Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cleveland 84, Portland 83

The Cavs had no business winning this ball game. The Blazers led for the entire second half, they had energy (the Cavs missed Varejao) and every single break seemed to go their way (I swear to God every loose ball somehow ended up working out in their favor). For most of the second half, the Blazer lead would seemingly fluctuate between 6 and 10 points and whenever the Cavs made a mini run, it would balloon back up to double digits.

Until LeBron James simply went off. James scored 17 of the Cavs 22 fourth quarter points, hit three 3s during a 12-0 fourth quarter run (which lasted roughly 1:30) and hit the go ahead layup with .3 seconds left (and um... he may have taken 3 steps on that shot... but shhh). He was nothing short of spectacular. James was the only Cavalier in double digits (37 points) and he also gave them 14 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks (he led in all categories). James was aggressive from the outset; he had a couple monster dunks early on and he went coast-to-coast for a basket about 6 times throughout the game. He did sprain his right ankle near the end of the first half, but he came out fine, if a bit tentative, in the second half (and honestly, ESPN seemed more concerned about it than he did).

Down the stretch, the Blazers made one play that impressed the hell out of me and another that confused the hell out of me. The nice play: LeBron just tied the game at 81 on another absurd 3, the Blazers come down and Travis Outlaw hits a big shot over Drew Gooden to give Portland the lead. For them to take back the lead, after LeBron's gone off... I was quite impressed. Their next possession... notsomuch. After Gooden split a pair of free throws, the Blazers gave the ball to Brandon Roy (16 points, 8 assists and 7 boards), who decided to take a 24 foot, fade-away 3 pointer from the wing. Just a terrible shot. I don't want to say it cost the Blazers the game, but you have to get a better look in that situation.

This game was ugly... except for the last 5 minutes or so. Neither team shot over 40%, neither team cracked 90 and the Cavs shot under 70% from the foul line. Somehow the Cavs cracked the 20 point barrier in each quarter (they were consistently mediocre) but don't ask me how it happened. The Cavs threw the ball away (12 TOs) and gave up 11 Portland offensive rebounds. There were a few times where I thought they just might pack it in only to make a mini run and keep things respectable (like when Portland was up 14 with 3 minutes to go in the 3rd... somehow it's a 6 point lead heading into the 4th).

Joel Pryzbilla killed them. The big fella had 9 points (3-3 FG), 9 boards (4 offensive) and 3 blocks in 25 minutes. At least two of his blocks came against LeBron and it seemed like everytime that Cavs got a stop, Pryzbilla somehow ended up snagging a big offensive board. He killed the Cavs all game long.

Remember how Larry Hughes kicked ass in the couple games? Ya, that well dried up. Hughes was a glorious 2-11 from the field and 4-6 from the line. His two baskets came on dunks (which I guess is somewhat remarkable) and he pitched in 3 assists and 2 boards. In case you were wondering, none of Larry's 24 minutes of court time came in the final period (he can't be pleased about that development, especially after his performance in the Laker game).

The Blazers are one of the top 3 point shooting teams but the Cavs shut them down. Some of this is luck and some of it Cavalier defense, but Portland shot just 3-14 from behind the arc. The Cavs did force them into some tough shots (like Roy's final attempt) but they also dodged a couple of bullets here and there (Blake was just 2-6 and he missed some open looks).

The bench was decent... neither that good or that bad. With Varejao out, we got to see a little of Cedric Simmons and Dwayne Jones. Simmons looked really nervous sharing the floor with James and didn't contribute much. However, Jones had a big offensive rebound and he made all four of his free throw attempts. Gibson and Jones both pitched in a couple of 3s apiece, but only one of them came in the second half (and it wasn't in the 4th).

and finally...

If you want your team to win, don't taunt LeBron James. So LeBron gets into it with some fans in Toronto and he goes off and kills the Raptors. Then Wednesday night, LeBron gets into it with a Portland fan and singlehandedly brings the Cavs back from the brink finishes off the Blazers. If I'm Dan Gilbert, I try to work this in my favor. Gilbert should purchase court side seats for Cavalier road games and give them to people with the explicit instructions to heckle James. Hell, we don't even need Gilbert involved... we just need Cavs fans to dress up in the opposing teams colors and piss LeBron off. You'd think that opposing fans would learn to stop giving this guy a hard time.... but let's hope not.

2 comments:

Erik said...

I vote that all Cavs fans should donate to a fund that will allow us to hire Lewis Black, fly him to every Cavs road game, purchase him a courtside seat, outfit him with the opposing team's ballcap and a t-shirt that says "Global Icon, My Ass!" and let him have at LeBron for 48 minutes. The Cavs would never lose another road game.

A win is a win, but the way they won this game does not bode well for the 3-4 weeks they're going to be without Andy. It's almost like the Cavs take on the persona of whatever power forward is on the floor. When Andy is out there, the team is energized, moving their feet on defense and trying to rebound. When Drowsy Drew is out there, they transform into zombies.

I can only imagine what would happen if Donyell Marshall became the PF of choice with the game on the line.

I guess LeBron is going to have to work overtime in the energy department until Andy gets back. I don't think the energy (or the impetus to win) is going to come from any other source.

This is where Danny Ferry gets into a kind of Catch-22 with regard to making trades. The Cavs need help ASAP. But Ferry can't really make any trades until Andy gets back, because Drew will likely be involved in just about any trade worth making.

So the Cavs are back in a situation where they're just kind of trying to survive, like at the outset of the season. They have nine games left until the all-star break. If Andy can return after the break, that means the Cavs need to go 4-5 over the next nine games to tread water without Andy.

You'd like to think they could do more, but with Boston, Orlando and San Antonio on the schedule between now and then, it's probably best to set the bar low and hope they can overachieve.

Ben said...

Something tells me that their days off in LA played some part in their subpar effort yesterday.

I can only see the Cavs landing Kidd in a way similar to the Mets and Santana. Wait for the other teams to drop out/lose interest and then swoop in with a mediocre deal.

The problem right now is, with Andy out, the Cavs can't afford to let go of Gooden... and he's in his worst funk of the season. If he can return to his early season form, the Cavs could be alright, trade or no trade.