You're excited?! Feel these nipples! I'm not sure when's the last time I've been this excited for the NBA to start back up. Maybe it's because of the Tribe and the Browns were so depressing, but it feels like I've been waiting for this game forever.
I really loved the first half. The Cavs came out strong, focused and played with a sense of purpose. Delonte West started at the 2 and the offense flowed fairly well, as the Cavs jumped out to an early lead, scoring 28 points in the first quarter and they went into halftime with a 50-43 lead. They're only issue was giving up too many offensive rebounds (to Perkins in particular), but they fixed it later on.
First impression of Mo Williams: hmmm. Mo did some things I really liked; he hit his jumpers, pushed the ball and played hard. But he got lost on defense a couple of times, which lead to some easy buckets for Boston (he lost track of Rondo twice). However, when he gets beat, he fouls... and he fouls hard (no easy buckets!). Williams was 3-5 from 3 point range, but just 4-10 overall, finishing with 12 points and 2 assists (and 4 turnovers). Again, not bad, but not great either. Hell, if Larry Hughes gave us those numbers, I'd have been thrilled.
The second unit did OK, but I have my issues. While I understand why West is starting (smarter than Sasha, quicker than Wally), I think the Cavs would be a better team if he came off the bench. The second unit consisted of Boobie Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak, Anderson Varejao and Lorenzen Wright; out of those five guys, tell me who you want to take the majority of the shots.... Gibson, right? But he was playing 'point guard' and was setting up the offense, which led to Wright and Varejao jumpers and stagnant plays. Personally, I'd love to see the Cavs actually run plays for Gibson, especially with the second unit. Which is why I want West anchoring the PG duties; it'll free up Gibson (only one of the best shooters in the league) to run around picks and get himself open. As it is (or was the first game), there was too much standing around.
Wally Szczerbiak is the new Damon Jones. The Celtics ran plays for whoever Wally picked up defensively. Leon Powe posted up Szczerbiak a couple times and Tony Allen went right at him whenever he had the chance. The Cavs eventually started shifting the defense to help Wally out, but this isn't a good sign that he was such a liability in Game 1 of 82.
LeBron was mediocre. James finished with 22 points, 7 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and a block. Not bad numbers, by any means, but he was a little too passive (maybe trying to feeling out Mo Williams) and he missed his free throws (4-8) including a couple late ones. However, he also had some of those "I'm LeBron James" moments; he had a couple monster dunks, a crazy layup/alley-oop thing from Z (the high post!) and a sick block on Ray Allen. Some of the problem was that he got himself into foul trouble; James picked up his fourth foul with 1:27 left to go in the third (Cavs trailing 66-63) and didn't come back in until the nine minute mark in the fourth (Cavs trailing 76-68).
Turnovers were an issue. Cleveland had 10 in the first half and 21 for the night. Both Williams and Z had 4, while James chipped in another 3. They say that the offense is always behind the defense early in the season, and the Cavs weren't the exception. You could tell they were trying to do new things; Z was in the high post, LeBron went inside, Williams was pushing ball... these are all things I liked. I didn't care for the Varejao high post (he can't pass or shoot, this is stupid) and I felt that Pavlovic dominated the second unit too much (he basically 'took over' the early fourth quarter- 5 points and a turnover).
Has JJ Hickson learned his lesson yet? Sure he missed the team bus, but 11 minutes of Lorenzen Wright is roughly 12 minutes too many. Wright was 1-3 from the floor (with some ugly ugly jumpers) and committed 4 fouls. I'm pretty sure Hickson can match that production.
Just in case you were wondering, I still hate Kendrick Perkins. Seriously, that guy never has committed a foul in his life. He shoves constantly, he looks like a god damned turtle and he runs his mouth the entire game. Though he did foul out on a fairly weak illegal pick (but I'll take it! Screw that guy!).
Speaking of Boston athletes I hate, Paul Pierce played really well. Apparently he's lost some weight and it showed. He got by James and Pavlovic a couple of times and he ended up leading everyone with 27 points to go along with 4 assists and 3 boards. His last assist to Leon Powe broke a press and ended the Cavs night.
However, the overall defense was pretty stellar. Pierce was the only one of the Big Three who had a decent game. KG shot 5-15 for 11 points (and only 6 boards) and Ray Allen was 2-9. The guys who hurt the Cavaliers the most were two bench players, Tony Allen and Leon Powe. Allen was 4-9 for 11 points and Powe finished with 13 on 5-7 shooting. As a team, the Celtics shot 44% (to the Cavs' 42%).
Mike Brown still murders children at halftime. The Cavs entered the third period with a seven point lead... 12 minutes later, they're down 4. The Cavaliers scored just one bucket in the first 4:30 following halftime (a Ben Wallace dunk off a broken play).
Not a bad game, but it felt like they gave it away. Losing to the champs... on the road... on opening night... by 5... really isn't the worst thing in the world. But the Cavaliers had their chances. LeBron was 4-8 from the stripe, they committed 21 turnovers and they let Boston have 10 offensive rebounds (Cleveland did win the rebounding battle 41-36). I know it's just the first game and that there's 81 more to go (and it's not like there weren't encouraging signs), but a win now counts the same as a win in April, and the Cavs let this one slip away.