Z's back! (me too!). With Z's return giving the Cavs an early jolt, they jumped out to a 4-20 lee... er... 20-4 lead. Cleveland scored the game's first eleven points and it looked like we were well on the way to a laugher. But once LeBron picked up his second foul late in the quarter, the Clippers made a game of it, going on a 17-4 run to make it 26-26 heading into the second.
The Clippers didn't go away, at least for a half. It was kind of a bizzare second period, as both Baron Davis and LeBron were on the court to begin the quarter. Davis didn't play at all in the first period and James was coming in after sitting with two fouls. The Clippers stuck around by taking advantage of mismatches (the Cavs always switched on the picks and Varejao ended up guarding Diddy way to often) and the Cavs' sloppy turnovers. The Cavs kept themselves in the game by knocking down the longball; of the Cavs 10 field goals in the quarter, 5 were from downtown (they made a season high 14 on the night). The teams headed into halftime tied at 54.
The Cavs pulled away in the second half. Cleveland stepped up their defense after halftime; they were more active overall and they even decided to stop letting token white guy Steve Novak shoot from the same spot every time down the court. They also cleaned things up at the offensive end; they started the quarter on a 17-9 run and never looked back. I though Pavlovic had a really nice third period; he had 8 points and an assist in the period, before heading to the bench due to foul trouble.
LeBron: steady greatness. This guy is really good; he has a mostly nondescript game, but he finishes with 25 points, 7 boards, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block. He attacked the basket early on, netting him a couple of "and ones" though he only ended with just six free throw attempts (he made five). However, that's partly due to the fact that he was taking (and making) a lot of his jumpers. James was pretty comfortable shooting the ball, as the Clipper guarding James was often gave up a good 5 inches to the King (seriously, B-Diddy on LBJ? Really?).
Mo rebounded nicely from the Orlando loss. After going just 4-15 in the sunshine state, Williams poured in 23 points on 8 -16 shooting against the Clippers. His long ball was dropping yet again as Williams shot a nifty 5-6 from behind the arc (over the last six games he's a ridiculous 25/47 from downtown). Williams also chipped in 6 assists, a bound and steal.
I forgot about all the little things that Z brings to the table. In his first game back, Z had 20 points and 11 boards in 29 minutes. He'll get ya a couple put backs a game and he's the ultimate saftey valve. The Clippers left him alone to shoot his 15 footers and Z made 'em pay. He finished 10-16 from the floor and while you could tell there was a little rust (a couple sloppy passes and he airballed a corner trey), his presence made life much easier for both James and Williams.
This is a weird Clipper team. They're filled with a bunch of players who have talent, but they're all one-on-one. Baron Davis looked like he had no feel for his teammates, Ricky Davis chucked up everything in sight and the two young guys (Al Thorton and Eric Gordon) showed off some nice offensive moves. Thorton is really quick on the block (I love me some post players) and Gordon had a fantastic all-around game, going for 27 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. They have a lot of guys who, if they were in better situations, would be really valuable. But it's the Clippers.
Wally Szczerbiak is starting to make me not want to trade Wally Szczerbiak. Sure, the guy is slow, old and gives 25 hi-5s a game, but if he can continue to shoot anywhere close to this (especially with Gibson sucking- if he's not making shots he's a liability), he might be more valuable to the Cavs than we realize. Wally had a nice game with 15 points, 2 assists and a board and his shooting was fantastic (6-10 overall, 2-5 from downtown). Szczerbiak has had his moments over the season, but since the new year he's played really good ball. After shooting 32% from the floor and 25% from downtown in December, Wally's January has been stupid: 36-74 FG, 21-36 3PT for 49% and 58%(!!!) respectively. Let's hope Wally is allowed to spend the month of March with his wife and kids.
Thanks for your patience. I know I've been on and off with these things and I apologize, I'm not happy about it either, believe me. Anyways, in case you forgot, this is a really good basketball team. Yea, it's pretty lame that the team with the best record only has one All-Star (but they got the coach!), but I think it's pretty obvious that Z would've been there had he not gotten hurt (plus, A.I. being voted in screws up everything). The Cavs still haven't lost consecutive games all year and they're the only undefeated team at home. Sure, some will point to the fact that they've lost to some good teams on the road (like it's a terrible thing) but you have to realize that that's the only time they ever lose. These guys are pretty good; the bench has stepped up after the injuries, the young guys have plugged in and while they've been a little chirpy as of late (and not without some reason), for the most part, they don't make any excuses.