Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Washington 88, Cleveland 87

This loss goes on everyone. Mike Brown gets some blame (the team didn't have nearly enough energy and Wally needed to sit roughly 3 seconds into the second half), DeShawn Stevenson gets some credit (17 points, but just 5-14 FG), LeBron James gets some blame (care to attack the rim in the first half?), Caron Butler gets a ton of credit (32 points and the go-ahead basket with 3.9 seconds left) and even the fans get some of my ire (waaaaay too passive, Stevenson should've been booed much more heavily). Everyone (the team, LeBron and every Cav fan in the building) acted like this game was in the bag before it even began (I'll be honest, I never thought they'd actually lose either).

James was good, but.... OK, maybe 'good' does a disservice to 34-10-7 but James was just 8-21 from the floor (9 of those 21 were from beyond the arc) and he coughed the ball up 5 times. I didn't care that he guarded Stevenson for much of the game (including a lot of the second half), leaving Butler to go against the likes of Szczerbiak and Devin Brown (in case you were wondering if fouls were the reason, James finished the night with 0). I dunno, it just seemed that LeBron was a bit passive, that his energy wasn't there (I'll say that was the quietest 34-10-7 I've ever seen). On the bright side, LeBron hit 15 outta 18 from the foul line, so there's a silver lining... right?

Z played great. It's a shame that that his effort was wasted in a loss like this. Z finished with 19 points and 6 boards (5 offensive) and 2 blocks. In my extremely biased opinion, Z had way more than 2 blocks (I was surprised when the box score only recorded 2) and if you would've told me he ended up with 5 blocks, I wouldn't have blinked an eye.

Gilbert Arenas was out (which is bad). With Arenas shutting himself down for the season, Antonio Daniels got more court time (which is bad). I much preferred the Wizards to rely on a hobbled, shoot first superstar rather than the plucky point guard who is a bad matchup problem. Daniels finished with 12 points (5-9 FG), 5 boards and 2 assists.

Caron Butler played great. 32 points, 9 boards, 5 assists and the game winner. Can't get much better than that. He was 11-22 overall and 4-8 from 3 (plus 6-7 from the stripe). Butler hit a big 3 to end the first quarter (to put Washington up 7) and he was also very active in the passing lanes (2 steals). I'm not surprised that this occurred with Arenas sitting on the bench in street clothes.

Brenda Haywood pulled a Brenda Haywood. 1-6 from the floor, 4 points, 5 boards and 6 fouls. Always nice when you talk shit and then end up with more fouls than points or rebounds. Well played sir.

The Cavs energy and lack of focus is maddening. Varejao (1-6 FG) and Wally (1-6) both missed layups. Gibson made a couple dumb fouls. James threw the ball away (5 times). Varejao took a few dumb shots (again). The Cavs started the 3rd period down 2, got a 6 point lead with 4:30 to go and ended the period down 4. Give 'em credit, Washington led at the end of every period. The Cavs had a 5 point lead with 1:30 to go and a 3 point lead with a minute to go; they didn't execute and they didn't play great defense (the D wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that good either). Way to shoot 36% in a closeout game. Bravo.

Delonte West was solid, if nothing else. 12 points, 8 assists, 5 boards and a steal for Delonte. West had a 3 point play late in the fourth that gave the Cavs a 5 point lead. I thought he did a fair job on defense, but his D didn't stick out like it did in Game 4. (BTW- on the play that led to that basket, James totally hacked Butler and it wasn't called. Just wanted to point this out).

The Cavs won the rebounding battle, but not really. They ended up 'winning' 40-39. They let up way too many second chance points and the Wizards guards really attacked the glass (both Daniels and Stevenson had 5 boards apiece). The Wizards got 11 offensive boards (with many coming in the fourth) which really helped them finish strong.

I can't tell you how much the home crowd disappointed me. Obviously, part of the blame goes on the Cavaliers, as they didn't play well at the start... but the crowd really should've been rowdy at the start anyway. The Cavs could've used a boost from the 6th man... and they didn't get it. Now, don't get me wrong, the crowd wasn't the reason the Cavs lost this game, but if I'm gonna be subjected to puff pieces like this, I'd like to see them step it up. Remember how Vince Carter was booed when he played Toronto? That should've been Stevenson.

and finally...

*Deep breath* they're still in control they're still in control *deep breath* You could look at this game a bad home loss, with no energy and effort to a playoff team on the ropes. You could also look at this and say that LeBron was just 8-21 (not gonna happen again) and that the Cavs missed a ton of layups (I hope that doesn't happen) and LeBron missed a shot at the buzzer (let's hope that never happens again, ever). A lot of things went Washington's way (like Mike Brown continuing to play Szczerbiak in the 2nd half) but they did actually keep their cool for once and beat the Cavs. Game 6 will not be easy (especially with Arenas out and Antonio Daniels playing big minutes) and though I still think the Cavs will prevail, they just made their job a lot harder.

7 comments:

graham said...

They thought they had in the bag, it wasn't, and it bit 'em in the ass. James' 3 was the turning point. The sad part is Washington stinks, and the series should be over.

Now, I bet the Wiz take this momentum and confidence and take care of the Cavs in DC. Game 7 will be anyone's for the taking.

Big time let-down for this team.

davemanddd said...

are we seeing a repeat of another cleveland team choke job up 3-1 in a series just like the tribe last fall??? gawd i hope not.

Erik said...

Nail on the head, Graham. When Delonte converted that three-point play to go up 87-82, the Cavs thought they had the game won. Their drop in mental focus after that bucket was palpable.

One question: Z played a really solid game, yes, but does he EVER go for a rebound with two hands? Even the rebounds he gets he seems to tip to himself.

That works in a lot of situations, but man would it have been nice if on the second-to-last Cleveland possession, he could have secured the ball with two hands instead of futily trying to bat it back at the rim five times. If Z secures the ball, Washington is forced to foul and Z can probably ice the game at the line.

But the game wasn't lost there. The Cavs trailed for the majority of the game and the energy just wasn't evident. They had one of those "If you did this against Boston, you'd have gotten destroyed by 30" type of games.

I can't fathom why the Cavs are so prone to letting their guard down. They need to be shocked awake repeatedly. They fell asleep at the switch in Game 3, and they just played at jog-speed for most of the game last night.

The effort should be better in Game 6, but now they're going to have to fight the hostile road crowd, a rejuvenated Wizards club and ticky-tack hometown calls by the refs. This could all have been avoided. But the Cavs never seem to make life easy on themselves.

Ben said...

I'd bet a lot of money that James picks up at least 2 cheap offensive fouls in Game 6.

graham said...

I was thinking the same thing Ben. You can almost guarantee he'll be in foul trouble.

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