Thursday, November 08, 2007

Utah 103, Cleveland 101

This one hurts. The Cavs were down for the bulk of the game, but they fought and clawed all night long to tie the score with 6 seconds left (hell, they were down 5 with 27 seconds left). But, instead of calling a timeout, Utah and Deron Williams ran down the court and scooped in a layup with 1 second left.

LeBron played great. LBJ notched his first triple double of the season (and he had it before the 4th quarter began). James finished the game with 32 points (on 12-27 shooting), 15 boards, 13 assists nevermind his 3 steals and 2 blocks. He hit the 3 to tie the game with 6 seconds left (and that was a back breaker- hand in his face, standing still... ridiculous). James looks really good right now; he's doing everything that a coach (or fan) could want. He's taking good shots, he's passing extremely well (he easily could've had more assists if guys finished strong) and he's playing superb defense (he has 9 blocks over the last three games).

This was the first game that I thought the Cavs actually missed Anderson Varejao. They needed someone to match the energy of Utah's Paul Milsap, who just murdered the Cavs with junk points and rebounds. Milsap had a career high 24 points to go along with 5 boards. They also needed Varejao to spell Drew Gooden, who needed a break mentally. It just wasn't Drew's night; he was just 2-11 from the floor and he missed numerous close shots. He also got the ball stripped a few times while dribbling in the key (he'd get a pass or a rebound and do a power dribble to set himself. But whenever he brought the ball that low, someone would get a hand on the ball). This doesn't mean I want the Cavs to go give Andy that one year deal, but with Marshall out, you can tell that Mike Brown doesn't trust his bench bigs (Dwayne Jones got just 9 minutes and I'm not sure if we've seen Cedric Simmons play all year- though he might be hurt).

The Cavs must get their free throw shooting under control. They lost by 2, in Utah, on a second night of a back to back and they shot just 65% from the line (while the Jazz were 34-40 for 85%). Though, honestly, this wasn't so much a team problem as it was a LeBron James problem. James was just 7-15 from the stripe. To his credit, they weren't falling early (just 3-8) but he kept forcing the issue to get back to the line. In close road loss like this, the Cavs need LeBron to make at least 70% of his freebies (though, 80% is the number to aim for).

Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas played really well. Again. Big Z had 18 points, 14 boards and 4 blocks in 31 minutes. You wonder if this game would've turned out differently if it wasn't the second night of a back-to-back because Z definitely could've (and should've) had more court time. I think the new 'drive and kick' offense has allowed Z to get more set jumpers as well as some lanes for offensive rebounds (he had 7 against the Jazz).

Daniel Gibson takes some tough calls. So far this year, opposing point guards go right at Boobie and try to draw contact. I don't think he really is out of position or slaps too much but he doesn't have the strength to body some of these guys inside (of course, he just went against Baron Davis and Deron Williams, not many guards can put a body on those two). However, Gibson continued to shoot well, knocking down three treys and scoring 12 points.

Sasha Pavlovic played well... for a half. For the first half, Pavlovic had 17 points. For the game... he had 17 points. Maybe he's still playing his way into game shape, I dunno. But he airballed a wide open 3 in the fourth and was generally non-existent for the final period. As the season (and road trip) marches on, I think we'll see Sasha put together complete games.

The little things hurt. The Cavs had way too many turnovers. They had 18 for the game, but 13 of those came in the first half. There were a lot of bad passes, traveling violations and just general disarray at the offensive end. A lot of these weren't even forced turnovers, just simple miscues by the Cavaliers. Utah did get some lucky bounces of their own; there were multiple times that a Cavalier player would slap away a pass or shot on the defensive end, only to see it land next to a Utah player three feet from the rim. Also, the Jazz had at least six 'and one' plays (and Paul Milsap had three of 'em). Like I said, I wonder how this game turns out if it isn't the second night of a back-to-back.

But the effort was there. One of my big problems with the Cavaliers last season is that, when they lost, they lost ugly. They'd take bad shots, they'd lose focus and they simply just played bad. So far, at least on this road trip, I like how the Cavs have played, losses included. The effort has been there every night (the Cavs outrebounded Utah 47-43), the defense has been there (Z and LeBron combined for 6 blocks) and they stayed within their game plan (movement! using the post! all game long!).

and finally...

Does anyone not like this starting five? The Cavs (and LeBron) are so much tougher to guard when defenses have to account for both guards behind the arc. Gibson and Sasha help spread the floor and it gives the offense more space to maneuver. If Pavlovic hadn't missed training camp, I would guess that Larry Hughes would be coming off the bench upon his return (but, if Hughes comes back anytime soon -before Sasha gets his legs back- I'd expect him to resume his starting role). I think it's safe to say the Cavs should give coach Brown offensive players who he can teach defense, rather than defensive specialists who have to learn to shoot.


graham said...

I think they actually have looked pretty good, even though they are under .500. LeBron just looks awesome. He could easily win the MVP, but my guess is they'll give to Garnett because he plays on the east coast (there definitely is a bias when it comes to awards)

I don't know if its comforting or not, but they shoulda beat the Jazz and almost did even though they really didn't play that great.

That last play really bugged me though. You HAVE to make Williams give the ball up.

D Lee said...

At least Cleveland isnt playing like Seattle. I think Seattle's over/under for wins was 24.


Jeff said...

The Cavs are 1-2 on this west coast trip, with a good win against GS and losses to the Suns (who we don't match up well against) and a buzzer beater loss to the Jazz (who went to the Western Conference Finals last year). You can't feel bad about how things have gone so far, though you can't necessarily feel good about it. Our next couple of games (Sac, LA Clips, Nuggets) will determine whether this will be a successful road trip or not, since they all are beatable teams.

Ben said...

As far as MVP goes, LeBron has the chance to put up better numbers, simply because of his teammates.

As for the last play... Williams is a pretty good player. It's not like they let Tyron Lue beat them.

I'd like to see some more Seattle games, simply due to Durant (and its too bad what the NBA is doing to the Seattle fans). They'll be better as the year goes on.

The Cavs definitely need to go 2-1 against those three teams. Going 3-3 on the trip isn't bad at all.