OAKLAND – The Cavaliers (30-10) used stifling defense and balanced offense to topple the Golden State Warriors (11-25) 117-114 at Oracle Arena Monday night, but they were still fortunate to escape with a victory.
LeBron James led the Cavs with 37 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, followed by four other Cavs players in double figures.
Corey Maggette led the Warriors with 32 points, seven rebounds. Monta Ellis scored 30 points and dished out five assists.
Though there were more than a few highlight moments, the game proved to be a methodical dissection of the Warriors, a team known for up tempo offensive play. That may indeed be the case, but on this night the Cavs’ defense ably played the Warriors for most of the game – even with the team’s unconventional play - on their way to the win.
But it would be their primary Achilles heel that made this game more interesting than it needed to be down the stretch.
With 58.9 seconds left in the game and the Cavs leading 115-109 the Cavs turned the ball over. Give credit where credit is due as Golden State’s Ellis stole the ball on the inbounds pass and pulled up for a three-point shot to make the game 115-112.
On the ensuing possession James drove to the hoop to give the Cavs a 117-112 lead and the Warriors Stephen Curry answered with a bucket, making the scored 117-114.
Still the game was far from over as with a little over five seconds, the Warriors got the rebound off a James miss and still had a chance to tie the game. Curry’s 30-foot jump shot fell short giving the Cavs the win. Overall the Cavs committed 22 turnovers that led to 26 Golden State points.
Coach Mike Brown just sounded relieved to get the victory.
‘’It was a tough game for the simple fact that they really junked the game up and they played five smalls and really ran around out there. We know that’s their style,’’ he said.
The way the Warriors play hoops generally leads to unusual player matchups, some that gave the Cavs problems occasionally.
‘’It’s very tough because you be in positions that you’re not used to,’’ James said. ‘’At the same time you have to (communicate) as much as possible to get into some of the sets.’’
Overall, the Cavs held the Warriors to just 42 percent shooting on the night while shooting 53 percent themselves.
‘’We did some nice things defensively, but there are some things we need to work on. I thought our weak side awareness wasn’t good, especially down the stretch,’’ Brown said.
Without a dominant presence the Warriors scored just 28 points in the paint while Golden State had very few answers as to how to contain the Cavs efforts near the hoop be they from James or his teammates.
Center Shaquille O’Neal once again proved how effective he can be in the right situation as he scored 13 points and pulled down six rebounds. The Warriors could not defend O’Neal or for that matter center Zydrunas Ilgauskas as they combined for 27 points and 15 rebounds.
Offensively, they received contributions from 10-of-12 active players and the bench played a huge role, led by Jawad Williams, Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao, who combined for 40 of the reserves 52 points.
Buzzer beaters: Jawad Williams set a career high for the second consecutive game with 11 points…LeBron James matched a season high with four blocked shots…James currently leads the league in 30-point, 10-assist games with three…He is the first player since…LeBron James to score 37 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks since the Cavs played Boston Feb. 15, 2006…The Cavs had two players score 14 points and grab nine rebounds – Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas – for the first time since Tyrone Hill and Chris Mills did so on March 27, 1994.
*tagline George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/thomas. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/CavsABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CavsABJ