The Cavs did not deserve to win this game. They started off the afternoon trailing 20-6. At the end of the first, Toronto had doubled them up 28-14. They trailed by as many as 20 (35-15) in the second quarter before cutting the lead to 10 at halftime (43-33). The lead grew to 18 in the third, but at the quarter break it was 'just' 15. There were terrible shots, terrible turnovers and lackadaisical (to say the least) defensive effort. They didn't have a lead until 4:00 left in the game. There are two reasons, and two reasons only, why the Cavaliers won this game.
Reason 1: LeBron James. James completely went off in the fourth quarter; LBJ scored 24 of his 39 points in the fourth period (including four of the Cavs' seven 3s) to go along with 11 boards and 8 assists. One could say he saved their sorry asses. Like the Atlanta game, LeBron just took over and started making shots. While most of the big damage was done off of the four 3s LeBron nailed (and they weren't exactly in the offensive flow) he did drive to the rim for points (and free throws, 7-12)... but that was simply 1-on-5 as well. It wasn't like the offense started to click or anything, it was 90% LeBron, 10% Damon Jones/Daniel Gibson 3 balls.
Reason 2: rebounds (specifically, the offensive variety). Even though the Cavs trailed most of the game, they held a steady rebounding advantage throughout. They ended up winning the rebounding battle 52-33 with a whopping 20-5 edge in offensive boards. Now, some of this could stem from the fact that the Raptors outshot the Cavs 49%-41% (and it was more pronounced, like 60%-35%, early on), so Cleveland had more opportunities for offensive boards, but they took advantage. The Cavs put up 14 more shots (85-71) than the Raptors. James, Varejao and Gooden all had double digit boards (11, 13 and 12 respectively).
Chris Bosh was pretty good, but not dominant. Bosh had 24 points (9-11) but just grabbed four boards. He got a lot of dunks off of his teammates penetration, but didn't really assert himself (and lord know he could've, Z and Gooden aren't exactly stellar one-on-one defenders).
You want to know how bad things got during the first 3 periods? Damon Jones got to play. Jones answered the bell, making both 3's he attempted while also dishing out 3 assists. Say what you will about Jones, but give him credit, he sat for 7 games, came off the bench and hit shots. He didn't need more PT, he took what was given to him and made the most out of it.
Speaking of guys who need a lot of court time to find a groove, Larry Hughes wasn't terrible. Nothing Hughes did really stood out, but when I looked at the box score, I saw he shot 6-12 from the field. 50%? Huh, who knew? The Cavs starting point guard finished with 3 boards, 3 steals and 0 assists in just 25 minutes.
Though Sasha Pavlovic was terrible. Sasha was 1-7 and somehow ended up with 0 turnovers (I coulda swore he dribbled himself into a TO). It got so bad that Mike Brown actually benched Sasha for performance reasons 3 minutes into the third quarter (you know, as opposed to the normal '6 minute sub no matter what' routine). Sasha only had 16 minutes of court time.
The bench played a huge role. LeBron played 46 minutes and he was the only starter to play more than 30. No one off the bench hit double figures in points (Gooden and Hughes had 10 and 14 respectively) but both Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao gave the Cavs good minutes (over 30 apiece). Gibson and Jones both hit huge 3s in the fourth period and Varejao
This was the first time I got to see Jamario Moon. I now understand the buzz. Moon had a couple of thundering dunks, huge blocks on consecutive plays and even hit a 3. The guy can jump just a tad...
This was not a good afternoon for FSNOhio. First of all, there wasn't a score board (score line? score graphic thingy?) for a good chunk of the second quarter. The best part was, neither Fred McCleod or Austin Carr knew it was missing (meaning, I just had to guestimate how poorly the Cavs were doing). We also missed the first play of the second half because they were showing Chris Bosh's All-Star vote video. But it wasn't just technical difficulties that plagued Fox Sports, the announcers had some amazing moments as well. McCleod had some Isaac Newton riff that went on too long and he actually uttered the phrase "a one hand job by Drew Gooden" (and you through rubber rim jobs were gross). Later on, McCleod informed us that "Chris Bosh is shooting 7 for 7, but has only taken 7 shots". Thanks, guy. However, Austin Carr takes the cake for most inane comment of the night for this line: "the Cavs have to take a lead in order to win the ball game". So true.
Zydrunas also had a rough afternoon. Big Z had 8 points (3-9), 6 boards, a block and an assist in just 22 minutes. Z never seemed comfortable during his stay on the court. He had a few nice post moves, but his jumper (which was so reliable early on this season) wasn't falling and he also turned the ball over a few times.
Whoo hoo! .500! The Cavs evened up their record at 17-17 and can climb into positive territory with a win against Seattle on Tuesday. Their next real tough game is in San Antonio on the 17th, in the meantime they have games against Seattle and Charlotte at home, with games in Atlanta and Memphis in between. I'd love to see them above .500 by the time they have to face the Spurs.