Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cleveland 104, New Jersey 83

Um, what? So the Cavs played a so-so first half (trailed 53-49 at half) and then got themselves down 12 halfway through the third (69-57) and yet they won going away. How? Well, it was a combination of good Cavalier defense, poor New Jersey shooting, and a little bit of help from the refs (not a lot, but there were a couple iffy calls). The Cavs' staunch defense led to better offense and they outscored New Jersey 28-9 in the final period.

Wash that taste out. After the way they came out of halftime, I was about ready to turn the TV off. I was sick of them losing to mediocre teams... especially this close to the postseason. To their credit, the Cavs buckled down on defense (which led to run outs on offense) an the Cavs slowly climbed their way back into the game.

LeBron looked good, but in pain. James 'returned' to score 33 points, dish out 8 assists and grab 7 boards. When he was out of the game, to keep his back loose, James laid down on the baseline. And good thing too, because he does not look comfortable out there (and it didn't help that he took a lot of hits). James only had 35 minutes of game time, which is probably the result of both his back issues and the solid bench play.

And the Cavs got great bench production. Daniel Gibson had his best game since returning from injury (bay far); Gibson put up 12-5-5, he pushed the ball whenever he could (more of this please!) and he was scrappy on defense. Wally Szczerbiak also played really well, scoring 14 points (5-9 shooting, 2-3 from 3) in 24 minutes. The Cavs started the fourth up 76-74 and with a lineup of Gibson, Pavlovic, Szczerbiak, Smith, and Varejao. The lead was pushed to 8 by the time James and Z came back with 6:24 to go. I have to say, I really like that second unit and it's really one the benefits of the trade (before, when the bench was in, you just hoped that they'd keep the status quo. But now there's a halfway decent chance that someone could get hot and the bench bunch could actually push the lead).

The refs weren't terrible, but if I had to pick which team got most of the calls, the Cavs win handily. To their credit, when the shots weren't falling, the Nets took the ball to the rim. Unfortunately, those closer shots didn't fall and the refs weren't bailing them out. Richard Jefferson definitely has a gripe (Jefferson drove on Pavlovic and Varejao and chucked up a prayer that hit off the shot clock. Now, I thought this should've been a no-call, but somehow the Jefferson got called for an offensive foul. I have no clue how this happened). Varejao got a couple of calls his way, including one flop versus Diop which was just terrible.

The defense really picked up, but the Nets went cold. Don't get me wrong, the Cavs hustled, covered ground, rebounded well and kept putting pressure on New Jersey shooters.... but you don't hold a team to just one field goal over 12 minutes without some help from the offense. New Jersey's starters were just 15-51 from the floor (and their bench was a blistering 10-24) and Jefferson was a Hughes-esque 4-17. The fourth quarter really wasn't pretty (for them at least).

The Cavs' bigs were solid. Z was 5-11 for 13 points and 5 boards. Varejao finished with just 2 points, but also had 9 boards. Ben Wallace only played 17 minutes, but he looked pretty good early on (though he missed another dunk) while finishing with 4 rebounds. Finally, Joe Smith contributed a nice 7 points on 2-6 shooting (though a few good shots rimmed out) and grabbed 3 boards as well. Now, I know that New Jersey doesn't have big worth a damn, but still, it was nice to see the big guys all contribute.

Every Cavaliers who played, scored. Damon Jones however, didn't play... I really hope Brown knows what he's doing here; Jones has played extremely well all season and he definitely doesn't 'deserve' to have his PT cut. I'm assuming Brown is forcing Gibson out there to get his confidence and shooting back where they should be. Gibson looked really good tonight, but its just one game. I really hope that if Gibson (or Wallace or whoever) doesn't come around that Mike Brown won't hesitate to put in Damon.

It was not Stromile Swift's day. He got a layup stuffed by Varejao, he got fouled on a dunk (but no call), he missed two dunks, he got a cheapo offensive foul away from the ball. I can't even begin to imagine how frustrated Swift was; late in the game he attempted a strong, power dunk... that bounced off the back rim.

and finally...

More rest please. Both LeBron and Ben Wallace could use a little R&R and they don't play again until Friday when they face the Bulls in Chicago. If the team had been at least a little bit healthy after the trade, I'd have liked to see them sit James, just to get ready for the playoffs... but the team hasn't been healthy. What they need the most now is consistency and cohesiveness. I'm not overly concerned with them losing the 4-seed (I'd be shocked if they did) and I don't think the outcome of these games are of great concern.

3 comments:

Erik said...

This was probably one of the best instances of the Cavs, as a team, closing out a game since the trade.

Maybe LeBron is the only guy who can carry the team to wins, but the Cavs have enough working parts now that they should have a lot of guys who can chip in and contribute, which you couldn't really say prior to the trade.

I just wish Mike Brown's offensive and defensive schemes weren't on a level with quantum physics. Brown's noted shortcomings, including erratic substitution patterns and an inability to simplify his concepts for easy learning, have made it that much harder for the team to jell post-trade.

One more point: What is more important, the fourth seed or a healthy LeBron for the playoffs? The fourth seed obviously is important, but will the Cavs be able to take advantage of it if LeBron is playing at 70 percent with a bad back? If I had a vote, I'd say rest LeBron for maybe two of the four remaining games. The same for Ben Wallace.

davemanddd said...

honestly, i feel this game proved that lebron doesn't always have to play 40+ minutes for the cavs to win. i would just as soon see him play in the 36-38 minute range which is exactly what all of his contemporaries play (kobe, melo, wade, etc.) and their teams really are better for it. sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad for you and in the case of lebron, his back issues are probably a direct result of all his excess playing time over the years. how can you expect other guys to not get caught up watching lebron all the time if you don't give them some more court time without him so they can develop other aspects of their own game??? i found it rather interesting to see wally-world score the majority of his points when lebron was out of the game, especially on both of his 3-pointers. wally didn't have to worry about where lebron was on the court during those times and he could just do his own thing and shoot and score. that being said, i would still very much like to see wally and lebron work together on the "drive-and-dish" game with lebron penetrating the lane and kicking it out to a hopefully wide-open wally behind the 3-point line.

Anonymous said...

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