Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Memphis 111, Cleveland 109

Tale of two halves. The first half was fantastic; the Cavs passed well, they brought energy on both ends (LeBron seemed to be putting on a show for the Memphis crowd) and they build a nice comfy lead by playing defense and running. Daniel Gibson scored 10 points in the quarter and the Cavs lead 31-25 after one period.

But the second half... ugh. The Cavs had an 11 point lead (59-48) going into the third quarter but acted like they were up 25. The effort just wasn't there; the Cavs threw the ball away, played poor defense (in both the halfcourt and transition) and all offensive flow ground to a halt. The Cavs had trouble with Rudy Gay (he's too big for Delonte, like Turkoglu), Zach Randolph (too skilled for Hickson) and Mike Conley (he gave Mo fits with his speed). The Grizzlies executed down the stretch (running plays for Randolph, Mayo and Conley) while the Cavs settled for jumpers.

The weird thing is, the Cavs shouldn't have even been in this game at the end. I'm not sure there are words to describe the offense. If you like five guys standing around until someone hoists a terrible three, then you were in heaven. The only reason the Cavs even got the game into overtime was because LeBron and Mo knocked down a couple of those "no no no no no no YES!" threes. I don't get it, this is year 5 of Mike Brown's tenure and the offense always reverts to this garbage anytime the Cavs are in a close game. Whether it's Brown having no offensive clue, LeBron going off script and doing his own thing or some combination of the two, I dunno (some call it "LeBron not trusting the play"). But there's no reason why this team should still be having this problem.

Frustrating game. The Cavs had some issues throwing entry passes to both LeBron and Shaq, resulting in at least 4 turnovers. LeBron didn't help matters by "posting up" 20 feet from the rim (he consistently allows himself to get pushed off the block). The Cavs kept going under the Grizzly screens, allowing two huge buckets (Mayo's go-ahead trey and Conley's game winning layup). Also, if you're going to go to the LeIso, could you at least put Boobie in the game? Gibson scored 13 point, shot 3-3 from downtown (5-7 FG overall) and yet played only 16 minutes (and didn't sniff overtime until the very end). The Cavs shot the same number (24) of free throws as they did three pointers. Not good.

LeBron had some pretty numbers but others weren't so nice. LeBron had an eye-popping 43 points to go with 13 boards and 6 assists. Nice. However, LeBron took some terrible, terrible threes (4-11 3pt FG) and had 5 turnovers. Not nice. I found it fitting that his final shot was an off-balance 25 footer as time expired (he scored all 9 Cavalier points in the extra period). LeBron went a little too much into Hero Mode (he had a little feud with Rudy Gay) and the Cavs got out of their rhythm. I don't like how the offense looks when LeBron dominates the ball so much; I'm way to tired to look up the Cavs' record when LeBron scores 40 or more but I'm can't imagine it's over .500.

Some guys played well, others notsomuch. Mo Williams had 20-8-5 but got schooled on the pick-and-roll with Conley (if I'm playing the Cavs, I put Mo and Shaq in the pick-and-roll all game). Shaq had a decent game with 16 points and Boobie scored 13 (though just 3 after the first quarter). Anderson Varejao had an OK game before fouling out (5 points, 6 boards) but J.J. Hickson looked spooked after getting schooled by the post moves of Zach Randolph.

Memphis looks like they have the makings on a nice young team. Every one of the Grizzlies' starting five had double digits: Randolph had 32 (10-19 FG, 11-11 FT), Mayo had 28, Gay had 21 (finishing 9-22 after a horrendous 2-9 start) while Conley and Marc Gasol had 12 and 11, respectively. That's a decent five right there. However, they got squat from their bench; the Grizzly bench had 7 people between them and no one made more than one basket. Hasheem Thabeet does not look comfortable out there, it looks like he has stone hands (though the game is probably just moving too fast for him at this point).

and finally...

Not the way you want to spend the first night of a back-to-back. The Cavs face Houston on Wednesday night and if they're tired, they have only themselves to blame. The Cavs had a 10 point halftime lead and acted like this game was over (yes, Memphis was demoralized early on but the Cavs never went for the kill). Not gonna lie, Brown's performance worries me (for some reason he had Shaq in for big offensive plays and for some reason Memphis didn't foul him) and I hope he can get these guys prepared to face the Rockets.