Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cleveland 93, Washington 86

Not a bad way to kick off the 2008 playoffs, eh? This game was entertaining for the entire 48 minutes. The Cavs and Wizards traded the lead by alternating runs throughout the game. The Cavs got out to an early lead, but midway through the second quarter the Wizards got up double digits. The Cavs then made a run and tied it by halftime. The Wizards had regained the lead when the fourth quarter rolled around but the Cavs came back yet again to finish Washington off.

LeBron was spectacular. James didn't make a field goal during the first period (he got to the line a few times) but he went into halftime well into double digits. I can't count how many highlight plays he had. His alley-oop in the second period may go down as one of his classics. There were a lot of great dunks and fantastic moves to get to the rim. LeBron led everyone with 32 points and he finished with 6 boards and 4 assists. Overrated indeed.

DeShawn Stevenson. 1-9. 1-6 from 3. Ouch.

James was intense. LeBron was extremely chippy out there, and routinely got into minor altercations/exchanges with Washington players. The Wizards gave him a physical pounding and James let them know that he was ready for it. LeBron made some shots on the perimeter, but he did the most damage near the rim. Late in the game, James hit two tough shots in traffic to put the final nail in Washington's coffin.

Gilbert Arenas showed us why he's one of the NBA's stars. Arenas hit four 3s in the first half and really came off the bench and made a difference. He hasn't played in so long and I've forgotten how much of a game changer he can be. Arenas swished a 30 foot bomb to end the first period (and he took the shot in perfect rhythm). Gilbert finished the game with 24 points.

Key supporting players played big roles. Z backed up LeBron by pouring in 22 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Z's jumper was falling all afternoon and he used his post moves to get himself to the line 8 times. Delonte West didn't shoot particularly well (3-10) but he made two 3s and he got to the line 8 times. The Cavs are a much tougher team to guard when West being aggressive.

Wally started. I approved of this idea, I wanted to see if maybe having out there to begin the game might energize his play. Well, Szczerbiak hit his first jumper, but went just 1-9 after that... Wally had some nice moments over the course of the game and I'd like to see him keep starting. I mean, might as well start the guy who's made an All-Star team, right? Plus, I like the change of pace that Devin Brown can bring coming off the bench.

Both Gibson and Varejao played well off the bench. Gibson had 11 points and 5 assists and Varejao grabbed 8 boards while scoring 2 points. Boobie was 2-5 from beyond the arc while Andy was a brutal 1-6 from the floor.

and finally....

Statement game. The Cavs heard all the talk coming from Washington and brushed it aside. They never responded in the media. I can't imagine they'll start now, as Game 1 should just about cover everything needed to say. LeBron showed that he can take any punishment that Washington could give out and not only survive, but flourish. It was a great win for the Cavs, but they can't be content with themselves. This game means nothing if they can't put away Game 2 (and cede the home court advantage to the Wizards). In Game 1, the Cavaliers looked great (almost better than at any point since the trade) and it's going to be interesting to see how they'll follow it up in Game 2.

8 comments:

graham said...

This game reminded me of a fight you've seen where some regular guy tries to get into into with a well-known fighter, and just ends up getting hurt.

Wizards are used to losing to the Cavs, talked a big game cause they want like hell to advance, and then reality sent in - and the reality is that LeBron is a once in a generation player, something Washington seemed to have forgot.

The only problem I see is that the Cavs get complacent and could easily follow this performance with a letdown game.

BTW, I thought LeBron actually played kinda average. In many ways, he can and probably will play better. Wiz blew a big opportunity today.

Ben said...

They did kinda blow it. I mean, Arenas came off the bench and hit 4 treys. Can he really expect to play any better throughout this series? Hell, he dropped a 30 foot bomb.

Plus, Jamison had 19 boards and some how Haywood had double digits in the first quarter.

Not sure they can expect better games from any of these guys (though Butler will probably step up).

geoffrey said...

No mention of Delonte West? The guy bodied up Arenas down the stretch, hit some clutch free throws (something Lebron and Smith couldn't do) and stole the ball from an inbounds pass from Arenas (which they somehow called a jump ball even though he clearly stole it) which helped put the nail in the coffin. The guy played well and I thought you would mention him.

Anonymous said...

Could a been worse, just ask the Pistons. They should still win, but yikes.

Erik said...

All Arenas really can do is shoot. When he's on, he's scary. He can singlehandedly demoralize the opposition by raining threes. But if his shot isn't falling, or you can body him up on D, he's out of answers. And despite all his talking and bravado, he can be psyched out, certainly by a player like LeBron.

Personally, I think all the attention paid Arenas and his shot is misdirected. The really dangerous player is Antawn Jamison. He is probably the most talented player on the Wizards' roster, and he always has monster games against the Cavs.

Jamison thoroughly abused Ben Wallace in the matchup of starting big forwards, and I don't see that changing. The 4-spot is one place where the Wizards have the Cavs, and it would only be worse if Etan Thomas were healthy.

Watching Jamison have his way with whatever sadsack the Cavs threw at him is worrisome should the Cavs advance. Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and Anderson Varejao vs. Kevin Garnett might be the dictionary definition of "mismatch."

Ben said...

hey! I mentioned West...

If the Cavs can keep their focus, they should win this series. It's when they get sloppy (either on offense or defense) that they have trouble.

I'm really interested to see how both teams respond to Game 1

Graham said...

Erik: I agree about Jamison, but Butler is also gonna get his, sooner or later. He's too good to be held down. I'd let Arenas do whatever he wants if it meant taking the ball out of Antawn or Caron's hands.

Anonymous said...

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