Saturday, March 08, 2008

Cleveland 103, Indiana 95

This game should've never been this close. The Cavs came out and stomped the Pacers; they led 34-17 after the first quarter and pushed the lead as high as 19 during the following period. But the Pacers came back because their jumpers started to fall and the Cavs offense sputtered (just 17 points in the second quarter). The Cavs had 26 assists on 37 field goals and the outrebounded the Pacers 54-37. Though Indiana got within 4 late in the game, the final outcome was never in any serious jeopardy; the Cavs had a comfortable lead for the bulk of the game (around 13 points) and whenever things got a little dicey, LeBron would do something ridiculous.

I mean, what else can you about James? LeBron had 38 points (11-24 FG), 11 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. He was 11-12 from the foul line and is shooting 82% from the stripe over his past five games (he was 11-12 against the Bulls as well). James was 5-8 from behind the arc as well, including a sick step-back trey late in the game.

Joe Smith looks like he's having fun, no? I swear to God, every time the camera catches Smith, he has a grin on his face. Check out LeBron's ridiculous reverse dunk to end the first half; Smith catches the ball after it goes through the rim and he's smiling to himself with this look on his face that says "you have got to be kidding me". Smith played great against the Pacers, scoring 12 points, grabbing 8 boards (5 offensive) and swatting two shots (the Cavaliers had 9 blocks as team).

Anderson Varejao looked healthy (or he looked 'kinda healthy' but was playing against the Pacers). This was the first game since his return that Varejao looked like Varejao. Whatever the reason (being healthy, facing a front line of Dunleavy, Foster and Murphy or a combination of the two), Varejao had a great game. He 16 boards (8 offense) and put up 15 points (5-12 shooting). Varejao also had a career high 6 assists (Austin Carr kept saying that Andy was "just four assists shy of a triple double" like he was close or something. Ya, just 40% left).

Szczerbiak is pressing. Wally looks like he's giving 110% out there; he's hustling on defense and he's going inside on offense... but every time he misses, he seems to get down on himself. Szczerbiak was just 4-14 overall (he missed a few close shots and some good looks rimmed out) but he did go 2-5 from 3pt range. At this point, with the trade and the new baby, I'm not too worried... but in two weeks I could be singing a different tune.

West had a solid game. This is the type of game I'm expect to see from Delonte. He made nice defensive players (3 steals and a block), created some shots for his teammates (6 assists) and rebounded the ball pretty well (4 boards). Offensively, he was 5-8 from the floor and 1-2 from behind the arc (finishing with 14 points). Down the stretch he had a turnover that could've proved costly (against a good team) and he coughed the ball up a total of 3 times. He wasn't spectacular, but he varied his game and was effective at the point (which helped, because Damon Jones was 1-7 and got burned more than a few times on the defensive end).

I like Troy Murphy's game. I don't think he's a great player or anything (and he is way overpaid- owed $33 million over the next three years) but I think he'd be a great fit for a contending team as their fourth option or backup big man (he can shoot, he's not useless in the post and he's a tough guy down low). However, his contract pays him like an All-Star, which he certainly is not. Though, if he ever gets bought out, I wouldn't mind the Cavs taking a stab at him (at a reasonable price). Murphy finished with 17 points and 7 boards.

and finally...

Nice win, now stay inside. Stay off the roads boys, don't go anywhere until Monday when you face Portland at the Q. The Cavs face the Blazers on Monday then have another back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday in New Jersey and Washington, respectively (is it just me, or have they had a high numbers of back-to-backs this year? Especially with game 2 on the road...). This next isn't full of gimmes, but it shouldn't be out of the question to see them go at least 2-1.

5 comments:

Erik said...

Nah, they don't need to stay inside. That's why God made Hummers. Otherwise, LeBron wouldn't have been able to get extra shooting in at 9:30 this morning, several hours before I discovered my plastic Saturn was half-buried in a three-foot snow drift.

A little more than two weeks after the big trade, and I have these updated thoughts:

Ben Wallace's value to the team is his defense and ability to make a few clutch plays down the stretch, such as blocked shots. His days of high production are over. If he gives the Cavs 7 and 7 with a couple of key plays in the second half, that's a good game. He's not worth his paycheck, but he's still a better fit than Larry Hughes.

Delonte West, I'm not sure what to make of. He's not a really good shooter, but that doesn't really matter unless he is consistently settling for jumpers. He's the kind of guard who can put meaningful numbers up in points, rebounds, assists and steals, but can he match up with Chauncey Billups (or, more urgently, Jose Calderon) in a playoff series? West isn't a PG, isn't a SG, and isn't really a specialist who excels in one area. He's hard to define.

Wally Szczerbiak is most definitely pressing. I think he's having the most difficulty adjusting to Mike Brown's complex playcalling, and having to miss time with the arrival of the new baby didn't help. It just seems like he's caught out of positon a lot, and he gets abused on defense. A couple of times today, Marquis Daniels toyed with him down low. But give him brownie points for not settling for outside jumpers when they're not falling. He can penetrate, and he does when the opportunity presents itself.

Joe Smith has to be having the most fun of his career. He fits here, probably better than he's fit with a team in a while. All he has to do is grab some boards and make the open 15-foot looks he gets when LeBron sucks in the defense, and he's a bona fide contributor to a winning team. I'm iffy on wanting to sign Delonte or Wally to an extension just yet, but if Smith wants to come back for another two or three years after next year, I say go for it.

graham said...

West is a pretty nice player; he's athletic, plays hard, and is generally a smart player. But he's not a starting PG, and definitely not one on a championship caliber team.

There are just too many role players on this team. Wally/West/Devin/DJ/Wallace/Boobie - all role players. With that many of those types, you are guaranteed to look bad some times (even with a guy like LeBron).

It was probably still a good trade, but let's face it: We didn't get that much better, if at all. The playoffs will still come down to LeBron having to play out of his mind and drag this team with him. Fortunately, its entirely possible for him to do so.

BTW, what did everyone think of Austin's "rubber sandwich" comment. McLeod got excited and said he liked it. WTF.

LargeBill said...

MVP!

Erik said...

I think Szczerbiak is actually the primary litmus test as to whether this trade makes the Cavs better. If his shots start falling, then Brown will have (when Boobie returns) a constant stream of shooters he can send to the floor to flank LeBron. There would be no reason to not have LeBron on the floor with at least one good perimeter shooter at any point in time, and many times two shooters.

West for Hughes is a push, Wallace for Gooden is a push (Gooden is a better rebounder, Wallace a better defender), Smith for Newble/Marshall is a push when you consider Newble's solid play leading up to the trade.

So it's up to Wally to make this trade look good.

Anonymous said...

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