Saturday, December 13, 2008

Atlanta 97, Cleveland 92

Tough, tough loss. There's a lot of ways you can look at this loss. Sure, it's the fourth game of a 4-in-5, on the road and they're missing some key players. On the other hand, they've won their previous 11 games and you knew they had to lose sometime, I just wish they could've beaten the franchise mark (rather than just tie). Then again, they've had a somewhat easy schedule so far and their only losses are to good team on the road; this was a test for them and they failed. And finally, this is a pretty damn good Hawks team- remember, they won all of their home games against the Celtics too- and there's no shame in losing a game, short-handed, against in Atlanta (by such a close margin no less).

There's a bit of truth in all of it. This is a pretty good Hawks team and I have a hard time faulting the Cavs for losing this game (4th game in five nights, on the road, shorthanded). Personally, I'm kinda glad just to see an interesting ball game for once, all these blowout were getting kind of boring. The sting of the loss is softened by how well the Cavs executed down the stretch; the Cavs had two really good looks to tie the game with under 10 seconds left, they just didn't drop. The Cavs struggled for the game's first 35 minutes and, given their circumstances, they could've packed it in, but they fought back and gave themselves the chance.

LeBron showed why he's taking home the MVP this year (alternate heading: so this is why those blowouts were so important). In 46 grueling minutes, James poured in 33 points (10-19 FG, 2-7 3pt, 11-12 FT) to go along with 9 assists, 6 boards, 4 steals and a block (he also picked up tech). James put the team on his back, willing home baskets just to keep it within striking distance and then giving them life by throwing down a thunderous dunk late in the third. With 4:11 left in the period, LeBron's dunk in traffic made the score just 66-55 but it completely energized the Cavaliers (and it kind of stunned both the Hawks and their fans). Cleveland finished the quarter on a 13-2 run, culminating with a Sasha Pavlovic 3-ball, to make the deficit 68-66.

I'm still getting used to Mo Williams. The Cavs haven't had many close games, so I haven't been able to see how Mo plays with LeBron during crunch time in pressure situations. I'd say he played pretty well, no? 26 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 40 minutes. Williams created a lot of shots for himself throughout the game and I'm not used to non-LeBron players doing that during crunch time (Pavlovic's charges, Varejao's finals debacle, Hughes every game). Mo had four big points over the final five minutes and every time he took it I was like "no no no no, give to LeBro- oh yeah, Mo Williams is good."

Jumpers weren't falling (They missed Boobie). The misses of both West and Williams in the final seconds was indicative of how the previous 47 minutes and 50 seconds went. They both had good looks, but the shot simply didn't drop. Delonte finished just 5-19 from the floor (1-4 from beyond the arc) and while Mo was 11-21 overall, he was just 1-7 from down town (they had a rough night defensively as well, Mike Bibby finished with 24 and Joe Johnson had 17, with both hitting big shots down the stretch). As a team, the Cavs shot just 5-22 from three point country (Wally was 0-3 and James was 2-7).

Great game to watch (even better for Hawks fans). This was a spectacular basketball game after LeBron's dunk. The Cavs executed down the stretch and multiple guys made big plays. Delonte West fed James on a sweet backdoor pass that led to a man sized and-one. Mo Williams pump faked a trey, took a few steps in made beautiful bankshot from the wing. And LeBron... what can you say? He put them on his back when they were struggling, he made big plays down the stretch and he looked every bit the leader of this team; the reason the Cavs were even close was because LeBron willed them there. And when Atlanta took the Cavs punch and kept the lead, LeBron answered the bell every time (well, there was one shitty 3 attempt) and put the pressure back on the Hawks.

and finally...

I don't think four games is a large enough sample size to draw any trends. While I'm not entirely comfortable with the fact that the Cavs only losses are to good teams, on the road, I'm not worried about it. Yet. The Boston game was the first game of the year (and ring night), New Orleans was just the third and both the Detroit and Atlanta games were on the second night of a back-to-back. There's legit 'excuses' for all of these games (really? Rasheed Wallace is hitting 30 footers like layups? Really?) and there's no shame in losing to these teams in their home buildings. But I was really hoping the Cavs could steal this one. This would've been a great win. But I'm not gonna let myself get too upset over a loss that put the Cavs at 20-4. I will say, however, that this is the type of game that Danny Ferry will have in mind when he decides whether or not to pull the trigger on a mid-season deal. You won't be going through teams like the Knicks and Bobcats when you make a Finals run.

2 comments:

geoffrey said...

It's a long season. They had to lose sometime. It's just the regular season. Keep in mind that Back-to-backs and 4-games-in-5-nights don't happen during the playoffs.

It was good to see Mike Brown unleash Lebron tonight. They don't play again til Wednesday, might as well ride him for 45+ mins.

11 points from the bench tonight. That hurts. But that's what happens when you lose two players in what was essentially a 8 man rotation before the injuries.

dave . . . said...

i couldn't agree with you more, geoffrey. or as the saying goes "you can't win 'em all". not only was it their 4th game in 5 nights, they also played 4 games in 5 nights just the previous week, so they certainly didn't get any favors from the nba schedule-makers either. had z or boobie played, there might have been a different result. lord knows the hawks wouldn't have got 16 more free throw attempts than the cavs with "tall z" in the middle, who at least offers somewhat of an intimidating presence (just from his sheer 7-foot-3 size) for a potential shot-block, unlike the "flop-aholic" varejao. the hawks knew that varejao wasn't about to try to block their shots, but rather just go for the flops and they completely schooled him all game long. as for boobie, not being there, i gotta believe they would have shot better than just 5-for-22 from deep with boobie in the lineup. oh well, now it's time to just start a new and even longer winning streak, right???