Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Orleans 100, Cleveland 99

Apologies. Again, sorry I haven't been around since the Detroit game... grad school. Lame excuse, but valid IMO.

Damn. So LeBron hits a the go-ahead layup with seven seconds to go. My dad turns to me (not to get all Bill Simmons on you) and says that he left too much time on the clock. I reply that I'd rather be up with 7 seconds left than down with no time on the clock. Chris Paul proceeds to come out and find David West for the game winning jumper with .6 left (the lesson, as always, I'm an idiot.... see what I did there... ugh, let's move on).

Guys, make your layups. The Cavs missed a bunch of layups in the first half; LeBron, Pavlovic and Varejao all missed point blank shots (and some were wide open). LeBron's misses don't exactly worry me, because of who he is and the nature of his misses (probably could've gotten a few more calls). But Varejao and Pavlovic... ugh. I love the way Pavlovic has played since his return, he looks much like the Sasha of last year (he has more confidence than at the beginning of the season) but he's routinely missed layups inside. I don't know if he can't dunk as easily or what, but he's had too many balls roll off the rim (he finished 5-10 from the floor for 10 points). As for Varejao...

I dunno about you, but Andy has been bugging me lately. He'll still do the little things like rebound and take charges, but he's also trying to do the big things (like take his man off the dribble) and it is not pretty. If Andy thinks he's going to get a $50 million contract by bricking fade-aways, he's gonna be sorely mistaken. He played some decent defense but overall I was underwhelmed.

Turnovers hurt, especially in the first half. Delonte West coughed the ball up 5 times, Z 4 and James twice. That does not help matters. The Cavs turned it over a total of 13 times, while only forcing 8 from New Orleans.

Ilgauskas played great. Z was a factor on both ends of the floor and kept the Cavs in the game while James had an off night (yes, 21 points, 8 assists and 3 boards now counts as an off night for LeBron). Z finished with 29 points, 15 boards (7 offensive), 3 assists and 2 blocks. He and Tyson Chandler exchanged words (and elbows) for much of the game. Since his return from injury, Z is averaging 17 points and 10 boards.

The best part of the game was also FSNOhio's biggest mistake. In honor his 3,000th game, Fox Sports had Joe Tait call some of the game in the second quarter. Don't get me wrong, I loved this (and it was waaaay better than having Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sit in) but now I want more. You mean you can easily pipe in Joe Tait... that's an option? We're allowed to do that? Yet I'm stuck with Austin Carr and Fred McLeod because... I have more thoughts on Tait here and here (and here and here).

Hey, these guys are pretty good. Chris Paul finished with just 15 points on 5-17 shooting, but he also had 20(!) assists, 3 boards, 2 steals and block. ESPN talks about how LeBron needs a big market. No. Chris Paul needs a big market; this is the only guy I find acceptable as the MVP besides LeBron. He's just ridiculously good (Paul is one of two players, the other being Dwight Howard, that I would love to see James play with on a regular basis, just to see the amazing crap that would happen. I know it's not likely outside of All-Star games or the Olympics, but to see that combination on the court would be something special). There's no shame in losing to New Orleans, as they sit atop the Western Conference with a 49-21 record and they've beaten San Antonio, the Lakers, the Rockets, the Celtics, and now the Cavaliers since March 12th.

Hey guys, wanna guard Peja? Stojakovic was 6-9 from behind the arc and the bulk of those came without his man anywhere near him. Don't get me wrong, I get that you have to help when Paul penetrates, but really? Doubling off Stojakovic? As a team, the Hornets were 11-22 from downtown, while the Cavs counted with a blistering 5-17.

The bench... meh. Devin Brown, Joe Smith, and Damon Jones were all 3-7 from the floor (though Damon's were all triples) and Wally Szczerbiak was just 1-5. Wally was 0-2 from behind the arc and Smith grabbed just 3 boards and missed the two free throws he attempted. The bench's best stretch came in the second quarter, when they kept feeding Z and played off his offense.

and finally...

Could the Cavs actually get healthy? They don't play until Saturday night (when they travel to Detroit) and they expect both Daniel Gibson and Ben Wallace to return to face the Pistons. It's going to be really interesting to see how Coach Mike controls the rotation (I'm scared) but at this point, they're basically stuck with the fourth seed, so while I wouldn't recommend them sacrificing games for the sake of feeling things out, the Cavs aren't in a must win situation.