Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cleveland 96, Miami 82

Hooray! A solid victory over an inferior opponent! The Cavs attacked (34 free throw attempts), played solid defense (hled Miami to 43% and 1-8 for 3) and spread the ball around (23 assists and five players in double figures). Of course, it helped that they went against the Miami Heat, one of the worst teams in the league... but after the debacle in New York, I'll take it.

First play of the game: a dunk by LeBron. The Cavs actually focussed on getting LeBron the ball inside the 3 point line and it paid off. James was 9-19 from the field for 25 points and he dished out 12 assists (he also pitched in 6 boards). When LeBron can receive the ball at least somewhat near the rim, he's practically unstoppable. Why the Cavs don't emphasize this is beyond me.

Shaq looks old. Real old. It's not a good sign that Pat Riley had to keep him on the bench for the last 6 minutes just so he wouldn't foul out for the 6th straight game (which would tie a record). The big fella had 13 points (4-7 FG, 5-10 FT), 9 boards, 4 TO and 5 fouls. At least he isn't owed roughly a billion dollars over the next couple years...

The Cavalier big men showed up. Gooden had 16 points and 9 boards, Z had 13 and 8 and Varejao came off the bench to pitch in 16 and 7. They were very active on the offensive boards (they each had 2 apiece) and they played solid defense and stayed out of foul trouble (though it helps that Shaq looks around 55 years old). My one quibble of the afternoon is with Drew Gooden, so seemed hesitant to shoot the ball. Drew got a couple of good baseline looks that he passed up in order to pump fake or pass the ball. Those baseline jumpers are his shot and he needs to take them when he's open.

I'm not sure point guard is the Cavs biggest problem...
If you saw a line that read 9 points, 7 assists, 6 boards and 5 steals, you'd say that's a pretty decent game. Except that's the combined stats of Sasha Pavlovic and Larry Hughes. Oh, and they also shot a combined 3-15. Bravo boys. Bravo. (adding... I'm still not sure what Sasha needs to do in order to get a favorable call at the offensive end, but may I suggest bribes?)

FYI, Daniel Gibson can shoot. LeBron actively looked to get Boobie the ball and it paid off. Gibson scored 15 points and shot 4-6 from beyond the arc. He did all of that off the bench too (I guess Mike Brown watched Pavlovic and Hughes shoot 30% over the last 5 games and thought to himself, "instead of benching these losers, I'll start both of them!). The Cavs need to exploit Gibson's shooting ability more often. Run some plays, run him off screens... something! I am happy to report that he did get more shots (11) than both Pavlovic (8) AND Hughes (7).

I dislike watching Dwyane Wade. Maybe I don't see enough of his games to appreciate him, but all I'm seeing is him drive to the hole with reckless abandon in order to draw contact and thus free throw attempts (8-16 from the stripe). I know he's got a great mid-range game and that he can finish at the rim, but he gets a lot of calls that would go against LeBron or Kobe just because of his size (meaning, LeBron would draw a charge, while Wade bounces off defenders).

and finally...

Merry Christmas Cleveland! After the ugliness of the Browns' loss and the thumping of the Cavaliers by Golden State, it was nice for a Cleveland team to actually beat a bad team. The Cavs next game is in Dallas on Thursday... so... I guess I'm saying enjoy this win, cause I'm not expecting much against the Mavericks.


Erik said...

I still envy the Heat. They won a title. If the Cavs won a title, I wouldn't care as much if the roster got old and fell apart two years later.

Shaq's going to the hall of fame, he's one of the top five centers of all time along with Wilt, Kareem, Mikan and Russell, but right now, he's not even the best NBA center in the state of Florida. Shaq has tons of money and numerous ventures outside of basketball (does he still want to be a policeman?), so my guess is that he hangs 'em up no later than the summer of '09.

At that point, D-Wade's body should be breaking down due to the all-out style of play he's celebrated for, and he'll have to reinvent himself as a jump-shooter. Maybe at that point, the national media can get past the whole "Wade was the best player in the '03 draft" fixation.

Wade might have won a title first, but when we look back in 10 years, I don't think there's going to be much of an argument about who has performed at a higher level for longer.

All I can say is that Wade and Kobe needed Shaq to win rings. LeBron lugged this ball and chain of a Cavs roster to the Finals with Boobie Gibson as his right-hand man.

Ben said...

I love the argument of "Kobe/Wade is better than LeBron because of the championship(s)".

Seriously? You think if LeBron had a player of Shaq's caliber on the roster he wouldn't have won a ring?