Monday, February 11, 2008

Cleveland 118, Orlando 111

Gotta love the NBA. One night after getting embarrassed (or "almost getting embarrassed" according to Austin Carr) the Cavs go into Orlando and win handily. Makes sense to me (though honestly, I think it has more to do with the matchups than anything else).

LeBron James and Larry Hughes combined for 69 points.
Larry Hughes had 40 of 'em. Hughes had his best game as a Cavalier, scoring 40 points (12-19 FG, 12-13 FT), grabbing 6 boards and nabbing 3 assists and 2 steals. Hughes was 4-5 from beyond the arc and scored 23 of his 40 points in the third period. The best part was, Larry was taking good shots. There weren't any of those "contested 20 footers with 18 seconds on the clock" heaves. He took his shots in rhythm and within the 12-18 foot range. He also attacked. Did I mention that? Larry Hughes went inside. It seemed to work out (13 free throws!).

LeBron wasn't bad either. 29 points, 10 assists and 7 boards worked out pretty well. James also attacked the basket, getting to the line 15 times and making 12. The Cavs ran the offense through James (he basically played the point) and the rest of the team worked around that. He set up the role players with good shots and the team responded by moving without the ball (the Cavs had 21 assists).

The Cavs (and their fans) really needed this game. After Sunday night's mauling by the Nuggets, I wasn't too thrilled to see the Cavaliers travel to Orlando to face Dwight Howard and co. But the team rebounded nicely; Drew Gooden returned, forcing Ira Newble to the "2" and Eric Snow to the bench and the Cavs played with a sense of purpose (also, the Magic are a much better matchup for them compared to the fast-paced Nuggets). The win means the Cavs ended up with a split in their 4-in-5 stretch and got the horrible Denver game out of our minds.

Ira Newble may be in the process of taking Pavlovic's minutes. Newble hustles, plays defense, plays multiple positions and is making enough shots to keep opposing teams honest (and making them pay when they aren't). Newble put forth another solid game with 10 points (1-2 from beyond the arc) and 5 boards. For the year, Newble is shooting 33% from 3 while Pavlovic is at 28%. Just sayin...

The bench stepped up. Devin Brown led the bench bunch with 11 points (4-5 FG) and also pitched in 4 boards and 3 assists in 27 minutes. Donyell Marshall was actually useful; hitting 2-4 from 3 and grabbing 7 boards. However, Marshall was just 3-7 from the floor (he missed a lot of shots inside) and I think the Cavs should start fining him every time he takes a 3 that isn't from the corner. Both DJ's also played well; one of 'em had 2 points and an assist while the other had 2 points, 5 boards and 5 fouls.

Dwight Howard should've had more points. The big fella ended up with a stat line of 16 and 9 and I don't know why he didn't get the ball more. Every other Orlando starter had more shot attempts than Howard (though he did have 9 FTAs) and both Turkoglu (25) and Nelson (22- that whole defending quick pg problem...) outscored him (all five Magic starters had double figures). Both Z and DJ had 5 fouls, and that is mostly due to Howard's presence. I just don't get why they didn't force feed him more...

Rashard Lewis... meh. Lewis ended up with 15 points and 4 boards and not much else. You think Cavs fans are pissed at Hughes's contract... give Magic fans a few years. The only thing he did Monday night was drain 3s off of broken plays. He's a nice player... but they're paying him franchise money.

and finally...

One more game til break. The Cavs face San Antonio at the Q this Wednesday (making it 5 games in 7 nights) before they get a few days off for the All-Star festivities. They already have one of the best records in the new year and if they could finish up this stretch going 3-2, that'd be huge (especially when you consider the injuries). The Spurs will be playing the last game of their rodeo road trip and both teams will be tired and looking ahead to their time off. Let's hope the Denver debacle gives them enough motivation to finish the first half of the season strong.

7 comments:

Erik said...

When Hughes got to 38, I really wanted to see him get 40. Forty points is a milestone number, and I'm sure many Cavs fans thought they'd be mushing sled dogs in Handes before this day would come.

The Cavs players REALLY wanted to See Hughes reach 40. The camera flashed to Donyell Marshall bouncing around in anticipation on the sideline as Hughes took his final free throws.

If the Cavs can find a true PG this summer, it might affect Hughes more than LeBron, assuming Hughes is still here next season. As Windhorst wrote this morning, when LeBron took over the point in the third quarter, Hughes was freed up to score baskets off screens, cuts to the basket, and do all the things that supposedly make him worth $12 million a year.

Of course, we're still talking about Larry Hughes, so I'm sure there are more 2-for-14 nights in store. But this is the cornerstone of my argument that Hughes is an above-average player who is misutilized, and is sabotaging himself with bad shot selection.

Fans who love to hate Danny Ferry point to the Hughes signing as the most glaring example of roster-constructing myopia in Ferry's tenure. I agree Hughes is overpaid. But it's not like Ferry has Bryant Stith and is trying to sell him to us as Kobe Bryant.

Hughes has some real ability, at least enough to augment LeBron. It's a shame we see so little of it, except on rare nights like last night.

Ben said...

I don't expect him to go 12-19 every night, but I don't think its too much to ask that he play this aggressive night in, night out.

I mean, he got 13 free throws! He was aggressive! He was inside of 18 feet! He wasn't taking bad shots (which is the point of the 'Hey Larry Hughes' website).

Shots don't always go in, all I want is for him to give himself the best options...

graham said...

He can't always be aggressive because he'd be far more likely to get injured, and he knows.

In any case, I read somewhere he's averaging 18.7 ppg over the last month, which is astonishing and perhaps telling.

I know you'll disagree with me Erik, but if his stock rises enough where you can deal him without taking something awful back, I think Ferry should jump all over it. When you have a guy like LeBron, more you don't need a guy who explodes once in a while, but rather a guy who is steady.

Hughes just isn't anywhere close to steady. Also, in regards to the offense, he was hitting tons of jumpers last night. The only difference between awful Hughes and great Hughes is when he gets hot.

Credit LeBron and the Cavs (according to LeBron he went disregarded Brown's playing calling to go to Hughes) for getting the ball to a hot Hughes. The main problem is he's rarely hot.

Ben said...

I just think his free throws help with his jump shot. If a guy is having an off night shooting, they say to get to the line and refocus. Hughes may need that more than most.

But he's been aggressive lately he was great in the Boston game.

He says he's a slasher... well, fucking slash already!

Erik said...

I actually don't disagree with you, Graham. Hughes really doesn't fit the offense, so Ferry would be wise to move him in the right deal, ideally for a SG with a consistent outside stroke.

What I don't agree with is this whole notion that Hughes is trash and Ferry is an imbecile for signing him. Hindsight is 20-20 with anything, and it's easy to be judgmental and say "I told you so" when things don't work out after the fact. But I don't remember anybody whining about what an awful signing it was at the time it happened.

Hughes was the best available SG left in free agency when Ray Allen and Michael Redd said no. But a lot of Cavs fans don't want to hear that.

They want to hold fast to the belief that Ferry gave up on Redd too soon, even though the Cavs couldn't match Milwaukee's offer, or that Ferry should have held onto the cap space instead of blowing it all on the Four Horsemen of the Salary Cap Apocalypse (Hughes, Marshall, Jones and Z).

This is in spite of the fact that the Cavs choked their way out of the playoffs that spring and new GM Ferry had to show LeBron that he could win here. Sitting on cap space would have shown LeBron that the new management regime wasn't willing to spend to win.

I repeatedly ask the anti-Hughes, anti-Ferry faction "What would you have done differently?" I never get a satisfactory answer.

Ben said...

Can I say "I told you so"? from June 30, 2005:

And I think the Cavs chances of signing Joe Johnson diminished greatly since the Suns traded Richardson. However, Pluto just brushes over Hughes poor shooting. It's not Redd is a better shooter than Hughes, but Ira Newble is!

If you watched any Cavalier games this year, you know Newble can't shoot worth a damn. Other teams left him open, daring him to shoot. So Pluto wants the Cavs to lay down a big chunk of money on Hughes? Lets compare stats.

Newble: FG% - .429 3PT FG% - .358
Hughes: FG% - .430 3PT FG% - .282

And why not, here's another terrible shooter, Eric Snow's stats:

Snow: FG% - .382 3PT FG% - .289

Is Hughes a better player than Newble and Snow? Yes, but that's not the point. The point is the Cavs need players who can shoot the 3 more than Rob Schneider needs Adam Sandler to keep making movies. Hughes more of a slashing player and the Cavs need someone who can hit open shots. Especially 3s. If they are going to spend a ton of money on a shooting guard, my hope would be that he shoots the 3 better than Eric Snow and Ira Newble. I don't think that's too much to ask.

I would rate the SG in this order (Allen is lower because of his age and money demands):
1. Johnson
2. Redd
3. Allen
4. Hughes

Johnson would be ideal, and if they overpay for him (and I think they are going to have to overpay to get anyone of these guys), the Suns may not be able to match because of the contracts of Nash and Marion, plus Stoudamire's coming up (keep Amare over Joe)

Ben said...

however, the next paragraph has me imploring the Cavs to take a flier on Kwame Brown...