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.
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.