Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cleveland 104, Portland 98

This was a great bounce back win. After getting beaten (somewhat handily) by the Lakers on Monday night, the Cavs were in control for most of Wednesdays game against the Blazers. Guys were focused, multiple players stepped up and LeBron had an efficient, all-around (and great) night. They still haven't had a losing streak all season, moving to 8-0 following a loss.

You aren't going to lose many games where LeBron is hitting his midrange J. Portland tried to keep James out of the paint (he had a couple of his shots blocked) and James took what the defense gave him. Twice in the game LeBron made three consecutive mid-range jumpers and there's not a whole lot you can do if that's going to happen. LeBron led everyone with 34 points to go along with a game high 14 assists, 7 boards and a steal. LeBron's passing was fantastic; he found guys in the open court (Pavlovic ran the floor especially well), he found guys for open jumpers and he worked the ball to Mo Williams, who responded by shooting 6-9 from downtown.

Mo was great. Williams had a season high 33 points in 41 minutes. He shot the ball extremely well (12-19 FG, 6-9 3pt) and he was really aggressive. Sometimes this led to turnovers, but I think you have to make that trade off, in order to get Williams more involved with the offense. With both Z and Delonte West out, the Cavs are going to need Williams to score more and take the pressure off of LeBron.

The Cavs capitalized on every fortunate play. Wally grabs a LeBron air ball? Leads to a Varjao dunk. James picks up a ball fumbled by Varejao? Leads a LeBron trey in the corner. Every time the Cavs got any break from the refs or weird play, they always scored the next possession.

I love Portland's crowd (you can tell why they're 15-5 at home). They were into it from the get-go and they stayed into the game throughout (until the very end, where you could've heard a pin drop). The crowd was extremely supportive of their squad (booing nearly every call) but they save the biggest cheers for Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden. Any time either of those two do anything remotely positive, the crowd erupts like proud parents at a 6-year old's soccer game (and if Greg Oden gets called for a foul, look out). It's great that the Cavs won in a building like this (some would argue this is their first 'tough' road win of the season).

I also really like this Portland team. Seriously, is there a young guy on this roster that you don't like? I love the games of both Aldridge and Roy (both are a little old school), both Fernandez and Rodriguez are fun to watch, Travis Outlaw is really, really long and Jerryd Bayless shows a lot of promise. Oh ya, they also got that Gred Oden fellow. It's not going get any easier to play in the Rosen Garden over the next couple years. It's good for the NBA when Porland is competetive.

Sasha Pavlovic continued his strong play. I really like the way Pavlovic is playing; he's not forcing his shot (either inside or out), he's playing under control, his defense is still solid and he's actually knocking down jumpers. Best of all, he's not playing many empty minutes; Sasha finished 3-6 from the floor for 6 points to go along with 4 boards, 4 assists and a steal. I will say that Sasha still doesn't get much love from the refs, as he picked up a couple of questionable calls.

The Cavalier defense is quite good, just in case you weren't aware. Brandon Roy finished just 8-23 and LaMarcus Aldridge was only 8-20 (and just 4-12 after the first period). As a team, the Blazers shot just 40%. For the life of me, I don't know why the Blazers didn't feed Oden a little more. He finished just 3-4 from the field and as far as I can remember, only one shot came off of an actual play (the rest we rebound put backs). Oden made a nifty jump hook over Varejao and I'm kinda surprised they didn't try that a little more (especially considering the Laker game).

I'm still a bit worried about the Cavalier offense. While I really like the fact that Williams was more aggressive and the Cavs had a (somewhat) balanced attack (a couple of guys made big shots), they still were played mostly outside-in. Granted, Portland is a big squad, but the Cavs are going to need some inside scoring at somepoint. Hickson played well in his 13 minutes of court time (5 points and 2 boards) but he needs to keep his fouls in check (he had 4).

and finally...

Finish out the trip right. I think you have to be OK if the Cavs finish this trip 2-2, but 3-1 is looking a little more likely after this win in Portland. The Cavs end their mini West coast swing with a back-to-back against Golden State and Utah. While I don't expect either of these games to be easy, they can't afford a loss in Golden State. A 3-1 trip is pretty good regardless of circumstances, but while missing two key starters.... that'd be quite nice.

1 comment:

Erik said...

I'd still be satisfied with a 2-2 trip. I think it's going to be difficult to win both ends of Western road swing back-to-back.

The Cavs have historically had problems winning at Golden State, where the Warriors are going to try and run them ragged, and then they have to bounce back on Saturday and play in Utah, which is never an easy place to win.

I'd love to see 3-1, but 2-2 seems more realistic.