Friday, January 16, 2009

Chicago 102, Cleveland 93 OT

Well, today is a fun day. The Cavs lost to the Bulls, Delonte West's head bounced off the floor, LeBron displayed some of the worst body language I've seen since Eric Snow was getting 30 minutes a night and it's -12 degrees right now. Freaking awesome. Oh, and the Cavs get to face Chris Paul and Hornets tonight. Sweet. In case you guys forgot which team you were rooting for, it's based in Cleveland. If you're surprised by these injuries, you haven't been paying attention for the past 30 years (*waves at Jim Chones, Mark Price and optimism*). To be fair (and stay sane), Brian Windhorst has a good post walking Cavalier fans back from the edge.

LeBron didn't have a good night. Apparently (so says the AP article) LeBron had no lift in his legs and he could have some of the flu bug that has been going around the Cavs locker room. Just in case you forgot how good he is, this was LeBron's line on a bad night: 28 points, 14 boards, 7 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. But once West went down, LeBron seemd to try to do everything himself. He was taking bad shots, forcing the issue and generally looked like he didn't trust anyone else on the court. LeBron ended the night shooting 8-28 from the floor (at one point missing 13 straight shots) and had 8 turnovers. James was also just 11-16 from the line (including a few killer misses) and kinda reminded everyone that even though he's improved his free throw percentage this year, he's not out of the woods til he makes his freebies in tough situations.

Though, I can't blame LeBron for not trusting some of his guys. Mike Brown had some weird lineups out there (Pavlovic, Wally, Gibson and Wright? Ugh) and it's no wonder that James tried to go it alone. Once West went down, these guys had no continuity and the offense was choppy at best. The Cavs had a semi-strong third period, when Williams, Pavlovic (who actually wasn't terrible) and Gibson all hit some treys, but the offense was all "LeBron drives, draws the D and kicks to a shooter". They got some points, but they couldn't sustain anything.

LeBron's final shot in regulation left something to be desired. I like the fact that the Cavs didn't use a timeout after the Bulls tied the game at 87 with 17 seconds to go. I didn't like the fact that they didn't do anything in those 17 seconds. Instead of using the lack of timeout to sow confusion in the Chicago defense, LeBron just held the ball and hoisted a 21 footer as time expired. Part of me doesn't blame him (especially if he's sick) but part of me would like him to challenge the defense in that situation. Standing around and shooting a long J is exactly what the Bulls want him to do.

Derek Rose is really good. On one hand, I do not like the fact that he's in the same divison as the Cavs. He's gonna be a pain in the ass to go against 4 times a year. But on the other hand, 10 years of LeBron vs Rose battles ain't a terrible thing to have to 'suffer' through either. Rose gave the Bulls a 2 point lead with an 'and one' layup with about 4 minutes to go (Varejao committed another dumb foul near the basket, making enough contact to warrant a whistle, but not fouling hard enough to alter the shot). Rose finished with 16 points and 6 assists and he was strong late. He hit the game tying free throws with 17 left in regulation and he started off OT with another 'and one' layup (which set the entire tone for OT. The fact that the Bulls hit three consecutive treys right after that didn't help either).

The shame is, West was playing really well when he got hurt. Brother Red had a nifty 11 points in his 11 minutes of court time. West hurt his right wrist (he's a lefty, whew!) after getting undercut by Derek Rose, whose shot West was attempting to block. Delonte's wrist landed first. His head landed second. He left with a gash above his eye (which eventually turned into a giant welt) and apparently his wrist isn't that badly screwed up.

Honestly, this wasn't their (or my) night. Mo Williams lost the ball off his knee on a break away layup. James won a jumpball late, only to fall down while going for a pass. The Bulls received four extra points in regulation, as Ty Thomas got away with both an offensive and defensive goaltending. Derek Rose drew a block on James when LeBron was definitively planted well in advance (but Rose bricked both attempts). And to top things off, the bar I was at (I won't say the name, but it rhymes with Blorchers) switched from the Cavs audio to karaoke with roughly seven minutes left in regulation. Now, I'm no fan of Austin Carr and Fred McLeod (they're hacktacular!), but they are at vastly preferable to Shaggy covers (and not even the shitty Shaggy songs I know! Obscure Shaggy songs!? Really?).

and finally...

Hi Rod? It's me Danny, so about Vince... No, I don't think the Cavs are going to make any rash trades, but I think now they might have a tad more urgency when it comes to the trade market (especially depending on how this mini-West coast swing goes). The Cavs are still in a pretty good spot (Boston isn't exactly setting the world on fire), but that top seed is gonna mean a lot. If you're the 2 or 3 seed, that means you'll have to go through both Boston and Orlando, where if you're the top dog, you'll get to watch the Celts and Magic battle it out in round 2. The Cavs face the Hornets in Cleveland on Friday night (gulp) and they're in LA facing the Lakers late night on Monday (double gulp- though the Lakers are missing guys as well).