Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cleveland 114, Boston 113

That's right, 114-113, no overtime (a Super Tuesday miracle!). I don't know if the rims were soft or what, but everyone was putting the ball in the basket. Neither defense was particularly great (the Cavs kept letting them penetrate) but shots were simply falling. Every Cavs player except Donyell Marshall (0-1) made half the 3s he attempted (LeBron was 4-8, Jones and Bobbie were 2-4 and Hughes and Newble were 1-2) and Boston shot 50% from 3 as a team. But even two point shots were falling; Big Baby (4-5) and Rajon Rondo (8-13) were scoring from all over the court and both Hughes (6-13) and Newble (6-9) were lighting things up (inside and out). Both teams were made over 50% of their field goals. It was kinda weird.

LeBron went off... in the first quarter. LBJ had 13 point in the first period and 11 of 'em came in the final 3 minutes. During that timespan, he hit 3 treys and had a thunderous baseline dunk. He set the tone for the entire game right there; after that, you just knew the Cavs were going to walk away with a victory. When LeBron's got that look in his eye, you don't expect them to lose.

And he kept it up. LeBron stayed aggressive all game long (picking up 3 charges) and finished with a game high 33 points to go along with 12 assists, 9 boards, 5 steals and 2 blocks (and should've had a third- when he owned Rondo- but got called for a foul). He was an absolute monster; he would probe the defense constantly and when he'd finally find the crease he'd pounce. At that point he'd either get the hole or he'd find one of his spot up shooters wide open (and they delivered in bunches).

Z had a great game. His stats are nice, 21 points, 10 boards, 5 blocks and 2 assists, but he came up big down the stretch. After missing a baseline jumper, Z made a big shot with 3 minutes to go to put the Cavs up four (108-104). He had the 5 blocks, but he challenged a ton of shots (did I mention the poor defense?) and made a lot of guys miss. He also had a huge dunk with about 4 minutes to go off a sweet pass from James (which simply brought the house down).
Hughes played great. Ya, I said it, great. He shot 6-13 from the field and 5-5 from the line, but what I liked the most was his shot selection. There was only one player where he took a shot that frustrated me; besides that, he took what the defense gave him and at time he attacked the rim (and even finished!). I don't expect him to shoot 6-13 from the floor every night, but when he can get to the line and play stellar defense, I come away content.

Speaking of defense: Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined for 12 points in the second half. Ray Allen finished the game with 24 points, but only 4 came after halftime (and none came in the final period). Pierce was alright, finishing with 19 points, but his biggest contribution seemed to be being the guy who pissed LeBron (though, Tony Allen helped out). LeBron and Hughes really stepped up and helped limit the good looks each guy got (first half... notsomuch). And to be fair to two of the Big Three, the Celtics were running iso's for Tony Allen so he could abuse Damon Jones (which he did, Allen scored 8 points in the fourth).

The bench came up pretty big (and though he started, I'm including Ira Newble in this discussion). Newble played great; he seemed to find open spots on the court and got himself some open looks (which, to his credit, he knocked down). Newble also got some playing time late in the game and had a huge dunk with under a 2 minutes to go. Also, Damon Jones and Boobie gave the Cavs their usual floor spreading goodness and Donyell Marshall and Dwayne Jones gave solid, if unspectacular, size down low.

Shocker: the Cavs had trouble with Rondo. Rajon Rondo killed the Cavs Tuesday night; he scored 20 points on 8-13 shooting and he seemingly got to the rim at will (though both Z and LeBron sent his shots flying). This isn't much of a surprise, as quick guards have always killed this team (Tony Parker, Tyron freaking Lue, the entire Knicks squad). See, this is why I'm not high on either Jason Kidd or Mike Bibby; is either one of these guys going to solve the Cavs biggest defensive weakness? Don't get me wrong, the offense will improve dramatically, but the Cavs will still be vulnerable to quick guards. (Not saying I wouldn't want either guy, but I'm just saying I'm not as gung ho as others).

Drew Gooden made a sweet play and hurt himself in the process. Gooden dunked home a rebound over Ray Allen (it was awesome, a one handed put back) and immediately grabbed his groin and needed to come out. Great, not only is Varejao still out, but now both Pavlovic and Gooden (two of the Cavs 'decent' trading chips) are hurt. Awesome. Only Gooden does something kick ass and hurts himself in the process.

and finally...

Only one more loss to go! Hey everyone, remember this? Good times. Anyways... sure, the Celtics were without KG, but that is still a pretty big win for the Cavaliers (who are 15-4 since Christmas). While it's too bad that neither of these teams have been fully healthy when they've played each other (Varejao and Hughes missed game 1, while LeBron missed game 2), cause these games have been pretty intense. Come playoff time, I don't think Cavs fans should overly fear the Celtics (or the Pistons for that matter) and I'd be interested to see these guys go at it over seven games. Hell, if nothing else I want to see how many games it takes KG to punch Varejao. Two? Three? There's no way he makes it five games.

2 comments:

Erik said...

Bad Donyell! No threes, bad boy! Every time he shoots a three, someone squirts him in the face with a water hose. Soon, he will come to associate taking threes with getting squirted. I believe psychologists call it "negative association therapy."

I'd prescribe the same thing for Larry Hughes, but I don't think it would have the same effect.

Ira Newble has suddenly become an important player with Andy out. Newble can play (read: defend) three different positions, and it turns out he's not a total slouch on offense -- at least not every game.

It's yet another reason why Ferry should be extremely selective about the moves he makes prior to the deadline. The formula the Cavs are using right now is working.

They do need a point guard, but even though I've been called nuts for asserting this opinion, I don't think it's worth detonating the roster to get a PG right now. Especially as big men keep hitting the deck with injuries.

The time might come when Newble is the first big off the bench. Heck, if Gooden is out for a few games, Newble might find himself starting at the four.

Ben said...

With the way the Cavs have played the Pistons in the playoffs and the way LeBron plays the Celtics... why shouldn't the Cavs believe they can make the Finals again?

If this team is healthy, they can compete with anyone in the East. Sure, they'll still have problems with some Western Conference teams, but that's not a reason you blow up the roster, unless the deal is the right one.

Honestly, I think the injuries have helped the Cavs out a little bit. Hughes has stepped up his game recently with Pavs out, the Cavs know that Dwayne Jones won't completely fuck up out there and Ira Newble has shown he can still play (trade bait?).

When the team is healthy, Newble should take Donyell's place as 'the big man with range' off the bench. He's 100000x more active too.