Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Milwaukee 105, Cleveland 102

Integrating new guys against a non-Memphis team is a little different, huh? The Cavs had some definite brain farts in the loss to Milwaukee. They blew a couple inbounds plays, the offensive ball movement was almost there (passes weren't crisp) and there were some plays (both offensively and defensively) where guys looked more than a little confused*. For the most part, the new guys played well, and I hate to chalk up this loss to "getting acclimated" but... I'll chalk this loss up to everyone getting acclimated.

*For instance, that final play. On the last play of the game, no one picked up future-Cavalier Michael Redd until he got past half court. Redd proceeded to hit the game winner from roughly 30 feet. On one hand, you just have to tip your hat at a guy who nails a 30 foot buzzer beater with a hand in his face. On the other hand, you'd like your defense to pick up the man with the ball at least at halfcourt, if not way (way way way) earlier.

You guys used to the 7-3 guy with a post game and mid-range jumper? Good, now for game two, we're gonna replace him with a Brazilian guy with limited offensive game. Enjoy. Andy was back and Z was out with an "upper respiratory infection". In case you were wondering how the Devin Brown-Varejao-Wallace offense looked, wonder no more. (hint: it was awesome!)

LeBron is awesome, I'm not sure what else to say. This guy makes a couple plays a night that just make me shake my head. He had a string of 'and1s' in the first half that were simply ridiculous. James finished the game with 37 points, 4 boards and 6 assists. He also had a block and a game tying layup with 5 seconds left. However, this wasn't LeBron's best night. While his offense was mostly spectacular, his free throws weren't (just 2-5). He also got burned by future-Cavalier Michael Redd numerous times (Redd drew a few fouls on James too). Just think about this: James had 35 points while making just two free throws and one three... while only attempting 24 shots! He was 16-24 from the floor! I know he won't get it, but this guy is the MVP.

About those five free throws. LeBron was just 2-5, but I'm less alarmed by the misses than I am about the number of attempts. Five? Three separate Milwaukee starters had over ten attempts apiece (Redd, Andrew Bogut and Mo Williams) and LeBron freaking James had just five?! By the way, those five attempts led the Cavaliers. As a team, Milwaukee made 32-37 (!) free throws to the Cavaliers' 10-14. I can't even begin to count all the terrible calls that went the Bucks' way (but I'll try: Ben Wallace should've had at least two more trips to the line. Somehow the Bucks got not one, not two, but three 3pt plays off of jumpers where the shooter wasn't even touched. Future-Cavalier Michael Redd got free throws on a fast break where he wasn't even bumped. If that kind of contact was foul worthy, LeBron should've had 25 attempts. Easy). Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting this loss on the refs (the Cavs had 13 turnovers and way too many miscues), but if I'm Mike Brown, I might send that game tape to the league office.

What's with the floor? Why were so many people slipping? The Cavaliers were affected the most (Delonte West especially, though James, Wallace and Varejao skidded during the game) but both Mo Williams and future-Cavalier Redd slipped up too (if you wanted to be really anal, you could've called traveling on last shot, Redd's skidded and slid on his stop). (Also, from my extremely biased point of view, the Cavs should've had .5 seconds left to take a terrible shot. Instead they called the game).

The rumors are true: Wally Szczerbiak is a chucker. Not that I minded really, but Wally took a ton of shots (18) and didn't make many (5). If this was Larry Hughes, I'd be furious. But I'm not. Why? Well, first of all, Szczerbiak still has that 'new player smell', so I'm can't get mad at either of the new guys for at least a few more games. Secondly, Wally's shots came in the flow of the game; he got open looks from the corner, he posted up, and he generally was open when he shot (he was the main guy on the second unit and the Cavs kept giving him the ball). It wasn't like he was pulling up with 17 seconds on the shot clock to hoist a contested 20 footer. However, we could just chalk the whole thing up to racism; maybe I just look the other way when a clean cut white guy goes 5-18.

I would've liked to see more Delonte West. West played just 29 minutes (Szczerbiak had 38) but put up 7 points, 8 boards and 7 assists. West repeatedly got to the paint and found the bigs for easy buckets. Nothing was particularly amazing, but after not having anything close to a legitimate point guard for awhile, it felt like a breathe of fresh air (you mean a non-LeBron player is allowed to set up teammates? Attack the rim and dish for easy baskets? This is amazing). West had some trouble with Williams, who went off for 37 points, and maybe it's just me defending the new guy, but I thought it was more the case of Williams getting red hot than West slacking on D.

Ben Wallace has no lift. You can definitely tell he looks old (especially after FSN Ohio showed some Pistons highlights). Wallace moves pretty well (he gets up and down the floor well) but he's no longer explosive. He doesn't jump quickly to contest shots and rebound. I dunno, I could be overly picky, but I don't know if a change of scenery can put the spring back in his legs. Big Ben finished with 7 points and 11 boards (5 of which were offensive).

Damon Jones is absolutely on fire. Jones was 4-5 from behind the arc and he hit a huge 3 with 16 seconds left to cut the Bucks' lead to 99-98. The guy has been lights out lately and Brown is going to have to find minutes for him when everyone is healthy. He's played too well and hit too many big shots to be sent back to the bench.

and finally...

I wished they played Boston in a week. I think you can see how this trade will work itself out, but they need time to gel. West gives the Cavs a completely different look at the point and Joe Smith (12 points, 8 boards) is smart, consistent version of Drew Gooden. I think Wallace will work well with Z and Szczerbiak gives the Cavs a scorer on the second unit (which should help keep LeBron under 40 minutes a night). This team will be very, very tough when all the parts are in sync, but right now, there are some kinks. However, I cannot wait to see KG and Varejao matched up on Wednesday night... I really want to see Andy get under his skin.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Strangely, I didn't feel like putting my foot through the TV after the game. If it had been Chauncey Billups or Ray Allen with the buzzer-beater, I probably would have needed about 15 minutes to cool down. But Michael Redd was just cold-blooded, and I tip my hat to him. Maybe it's because he's a former Buckeye or because he plays for a team I don't wholly despise.

Danny Ferry, if there's a way you could pry him loose this summer, I'm all for it.

Having said that, the final sequence showed how much adjusting the Cavs have to do with the new lineup. They actually missed Larry Hughes, who probably would have been bothering Redd on the inbounds pass. Instead, Redd got a clean feed, dribbled right up the court and (though he might have shuffled his feet as he double-pumped) got a full-second look at the basket over a defensively-deficient Wally Szczerbiak.

The clock management was also pretty bad in my opinion. LeBron scored the tying shot with 5.9 seconds to play. That is WAY too much time. 5.9 seconds is when the play should have started. The Cavs should have taken the buzzer-beater in a lose/overtime scenario.

As soon as I saw Redd sprintng up the court, I had a bad feeling.

Of course, that play lost the game, but the Cavs lost chance after chance to take control with a series of turnovers and bad shots in the fourth quarter. Chalk it up to unfamiliarity for the time being.

Having said that, Szczerbiak makes me nervous. He hasn't been in the thick of a playoff race for four years, and he's pressing with his shot. I have to wonder if his shooting percentage might take a dip for the rest of the year. We might be in for more 5-of-18 nights, and fans might start to get testy and call him "Wally Hughesbiak."