Friday, March 13, 2009

Cleveland 119, Phoenix 111

First win in Phoenix in 10 years, LeBron's third triple-double in a row and a new high mark for road victories in a season. Not a bad night, eh? LeBron got his first win in Phoenix (the last time the Cavs won in the Valley of the Sun, Mike Fratello was the coach and Shawn Kemp was the leading scorer- AKA the glory years) in route to notching his third consecutive triple-double. I can't believe Mike Brown was pleased to see the Cavs get sucked into playing the Suns' style (lots of quick 3 pointers) but a win is a win. The Cavs had to come back yet again, but I never really felt this game was in doubt, mostly because the Suns played about as well as they could and they'd only be up by 4-6 points.

James led the Cavs in just about everything. The King finished with 34 points, 13 assists, 10 boards, 3 steals and 3 blocks in 43 minutes. The highlight of night was LeBron's block on Jason Richardson's open floor dunk attempt. With the Suns trailing 97-95, Richardson stupidly went for a 360 dunk that allowed LeBron enough time to soar in for the block (got some wrist too). Cavs proceeded to nit a 3 on the next possession, making it a 5 point swing that eventually turned to 6 as Richardson got a T'd up for arguing the non-call. James shot a little too many jumpers for my taste (8 trey attempts. Ugh!) but did a really good job of finding his teammates when he needed to.

Mo Williams was fantastic. Mo scored 30 points (6-10 from beyond the arc) to go along with 5 boards and 3 assists. The Suns seemed to leave him open or lose him in transition constantly, allowing Williams to get wide open looks from all over the court (it's almost as if they're a bad defensive team). Williams started the game on fire, going 4-6 for 11 points in the first period. Mo also hit some dagger treys down the stretch; after Steve Nash scored 7 straight points for the Suns to bring them within 4, Williams hit his sixth and final 3 to put the Cavs up 7 and the game out of reach.

Delonte got hurt again. West went over Steve Nash on a fast break and landed on his left wrist (the non-injured one) and fell on his back (he was called for the offensive foul, but replays show that Nash's foot was on the line- West also made the basket). This is really too bad, as Delonte was just getting back into the swing of things AND he had just broken out a giant red afro for the national audience. That thing made my night, it was fantastic. West didn't return after his fall and finished with 6 points, 2 assists and a whopping 7 turnovers.

Sasha Pavlovic answered the bell when West went down. I'll be honest, I keep getting surprised by Pavlovic. He hasn't gotten a ton of minutes this season (and the ones he's gotten have been due to injuries) but every time he comes in he plays pretty well. Pavlovic played 28 minutes, shot 6-9 from the floor, 3-5 from behind the arc (including a few daggers of his own) and pitched in 2 boards and 2 assists. If West is down for any length of time, I'd bet that Pavlovic steps in and ends up pushing Daniel Gibson (0 points, 0-2 FG) out of the playoff rotation (Sasha is shooting 46% from downtown, Gibson is at 36%).

The centers got into foul trouble. Neither Z or Shaq had any love for the officials. Shaq played just 26 minutes before fouling out with 3:45 to go. Z played only 25 minutes and ended up with 5 fouls of his own. The refs twice whistled Shaq for 3-seconds, which seemed surprising (I wasn't aware they still did that) and Z picked up a phantom foul or two (he eventually got pulled simply because the Cavs got caught up in the run-and-gun flow). Ilgauskas finished with 15 points and 4 boards (shooting 6-9 from the floor) while Shaq ended up with 12 points and 7 boards (5-6 from the floor).

A win is a win, but... The Cavs shot 33 threes. Thirty. Three. I know this is a filled with shooters and they did end up making 17 of those 33 from beyond the arc. But 33 attempts is just ridiculous. The Cavs allowed the Suns to score 93 points through three quarters (though they held 'em under 20 for the final 12 minutes) and Phoenix shot 54% for the game. I'm not sure what all you can really take away from this game (besides: "LeBron James is really good") because the Cavs won't be facing a team like this come playoff time, but it's not a good sign that the Cavs adopted the Suns style so quickly.

and finally...

Last game out West. Friday's game in Sac-Town marks the Cavs last game in another time-zone. The Cavs have a pretty nice schedule during the stretch run; they play only 5 of their remaining 17 games (after the Kings) on the road and only one against a team with a winning record (@Orlando, April 3rd). Meanwhile, Boston plays 8 of their final 17 away from home and that includes contests in Cleveland, San Antonio and Orlando. The Cavs are set up nicely and it's key that they don't blow these games against lesser teams (they dodged a couple bullets on these last two games).


graham said...

I don't know whether to be pleased or apprehensive about the Cavs recent play. The amount of games we're winning is truly amazing, and Mo is really starting to get going. Sucks about Delonte, but we're showing how deep we are when Sasha can step in and produce (can't believe I'm writing that)

But we are now a jump-shooting team and one that pretty much relies on the three ball. Cavs fans often said the Magic weren't contenders for those very reasons, and I'm starting to think we have the same fatal flaw. Just no inside scoring presence whatsoever, and not much on the defensive side either without a healthy Ben.

The good news is we can beat all but 2 or 3 teams with that style of play and we have LeBron, but James will have to figure out ways to get to the basket at high rate in the playoffs if we're going to beat Boston or LA in a 7 game series. I don't how realistic that is, but something has to give.

Ben said...

Well, it's a double edged sword.

The fact that they can come back from just about any deficit is a nice skill to have.

On the other hand, I preferred the start of the season, where they played exceptional defense in the first half and coasted to victories.

The amount of treys is a bit jarring, but at the same time, this is a team filled with shooters. Mo makes open shots and LeBron get's his teammates open shots.

Now, LeBron shooting 11 treys in a game.... that I can do without.