Monday, April 21, 2008

Cleveland 116, Washington 86

The idea is, that when you continuously hammer James, you're supposed to dissuade him from coming back for more. Washington is trying to contain LeBron, but it just isn't happening (but hey, at least Brendan Haywood got kicked out!). The Wizards played hack-a-Shaq on James for practically the entire game, and while it worked in the sense that James was only 10-17 from the line.... the Cavs were up 20 points for the bulk of the contest. James simply gets stronger as the game goes on.

James has been unstoppable. His 10-17 foul line mark was the only blemish on his stat sheet. LeBron finished with 30 points, 12 assists, 9 boards, 2 blocks, and a steal. James seemed to feed off of the physical nature of Washington's defense and he kept up his attack throughout the game. James could've easily had a triple double, as he left the game with over six minutes left and the Cavs leading by over 20. James finished just 9-19 from the field (2-6 from 3) but the second half was filled with bad shots and wasted possessions, as the game wasn't close after halfway though the third period.

Oh, and LeBron guarded Gilbert. The Cavs defense was outstanding. In addition to James, Arenas was bother by a sore wrist and only shot 2-10. The Cavs threw a bunch of different looks at Jamison, holding him to just 9 points on 4-13 shooting. The biggest surprise for me was the fact that Caron Butler didn't go off. I figured Butler would bounce back after sub-par Game 1, but he could never get himself going (Wally Szczerbiak bothered him for most of the game).

Starting Szczerbiak seems to be working out. Wally bounced back from a mediocre Game 1 to score 15 points on 6-9 shooting (2-5 from 3). Szczerbiak hit his open jumpers, but he also mixed it up enough to keep the Washington defense honest. Wally went inside a couple of times, including a drive where he broke out his seldom used finger roll. If Wally can find his stroke, it could really change the entire outlook of this second season.

Yes, Wally Szczerbiak finger rolls... it was the Cavs' day. The Cavs shot 52% from the field and 52% behind the arc. They outrebounded the Wizards 49-34 and held Washington to just 38% shooting. All twelve Cavaliers who played, scored (even Billy Thomas!). Best of all, Cleveland held the Wizards' Big 3 to a combined 10-38 from the floor.

The amazing thing is, this is as good as the Cavs have looked since the trade (especially when you factor in everyones contributions). This is how the team was supposed to look following the February shakeup. Wally and Boobie Gibson were knocking down open jumpers, Ben Wallace and Varejao were doing the dirty work inside (a combined 15 points and 15 boards in 39 minutes) and Z (7-11) and Joe Smith (4-9) simply made shots. Delonte West didn't have an amazing game, but he made a 3, had 3 assists and didn't turn the ball over. Guys filled their rolls; the shooters shot, the bench guys hustled (Devin Brown: 7 points, 5 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals) and everyone looked like they knew where they were supposed to be.

One team looked like they're coming off of a Finals birth, another team has a bunch of nice players. I was surprised at Washington's lack of fight. The Cavs were up 20 with about six minutes to go in the third, but you could the Wizards were done. They could never even muster up a late run to cut the lead to 12. The fourth quarter was basically garbage time.

Wait, you're telling me that Drew Gooden and DeShawn Stevenson are friends? I'm shocked. With 9:40 left in the third period and the Wizards down 60-41, Stevenson made a 3 to score Washington's first basket of the second half to make it 60-44. Then, on the way back up the court, Stevenson broke out his dumb face gesture. LeBron proceeded to hit a 3 on the following possession. Only a dumbass talks trash while down double digits. To LeBron James. In the playoffs. In Cleveland.

and finally...

Bury them. Keep the foot on the gas. Don't go into Washington and give them any hope of winning this series. Get the 3-0 lead and finish this thing off. The Cavs have looked great since the playoffs began and they could make a strong statement with a victory in DC on Wednesday night. The crowd will definitely be tough (the Cleveland crowds have been great thus far) but if the Cavs can keep up the defensive intensity (and watch out for some cheap offensive fouls on LeBron), the Cavs should be in a good position to take a commanding 3-0 lead.

4 comments:

Erik said...

I think what's going on goes beyond Washington simply trying to "contain" LeBron. The Wizards are either completely desperate or they are treating this series as a personal vendetta against a tormentor.

Either way, the Wizards aren't attacking this series in the best frame of mind.

The overwhelming impression I've gotten of Washington after two games is that this is a team trying really hard to be something they're not. They're trying to be physically intimidating, acting like they have Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn on the front line. But A) they don't have those types of players and B) they have zero practice at playing that physical brand of basketball.

So instead of dishing out pain while still making it look like they're going for the ball, we're treated to Brendan Haywood throwing LeBron to the deck.

I think Mike Brown said it best after last night's game. You don't go out and say you're going to hit an opposing player. You can say you're going to tighten up your defense inside, try to take away LeBron's lanes to the hoop, but you don't say you're going to hit LeBron. That makes the league's quality control radar start beeping.

The good thing is, these back-alley, tire-iron shenanigans are probably going to be the Wizards' undoing as much as anything else.

graham said...

Well Erik, the rest of the basektball world seems to agree with your sentiment that the Wizards got off their game.

It'll be interesting to see how the Cavs and Wizards come out for game 3. Seems like if the Cavs hit just some of the shots LeBron creates for them, the Wizards are done.

Erik said...

I've said this before, it's kind of scary to think the utterly small amount of help LeBron has needed to turn a perennial loser like the Cavs into an East powerhouse.

He doesn't need a lot of help to turn a team into a title threat. He doesn't need to find his Pippen. It would be nice, but I don't think he needs a perennial all-star alongside him. He just needs a little help in the form of rebounders and guys who can knock down shots off his drives.

If Wally has more Game 2's than Game 1's, Boobie is knocking down shots and Z continues to produce double-doubles, who knows? Sure, even if they finish off Washington, the odds of them getting past Boston are against them. But I'm start to once again believe that the Cavs shouldn't fear anyone in the East.

They have the experience and the superstar, they should be able to hang with Detroit and Boston and anyone else the national media is hand-jobbing.

Anonymous said...

.....................nice ^_^v..............