 6 minutes of the game, LeBron had just 2 points (on two free throws). Oh, and those two freebies? Those were his first foul shots of the game. I hate to ask this guy to do more but... if the Cavs are going (to have a chance) to win in Phoenix, LeBron can't go basket-less for (multiple) 6 minute chunks and he needs to shoot his first free throws before there's just 1:35 left in the game. (Did I, a Cleveland fan, just criticize a 27-8-5-4 performance? I'm spoiled).

Z and Gooden continue to play well. They've both started the year off well (Z is averaging 15 points and 14 boards while Gooden's at 16 and 10) and their solid play continued in Phoenix. Both big men had 22 points and Gooden paced the Cavs with 14 boards and Z followed with 13. The Cavs needed them to rebound well because, with Donyell Marshall hurt and Anderson Varejao getting fat in Brazil, the Cavs don't have a lot of options down low (also, Dwayne Jones got a DNP-CD, so make of that what you will).

Sasha Pavlovic was back. Pavlovic had just 2 points on 1-5 shooting, but I think he'll be fine once he shakes the rust off of his jumper.

I wish the Cavs would exploit their matchups more. Whenever Damon Jones get brought in, teams attack him. Whenever Daniel Gibson gets switched on a bigger player, the opposition puts him right on the block. The Suns closed out the game by getting Drew Gooden to guard Steve Nash for back to back possessions. Why the Cavs don't do this more often is beyond me. They can't run a 1-3 pick and roll? Get Nash stuck guarding LeBron? No good?

and finally...

All things considered, not a bad game. Yeah, you could say they blew it, but I thought the Cavs did a decent job overall (it was certainly better than the Suns games last season. Ugh). A repeat of the Dallas game (or last year's game in Phoenix) would've really gotten this road trip off on the wrong foot. As it is, they're in decent shape going into Golden State on Tuesday.


Greg said...

I hate Larry Hughes, I'm sorry.

Did you see his comments about being a point guard today. He doesn't like it. Well, how can he justify going to the 2 spot if he can't hit shots? Doesn't matter if you're slashing or shooting off the dribble, you have to shoot better than 27%.

davemanddd said...

it's time to bite the bullet with larry hughes. if they can't trade him and his albatross contract, they might as well just buy him out because his "production" is doing nothing but bringing the cavs down and holding them back from, not only winning, but also from allowing the younger players to develop more. once sasha gets his legs under him, i would like to start him alongside gibson, bring hughes off the bench and see how the outside shooting would improve. another way to improve the outside shooting, as well as the point guard play, would be to just sign earl boykins. i don't care if he's only 5-foot-5. the man still creates matchup problems for most other teams as his speed and outside shooting ability are just way too much for most teams to compensate for. so what if he might be at a slight disadvantage defensively due to his short stature??? bringing him off the bench, especially early in the 3rd quater, would ratchet the offensive tempo up so much that opposing teams won't know what hit them. he is a superior passer and scorer than other point guard on the team currently and he can even hit his free throws!!! so what are you waiting for, danny ferry??? sign boykins now!!!

Ben said...

I'm wondering how much longer Hughes can stay/start before there's a change made (for his sanity and mine).

Obviously, it hasn't worked out thus far and right now, whenever he shoots and misses, Cavs fans let him hear it (understandably to and extent).

Dave, I agree with you about Pavs. The Cavs best 5, offensively (by far)is Gibson, Sasha, LeBron, Gooden and Z. That's 5 guys who can score and you must account for (unlike Snow, Hughes, Varejao...). I'd much rather see them go with the young guys (Pavs commits TOs, but at least he's aggressive).

Bringing in Boykins makes too much sense...