Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Orleans 86, Cleveland 76

Way to take advantage of that win in Dallas. The Cavs came out flat offensively, confused defensively and the overall effort was, shall we say, lacking. The Cavs didn't hit 20 points in three out of the four periods... you aren't going to win games like that.

This loss goes on the whole team. Ya, people are going to look at LeBron's final line of 21, 6 and 5 (assists and rebounds, respectively) and conclude that he got no help. Well... kinda. James was extremely passive for the 80% of the game (about the 8 minute mark in the fourth). He didn't attack the rim, he let the double team come to him and he just didn't seem... well, interested. Sure, he had 10 points in the final period, but it was a case of 'too little, too late' as the Cavs were already down 20 points by the time he turned it on.

Drew Gooden had an awful game. Now, the stats show that Drew was 5-10, with 10 points and boards. So, double-double and 50% shooting... awful game? Yes. Gooden got lost countless times on defense (he bit on practically every David West pump fake) and he made some weird decisions offensively (like trying a reverse lay-up rather than, oh, I dunno, dunking the ball). I'm kind of perplexed that Dwayne Jones didn't get on the court until the final minute of the game, cause no one stopped West (27 points on 11-17 shooting to go with 15 boards).

Ilgauskas has 12 points at halftime... and 14 for the game. Some of this was Z's fault, as he rushed shots late in the game, but they weren't solid possessions overall (no movement, rushed shots, etc). Part of the blame falls on Mike Brown, as he watched Z abuse the New Orleans big men in the first half, only to turn away from the post after halftime.

I have more issues with the coaching. First problem: Drew spaces out and Brown doesn't do anything (can Varejao play West? Jones?). Second problem: Z lit up the Hornet big men and the Cavs spent the 3rd period hoisting crappy shots. Third problem: set plays after timeouts. With roughly 5 minutes to go, the Cavs had cut the to 82-70 and had the ball following a timeout. This is a big play; they're on a 9-0 run and they could get the lead down to 10 or possibly single digits. The shot they get after the TO? A 28 foot fade-away 3 from LeBron (AFTER A TIMEOUT!!). Then with about 2 minutes to go, they have possession and call another TO to set things up. Now, at this point I'd figure they'd go for a 3 or at least a quick 2. Nope. Instead they passed the ball around until it landed in Z's hands on the block... where he waited for people to cut... and waited... and waited... and then he took a terrible hook shot. Awesome.

So, was Larry Hughes mediocre or awful? Awful. 1-9, 2 assists, 1 rebound and a steal. He had two awful possessions back-to-back in the 3rd quarter. The first time he dribbled the ball up the court and took a contested 17 footer with 11 seconds on the shot clock. No passing... nothin' but Hughes. The next time down, Hughes was pushing the ball... all the way to the hoop... where he jumped and... passed the ball to Z at the last second (who clearly was expecting a shot). Larry, you've made your point, you're not a point guard. We get it. Stop taking it out on the rest of Cleveland.

And Pavlovic, mediocre or awful? Neither really, so let's go with just plain crappy. He had 7 points (3-7) with 3 boards and 2 assists. To his credit, he hit a 3 and he didn't pick up any charges (though not for lack of trying...). I don't know if he doesn't have legs, his confidence or what... but his jumper was extremely flat.

and finally...

Days off ahead. The Cavs don't play until Wednesday (when they face Atlanta at home), so it makes perfect sense that they loafed around in the bayou... This wasn't a real bad loss (I mean, the Hornets are 20-10) but in no way did the Cavs play anything close to "well". The Cavs face the Hawks and Kings coming up, so they have a chance to rebound from this. I assume there will be some practice time in upcoming days, hopefully the offense will get some work.


Anonymous said...

I have yet to figure out why getting this team to play competent basketball seems to be a matter of constant maintenance.

After a while, especially after making it all the way to the NBA Finals, you'd think things like minimizing mistakes, executing plays well at both ends of the floor and keeping your collective head in the game would be more or less routine each night. They're not.

This isn't a talent thing. This is an NBA basketball 101 thing. I can't tell if the players are that uncoachable (I think LeBron is not very coachable at all sometimes) or if Mike Brown is that ineffectual as a coach. But there are huge mental dead spots that have plagued this team on a regular basis for the past three years, and it's costing them even more games this year.

The Cavs are constantly guilty of sloppy ball handling, lack of adjustments, passively hoisting jumpers for entire halves, napping on defense, things that a team with the credentials of the Cavs just shouldn't be doing. Things I would expect from a rebuilding team like the Hawks, but ironically, the Hawks play better than the Cavs many nights.

Before Danny Ferry can address the talent flaws on the roster, the guys who are here have to address the execution and discipline flaws that never totally go away. It's a chicken-or-egg question, and I don't know where it begins.

Anonymous said...

I think that whole "LeBron is disinterested" bit that gets tossed around various reports or blogs is a bit overdone. He lets the game come to him A LOT, and when most of his teammates play like garbage, his game isn't quite the same and it shows. He might not have play great, but the guy isn't disinterested.

But I digress. Hughes and Pavlovic are amazingly bad right now. With both of those guys starting as our guards, the Cavs are awful and can only be saved by LeBron when he puts up some ridiculous stat line.

I mean, are those two even shooting at a collegiate level? I think you move Sasha (I think Feb. 1st is the earliest you can move him), while he still has some trade value (potential?). He looks utterly content with getting his a contract and relaxing.

And of course we want Hughes gone, but nobody will take him. On the flip side, I just can't imagine this team going forward with him. You simply can not have a shooting guard (he's clearly not a PG) who can't remotely shoot or drive and expect to win many games.

Ben said...

My thing with LeBron is I don't want to let him off the hook either. There are definitely games where he's aggressive and games where he's passive. He was passive this game.

When he's aggressive, the Cavs can beat the Celtics, Mavericks, Utah... well, just about anyone.

When he 'lets the game come to him' the team is in trouble.

I'm not saying blame LeBron for the loss, but I don't want people to see the final numbers and be like "the Cavs are wasting time with LeBron!" either.

Anonymous said...

This is water under the bridge, but I think Kevin Garnett would have been the perfect compliment for LeBron. Both are team-oriented guys who are known around the league as smart players. Based on the type of players and people they are, I don't think they'd step on each other's toes very often. Not as often as, say, Kobe with (insert other superstar here).

The big difference is that Garnett is reaching the point in his career where he knows he only has so many productive years left. He wants to win a title badly, and you can see the result of that in Boston now.

If the Cavs had somehow managed to trade for KG, he'd be out there trying hard every night. He'd make LeBron look bad on nights when LeBron's engine is running lukewarm. KG is also a big enough star himself that he could get on LeBron's case when that happens.

Right now, I think everybody in the Cavs organization is just focused on taking whatever LeBron gives them each night. Maybe we need to get someone in here who isn't just satisfied to have LeBron in a Cavs uniform, and would actually push him to get even better.

Don't get me wrong, LeBron takes a lot of his self-improvement on his own shoulders. But it would be nice if the Cavs could find a personality-equal who could push LeBron instead of a gaggle of minions who are just trying to ride his coattails.

LeBron just turned 23 today. He doesn't have all the answers. Maybe Dan Gilbert, Danny Ferry and Mike Brown just want to believe he does.

Anonymous said...

Agree with both of you. LeBron IS passive sometimes, but I was just pointing out that's different than being "disinterested". Sorry, maybe I'm sensitive to that stuff ever since Simmons said LeBron was "mailing it in", and it drove me freakin' crazy.

In any case, he does get passive sometimes and it hurts the team.

Completely agree with Erik, in that we need some guys who aren't just happy to be riding his coattails. Andy, Z, and Gibson are the closest guys we have to that IMO, but we just need a guy more talented. KG woulda been perfect.

Ben said...

The thing was, I didn't exactly disagree with Simmons (though I think he overreacted).

I think the greatest indicator of his effort level (or passiveness) is his free throw numbers (rather than his points).

When he gets to the line a lot, the Cavs stand a good chance of winning. LeBron is attacking, getting players in foul trouble (making teams dip into the bench) and getting extra points.

When he shoots a small amount of FTs, it usually means he's settling for jumpers and generally not being aggressive.

He had 15 FTs in the games against Utah as well as the Celtics games (all great performances).

Against the Nets? 3. Against the Sixers? 1. The Knicks? 6. The Hornets? 6.

There are a lot of things that LeBron can't control (like his terrible shooting guards), but he can control how he attacks. And when he puts pressure on the defense, he gives the Cavs a great chance at winning.

When he's content to take jumpers, it makes winning that much harder, especially when you factor in the rest of the roster.

Anonymous said...

So what do you think about the Larry/Drew for Hinrich/Wallace rumor? I think I'd pull the trigger if it actually ever presented itself.

Ben said...

I'd do the Hughes/Gooden for Hinrich/Wallace trade in a heartbeat (though I do think the deal is halfway decent from both sides)

Hinrich has a pretty decent contract (its long, but the annual salary decreases every year) and Wallace's contract is the same length as Larry's (though more expensive).

The Cavs would get a young point guard (though they better hope they like him, cause they'll be locked in) and a bruising (though old) PF.

In Hughes, the Bulls would get a big guard to pair with Ben Gordon and Gooden would give them a decent low post presence (as opposed the 0 post presence they currently have). Plus, the Cavs would probably have to throw in Newble or Shannon Brown (both expiring deals) to make the salaries work. With the throw ins and Gooden, the Bulls would also get some cap relief soon.

If anyone is holding this deal up, it'd be the Bulls (as they'd be trading Hinrich at his low point and I think he'd thrive when paired with LBJ).

Both teams need to make a move but I think the Cavs would definitely be the winners here. Hughes and Wallace would be a 'disgruntled overpaid player' trade off, but Wallace would be more valuable to the Cavs than Hughes would be to the Bulls. Big Ben would be the bruiser that could protect LeBron. Wallace would hurt the offense, but a crunch time defensive rotation of Hinrich, LeBron, Andy, Wallace and Z wouldn't be too shabby...

Anonymous said...

However, I mus admit that I'd be worried about acquiring another Donyell Marshall in Wallace; an aging player who will become a full-fledged has-been on the Cavs' watch.

Ben said...

ya, but Hughes is worthless now anyways... if Wallace's contract was longer I'd be more worried if his contract was longer than Larry's.

sure, they'll need another big man, but I think Dwayne Jones, Wallace and Marshall can handle two spots.

Plus, even if he isn't as effective as he used to be, I just want him around for his badassness. LeBron needs an enforcer...