Friday, March 14, 2008

Washington 101, Cleveland 99

How about a full 48 minutes of defense. For stretches of time, you can see how good this team can be; they'll play defense, they'll move the ball and they'll knock down their open shots. For other stretches, they look awful; there will be no defensive rotation, everyone stands and watches LeBron and no one can buy a bucket. Mike Brown has to find a way to get more of first stretches and less of the latter. The Cavs played a great 2nd quarter, scoring 30 points and allowing just 19. But they proceeded to give up 34 points (on 71% shooting!) in the 3rd and (coupled with their brutal 2-16 start to the fourth) were again forced to play catch-up for the final period. While the Cavs outrebounded the Wizards 51-36, they allowed Washington to shoot 48% from the floor and they didn't take care of the ball at their end of the court (17 turnovers).

LeBron had an average (for him anyways) evening. 25 points (9-22), 7 boards and 7 assists. He settled for a lot of jumpers after he missed a couple of early layups (including one to end the first quarter). James also had 7 turnovers, giving him 13 over the last two games (which could be a sign that they should give the reigns to Delonte West a little more). The Cavs had the final shot and a chance to tie or win the game, but James missed a 3 at the final buzzer (he was just 1-7 from downtown).

Sasha Pavlovic had his best game of the season. Was he perfect? No; he fouled out and he unleashed one of his patented behind-the-back-dribble-while-attempting-to-split-the-defense moves (with predictable results) but he was more than solid. Pavs had a season high 24 points and shot 9-15 from the field (5-9 from 3). However, he didn't do much else; he only notched a single steal, assist and board in the rest of his 29 minutes of court time (but his scoring sure as hell helped out a lot). Sasha didn't try to do too much (except for the aforementioned dribble drive) and he got himself open and took good shots. It would be huge for this team if he could regain some of last season's form.

When the hell does Z return? This Wallace/Varejao combo is killing me. I know that Brown basically has to do it, but neither of these guys are any offensive threat. Wallace is like the big man version of Eric Snow; he's not a good shooter and he looks surprised when he actually has the ball in scoring position. As for Varejao... I'm kinda torn. Pre-injury, he was knocking down his jumper on a regular basis. But since his return, that jumper has been iffy at best, but he still hoists them. Varejao finished with 12 boards (10 in the first half) and shot just 2-9 from the floor (I know he's been hurt, but if you're a big man who wants a $60 million contract, you should be able to pick up the offensive slack for Ben Wallace, no?). Andy also had a rough time on defense; he got himself in position to take a few charges, but the calls weren't going his way (this is my other problem with Varejao: when the whistles are going his way, he's a superb defender. But if they aren't, a lot of plays end with him on his ass. He's dependent on the refs calling the game in his favor). (Also, while I'm hating on Varejao, can we blame him for Z's bad back? If Andy doesn't hold out, Z isn't forced to played 36+ minutes early in the season. Maybe if Andy was here all season, Z would still be chugging along).

Wally Szczerbiak, still not making shots. The good news: Wally was 2-5 from behind the arc. The bad news: Wally was 2-9 overall. What was impressive was the fact that Szczerbiak got of 9 shot attempts in just 13 minutes of court time. With Damon Jones playing so well (9 pts, 3-5 from 3) and Pavlovic having the defensive advantage (and offensive if he can continue to knock down shots), Wally may find himself the odd man out when Daniel Gibson returns. Szczerbiak needs to find some way to start hitting shots or he's gonna be watching a lot of games from the bench (and turn himself in a huge trading chip for the following year).

Delonte West had a solid game. After playing just 20 minutes the night before, West made the most of his 32 minutes of court time. West finished with 10 points (3-6 FG, 2-3 3pt) 7 assists and 5 boards (3 offensive). He wasn't spectacular, but he got inside and created shots for himself and others. If he could be a little more consistent, he would do wonders for this team (though if he was a little more consistent, he probably wouldn't have been traded twice).

and finally...

Silver lining. These last two games have been frustrating as hell; the Cavs played poorly for long stretches of games and they've lost to mediocre teams. But here's the thing, for as bad as the Cavs have played, they've been just one possession away from winning both of these games. You think having Gibson and/or Z wouldn't have turned these losses into wins? I'm getting sick of watching the Varejao/Wallace front court and lord help me if Szczerbiak doesn't turn this around, but I don't want to get too upset, just because I know the Cavs are missing their 2nd and 3rd most important players. Hopefully with Pavlovic returning to form, the Cavs can at least get better on the defensive end (they should be able to lock down on the perimeter with Pavs and West) and you hope that they can start to cut down on the turnovers (it seems to me like they have trouble inbounding the ball at least once a game since the trade. This needs to be fixed. Now).

3 comments:

davemanddd said...

as to your characterization of lebron not having a good game, as if a stat line of 25-7-7 were a bad thing, i would be inclined to say that if lebron truly wants to be considered the mvp, not only does he need to not have such an off-game like this, he's got to hit that last second shot to win the game. other guys do it all the time. in fact, michael redd did it to the cavs just a couple weeks ago. gilbert arenas has done it a number of times in his career as have guys like "mr. big shot" chauncey billups and "big shot bob" horry and if my memory serves me right, carmelo anthony did it 8 times in one year just a couple years ago. that to me is how legends are made. the biggest criticism that most people have always had against lebron is his inability to hit the "true" game-winning shots at the buzzer. yes, he's done it a few times, but he's failed much more often than not whenever the opportunity presented itself, especially against lesser teams, just like washington. now i'm not saying he's not clutch. you don't lead the entire league in scoring, not only per game, but also in the 4th quarter and not be considered clutch. but if he truly wants to become a legend along the lines of michael jordan, larry bird and magic johnson, he's got to hit more of these buzzer-beaters to win games. speaking of michael, it's funny that people don't talk too much about the times that he failed to hit such shots like they do lebron and yet if you look at michael's career stats, you will find that he had just such an opportunity a total of 71 times in his career and he only hit the game-wining shot a mere 29 times which is a mediocre 41 percent. but see, those 29 successes more than offset the 42 failures since he did it so many times on the big stage in front of the nationwide audiences that lebron now enjoys. unfortunately, lebron's failures have come moreso in front of those same audiences and thus, that is why there's so much criticism of him in that regard. the other funny thing, as far as this year's race for the mvp trophy goes, kobe had an opportunity to win one of the two games the lakers lost to the cavs, but he missed a potential game-winner himself and yet where is the criticism of kobe??? the cavs have beat the lakers twice in head-to-matchups and lebron was a main reason why, so that alone should be enough to trump whatever kobe's done in other games. it would be nice if the cavs could have made a trade for somebody like pau gasol who's giving the lakers 20 points and 10 boards a nite as opposed to the 5 points and 7 boards that ben wallace gives. honestly though, i still feel the one stat that shows why lebron should be mvp is their record when he sat out those 6 games in december with that finger injury and that record was 0-6. 'nuff said.

graham said...

I think it's time to start thinking about only putting Wally in certain game situations. The dude is bad on offense, and absolutely pathetic defense.

Went to this game in DC, and Wizards fans were just cracking up watching Wally. It was rather entertaining.

If he can't turn it around in the next week and a half, nail him to the bench unless the situation is dire. Jones, Sasha, Devin, and surely Boobie all deserve to play more than this guy.

Erik brought it up in a previous post, but IMO, the "give him time to gel" is just about over. He's bricking wide-open jumpshots pretty consistently.

Anonymous said...

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