Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Washington 88, Cleveland 87

This loss goes on everyone. Mike Brown gets some blame (the team didn't have nearly enough energy and Wally needed to sit roughly 3 seconds into the second half), DeShawn Stevenson gets some credit (17 points, but just 5-14 FG), LeBron James gets some blame (care to attack the rim in the first half?), Caron Butler gets a ton of credit (32 points and the go-ahead basket with 3.9 seconds left) and even the fans get some of my ire (waaaaay too passive, Stevenson should've been booed much more heavily). Everyone (the team, LeBron and every Cav fan in the building) acted like this game was in the bag before it even began (I'll be honest, I never thought they'd actually lose either).

James was good, but.... OK, maybe 'good' does a disservice to 34-10-7 but James was just 8-21 from the floor (9 of those 21 were from beyond the arc) and he coughed the ball up 5 times. I didn't care that he guarded Stevenson for much of the game (including a lot of the second half), leaving Butler to go against the likes of Szczerbiak and Devin Brown (in case you were wondering if fouls were the reason, James finished the night with 0). I dunno, it just seemed that LeBron was a bit passive, that his energy wasn't there (I'll say that was the quietest 34-10-7 I've ever seen). On the bright side, LeBron hit 15 outta 18 from the foul line, so there's a silver lining... right?

Z played great. It's a shame that that his effort was wasted in a loss like this. Z finished with 19 points and 6 boards (5 offensive) and 2 blocks. In my extremely biased opinion, Z had way more than 2 blocks (I was surprised when the box score only recorded 2) and if you would've told me he ended up with 5 blocks, I wouldn't have blinked an eye.

Gilbert Arenas was out (which is bad). With Arenas shutting himself down for the season, Antonio Daniels got more court time (which is bad). I much preferred the Wizards to rely on a hobbled, shoot first superstar rather than the plucky point guard who is a bad matchup problem. Daniels finished with 12 points (5-9 FG), 5 boards and 2 assists.

Caron Butler played great. 32 points, 9 boards, 5 assists and the game winner. Can't get much better than that. He was 11-22 overall and 4-8 from 3 (plus 6-7 from the stripe). Butler hit a big 3 to end the first quarter (to put Washington up 7) and he was also very active in the passing lanes (2 steals). I'm not surprised that this occurred with Arenas sitting on the bench in street clothes.

Brenda Haywood pulled a Brenda Haywood. 1-6 from the floor, 4 points, 5 boards and 6 fouls. Always nice when you talk shit and then end up with more fouls than points or rebounds. Well played sir.

The Cavs energy and lack of focus is maddening. Varejao (1-6 FG) and Wally (1-6) both missed layups. Gibson made a couple dumb fouls. James threw the ball away (5 times). Varejao took a few dumb shots (again). The Cavs started the 3rd period down 2, got a 6 point lead with 4:30 to go and ended the period down 4. Give 'em credit, Washington led at the end of every period. The Cavs had a 5 point lead with 1:30 to go and a 3 point lead with a minute to go; they didn't execute and they didn't play great defense (the D wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that good either). Way to shoot 36% in a closeout game. Bravo.

Delonte West was solid, if nothing else. 12 points, 8 assists, 5 boards and a steal for Delonte. West had a 3 point play late in the fourth that gave the Cavs a 5 point lead. I thought he did a fair job on defense, but his D didn't stick out like it did in Game 4. (BTW- on the play that led to that basket, James totally hacked Butler and it wasn't called. Just wanted to point this out).

The Cavs won the rebounding battle, but not really. They ended up 'winning' 40-39. They let up way too many second chance points and the Wizards guards really attacked the glass (both Daniels and Stevenson had 5 boards apiece). The Wizards got 11 offensive boards (with many coming in the fourth) which really helped them finish strong.

I can't tell you how much the home crowd disappointed me. Obviously, part of the blame goes on the Cavaliers, as they didn't play well at the start... but the crowd really should've been rowdy at the start anyway. The Cavs could've used a boost from the 6th man... and they didn't get it. Now, don't get me wrong, the crowd wasn't the reason the Cavs lost this game, but if I'm gonna be subjected to puff pieces like this, I'd like to see them step it up. Remember how Vince Carter was booed when he played Toronto? That should've been Stevenson.

and finally...

*Deep breath* they're still in control they're still in control *deep breath* You could look at this game a bad home loss, with no energy and effort to a playoff team on the ropes. You could also look at this and say that LeBron was just 8-21 (not gonna happen again) and that the Cavs missed a ton of layups (I hope that doesn't happen) and LeBron missed a shot at the buzzer (let's hope that never happens again, ever). A lot of things went Washington's way (like Mike Brown continuing to play Szczerbiak in the 2nd half) but they did actually keep their cool for once and beat the Cavs. Game 6 will not be easy (especially with Arenas out and Antonio Daniels playing big minutes) and though I still think the Cavs will prevail, they just made their job a lot harder.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cleveland 100, Washington 97

Kobe Bryant doesn't make that pass... Larry Hughes doesn't hit that shot... LeBron found Delonte West in the corner for the game winning 3 with 5 seconds left. I'll tell ya what, I'm much more comfortable having West take that shot rather than seeing Donyell Marshall and his big ass hoist it. West played a fantastic game; the big stat was the 5-8 from behind the arc, but I though his defense play a huge role throughout. West D'd up on Gilbert Arenas (and his bulky knee) and forced a miss on the final shot of the game.

LeBron... I mean, what else can you say? It's gotten to the point where I'm not even cheering anymore, I'm just sitting laughing. That dunk in the lane? I'm giddy. His 35 foot bomb? I'm cackling with delight. It's like I don't even know how to process what he does. He's unbelievable. James finished with 34 points, 12 boards and 7 assists. He was 11-25 from the floor but just 9-14 from the line. Those free throws may not matter against a team like the Wizards, but his percentage has to improve if they want to make it past 2nd round.

Boobie has got balls. Daniel Gibson was 4-7 from behind the arc, which led to his 12 points. I know at least two of his treys came as the shot clock was winding down and they all seemed to come in huuuuuuge spots. I love the way Gibson sticks his nose in there and he doesn't back down; you can tell he's got a ton of confidence in himself (and wouldn't you, if you could shoot like that?). However, I still get more than a bit nervous when they have Gibson handle the ball for an extended period of time. The Cavs hit 13 treys, breaking their playoff record of 11.

The bigs (sans Varejao) played great. Ben Wallace had the type of game we've been expecting of him; 0 points, 12 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals. He was the enforcer that the Cavs hoped he'd be when they brought him in. Z was OK; he wasn't spectacular or anything, but he finished with 9 points (4-8 FG) and 7 boards in 29 foul plagued minutes. Joe Smith was just 1-6, but he had a huge 'and one' put back with .3 seconds left in the 3rd quarter (which pushed the Cavalier lead from 4 to 7). And then there's Varejao... I have no confidence in Andy right now. I don't like the decisions he's making with the ball (terrible shot selection, turnovers, etc) and he's not being really effective on the defensive end.

Wally Szczerbiak never got started. Wally had just 6 points in 16 minutes of court time. He couldn't stay on the court due to foul trouble, somehow he picked up 4 (the last one, a block, was horrendously bad).

I didn't care for Eddie Jordan's coaching decisions at all. Personally, I would've played Antonio Daniels much more often (despite his game tying shot, Arenas was killing them). He's always kills the Cavs and the Wizards offense ran much more smooth when the Bowling Green alum was in the game. Plus, Daniels' length really bothered both West and Gibson. If I was Jordan, I would've definitely gone to the hack-a-Wallace strategy late in the game; Washington was only down a couple possessions late and Cavs had Wallace in the game, why not foul him? If nothing else, force Brown to sub offense-defense or just take Wallace out of game completely.

DeShawn Stevenson is a punk. You know how some sports fans complain that the NBA is full of 'me first thugs' and showboaters? Well... Stevenson fits that bill. This guy celebrates after every basket, takes terrible shots and just flat out decked LeBron in the head (a 13-0 run ensued). He has absolutely no class and I almost feel sorry for Wizards fans for having to defend him. I mean, at least when Cleveland had Albert Belle, he was, you know, actually good. LeBron got his 5th foul with 3:00 to go and instead of going at James, the Wizards got to watch Stevenson hoist a contested 28 footer. Idiot.

I almost feel sorry for Wizards fans. When a crowd piles on a player, they're supposed to choose a role player. Remember how Bulls fans went after James Posey after he decked Kirk Hinrich? You don't taunt Kobe, D.Wade or LeBron (or Jordan or Reggie Miller, etc). You taunt the role players who aren't used to the spotlight (like say... DeShawn Stevenson). Chanting "overrated" to a guy who led the league in scoring and has knocked your team out of the playoffs the last two seasons is just stupid. What the hell is wrong with you people?

You know who I do feel sorry for? Antawn Jamison. This guy busts his ass, puts up another 20-10 (23 and 11 actually) and he's surrounded by idiots. My favorite part of the game, by far, was when ABC was playing audio clips from the mic'd up Jamison. They had this clip of him telling his team to rebound... really? At this point in the season Jamison has to remind his teammates to crash the boards? This is a pivotal game and Jamison is pleading with his teammates to help him out down low. I really hope he signs with the Suns in the offseason.

and finally...

Please finish them off. I really don't want to have to deal with Stevenson, Brenda Haywood and those dumb Wizards fans until next year's inevitable first round match-up. You're up 3-1, you're going home- stomp on their throats. End it at home and give yourself time to rest up for the Celtics (or Hawks!) and get your guys healthy (I think they'll need Sasha's defense in the Celtics series, his length could

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Game 3

Travel day today, I'll have something up on Monday.

DeShawn Stevenson is still a douchebag

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Washinton 108, Cleveland 72

God this sucked. The Cavs didn't break the 20 point mark until the final period, where they notched 21 (they went 17, 16, and 18 over the first three periods). No one on Cleveland played well, everyone on Washington played great, and the Wizards fans were just as annoying as I remember them. Sunday can't come soon enough.

However, I have a really hard time getting worked up over this loss. A big Game 3 win by the Wizards can't be totally unexpected. The fact that it was this brutal hurt, but still, it's only one game (let's not forget that the Cavs just spanked 'em by 30). The Cavs were flat and the Wizards were hot; once they got the lead the crowd got into into it and the Cavs could never sustain any type of decent run. They were a step slow the entire night defensively and they picked up a ton of cheap fouls off of reach ins and being out of position.

I'd say I'm more disappointed than mad. I can deal with the loss, but the nature of it kinda sticks in my craw. The Cavs defensive effort was horrendous and their offense shot selection was equally brutal. To me, the worst aspect of this whole debacle as the fact that the Cavaliers let a 49-33 halftime deficit balloon to 77-51 after three. There is no excuse for that. I have no idea how you can come out of halftime (in a playoff game!) losing by 17 points and proceed to get outscored by 10 in the following 12 minutes. I get that this was Washington's night, but show some heart.

In case you weren't aware, DeShawn Stevenson is a douchbag. Look, I get that he's happy he's had a good game, but this guy was celebrating garbage time 3 pointers like he's knocking down game winners. I mean, he scored 19 points in a first round Game 3 victory to cut series to 2-1 and he's acting like a complete jackass. I'd hate to see how thrilled he'd be if the Wizards actually won a game after the first round. By all means let him enjoy the victory, but damn that guy is annoying.

Stevenson will probably get all the highlights (due to his showboating) but I thought Roger Mason was the key guy for the Wizards. Mason finished with 18 points on 8-14 shooting (2-3 3pt). Mason was a major part of a key second quarter run. Mason scored 8 straight points to start the second quarter to turn a 4 point lead into a 12 point margin (one could argue that the Cavs never recovered). Mason sparked that second period run and the Wizards never looked back.

LeBron was alright, but not great. James led everyone with 22 points while also grabbing 7 boards and 3 assists. James was more of a scorer this time around, he wasn't setting up teammates and he was settling for a lot of jumpers (whether that's on him or the Wizards defense, I dunno.... but since the Cavs were lazy in every other facet of the game, I'm not sure how much credit Washington deserves). James (among others) led the Cavaliers with 4 turnovers, and most of LeBron's were due to him trying to do too much (force shots, force passes, etc). LeBron was just 2-4 from the foul line, which is only remarkable because he only attempted 4 shots (I'm not blaming the refs, I'm putting this on James).

Z had a really frustrating night. First of all, the Cavs couldn't throw a post pass to save their life. I don't know how hard this is, but if someone is helping weakside, don't throw the lob (also, you're allowed to bounce the entry pass. Really. Totally legal). Besides the post pass problems, Z picked up a couple of weak fouls, only got to the line once (1-2) and could never get into a rhythm on offense (4-10, with a ton of jumpers). Z was visibly angry for the bulk of the evening (at least someone was).

The Wizards Big 3. Caron Butler had his best game of the series, scoring 17 points on 7-14 shooting. Antawn Jamison was solid once again, scoring 15 points and grabbing 7 boards. As for Gilbert Arenas... he started, but only finished with 2 points in 10 minutes of play (he left the game before halftime and didn't return).

Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao were both equally awful. It's hard to choose who had the worse game. Gibson proved why the Cavs don't trust him with the starting point guard duties; he had 4 turnovers and never looked comfortable brining the ball up again the Washington pressure. Meanwhile, Varejao was hoisting up turnarounds and dribbling the ball off his foot while dribbling near the 3 point line. Both of these guys through the ball away numerous times and neither one had any positive plays that stick out in my mind.

Delonte West wasn't good either (hell, no one was good). West, Wallace and Wally all had sub-par games. Delonte made one field goal, had a rebound and 2 assists. He also had 4 turnovers and played some terrible defense. Wallace was pretty much worthless in his 16 minutes of court time and Szczerbiak shot a scorching 3-9 from the field. As a team, shot selection was pretty bad and they ended up shooting just under 40% (and a brutal 2-16 from downtown).

and finally...

It's only one game. With a 2-1 lead, the Cavs still control this series. If they can win Game 4 on Sunday, they head back to Cleveland with a dominating 3-1 lead. If they lose Game 4, they've let Washington back in this series and have put this thing in serious doubt. I know the Cavs have stunk on the road post-trade, but there is absolutely no excuse for another performance anywhere in the neighborhood of Thursday's.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scanning the Horizon

The NBA playoffs are in full swing and I'm keeping one eye firmly on the postseason and another firmly on the summer. The Cavs can take a commanding 3-0 lead Thursday evening, which would set them up for a classic 2nd round matchup against the Boston Celtics, but I can't keep my mind from drifting to thoughts of the offseason.

No matter how this season ends, the Cavs are going to be majors movers in the coming offseason. With Wally Szczerbiak ($13.275 million), Anderson Varejao ($5.784), Joe Smith ($4.795), and Damon Jones ($4.460) all entering the final year of their contracts, the Cavs are going to have roughly $28 million in expiring deals (that number gets pushed up to $33 mil. when you factor in Sasha Pavlovic's $4.696 million deal, which is only partially guaranteed for 09/10). In case you forgot, expiring contracts are often key components in deals for star players.

Also, there's this issue with Eric Snow:
The decision probably won't be made for some time, Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry has other pressing matters on his plate at the moment, but what to do with Snow could have an impact on next year's roster.

If the doctors agree, Snow and the Cavs could file for disability retirement and he could be released, which would clear his salary off the Cavs' books. Snow would still get his money from the team but the Cavs wouldn't be charged luxury tax on his contract, which could mean significant savings. Depending on how the insurance is set up on Snow's deal, they could recover more funds that way. By admitting it's over, Snow could be able to save the Cavs $10 million or more and in exchange get a chance to start his coaching career early.

But Snow's contract, because it will be expiring next season, also has value in a potential trade. The Cavs might want to hold on to it and trade him to a team looking to clear salary-cap room. The Cavs have extreme flexibility next season with more than $25 million in the expiring contracts of Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Damon Jones and Anderson Varejao. Add in Snow's and the Cavs have the ammo to acquire just about any two players in the NBA.
All things considered, when you add Eric Snow ($7.312), the Cavs will have close to $40 million in expiring contracts. With all that expiring money, plus whoever they draft with the 19th pick (early mock drafts have them taking Chase Budinger or Roy Hibert) the Cavs should be able be major players if any big names get put up on trading block.

The offseason is always in the back of my mind when I'm watching the rest of the playoffs. I'm definitely rooting for certain teams to lose, just on the off chance that it might spark a rebuilding phase. For instance, I really want Dallas to lose (and badly) so that they might blow things up.

Here's a list of seven players (some not in the playoffs, some not in the playoffs for long) in situations that I think the Cavs should monitor closely over the coming months. This list tends to focus on big name players making a lot of money on bad or stagnating teams, but it is by no means exhaustive.


Player: Carmelo Anthony Age: 23 2008/09 Salary: $14.41 million Under Contract Until: 2012 (with an early termination option for 2011)

Why: A week ago, I wouldn't have thought to put 'Melo on this list, but I changed my mind after listening to a Bill Simmons podcast (the one with his buddy House where they predict the Cavs will lose to the Wizards). Simmons brought up the fact that 'Melo's recent DUI isn't an isolated incident; he's had a couple run-ins with pot, he was in that Stop Snitchin' video and he was involved in that brawl with Knicks. When you add those off the court issues with the fact that Anthony has yet to make it out of the first round, it's not inconceivable that Denver could be open to dealing the former 3rd overall pick.

While they're only down 1-0 to the Lakers, it looks like Anthony and the rest of the Nuggets are headed for another first round playoff exit. It's hard to see where Denver could go from here; most of their key players (Anthony, Iverson, Kenyon Martin, JR Smith, Marcus Camby, Linus Kleiza, Eduardo Najera and Anthony Carter) played in at least 70 games (Nene was their only regular to miss significant time, playing in only 16 games) and they don't have a lot of wiggle room.

Besides Iverson entering the final year of his deal, the Nuggets roster will basically stay unchanged. Camby is owed $20 million over the next two years and they'll pay Martin $36 million through 2011 and Nene $40 million through 2012. The team isn't going anywhere and they have some bad contracts... the Cavs should definitely keep an eye on Denver.

Why not: Carmelo is one of the faces of the NBA and the Nuggets are coming off a 50 win season. Those 50 wins mark the high point in Anthony's career and you could argue that they're improving and on the way up. Even if things don't work out with this current group, it's entirely possible that Denver blows up the team and simply rebuilds around Anthony (he turns 24 in later this month). However, it's likely that they'll at least fire George Karl before they make any major player personnel moves. If he does go on the block, it probably won't be until at least the trade deadline, if not the following offseason.

My completely made up odds that he'll be dealt (to anyone): 5%. While you can make the case that Denver needs to be blown up (and I think they do) I've yet to hear that they've grown sick of Anthony and his off-court issues. If they do decide to shop Carmelo, the Cavs should be in a good position; they'd probably have to take on one of Denver's bad contracts (Camby, Martin or Nene) in order to land the former Syracuse star, but you take a bad contract (or two) if it means you can pair Anthony with LeBron James when both are the age of 25.

Fit with the Cavaliers/LeBron: A+. You could play 'Bron at the 4 and 'Melo at the 3 or the other way around. Carmelo does really well in the FIBA games as he'll hit spot up jumpers and also go down low to the post (those skills totally wouldn't mesh with James...) If the Cavs somehow landed Anthony, that would almost shut up all the 'James to New York' talk, as there's no way that A) they wouldn't win lots and lots of games and B) they'd break up that tandem.

Player: Dirk Nowitzki Age: 29 2008/09 Salary: $18.077 million Under Contract Until: 2011 (with an ETO for 2010)

Why: Dirk has been my dark horse candidate in the 'star player that the Cavs trade their expirings for' sweepstakes since before the playoffs began (I was actively rooting for Dallas to finish 9th for just this reason). The Mavericks are coming off two brutal postseason finishes (blowing the Finals two years ago and losing to the 8th seeded Warriors last year) and third bad loss could be the straw that breaks their backs. I thought the Jason Kidd trade was a panic move and from the looks of things so far, they can't keep up with Chris Paul and the Hornets anyways. Another frustrating finish and owner Mark Cuban might seriously consider blowing this thing up.

Dirk is owed a lot of money over the next three seasons (roughly $20 million in both 09/10 and 10/11) and Dallas seems to be going in the wrong direction. Plus, there were rumors that Avery Johnson wanted the Mavs to trade the Big German this past deadline, citing concerns of leadership.

Why not: The Mavs just got Jason Kidd (and they gave up a ton for the pleasure) so they may not be ready to turn around and blow things up after one (short) postseason run. Money isn't much of a factor for the Mavs' billionaire owner Mark Cuban, so luxury tax issues and bad contracts don't mean as much to him as they would to say... Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

My completely made up odds: 20%. The Mavericks do have a some expensive contracts (Eric Dampier, Jason Terry and Josh Howard will all be paid at least $10 million/per through 2011) and a bad loss to the Hornets (like sweep bad) could be the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm not sure Cuban would want to blow it up just months after getting Kidd, but there may be no other choice. The Cavs should be in good position to pick up some of these Dallas pieces, as they have draft picks to trade and they could offer PF Anderson Varejao as part of the deal.

Fit with the Cavaliers/LeBron: A. The Cavs would lose some of their defensive presence at the 4, but Dirk would complement LeBron great on offense. He'd get a lot of open looks and he'll take a lot of the scoring pressure off of James. Dirk is signed until 2011, so his acquisition could get LeBron to re-up with Cleveland.

Player: Tracy McGrady Age: 28 2008/09 Salary: $19.614 million Under Contract Until: 2010

Why: This is the fourth season that McGrady has been in Houston and they have famously not gotten to the second round. Both McGrady and center Yao Ming have had injury issues throughout the years and there is a feeling that Houston should be better than they actually are. Houston is down 0-2 going back to Utah and it doesn't look like they'll make it to Round 2 this year either. McGrady is due to make $40 million over the next two season and Houston may be ready to cut their ties with their hard luck superstar.

Why not: The Rockets won 22 games in a row this season and finished with a record of 55-27. Their contract situation is extremely manageable (only McGrady and Yao make over $6 million/per and they have no significant deals that go past 2011). Plus, they have Yao and McGrady in their primes and their head coach is still in his first season with the ballclub. They could give it one more year to try to make it work (give coach Rick Adelman the chance to have both Yao and Tracy for at least one playoff series).

My completely made up odds: 15%. The Rockets could be ready to blow the Yao-McGrady experiment up (once the Jazz finish them off) but I think they'll give it one more shot. The team played extremely well during the season and losing to Utah (without Yao) isn't a terrible way to go out.

Fit with the Cavaliers/LeBron: B. Pairing McGrady with LeBron could be amazing, but it could also be a lesser version of the James/Hughes experiment. McGrady has worked with other superstars before, so he should get along with James but its the basketball chemistry I'd be more worried about. A lot of McGrady's strengths come from having the ball in his hand. I'd be worried how effective he's forced to take up more of a spot shooting role.

Player: Joe Johnson Age: 26 2008/09 Salary: $14.232 million Under Contract Until: 2010

Why: The Hawks stink. They always stink. They're paying Johnson major money ($30 million over the next two years) and by now he's proven that he's not a franchise player (though still a very nice talent). This is Johnson's third season in Atlanta and their 37 victories marks a high point in his Atlanta tenure. The Hawks are going to have to make some contract decisions relatively soon in regards to some a few of their young players like Josh Childress, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams (all of which who play a similar position to Johnson). If they decide to go another direction, Johnson could be used as trade bait. Plus, Atlanta's weird ownership situation could make them a team looking to dump salary.

Why not: Well, this year's 37 wins marks a 7 win improvement over last season, the Hawks could say they're on the way up. Plus, they added point guard Mike Bibby at the trade deadline (though a record of just 14-17) so they would probably want to give this group a full training camp together before they begin anew.

My completely made up odds: 15%. Like both the Mavs and the Rockets, I think the Hawks and Johnson have one more go-round before they decide to part ways. The odds would be much higher if they didn't make that move for Bibby (which really shores up their PG spot). But who knows, if ownership decides to cut salary (for a team that only won 37 games), anything could happen.

Fit with the Cavaliers/LeBron: A+. Johnson and James would be a great pair. Both are young and athletic (so they'd be a pain at the defensive end) and Johnson can really shoot the ball. The offense would definitely improve (with Johnson at the 2) and his addition should allow LeBron to get a few more minutes of rest.

Player: Michael Redd Age: 28 2008/09 Salary: $15.780 million Under Contract Until: 2011 (with an ETO for 2010)

Why: The Bucks are a team that was expected to make the next step this season, instead they somehow got worse (28 wins down to 26). At least in 06/07 injuries could be used as an excuse for those 28 wins (Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva missed 102 games combined, nevermind that Bobby Simmons was out for the entire 82 game season). However, those 26 wins in 07/08 were achieved with a pretty healthy roster. Redd, Bogut, Villanueva and Simmons all played in at least 70 games and Mo Williams was around for 66 of 'em. Getting healthy and getting worse is not a good sign.

Milwaukee is a prime team to blow up; they have a lot of expensive, long term contracts and they aren't going anywhere. There's no excuse for only netting 26 wins; if they were going to win with this core of players, it would've happened by now. By now, Redd has proven that even though he's paid like the alpha dog ($15+ million/per), he doesn't have the ability to be the main guy on a good team. The Bucks will probably turn the team over to Bogut, Williams and Yi and build around them.

If the Cavs would snag Redd, they'd probably have to take on at least one of the Bucks' bad deals. Bobby Simmons is owed $20 million over the next two seasons, Dan Gadzuric will net roughly $21 million through 2011 and Mo Williams is due roughly $36 million by 2012 (though I wouldn't mind taking Villanueva off their hands either).

Why not: Really, I have no reason. I'd be surprised if Redd opened the season in Milwaukee and I'd be shocked if he was still there come next March. The Bucks recently hired Scott Skiles, so there's a chance that they may just try a coaching change... but I doubt it. It makes too much sense to move Redd.

My completely made up odds: 80%. In my opinion, Redd is as good as gone. They badly need to start over and Redd just doesn't fit there. I think that the Cavs are a prime landing spot for the former Buckeye; they need a shooting guard, they have expiring contracts and he almost signed here anyways.

Fit with the Cavaliers/LeBron: A. Redd would be the ideal shooting guard next to James; he can shoot lights out, he can get his own shot when needed and he'll be able to spot up. Redd is signed through 2011, so his addition could keep James here past 2010.

Player: Vince Carter Age: 31 2008/09 Salary: $14.724 million Under Contract Until: 2011 (with $18.921 million in 2012 not guaranteed)

Why: The Nets stink, Carter is owed a lot of money over the next few years (at least $47 million til 2011) and the Nets stink. The contract is terrible (recently signed!) and there is already talk of them shopping Air Canada (hell, I thought he was heading here at the deadline). The Nets haven't gone anywhere with Carter and it wouldn't be surprising if they parted ways.

Why not: New Jersey may want to see how things work with Carter, Devin Harris and Richard Jefferson playing a full season together. But honestly, like Redd, I'll be very surprised if Carter is still suiting up in New Jersey next fall.

My completely made up odds: 60%. The Nets are a prime team to rebuild; they have a veteran team that hasn't won more than 50 games since 2001, they're overpaying their two leading scorers and they just netted a ton of draft picks in the Jason Kidd deal. If I'm the Cavaliers, I'm not sure I give the Nets (and Jay-z) any help in getting under the cap for their move to Brooklyn. However, other teams probably won't feel the same way.

Fit with the Cavaliers/LeBron: B. Like McGrady, Carter's game would be a concern. He needs the ball in his hands a lot, so I'd be a bit worried about that. However, he's always had to be the number 1 scoring option, so being paired with James could lighten his burden and allow him to pick his spots to be aggressive. Carter hasn't taken well to contact over the years, but in Cleveland, that'd be LeBron's department.

Player: Elton Brand Age: 29 2008/09 Salary: $16.440 million Under Contract Until: 2009 (though he has an ETO after this season- he could be a fee agent this summer)

Why: The Clippers stink, Chris Kaman is coming into his own and Brand may want a change of scenery (that second round playoff run was two seasons ago and they haven't cracked .500 since) but he's mostly on this list because his name keeps popping up on I could definitely see the Clippers attempting to move Brand, but the Cavs probably wouldn't be suitors, as Brand is already expiring, so all the Cavs contracts would be moot.

Why not: Since Brand was out this year, I don't see him turning down $16 million guaranteed money. If he re-ups, the Cavs have virtually no shot (due to their assets) and if he leaves, the Cavs have virtually no shot (due to the lack of cap room). If Brand wants to sign here for the Mid-Level Exception, by all means do it (but it isn't likely).

My completely made up odds: 5%. If Brand wasn't coming off an injury season, I could see him opting out, but as is... no. If he wanted to go to the Cavs, he could opt out and try to work out a sign-and-trade (the Clippers would probably get Varejao, among other things), but that is a slim chance. He could get moved at the deadline, but I'd be surprised if he changes zip codes before then.

Fit with the Cavaliers/LeBron: A. Are you kidding? Brand would be amazing. He'd give the Cavs a legitimate low post option (with power!) and you could just plug in his 20-10's at the 4 for the next 5 years. By all accounts Brand is a good guy, so I don't think he'd have a big problem meshing with James (especially after his years in Chicago and LA).

Other players to watch: Gilbert Arenas, Ron Artest and Baron Davis (similar situations to Brand), Kirk Hinrich (through 11/12), and Jermaine O'Neal (owed $40 million til 09/10) are other options for the Cavs monitor, but all of those guys come with significant baggage.


Finally, all of my odds and analysis goes out the window if any of these guys demands/expresses interest in/requests a trade. The teams themselves may not be ready to move on, but the player might. If that happens, the Cavs should be set up nicely.

They'll have whoever they draft at 19, they'll have all their future picks (finally!) and they'll have a boatload of expiring deals. Plus, with LeBron on the roster, I don't foresee these guys vetoing a trade to the Cavaliers.

The Cavs have played their best basketball of the season during these playoffs. They should be even better next year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cleveland 116, Washington 86

The idea is, that when you continuously hammer James, you're supposed to dissuade him from coming back for more. Washington is trying to contain LeBron, but it just isn't happening (but hey, at least Brendan Haywood got kicked out!). The Wizards played hack-a-Shaq on James for practically the entire game, and while it worked in the sense that James was only 10-17 from the line.... the Cavs were up 20 points for the bulk of the contest. James simply gets stronger as the game goes on.

James has been unstoppable. His 10-17 foul line mark was the only blemish on his stat sheet. LeBron finished with 30 points, 12 assists, 9 boards, 2 blocks, and a steal. James seemed to feed off of the physical nature of Washington's defense and he kept up his attack throughout the game. James could've easily had a triple double, as he left the game with over six minutes left and the Cavs leading by over 20. James finished just 9-19 from the field (2-6 from 3) but the second half was filled with bad shots and wasted possessions, as the game wasn't close after halfway though the third period.

Oh, and LeBron guarded Gilbert. The Cavs defense was outstanding. In addition to James, Arenas was bother by a sore wrist and only shot 2-10. The Cavs threw a bunch of different looks at Jamison, holding him to just 9 points on 4-13 shooting. The biggest surprise for me was the fact that Caron Butler didn't go off. I figured Butler would bounce back after sub-par Game 1, but he could never get himself going (Wally Szczerbiak bothered him for most of the game).

Starting Szczerbiak seems to be working out. Wally bounced back from a mediocre Game 1 to score 15 points on 6-9 shooting (2-5 from 3). Szczerbiak hit his open jumpers, but he also mixed it up enough to keep the Washington defense honest. Wally went inside a couple of times, including a drive where he broke out his seldom used finger roll. If Wally can find his stroke, it could really change the entire outlook of this second season.

Yes, Wally Szczerbiak finger rolls... it was the Cavs' day. The Cavs shot 52% from the field and 52% behind the arc. They outrebounded the Wizards 49-34 and held Washington to just 38% shooting. All twelve Cavaliers who played, scored (even Billy Thomas!). Best of all, Cleveland held the Wizards' Big 3 to a combined 10-38 from the floor.

The amazing thing is, this is as good as the Cavs have looked since the trade (especially when you factor in everyones contributions). This is how the team was supposed to look following the February shakeup. Wally and Boobie Gibson were knocking down open jumpers, Ben Wallace and Varejao were doing the dirty work inside (a combined 15 points and 15 boards in 39 minutes) and Z (7-11) and Joe Smith (4-9) simply made shots. Delonte West didn't have an amazing game, but he made a 3, had 3 assists and didn't turn the ball over. Guys filled their rolls; the shooters shot, the bench guys hustled (Devin Brown: 7 points, 5 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals) and everyone looked like they knew where they were supposed to be.

One team looked like they're coming off of a Finals birth, another team has a bunch of nice players. I was surprised at Washington's lack of fight. The Cavs were up 20 with about six minutes to go in the third, but you could the Wizards were done. They could never even muster up a late run to cut the lead to 12. The fourth quarter was basically garbage time.

Wait, you're telling me that Drew Gooden and DeShawn Stevenson are friends? I'm shocked. With 9:40 left in the third period and the Wizards down 60-41, Stevenson made a 3 to score Washington's first basket of the second half to make it 60-44. Then, on the way back up the court, Stevenson broke out his dumb face gesture. LeBron proceeded to hit a 3 on the following possession. Only a dumbass talks trash while down double digits. To LeBron James. In the playoffs. In Cleveland.

and finally...

Bury them. Keep the foot on the gas. Don't go into Washington and give them any hope of winning this series. Get the 3-0 lead and finish this thing off. The Cavs have looked great since the playoffs began and they could make a strong statement with a victory in DC on Wednesday night. The crowd will definitely be tough (the Cleveland crowds have been great thus far) but if the Cavs can keep up the defensive intensity (and watch out for some cheap offensive fouls on LeBron), the Cavs should be in a good position to take a commanding 3-0 lead.

Random Thoughts

Another Cavs-Wizards first round, another dose of Tom Knott. Just... wow.

Anyone else notice that ABC was using the Allman Brothers as bumper music during Sunday's (4/20) broadcast. Interesting choice.

That Spurs-Suns game was ridiculous. That entire series is at Must Watch status.

So is Chris Paul. Paul is so small and yet it seems like he's the focal point of the entire game.

Cliff Lee... WTF?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cleveland 93, Washington 86

Not a bad way to kick off the 2008 playoffs, eh? This game was entertaining for the entire 48 minutes. The Cavs and Wizards traded the lead by alternating runs throughout the game. The Cavs got out to an early lead, but midway through the second quarter the Wizards got up double digits. The Cavs then made a run and tied it by halftime. The Wizards had regained the lead when the fourth quarter rolled around but the Cavs came back yet again to finish Washington off.

LeBron was spectacular. James didn't make a field goal during the first period (he got to the line a few times) but he went into halftime well into double digits. I can't count how many highlight plays he had. His alley-oop in the second period may go down as one of his classics. There were a lot of great dunks and fantastic moves to get to the rim. LeBron led everyone with 32 points and he finished with 6 boards and 4 assists. Overrated indeed.

DeShawn Stevenson. 1-9. 1-6 from 3. Ouch.

James was intense. LeBron was extremely chippy out there, and routinely got into minor altercations/exchanges with Washington players. The Wizards gave him a physical pounding and James let them know that he was ready for it. LeBron made some shots on the perimeter, but he did the most damage near the rim. Late in the game, James hit two tough shots in traffic to put the final nail in Washington's coffin.

Gilbert Arenas showed us why he's one of the NBA's stars. Arenas hit four 3s in the first half and really came off the bench and made a difference. He hasn't played in so long and I've forgotten how much of a game changer he can be. Arenas swished a 30 foot bomb to end the first period (and he took the shot in perfect rhythm). Gilbert finished the game with 24 points.

Key supporting players played big roles. Z backed up LeBron by pouring in 22 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Z's jumper was falling all afternoon and he used his post moves to get himself to the line 8 times. Delonte West didn't shoot particularly well (3-10) but he made two 3s and he got to the line 8 times. The Cavs are a much tougher team to guard when West being aggressive.

Wally started. I approved of this idea, I wanted to see if maybe having out there to begin the game might energize his play. Well, Szczerbiak hit his first jumper, but went just 1-9 after that... Wally had some nice moments over the course of the game and I'd like to see him keep starting. I mean, might as well start the guy who's made an All-Star team, right? Plus, I like the change of pace that Devin Brown can bring coming off the bench.

Both Gibson and Varejao played well off the bench. Gibson had 11 points and 5 assists and Varejao grabbed 8 boards while scoring 2 points. Boobie was 2-5 from beyond the arc while Andy was a brutal 1-6 from the floor.

and finally....

Statement game. The Cavs heard all the talk coming from Washington and brushed it aside. They never responded in the media. I can't imagine they'll start now, as Game 1 should just about cover everything needed to say. LeBron showed that he can take any punishment that Washington could give out and not only survive, but flourish. It was a great win for the Cavs, but they can't be content with themselves. This game means nothing if they can't put away Game 2 (and cede the home court advantage to the Wizards). In Game 1, the Cavaliers looked great (almost better than at any point since the trade) and it's going to be interesting to see how they'll follow it up in Game 2.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Here we go

Alright, I haven't exactly been thrilled with the Cavaliers' recent stretch of play. They've played .500 basketball since the trade, the defense comes and goes and the offense seems to have reverted back to 2006.

But (and trust me, it's weird to write this) Bill Livingston makes a good point in his recent column:
They took a six-game West Coast road trip early, when they were undermanned by
the holdouts. Record: 3-and-3.

They played 21 back-to-back games, with the second on the road 17 times. Record: 8-and-13.

Suddenly daring, General Manager Danny Ferry swung a three-team trade in February that had players flying hither and yon.

The deal tore up the roster, yet still provided many shooters who can't defend and defenders who can't shoot. Record with the new players: 14-and-13.

They won their "Alamo game" after the trade, beating Washington with six players and two minor-league call-ups.

Most of all, LeBron James missed seven games and did not finish an eighth.

Record: 0-8.

Winning just five of those games would have increased their victory total from 45 to the 50 victories of 2006 and 2007.

The Cavs have not had good luck this year. Karma bit both Varejao and Pavlovic in the ass, Z, Big Ben and LeBron have all had back issues and Daniel Gibson missed signifcant time with his ankle injury.

The trade hasn't exactly been a flying success, but at the same time, key Cavaliers (Z, Gibson, Pavlovic) all missed serious, post-trade action. Mike Brown hasn't figured out how to use these guys properly; most of the blame would lie at his feet, but you can only expect so much when you overhaul the roster mid-season (when guys can't stay healthy). All of this can easily account for 5 victories (and I think we'd be resting a bit easier if this Cavalier team had 50 Ws again).

However, I'm still not confident heading into the second season. They're limping into the postseason, Brown can't find a lineup he likes (with Pavlovic out, I'd like to see them start Wally and bring Devin Brown off the bench) and the defense doesn't show up consistently. They are not playing they're best basketball and everyone knows it.

Washington seems very confident, but I'm not sure how much that is going to actually help them. This series scared me at first (and it still does to a certain degree) but the Wizards keep yapping and talking trash. I'm not sure that's the best idea with LeBron James suiting up for the opposition.

Also, the post season is when Mike Brown does his best work. I'm not sold on Brown as a game day coach; I don't like his sub patterns, I don't care lack of fire (I could use some more well placed technical fouls) and they routinely get caught off guard following time outs (mostly from zone defenses). I also don't like that he's been experimenting with the lineup this late in the year (Damon Jones deserves to be on the court) but some of that can be explained by the injuries. That being said, Brown plans well for series. He has grasp of the 'big picture' issues (how they'll defend, what they'll try to do, etc) and I don't see why this will be any different (I don't care how good LeBron is, you don't be a much better Detroit team without a coach with some talent).

As for my prediction... I'm torn. I understand every reason why someone would choose the Wizards this time around. The poor trade results, the injuries, the lack of cohesion... I get that (plus, you have to factor in Washington's revenge factor). But I don't know if I'd bet against LeBron, especially considering how well he's played at times this year.

King James just got a bunch of days off... it's playoff time... and DeShawn Stevenson has been calling him overrated for weeks now... I don't see myself picking again LeBron and co. in this siutation.

Cavs in 7.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Nothing says "we're ready for the playoffs" like a 15 point effort in the final quarter of the regular season.

I literally just finished writing a paper and I checked for an update... Needless to say, I don't particularly feel like going back and watching this thing. Two months ago I was really looking forward to these playoffs... and don't get me wrong, but I'm still interested as an NBA fan, but not as a Cavalier fan. I have next to no confidence in this group (sad to say, LeBron included- he's had a TON of unforced turnovers lately).

But hey, at least James got the scoring title, right?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

They tried their best

but some how the Cavs managed to beat the Heat.

The fact that this game wasn't a blowout depresses me (I mean, they basically had a single decent stretch, besides that this game was a draw).

(also, Cliff Lee. That was unexpected).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cleveland 104, New Jersey 83

Um, what? So the Cavs played a so-so first half (trailed 53-49 at half) and then got themselves down 12 halfway through the third (69-57) and yet they won going away. How? Well, it was a combination of good Cavalier defense, poor New Jersey shooting, and a little bit of help from the refs (not a lot, but there were a couple iffy calls). The Cavs' staunch defense led to better offense and they outscored New Jersey 28-9 in the final period.

Wash that taste out. After the way they came out of halftime, I was about ready to turn the TV off. I was sick of them losing to mediocre teams... especially this close to the postseason. To their credit, the Cavs buckled down on defense (which led to run outs on offense) an the Cavs slowly climbed their way back into the game.

LeBron looked good, but in pain. James 'returned' to score 33 points, dish out 8 assists and grab 7 boards. When he was out of the game, to keep his back loose, James laid down on the baseline. And good thing too, because he does not look comfortable out there (and it didn't help that he took a lot of hits). James only had 35 minutes of game time, which is probably the result of both his back issues and the solid bench play.

And the Cavs got great bench production. Daniel Gibson had his best game since returning from injury (bay far); Gibson put up 12-5-5, he pushed the ball whenever he could (more of this please!) and he was scrappy on defense. Wally Szczerbiak also played really well, scoring 14 points (5-9 shooting, 2-3 from 3) in 24 minutes. The Cavs started the fourth up 76-74 and with a lineup of Gibson, Pavlovic, Szczerbiak, Smith, and Varejao. The lead was pushed to 8 by the time James and Z came back with 6:24 to go. I have to say, I really like that second unit and it's really one the benefits of the trade (before, when the bench was in, you just hoped that they'd keep the status quo. But now there's a halfway decent chance that someone could get hot and the bench bunch could actually push the lead).

The refs weren't terrible, but if I had to pick which team got most of the calls, the Cavs win handily. To their credit, when the shots weren't falling, the Nets took the ball to the rim. Unfortunately, those closer shots didn't fall and the refs weren't bailing them out. Richard Jefferson definitely has a gripe (Jefferson drove on Pavlovic and Varejao and chucked up a prayer that hit off the shot clock. Now, I thought this should've been a no-call, but somehow the Jefferson got called for an offensive foul. I have no clue how this happened). Varejao got a couple of calls his way, including one flop versus Diop which was just terrible.

The defense really picked up, but the Nets went cold. Don't get me wrong, the Cavs hustled, covered ground, rebounded well and kept putting pressure on New Jersey shooters.... but you don't hold a team to just one field goal over 12 minutes without some help from the offense. New Jersey's starters were just 15-51 from the floor (and their bench was a blistering 10-24) and Jefferson was a Hughes-esque 4-17. The fourth quarter really wasn't pretty (for them at least).

The Cavs' bigs were solid. Z was 5-11 for 13 points and 5 boards. Varejao finished with just 2 points, but also had 9 boards. Ben Wallace only played 17 minutes, but he looked pretty good early on (though he missed another dunk) while finishing with 4 rebounds. Finally, Joe Smith contributed a nice 7 points on 2-6 shooting (though a few good shots rimmed out) and grabbed 3 boards as well. Now, I know that New Jersey doesn't have big worth a damn, but still, it was nice to see the big guys all contribute.

Every Cavaliers who played, scored. Damon Jones however, didn't play... I really hope Brown knows what he's doing here; Jones has played extremely well all season and he definitely doesn't 'deserve' to have his PT cut. I'm assuming Brown is forcing Gibson out there to get his confidence and shooting back where they should be. Gibson looked really good tonight, but its just one game. I really hope that if Gibson (or Wallace or whoever) doesn't come around that Mike Brown won't hesitate to put in Damon.

It was not Stromile Swift's day. He got a layup stuffed by Varejao, he got fouled on a dunk (but no call), he missed two dunks, he got a cheapo offensive foul away from the ball. I can't even begin to imagine how frustrated Swift was; late in the game he attempted a strong, power dunk... that bounced off the back rim.

and finally...

More rest please. Both LeBron and Ben Wallace could use a little R&R and they don't play again until Friday when they face the Bulls in Chicago. If the team had been at least a little bit healthy after the trade, I'd have liked to see them sit James, just to get ready for the playoffs... but the team hasn't been healthy. What they need the most now is consistency and cohesiveness. I'm not overly concerned with them losing the 4-seed (I'd be shocked if they did) and I don't think the outcome of these games are of great concern.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

In case you didn't notice, posting will be eratic

The semester is heating up, so blogging will be somewhat uneven. Come summer (or May, really) things should be back to normal (non-game recap posts, Random Thoughts from the Weekend posts and other stuff).

But as of now, I promise nothing.

(though I should be solid for the playoffs. Especially since I expect there to be a few less games this year)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chicago 101, Cleveland 98

I don't have a lot, but here we go. With six minutes to go and the Cavaliers leading 95-92, Anderson Varejao subbed in for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. At the time, Z had 23 points and had made two of his last three shots. The Cavs went the next four minutes with both Varejao and Ben Wallace on the floor. That's right, crunch time with Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao. Awesome.

Z came back in later though. The big fella returned with 1:42 left, played about a minute (the Cavs took a bunch of 20 footers) and then was subbed out. I was not pleased.

The Cavs had a shot to win at the end (yes, "a shot to win", nevermind the fact that they led the entire game). The Cavs had the ball with 24 seconds left and Brown trotted out a lineup of LeBron, West, Gibson, Szczerbiak and Varejao. So you decide to surround LeBron with jump shooters.... but not your best one. Great. Not to harp on this, but what could possibly be the reason that Z wasn't out there? He shoots better than Andy, he's taller than Andy and he's ridiculous at tipping the ball in (so even if you want to argue that Varejao is the better offensive rebounder, it's not by a large margin). The Cavs needed a bucket and Brown had his 7-3 center on the bench. Fantastic. (and yes, I know that this play wasn't what lost the game. But seriously, Z had 23 points and yet wasn't on the floor during the deciding play, explain that to me.)(also, why the fuck are Varejao and Wallace out there together during crunch time?! Joe Smith and Z are both healthy, there are other combos available! Have we not learned that Varejao and Wallace don't compliment each other? That neither can shoot? Sometimes I think Mike Brown is a good, underrated coach. Other times Mike Brown plays Wallace and Varejao during crunch time, on purpose. The Cavs scored 3 points over the last 6 minutes. I'm sure it's just coincidence).

Kill me now. The Cavs blow a 17 point lead to the Bulls and Larry Hughes torched them for 25 points, 9 assists and 8 boards. How the hell does this even happen? I'm going to be sick. Hughes 11-17 from the floor.... which isn't unheard of, it just happens about once every two months or so.

The late game shot selection was atrocious. Joe Smith fade-aways... LeBron airballing 26 footers... Szczerbiak bricking 3s off the side of the backboard... Wallace getting stuffed by the rim... This was not pretty.

and finally...

Orlando on Saturday. Does anyone feel confident about this game? After the horrendous loss to Detroit and this debacle of a game, I'm terrified of what the Cavs will deliver Saturday afternoon. This is a team that should be getting ready for the playoffs, but they're allowing Larry Hughes a near triple double.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Cleveland 118, Charlotte 114

The started exactly the way Cavs fans prefer. The first two offensive possessions included long jumpers by both Anderson Varejao and Devin Brown. Fantastic. The first half wasn't particularly kind to the Cavaliers; LeBron had 3 fouls, the Bobcats shot 59% (70% first quarter) and scored 62 points, but somehow the Cavs were only down four.

The third quarter was much better. The Cavs' defense picked it up (only allowing 27 points) and they fought back and took a 92-89 lead into the final period. LeBron James had 13 points in the period and Varejao chipped in 7. The offense looked a lot better too; guys were cutting and moving without the ball and the defense led to some fast break opportunities (James was picking off passes left and right).

Speaking of offense, the Cavs had seven guys in double figures. James led the Cavaliers with 29 points, Devin Brown had 20 (11-12 from the line), Varejao had 17, Z had 16 and Delonte West had 10. Off the bench, Wally Szczerbiak finished with 11 and Joe Smith had 13 (the only other Cavalier who scored was Daniel Gibson and he finished with 2). Whats impressive to me (to a certain extent) was the fact that the Cavs had seven guys in double digits, scored 118, shot 52% but only made three 3s (out of 13).

LeBron wasn't around for the last few minutes. James was in foul trouble for the bulk of the evening (he had to be taken out with 2 fouls early, 4 fouls in the third and 5 fouls in the fourth) and he fouled out with four minutes left. James finished with 29 points, 5 assists, 4 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks in only 31 minutes (though, he should be rested for Thursday's game against the Bulls).

The crunch time ball movement was delightful. This was mostly due to Devin Brown (he had 8 assists! I haven't been the biggest Brown fan, but he played great. Dear lord, if Pavlovic would have a 20 and 8 night I'd piss myself). Brown attacked the Bobcats and dished the ball off to both Szczerbiak and Z for big jumpers. Z had 6 points in the final two minutes.

Playoff rotation getting set? Neither Sasha Pavlovic nor Damon Jones got any court time, which can't sit well with either of them (especially Jones). Daniel Gibson got a nice chunk of minutes (19) but didn't do much with it (1-7 FG, 0-4 3pt). Somehow I imagine that Jones and Sasha could get big minutes Thursday night in Chicago, but at this point, I'm no longer surprised by anything Coach Mike does with his rotations. Wally gave himself a huge boost by scoring 9 points in the fourth quarter (including 6 straight at one point). That's not good news for Sasha's minutes, especially when you combine that with Devin Brown's 20 points, 8 assist evening.

Jason Richardson is pretty good. Richardson had 31 points, 7 assists and 6 boards. He was 4-8 from behind the arc but just 1-3 from the line. Richardson kept Charlotte in the game late; he scored 11 points in the final period and he hit two 3s in the last minute. He might be a guy that the Cavs would look to acquire this offseason (Bobcats stink and JRich is owed $40 million over the next three seasons).

and finally...

The Bulls... again. The Cavs go for their 3rd straight win when they face Chicago Thursday night on TNT (no Fred McLeod for me!). You'd think the game would go well; James only played 31 minutes, the Cavs won their first road game in roughly a month, and they played a solid crunch time without LeBron. Apparently Ben Wallace is healthy enough to play, but Brown has been keeping him out just to be safe (gulp). If Wallace plays against the Bulls, the Cavs will actually have everyone healthy; Gibson, Pavlovic, Z, Andy, Wallace... I'd like to see them play these last games at full strength (especially since Wallace changes how the offense so much), so they don't have to be trying things out in the first round.