Who's excited for mid-December NBA basketball? Cavs vs Bobcats! LeBron James (not playing. again)! There were a lot of empty seats in the lower bowl and throughout the arena. I don't know what the official attendance was, but I would guess that it's lower. The Bobcats' public address announcer kept trying to fire the crowd up with a 'let's go Cats!' chant and I just felt bad for the guy. No one cared and he just got more annoying as the game went on.
This was some sloppy basketball. Haphazard passes, bizarre shot choices and lots of foul shots (Charlotte shot 48, Cleveland shot 31)- this game wasn't pretty. The third quarter was probably the worst, as neither team scored 20 points in the period. For the game, the Cavs had 25 turnovers and the Bobcats had 19.
The Cavs could not execute down the stretch. Z got blocked (or fouled) off a pick-and-roll, Daniel Gibson turned it over with a carry and Shannon Brown missed multiple 3s from the corner. The Cavs also called a timeout with 30 seconds left only to have Larry Hughes dribble the ball off his foot. This was ugly.
Though the Bobcats kept bailing them out. Shannon Brown got fouled twice on made layups down the stretch and Daniel Gibson got fouled shooting a trey with under 10 seconds to go. Some of the mental lapses in this game were just mind boggling (I mean, Jason Richardson just grabbed Shannon Brown on an open layup... I don't get it).
However, for the most part, Larry Hughes played really well. This was Larry's first game back and he led the Cavs with a season high 20 points (his previous high for the year? 12). Hughes looked remarkably different Saturday night; he took the ball to the rim (and finished!), he played nagging defense and, most of all, he played with confidence. Austin Carr and Fred McCleod kept babbling about Larry's recent upper body lifting playing a part in this, which begs the question: was Larry Hughes not lifting before? Is this possible? The announcers kept remarking that Hughes looks different and stronger, but I couldn't really tell, I mean, I haven't seen him play in about a month.
Shannon Brown got 12 shots, Zydrunas Ilgauskas got 7. I don't care for this.
Not that Brown played poorly. Sure, he still takes some head scratching shots, but for the most part he was under control. Brown scored 15 points on 6-12 shooting (0-3 from behind the arc) but was just 3-6 at the foul line (including one miss where McCleod remarked that he didn't think Brown "missed it on purpose"... that's a never a good sign). Brown did break out his statue of liberty dunk again... he only has one dunk, but man, its pretty badass.
The bench showed up. Kinda. Cleveland's bench outscored their Charlotte counterparts 36-20 (yay!). 34 of those 36 points were from two players (um... wah?). Ira Newble had 14 to got with Hughes' 20 (Dwayne Jones had 2). Newble was active around the rim, grabbing 5 boards and Hughes played the role of LeBron James; creating with the ball in his hands and attacking the rim (he wasn't shooting any set jumpers tonight).
Better, but not there yet. This game was better than the Cavs last couple outings simply by the fact that it was watchable. The Cavs actually showed some heart and kept the game competitive, but they really needed to keep things under control. It was a better effort overall, but give up 48 free throws while turning the ball over 25 will kill ya. The Cavs don't play again until Tuesday, when they have Indiana at home. Hopefully LeBron and Anderson Varejao will ready for action (however limited).