Cavs 92, Timberwolves 84
--Overall, this was not a very well played game by either side. I think the most interesting thing happened with five minutes to play, after Minnesota cut the lead to four points. Though it was a little different in how it happened, it reminded me of the other night in Milwaukee when the Cavs seemed to freeze up under pressure. This time they executed the offense much, much better and were much more under control. Just seeing Ben Wallace go backdoor -- although, that's probably not the guy you want run plays for in crunch time -- when the Wolves were overplaying was growth. The other night in Boston the Cavs just let the Celtics overplay them. --In the second half, 17 of the 21 baskets were in the paint and 15 of the baskets were assisted. That shows that there is some settling into the offense. LeBron James had 13 assists, which showed he knew where he teammates were going to be. --Defensively, Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas started to show a little chemistry tonight. They had six blocks between them and many came when they were helping each other from the weakside. Al Jefferson had 18 points in the first half and just four in the second because the Cavs used better help defense on him. --LeBron said after the game that he's starting to enjoy playing alongside Delonte West. It is really the first time in his career that he's had a true "push it" point guard playing with him. Jeff McInnis wasn't one, really. And LeBron said he's learning how to run with him. West fed him a couple of times in transition tonight as the Cavs had 15 fastbreak points. --There's still issues all around and the Wolves are really terrible, but there was some improvement in this game. Let's see if it carries over. --As for the questions about the Cavs adding another player, the feel I am getting from the organization is that they're going to stand pat for now. They really don't want to add another major element unless it would be a big upgrade. They are already faced with bringing Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic in the fold in the coming weeks. At this moment, there is a feeling there isn't a player out there that they could get who would really help. They will probably keep one or both of the 10-day guys for practice purposes, they only have 11 healthy bodies without them. --As for Ira Newble, who was released by the Seattle SuperSonics today, I think the Cavs could use him because he knows the system, is versatile and is a good perimeter defender. I also talked to a couple people close to Ira today and the feeling was he would come back. However, under league rules he cannot re-sign until 30 days after the trade. Also, I am told a couple of other teams are interested in him. So if he can find a spot where he'll get playing time I assume he'll go there instead of waiting around, even if it isn't a playoff team. Remember that he's got to think about next season, he doesn't have a contract.
T-Wolves: Sebastian Telfair, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson Cavs: Delonte West, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Bob "Bobby Covert" Delaney, Matt Boland, Monty McCutchen
--LeBron James' ankle is OK, it may be a little stiff but he's been able to walk and run on it just fine. --Brewer has the potential to be a good NBA player, but he's simply cannot handle James at this point because of the size difference. Maybe the Wolves will use Gomes on him, but if it is Brewer LeBron ought to go right at him right away. --Jefferson is one of the most underrated players in the league in my mind. He's got great post moves and excellent touch. He should be an All-Star already but he will be for sure in the future, I really enjoy watching him play. --Wally Szczerbiak isn't here, he is with his wife as they get ready to have their third child. He may not be around on Sunday, either.
Halftime -- Cavs 40, Wolves 36
--No way this game should be anywhere this close. The Wolves are a terrible team and they are not playing well. They are shooting just 32 percent and at one point missed 21 of 23 shots. Despite a significant size disadvantage they are outrebounding the Cavs and have a shocking 12 offensive rebounds. --The Cavs seem to be again out of rhythm on offense. It seems the wrong guys end up getting the ball in certain sets. Example: Anderson Varejao is 1-of-6 while Joe Smith has just one shot. I assume this is a continuance of the adjustment period, supposedly they put in about seven new plays for the new guys since the last game. --It looked like LeBron jammed his right thumb on the alley-oop pass from Damon Jones in the second quarter. LeBron hurt it a few games ago and wrapped it for a few games before it got better. Didn't seem like it affected him too much. --This is a game the Cavs could lose because you have to assume Minnesota will got hot from the field at some point. If this malaise continues and the Wolves stay close you are just asking for it. --Mike Brown's son, Elijah, who is a ballboy is swishing NBA 3-pointers out on the court right now. I think he's about 12 or 13 and is a lefty.
Stars LeBron, 30 points, eight rebounds, 13 assists West, 12 points, five assists Ilgauskas, 10 points, six rebounds, four blocks Jefferson, 22 points, 10 rebounds
Quotes LeBron: "We’re trying to get comfortable with each other, I am learning where guys want the ball. It looked pretty good tonight."...on the alley-oop dunk from Damon Jones: "I knew he was going to be looking for somebody. He was going 1-on-3 so I said let me go ahead and take off.” West: "It is just a result of getting more practices and figuring out what everybody can do. It’s not hard to pick up on, it just takes some time.”
Celtics 92, Cavs 87
--LeBron James said after the game that he was able to catch himself a little when he felt himself landing on Paul Pierce's foot in the second quarter. He thinks it saved him for a worse injury. It is his right ankle, the same one he hurt last month in Portland. But he didn't think it was as bad, though he wanted to see how he felt tomorrow. --LeBron got his 10,000th point, the youngest to do so. He took it in stride, but he really does care about stats and I think he appreciated the accomplishment. Afterward he thanked his teammates and his family but he wasn't afraid to admit he was proud of himself, too. --Mike Brown getting ejected wasn't about the foul call on LeBron or the non-foul, he thought, on Anderson Varejao. I think Mike wished he had protested a little more last night in Milwaukee. He was looking to fire up his team and he wanted to make sure he got his message across, which he never did last night. I think at that moment he wanted to get tossed. So mission accomplished. --This game was not as close as the score indicated. On one hand, the Cavs are too fragile to play the Celtics right now. They only have a couple of plays in the offense and the Celtics put way too much pressure on for that to do. But also the Celtics are a quality team that knows what they are doing on defense and they sent a little message tonight with how rough they plan on playing if they see the Cavs in the playoffs. --I was watching Ben Wallace very closely tonight on Kevin Garnett. I didn't think he had a very good game, he was not good at all in the pick-and-rolls and Garnett beat him to rebounds and got free for open jumpers. But afterward some people told me they were impressed with how Wallace kept Garnett out of the post and Doc Rivers said he thought Garnett didn't move very well. --Remember when the Cavs got LeBron and Anderson Varejao back on the same night and Larry Hughes was in his second game back? They decked the Indiana Pacers on emotion and then lost four of six games, mostly to bad teams. It was an adjustment period and that is what the Cavs are in now. They are really scrambling at times, especially when the game is moving fast. You can already see Wally Szczerbiak pressing a little. Delonte West told me he has to think to much on the plays when they should be second nature. Also, Andy and Zydrunas Ilguaskas weren't 100 percent. What I am saying is tonight should be a learning experience, but don't put too much stock into it.
Cavs: Delonte West, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
--Ilgauskas said he's lost eight pounds in the last two days with his chest cold, but he's going to give it a go tonight. He said he may have trouble breathing, so instead of playing him in 6-8 minute bursts as Mike Brown likes, they may restrict that a little. --The Cavs feel like they lost last night's game due to transition defense, not matchups or anything really at the offensive end. They did film review today and tried to help the new guys go over responsibilities. We'll see if there is a difference. --LeBron needs 19 points to become the fastest-ever player to 10,000 points. He has 34 straight games of 20 points or more, 15 straight of 25 or more and nine straight of 30 or more against the Celtics. --Boston is just back from a West Coast trip and this is there first game at home in more than two weeks. Usually teams struggle a little in those situations. But the Celtics have lost twice to the Cavs and they are a potential playoff opponent so I expect them to be jacked up. Especially after the lost three of five games out West. --This is Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West's first game in Boston since they were traded away last summer. Neither hold a grudge really, but my guess is this game has extra meaning. Especially for Wally after he went 5-of-18 from the floor last night. He called it the worst shooting game of the season. I looked it up, he was right, it was his worst of the season. At least by number of misses, he had an 0-of-9 game at one point. --Two things to really watch here: 1. How does Ben Wallace handle guarding Kevin Garnett, especially from the post where KG has a size advantage. 2. Does Anderson Varejao keep Glen "Big Baby" Davis from being an energy factor.
Halftime -- Celtics 47, Cavs 40
--LeBron suffered a right ankle sprain with about 4:30 left in the second quarter. I believe he landed on Paul Pierce's leg or foot after making a layup. They took X-rays and it showed no break, but of course with a sprain X-rays don't really say anything. The Cavs called his return questionable, which I think means they don't think it is very, very bad. But we'll see. I never saw a good replay of the injury to I don't exactly know what happened. --Before that, the Celtics were really hammering the Cavs at both ends. They have targeted whomever the Cavs put on Ray Allen and running him through screens and forcing mismatches. Also, Ben Wallace struggled guarding Kevin Garnett on the outside. Anderson Varejao has struggled to keep up with Glen Davis. And they are again allowing the Celtics to get quick and easy points off turnovers. --On offense, the Celtics are really shutting them down by staying attached to the shooters and being very aggressive on the inside. The Cavs are having lots of trouble getting their offense set up because the Celtics are disrupting them. Zydrunas Ilgauskas hasn't been able to help either.
Stars Allen, 22 points Garnett, 18 points, 11 rebounds LeBron, 26 points West, 20 points, five rebounds
Quotes: LeBron: “First thing I thought was not again, I didn’t want to go down. I know my ankles and I know tomorrow is going to be a lot worse. I’ll get some treatment and be ready for Friday.” KG: “The trade was valuable to them, it made them tougher. This is a team to be reckoned with. They are deep and now they are experienced and it makes the East a little more exciting.”
Bucks 105, Cavs 102
--First off, just a tremendous shot by Michael Redd. He hits as 28-footer -- the box scored said 27 but I walked it off on the court on my way back from the Cavs locker room and I say 28, maybe 29 -- and leaves no time. Nothing you can do there but shake his hand. Big-time play. --Second off, the Cavs didn't lose the game on that play. Two issues. As was discussed at halftime, they got all out of sorts in the first half and let Milwaukee have 10 free baskets on fastbreaks. In the second half they close the floodgate, but insead of having a cushion they were behind. Second, you could see how uncomfortable everyone was in the fourth. It started out with promise, with LeBron sitting they extended the lead from three points to seven points and I was writing it like it was going to be a win. Then LeBron comes in and the Cavs get steamrolled. The old Cavs had their flaws, but they did know how to finish. This team has a learning curve to deal with now. There was miscommunication and tentative play. Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace were throwing it out of the post, LeBron was committing unforced turnovers and Wally Szczerbiak couldn't buy a shot. --Third off, the officiating was uneven. The Cavs were openly complaining about getting just 14 free throws to the Bucks' 37. Not only were there bad calls, which happens because everyone is human, in my opinion there were guess calls which is just no good for anyone. This has been a bad week for these three officials: Brian Forte, Pat Fraher and Mike Callahan. The other night in Seattle, Kobe Bryant got hot at Forte and was tossed and then Phil Jackson ripped Forte, saying he had a "red ass" and suggested that the only reason the rookie was in the league was because his father, Joe Forte, is a veteran ref. You can read about it here. So my guess is these guys will have a tough review session coming up. But the worst move of the night, in my opinion, was in the third quarter after LeBron threw down a dunk. The net got stuck up in the rim and Fraher, a diminutive guy, attempted to leap up and free it. He whiffed. Ouch. --I'm just doing my job reporting about the officiating crew and their troubles. However, it was not why the Cavs lost the game. The fouls kept Milwaukee close but the Cavs fumbled it away in the end. No excuses. No, this was not one of my 5 percent games where the officials played a role in the outcome, sorry to disappoint you. --It may never be remembered, but LeBron's driving layup to tie the game with five seconds left was pretty impressive. Over two Bucks, just soaring and with his left hand. In fact, the Cavs were pretty strong in the last 30 seconds just to get to a tie. But they didn't deserve the win, honestly. --Karma is a funny thing. This is the second time this season the Cavs have been beated at the buzzer (in Utah by Deron Williams in November) but they've survived last-second shots too. How about DeShawn Stevenson Friday night, he missed. Last night he made a game-winner in New Orleans. --Damon Jones was 4-of-4 on 3-pointers tonight. He's currently having his best shooting streak as a Cav.
Cavs: Delonte West, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Anderson Varejao Bucks: Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Desmond Mason, Charlie Villaneuva, Andrew Bogut
--For the first time this season Zydrunas Ilgauskas is going to miss a game, he has a bad cold. So does athletic trainer Max Benton and they are back at the hotel in bed. They are going to meet the Cavs at the airport to fly to Boston. --So Anderson Varejao is back after missing 13 games and is going right into the starting lineup. He will play 5, Wallace will stay at the 4. At the outset, that means guarding Villaneuva. But he may got back and forth depending on how Varejao feels and how many minutes he can play. Just how the big man rotation will work when everybody is healthy is still a mystery, but it will have to wait at least another day. --Let's see how the Cavs handle having two bigs who aren't great scorers together on the floor. Most of the time, there has been a scorer/shooter in there most of the time whether it was Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall or even LeBron at the 4. --The Bucks think they are turning a bit of a corner and are gaining some confidence. They are probably looking forward to this game as a chance to get the new look Cavs.
Halftime -- Bucks 57, Cavs 53
--No way the Cavs should be losing this game. They not a nice lead early and then they got very lazy. It showed in their transition defense, Milwaukee has 20 fastbreak points. --The Bucks are not shooting the ball well and the Cavs are scoring without much problem, which should mean a comfy lead. But Milwaukee is 16-of-16 at the foul line and has not committed a turnover. Which means they played a pretty good half. The Cavs are playing pretty good defense in the half court but it isn't earning them much. --Wally Szczberiak's shot looks very flat to me right now. Maybe it is always like that, he has a weird motion and lands in a wide stance. Still, he doesn't seem to be in good rhythm. --LeBron has made some unreal plays in this game already. Some of the baskets he's made in traffic have been sick and he made a pass to Damon Jones for a 3 after the ball was tipped. He just slapped it out of mid-air over to him. He's been a highlight reel yet nothing really flashy. --The Cavs are still in honeymoon mode, they need to buckle down and get serious. They should not lose this game. Let's see if the attitude is different in the second half.
Stars Mo Williams, 37 points, seven rebounds, six assists Michael Redd, 25 points LeBron James, 35 points, six assists
Quotes Mike Brown: “I question a jump-shooting team getting 37 free throws and LeBron gets five and we get a total of 14 for the game. I’ll have to go back and look at the tape, maybe we just fouled that much.” LeBron: “We made a plays and had a chance to win but that big shot cost us. We’re going to need a few weeks to get everything in motion, sometimes we’re out of place.”
Cavs 109, Grizzlies 89
--This game was almost like a feel-good practice. The new guys all played well in their own way and the fans were able to greet them. The Grizzlies didn't put up much of a fight at the start. It reminded me of the game against the Pacers in December when Anderson Varejao played his first game and LeBron James came back from his injury and Larry Hughes made like every shot. --The biggest thing you can take from this was how well the front line looked. LeBron, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace and Joe Smith combined for 73 points and 36 rebounds. Wallace was able to get plenty of open looks for dunks, which is all you want him to take, and they dominated around the glass. Then again, you aren't going to be facing the likes of Kwame Brown and Darko Milicic every night. But, Anderson Varejao isn't in the picture either. The Cavs are banking on that front line to be a massive strength and it showed promise out of the gate. --Wally Szczberiak wasn't always in the right place, but he hit a couple 3s. If this is an average game for him, he's an addition. When he gets going he may have a 30-point night. --Delonte West missed a lot of shots, he went 2-of-12. He's having a terrible shooting year, which is one of the reasons the Sonics chose to move him of their point guards. However, he did have six assists and three steals. Want to know what Larry Hughes' season-high in assists was? Six. --We will know more about this team after Wednesday when they play in Boston. There are signs there that this could really work out, but I need to see so much more. So this was an easy first step, let's see what happens next. --Dan Gilbert spoke to the media before the game. Here's the best of what he had to say: “I thought it was pretty important to do something. We got to the Finals with this team, but the competition got harder and it was going to be a bigger challenge than last year. We are trying to build something here. You pay $375 million for a franchise and then break even for a couple years, you can’t start getting cheap now. It’s a big commitment, but before we even look at money we look at what is right basketball wise first. If you do it money first, you may start getting (the front office) gun shy even thinking of ideas.
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, Kwame Brown Cavs: Delonte West, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
--West and Brown in the backcourt does NOT give the Cavs a lot of shooting in the backcourt. Not too far off from the Eric Snow/Larry Hughes days if you ask me. But this is just a trial. Wally Szczerbiak will get major minutes off the bench. The problem I see is that if you play Wally with Damon Jones you are going to have some defensive issues. We'll see, lots to learn over the next few games. --Mike Miller and Anderson Varejao are out tonight. --Let's see how Mike Brown uses his frontcourt rotation. How much he plays Big Ben and Z together and how many minutes Joe Smith gets. I for one think there's going to be some playing time issues with the bigs when Andy gets back. Someone's minutes are getting slashed a bit. --Overall, there's a lot of excitement here. I expect the performance to be uneven, which is why it is fortunate the Cavs are playing one of the worst teams in the league.
Halftime -- Cavs 59, Grizzlies 38
--I am tempted to throw out much of what you see tonight because the Cavs are sort of playing on emotion and the Grizzlies are so horrible. --However, there are some things you can tell that will last past tonight. Opposing teams are going to pull their 4s out and force Ben Wallace away from the basket when they can. To me, this transition will be interesting for him. But Wallace is so much better defending the high pick-and-roll than Ilgauskas because he's so much quicker. He's trying pretty hard tonight, too. He had a steal on the first play of the game and made some othe defensive plays. --West is very active on defense and he pushes the ball big time. This could be a major upgrade. I have said for some time that they Cavs would benefit from just having a point guard who has good instincts in setting up easy offense. That was not a strongsuit of anyone before, even when LeBron did it he looked to score first, which is what you want. But you want someone running and setting stuff up, which West is showing a little bit tonight. --Wally Szczerbiak looks like he's not comfortable with wear his shots are coming from just yet. That'll take a bit. Joe Smith was very solid in the first half, he was 4-of-4 and had a couple rebounds. --No one is paying attention, but Devin Brown and Damon Jones are really playing well. Devin had six assists in the half and Damon's hot shooting is continuing. --It won't matter tonight, but man the Grizz are stubborn in how they guard LeBron. They played him 1-on-1 last month and he lit them up for 51. They are doing it again tonight.
Stars LeBron, 25 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists Ilgauskas, 22 points, 13 rebounds Wallace, 12 points, 10 rebounds Hakim Warrick, 21 points, nine rebounds
Quotes: LeBron: “Ben's ability to get up and rebound and throw down dunks (showed his potential),” James said. “He’s rejuvenated.” Joe Smith: “This might have been the first time in a long time I got chills when I took the court. When we ran out on the court for warm-ups the crowd reaction and how they accepted us, I kind of got goose bumps.”
Cavs 90, Wizards 89
--Wow, that was quite a victory. The fans in the building were very into the game and it was pretty intense, which is remarkable considering the circumstances. --I did not get to see much of the game, so I can't provide all that much analysis. The new players got here just before tipoff and there was a press conference at halftime. However, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan was complimentary to Mike Brown's game plan, which moved Damon Jones all over the court opposite LeBron James so they could take advantage of the double teams. Damon had a hot night, hitting 7-of-11 3-pointers, because the Wizards kept losing him in rotation. --Based on my research and the history of the league I don't think it is going to happen, but I don't think I am being a homer when I say that James is so obviously the Most Valuable Player. Not to fall in line behind Mike Brown or anything, but the guy just has amazing game after amazing game. So many people I hear from talk about whether or not he will stay in Cleveland. Forget about it for right now, pay attention to what you are watching and show your children. It's history. --I have to say the possession late in the game where Eric Snow fumbled the ball, Zydrunas Ilgauskas dove on the ground to save it, Snow got it back and shot a fadeaway over three Wizards that was a foot short and two feet left of the rim, only to have Ilgauskas catch it and put it in the basket with one second on the shot clock and the Cavs down by one point with two minutes to go has to qualify for basket of the year. Also, that qualifies as the longest sentence in the history of the blog. --OK, to a man Eric Snow knows that his career is pretty much over. He can help on defense in certain situations and for short bursts. But play him 32 minutes and you are going to have ugly spots. It happened tonight. --You didn't have to tell 10-day D-League call up Billy Thomas what to do. The guy squeezed off 11 3-pointers in 19 minutes. Gun, son, gun.
The new guys
We only got to spend about 10 minutes with the new players, but here's some things learned:
--Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West are both very excited to be here. They are coming from one of the worst teams in the league and one that didn't put winning first. West has never been on a winning team and Wally hasn't been to the playoffs in like four years. They feel like they were rescued. --Ben Wallace didn't say anything bad about his time with the Bulls. But he just smiled when he was asked about the four meetings he had left with the team: "I had fun in Chicago, of course we didn’t win the way we wanted to win. The experience was good, the organization was good to me. I was doing things I wasn’t doing in Detroit. It was a little bit of a struggle as far as playing basketball, not being able to play the way we were capable of playing. It was tough to get the team together." --Both Wallace and Szczberiak said they wouldn't mind coming off the bench. Or as Wally said: "I've been coming off the bench for one of the worst teams in the league." But I suspect they'll both be starting, maybe as early as Sunday. --None of the players have had their physicals yet, all will have them tomorrow. --Wally said he's very happy to be in Ohio. His wife is from Columbus and he said he had a few college buddies from Miami of Ohio at the game tonight. --West is very impressive in the way he speaks, the confidence and focus he has. You can see why Danny Ferry really likes his character.
Wizards: Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche, Brendan Haywood Cavs: Eric Snow, Damon Jones, Devin Brown, LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Greg Williard, Leon Wood, Tony Brown
--The Cavs signed two D-League players to 10-day contracts. Kaniel Dickens is a 6-8 forward who can shoot a little, he was averaging 20 points in the D-League. Billy Thomas is a 6-5 wing who was averaging 15 points. Both are guys who have been in and out of the NBA multiple times over the last few years. Both are going to have to play a bit. --The four new players are here and will be meeting with the media soon, before the game. This is going to be another one of those nights where I don't get to see the first half so please excuse me. But I'll have updates about the new guys. --A few minutes ago we spoke to LeBron about the trade. No, it wasn't Jason Kidd, but he seems to be happy. Here was one of his best quotes: "No, this isn’t the type of deal I expected. You guys heard what I wanted but I am grateful for the situation. We got some good caliber guys that are coming in. It was very surprising, you come into the locker room today and it is very different." --Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas are out for the Wizards.
Stars LeBron, 33 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists Damon Jones, 27 points Devin Brown, 10 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists Darius Songalia, 19 points DeShawn Stevenson, 18 points
Quotes LeBron: "“I expect to win, as long as I am on the court I feel like we have a chance to win. It was tough, you had guys in the wrong spots, our spacing wasn’t right all the time, sometimes I wasn’t right. We did it with effort.” Mike Brown: “It was rewarding for the guys who played. They played a lot of minutes, they played roles they are not used to. They just found a way."
The deal is done. The details are here. Basically, Cavs get Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and a second-round draft pick for Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall, Shannon Brown, and Cedric Simmons. Pretty crazy. And, I think, qualifies as the blockbuster. In full disclosure, the deal I was talking about last night was Hughes for Wallace and then the Cavs would be able to move Gooden for a shooting guard. It obviously got a lot more complex today.
Here is the instant reaction, one of the things being talked about within the Cavs front office over the last few days was the need to get someone in here to deal with potential matchups with the Celtics in the playoffs. Wallace could be that guy. He also gives them an edge in dealing with the Pistons as well. Szczerbiak is guy who is the type of player that works well with LeBron, he's a shooter, although he's had injury problems. Cavs are taking on some huge salary here, but they are not really extending their commitments. Wallace is signed for two more years (like Hughes) and Smith and Szczerbiak will have expiring contracts next season. West will be a restricted free agent.
To me the key here is just what Wallace brings. He's not the player he was in Detroit, I think most people agree with that. But can he be a major defensive presence, especially come the playoffs. To me that will define this deal. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. Lots of people are down on him and he's not having a good year. He is the key in my mind.
Still much, much more to come down the line. Cavs have a press conference at 5:30.
Woke up this morning to an explosion of e-mails about the potential trade I reported the Cavs were thinking about last night. It is important to point out that the Cavs and many NBA teams have discussions about big trades all the time. Obviously they intensify around the deadline as teams get serious about shaking up their roster. The Cavs are no different. The rumors that I have heard may only represent 10 percent of what the Cavs are thinking/talking about. I talk to various people from various teams across the league, I don't have sources in every organization and the information I bring to you is the best and most credible I can find. The overall chances of a "blockbuster deal" -- and boy has that term been devalued a little in the NBA over the last couple weeks -- are still less than 50/50 in my opinion.
As a Cavs fan what you need to know is that the front office is honestly looking at trying to make a deal to improve the team. That is the real reason why I decided to write the story about them considering a major deal. They are not simply standing pat as I hear them often being accused of. And not just for the top available players in the Jason Kidd/Mike Bibby class. They are trying to get creative and trying to balance out the short term and long-term benefits. Let me also add something else, I think the Cavs do like the team they have now. And that comes from players, from coaches and from the front office. If there is nothing done the Cavs still feel like they have a shot to beat anyone if they can get fully get healthy. LeBron James of course would like to get better and that is not original thinking, who wouldn't? But he's also made it clear he likes his teammates, so remember that if nothing happens by 3 p.m.
One more thing just to calm some of the waters. I have not once heard Zydrunas Ilgauskas' name come up in a trade rumor this season. That doesn't mean it hasn't come up in trade talks, but he is not part of the potential deal I was talking about. However, Z and the Cavs do have a little issue going on behind the scenes about him playing for the Lithuanian national team.
Cavs 106, Pacers 97
--So this will surely disappoint some of you and also anger some of you, but I cannot yet say what player the Cavs are considering making a deal for. I have to protect sources. But I can tell you that I have talked to two different people in different organizations that have confirmed the talks are serious. I know you want more, but I just can't give it to you at this point. I am not trying to build up ratings here, I am reporting what I can report. Just know that Danny Ferry is serious about trying to upgrade the roster. Whether or not it gets done though is up in the air. It's 50/50 at best. --Here is what I can tell you, it is a trade that would change the dynamic somewhat of how the Cavs play but not directly affect the way LeBron James plays. Also, if this deal goes through, it would potentially allow the Cavs to make another deal. --Also, the Cavs are trying to get a first-round pick as part of the deal. Which is a sticking point, the other team doesn't want to give it up. Perhaps this is because they are thinking of trading their first round pick this year or next year as part of another deal. --After the game, the Cavs locker room was buzzing about the deadline. There are players who have heard their names in rumors and are convinced they are being traded. Some players even were half-jokingly saying goodbye to one another. Others who have been in rumors weren't paying attention. But make no mistake, there is a strong belief in the Cavs locker room that they are going to do something. Maybe nothing will happen. A year ago on this night I was writing about how Danny was beating down the doors trying to get Mike Bibby and it didn't happen. I am just trying to do my job. --Now, here's the news on Daniel Gibson. He got rolled up on by Travis Diener in the third quarter tonight. It looked very bad. There was lots of cussing on the Cavs bench as Boobie rolled around on the court in pain. Afterward the Cavs said it wasn't as bad as it looked. But Boobie wouldn't tell me if it was a high ankle sprain or a low ankle sprain. Of course, this is a major difference. I am not a doctor, but the nature of the injury made it look like it could be a high ankle sprain. When you get rolled up on, that injury is often a result. But the Cavs are thinking positively, so who am I so say different. --Oh, yeah, the game. LeBron had another triple-double. He is the first player since Magic Johnson in 1987-88 to have two back-to-back triple-doubles in the same season. There's a stat for you. He was huge in the fourth, not only scoring but also rebounding, setting up his teammates but also on defense. He was guarding Troy Murphy for awhile. --The Cavs won this game their way, playing defense down the stretch. They controlled the tempo in the fourth, holding the Pacers to 5-of-16. --The Cavs have won 8 of their last 10 games on the road.
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Pacers: Travis Diener, Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster
--Jaamal Tinsley (left knee) was a late scratch and Jermaine O'Neal (left knee as well) are both out. The Cavs have a talent advantage here tonight, which just isn't always the case. --This is a game of mental toughness. The Pacers want to play fast and turn it into a scoring fest. The Cavs can take advantage in transition but they cannot just stop moving the ball and turn it into a chuckfest. That's what the Pacers want. --The Cavs have beaten Indy five straight times and twice here. If they win tonight they will be above .500 on the road, something they haven't been this late in the season in 15 years. Plus they have lost two straight. This is a game they should and need to win.
Halftime -- Cavs 60, Pacers 54
--Folks, I have not watched a second of the first half as I pursue some hot trade rumors with the Cavs. They are being very active and are in talks over a blockbuster that has not been reported yet. It does not involve Mike Miller. More to come later.
Stars LeBron, 31 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists Ilgauskas, 14 points, 17 rebounds Hughes, 19 points Granger, 30 points, eight rebounds Murphy, 20 points, six rebounds
Mike Brown: "What can I say? He’s the MVP. He’s the MVP this year. I don’t care how many games are left, or whatnot. This guy is terrific. He does everything out on the floor. He doesn’t just score, he doesn’t just get people easy shots, he doesn’t just rebound, he defends. He guarded shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards tonight.” LeBron: "I’m going to get us in the best position to make plays in the fourth quarter, I attract so much attention that a lot of guys are going to get open looks. I’m going to do my thing no matter who’s in or who’s out."
Rockets 93, Cavs 85
--Houston is playing very well. They've won 17 of 20 and nine straight. They have also held eight straight opponents to less than 90 points. They imposed their will on the Cavs tonight, from LeBron on down. He had a triple-double but in some ways it was the worst offensive game he's played in weeks. --Not sure some of the lineups Mike Brown played. As usual, he was focused on defensive matchups and therefore didn't use Damon Jones much at all. But Damon is the kind of player you need against the Rockets because he can get free on the backside of their rotations. Instead it was Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall and Devin Brown getting free. Also, I guess Mike has just forgotten about that small fourth-quarter lineup without Andy Varejao. Seems like spreading the floor against a team like Houston that shrinks the floor would be a good idea. Didn't happen. --The Cavs have been spinning their wheels a bit. The schedule has been hard and the injuries have hurt, but they are playing a lot at the other team's tempo. Like scoring 118 points in Orlando and then 85 tonight. When they were playing well they were dictating the tempo and winning lots of games the same way. When you play different every night you are scrambling. --Overall, it was a blah game and all of you are more concerned about the trade rumors anyway. I spent a lot of time Sunday and Monday talking to general managers, agents, etc. and I wrote this story in today's paper. Things have not changed to my knowledge. Again, as you will read below, in bidding wars the Cavs are probably going to lose. It sounds like Memphis has decided to make another salary-dumping trade with Mike Miller as the centerpiece, but I don't know if the Cavs can offer the best deal. Same goes for Andre Miller, although the 76ers folks sound like they don't want to trade him right now. --If you are the Cavs, I think you may have to attempt to take a big swing when you assets are more valuable, which is next summer and next season. They have enough expirings to make big-time deals at that time. Just making a move to add a piece that doesn't exactly put you over the top but harms your long-term flexibility is a tough call. I know most fans want something and they'll rip Danny Ferry if he doesn't get it. I know LeBron says he wants help now. But these are tough calls, nothing is a slam dunk.
Rockets: Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Yao Ming Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Ron Garrettson, Violet Palmer, Mark Lindsay
--Rockets are hot, they have won eight straight games and eight straight on the road. They are a team that relies on slowing the game down. The Cavs must do two things, they must rebound well and they must push it in transition. --The trade stuff is flying everywhere. I just spoke with a couple Cavs officials. They have some offers out there but they are not sure what, in anything, will come through. Their problem is that they cannot win too many bidding wars. Which means they may have to wait until the end to see if it anything is accepted.
Halftime -- Rockets 42, Cavs 36
--Wow, what a terrible half of basketball. Neither team shot better then 32 percent. Lots of bricks and fumbles and the like. Two teams out of rhythm to be sure. --LeBron is 0-of-7 from the the field and he's mostly attempted jumpers. He's having trouble getting space inside because the Rockets are packing the paint. The Cavs really need to start moving the ball a lot better and make Houston cover more ground. They have just six assists and LeBron has five of them. --The Cavs had 10 fastbreak points in the first quarter and none in the second, which is why there is a difference in this game. --The guys who took part in All-Star Weekend are struggling. LeBron hasn't made a basket yet, Daniel Gibson is 0-of-3, McGrady is 2-of-11 and Yao is just 2-of-9. When Yao and McGrady are a combined 4-of-20, the opposing team really should be winning. --As for the Grizzlies trade rumors, yes they are true. I've reported numerous times, including in today's paper, that the Cavs have put in bids for Mike Miller. Again, it will all come down to what they are competing against. Taking on a guy like Brian Cardinal is a heavy price to pay. One of the reasons the Cavs didn't get Mike Bibby was because they weren't crazy about taking on a massive salary like Kenny Thomas that stretches to 2010.
Stars LeBron, 26 points, 11 assists, 13 rebounds Rafer Alston, 22 points, six assists Luis Scola, 15 points, eight rebounds Yao, 16 points, 14 rebounds
Nothing really worth repeating.
Spurs 112, Cavs 105
--Another little bit of NBA karma here. Manu Ginobili's shot in San Antonio very easily could've gone in and beaten the Cavs last month. He got even in this one. He was just great. Yes, he made open shots, but he also made stepbacks and fadeaways and shots with guys in his face. Just a great performance. --The Spurs totally destroyed the Cavs' defense in the fourth, scoring on 17 of 19 possessions. They spread everything out and then ran pick-and-rolls with Ginobili and Tim Duncan. The Cavs just couldn't help and recover well enough. They had to double Ginobilli and rotate to deal with Duncan and it left others open. The Spurs were just excellent tonight. --Cavs were ahead by five points going into the fourth, LeBron scored 18 in the period, and the Cavs scored 30 points as a team. That almost always is enough to win. --Overall, going 3-3 over the last six games considering the circumstances isn't bad at all. The problem was they really didn't have a chance to win two of the games and they lost two at home. Still, it would've felt very different to go into the break at 30-22 instead of 29-23. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas needs the break badly. The back is really bothering him and he's had to go against Yao Ming, Dwight Howard and now Duncan over the last week. He's gassed. --The Cavs let the refs get to them tonight. I agree there were some poor calls, but again it did not directly determine the outcome. The Cavs spent a lot of time complaining and got a couple technicals. --Seeing LeBron just rip apart the Spurs defense time and time again really makes you wonder. Tonight he really was physical with Bruce Bowen, just attacking him one-on-one. Other times he seemed like he waited for the help to come when actually he could've attacked earlier and scored even more if he want. But he was in foul trouble early and didn't want to pick up charges. With his confidence now, it would be interesting to see them in the playoffs again. Obviously he didn't put his best foot forward in the Finals and he's let it motivate him.
Spurs: Jacque Vaughn, Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Steve Javie, Brian Forte, Derek Richardson
--Daniel Gibson is back and said he's probably going to take part in All-Star Weekend. --LeBron was upset about Jason Kidd getting traded to the Mavericks for a package of players including Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, cash and draft picks. Here's what he said:
"Of course I wanted him to be part of our team but if we couldn’t get him I am glad he is out of the East. I hope he does well for that franchise. I think the (front office) probably been trying to do some things, I don’t know. We all know we need to get better, that is simple. We need to get healthier and we need to get better. To me, I want to win now I don’t want to sit around and wait. Sometimes you have to."
Halftime -- Cavs 47, Spurs 46
--Good news for Cavs is they have held the Spurs to 35 percent shooting and just eight points in the paint. Bad new is they are only up one point. Spurs have stayed in the game at the foul line and gotten the Cavs into foul trouble. The game seemed to change a little after Mike Finley got called for a technical and it seemed to loosen the officials. --Z got his third foul early in the second period, walked over to the bench, kicked the air and went right to the locker room. I guess he figured he was done for the half and he went to lay down instead sit on the bench with his bad back. Neither he or Gooden have looked good with their injuries tonight. --Hughes' hot shooting is continuing. He's already taken 12 shots, though, and you have to wonder whether the high volume approach will be smart if the scales balance. --Daniel Gibson is active and he warmed up but he just hasn't played. Not sure what is going on there.
Stars Ginobili, 46 points, eight assists Duncan, 23 points, 13 rebounds James, 39 points, nine assists Hughes, 26 points, six rebounds
Quotes: Ginobili: “It was a special game, I was feeling really good from the beginning. I felt every shot I was taking was going in.” LeBron: "I guess that’s how opposing teams feel when I get it going like that in the fourth. It was a great performance by Manu."
On a personal note, I am taking All-Star Weekend off. Marla Ridenour will be providing coverage in the Beacon Journal and on Ohio.com. Obviously if there is major Cavs news I will be here to report and respond. Also, the other night in Orlando I (again) had computer problems that prevented me from blogging. Will be working on getting that fixed for the second half.
Nuggets 113, Cavs 83 --First things first, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Damon Jones should be able to play tomorrow. Z had his back tighten up and Damon tweaked his ankle. Drew Gooden lives in Orlando and has a lot of family and friends there, he may try it as well. --Second, at the end of the third quarter LeBron James went over and sat my himself on the bench, away from the huddle. The Cavs were down 25 and had just lost Ilgauskas along with the four other players sitting in suits and he was upset. Damon Jones was not happy with his attitude and he spoke to him about it. LeBron ignored him. It was a heat of the moment thing, but because tomorrow is Monday and the news cycle starts and it involves LeBron showing angst I suspect it will be a topic on many shows because it's nice fodder, especially in trade season. So here is what the parties said: Damon: "I just think in those situations we have to stick together...Something had to be said at that point. No big thing." LeBron: "I didn't feel like as a team or as an individual we played as hard as we could have. It was just tonight, it hasn't been an ongoing thing. If it happens again, then you worry." --It was a horrible game and the Cavs looked like they knew they were going to get beat before it started. And they were right. The Nuggets looked like they knew they were going to get a blowout win. And they were right. --One more thing before I go. I have been accused of defending Danny Ferry, especially today because I wrote a realist column in the paper that talks about the $30 million in expiring contracts the Cavs have next year to use in trades. What I attempt to do in stories in the paper and on this blog is to add perspective to the Cavs, which fans don't have to worry about and that's fine. When the Cavs made those signings in 2005, I agreed with all of them. I felt Larry Hughes' contract was an overpay, especially the fact that there were $10 million in incentives on top of the $60 million guaranteed. I felt the contracts given to Jones, Donyell Marshall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were also each one year longer than they had to be. But that is what the market dictated that summer.
But I didn't disagree with any of their additions, they each gave the Cavs something they needed. To sit here today and criticize those signings would be hypocritical and not fair. At the time, Hughes was one of the most productive players in the NBA, Marshall was one of the best-shooting big men and Jones just hit 225 3-pointers and was coming to a team that was 29th in 3-point shooting. To help make it happen, as I have said many, many times, Z took a massive pay cut. He then even took less money when the Cavs screwed up his contract and accidentally renounced his rights, meaning he could only get 8 percent raises and not 10.5 percent raises. I didn't like the David Wesley signing when they made it and therefore I felt I was fair when I ripped it all of last season. Also, before this season I said not getting a point guard, even an average one, was a mistake and it would hold them back. Which I also stand by.
The other signings I cannot in good faith say were terrible. No, they have not worked out as planned and have proven to be mistakes. But when I was covering them I felt they were grounded and I wrote it and said it. And those players helped the Cavs get to the playoffs the next year, which they had not done in eight years.
So rip away on Ferry and then me for not joining you, but I don't have the luxury of being able to hit-and-run or write without perspective.
Nuggets: Anthony Carter, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Cambry Cavs: Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Ira Newble, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Joe Crawford, Derrick Stafford, Sean Wright
--Daniel Gibson and Drew Gooden were unable to go. Drew seems close, but he is afraid to risk re-injuring it. He'll try it again tomorrow. --The Cavs are terrible against the Nuggets because they can't play at their speed. The Cavs really need to run to score right now because of the guys they have hurt and that is not good. Just like the other night, other guys besides LeBron will need to have big offensive nights. --The Cavs are going to have some matchup issues. Obviously Iverson is a handful, but the Cavs have an issue dealing with Martin and Anthony with how they are playing. Also, Linas Kleiza can play inside and outside and is hard to guard off the bench.
Halftime -- Nuggets 63, Cavs 45
--The Cavs are living up to their contractual obligation and taking their whipping. --By rule, Eric Snow's missed layup when he used the wrong hand and bounced the ball off the left side of the backboard and missed the rim must be put in the David Wesley file. --The Cavs have accepted they are going to lose this game and you can see it in the body language. The fans know it, too. It is dead here.
Stars Melo, 27 points, eight rebounds AI, 25 points, 13 assists, ZERO turnovers LeBron, 30 points
Mike Brown: I thought we could've at least played hard or fought back. We didn't try to embrace who are and try to get stops. If they hit 3s, great. If they score, great. But I'm going to knock somebody's head off, I'm going to grab somebody, I'm going to set a hard screen, I'm going to knock somebody down. Everybody got an opportunity to play," he said. "That's about it." Larry Hughes: "Denver is a team we struggle against. They play a lot of freelance basketball, a lot of random basketball. There's always one team, everybody in the league has one."
Cavs 100, Hawks 95
--This is why you don't bet pro sports games. That and the other night against the Celtics when James Posey hit that meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead from four to one and the Cavs were giving three. --Ira Newble is having a great season by his standards and he may never play better than tonight. Him hitting the jumpers is a roll of the dice, but his activity around the glass and getting putbacks was difference-making. The Hawks are a pretty good rebounding team and tonight the Cavs won the battle in part because Ira was in there fighting for loose balls. --Quick, who is the Cavs best free-throw shooter this season....thinking....thinking...he's a starter...Ira, he's 18-of-20. --Larry Hughes has a "great toe jam." Yes, that is what they called it. It was a non-contact injury unless you consider his foot hitting the floor contact. He said he thinks he'll be able to play Sunday. By the way, he was playing off the ball tonight like he likes and he still took jumpers all night. He didn't vary his game much, which is when he can be effective. He had a Shannon Brown-esque stat line: 15 points on 16 shots. --LeBron looked tired in the fourth quarter and you can't blame him. But it seemed like after Hughes left with the injury the whole team got an injection of energy because they were pissed another player had gone down. The game pretty much turned right there. --Eric Snow was a train wreck on offense, he missed two layups and got another stuffed down his throat. But he had have five assists and five steals and help force Joe Johnson into eight turnovers. Johnson is in the top five in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring and tonight he had just three. Snow was on him down the stretch and refused to let him drive. Eric is still an excellent situational defender and he should get some minutes in that role. --Damon Jones has made a 3-pointer in 16 straight games. There's a lot to complain about in his game, especially his one-on-one defense, but he's been a clutch player in numerous wins. Tonight he got a couple of key baskets faking a 3 and driving to the rim or pulling up. --I was sitting in the mid-deck of Philips Arena tonight and I dropped a T-shirt that came from the ceiling and totally whiffed on a T-shirt that was shot out of a cannon right at me, for which Joe Tait openly mocked me for on the air. I wouldn't have kept either of them, I would've found a kid, but jeez, I suck.
Cavs (anyone want to guess?......): Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Ira Newble, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Hawks: Anthony Johnson, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford
--Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao are out and the Cavs are on a road-road back-to-back. Don't like their chances tonight, fans. But it's the NBA, you never know. --LeBron's thumb isn't great, he has it tapped up but he's going to play. He said he wasn't sure how it would affect his shot. --If the Cavs are going to win, of course LeBron will need a huge game but someone else has to score big. Either Hughes or Z probably, but Z played heavy minutes last night. Enjoy!
Stars LeBron, 26 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists Ira Newble, 18 points, eight rebounds Ilgauskas, 17 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks Joe Johnson, 23 points, eight assists Marvin Williams, 21 points, five rebounds
Quotes: Newble: "I didn't want to dunk it (at the end), I think I almost tore something. I don't mind being the jack of all trades. If I can play the "2", maybe the "3" or the "4" it is a way to get more minutes." LeBron: "This was a big win. We've got a real professional team. Everyone made an impact on the game, we needed everybody to step up."
Rockets 92, Cavs 77 --First things first, Daniel Gibson has a right hamstring issue. He told me he never popped it, it was just very sore and then he started getting spasms. He was holding it in the third quarter and in the fourth he left the court. He was uncomfortable after the game and the thought of playing tomorrow was not in his head, he was more concerned with getting the leg to quiet down. --Second, LeBron hurt his right thumb. He said he jammed it going to the basket. He played through it but he wasn't sure how it would fell to today. When I asked him about the giant ice bag on his hand, he looked down at the bucket of ice his right ankle was in and just shrugged. --Wrong team to play down two power forwards. Rockets are a tough team and they are excellent on the glass. When you lose the rebounding battle by 20, as the Cavs did tonight, you cannot win. --The Cavs were on the officials all night about defensive three seconds (the Rockets just stood in the lane when LeBron had the ball) and were upset about the lack of free throws. But they have to look in the mirror. They did not attack the paint at all with the exception of James. They was no drive-and-kick offense. Obviously Yao Ming is a major factor, but they never tested him. He didn't have a single foul tonight. --This game reminded me a lot of last year here. The Cavs were on a back-to-back and they just chucked jumpers all night long and barely cracked 70 points. Tonight they were down four rotation players by the end of the night and they did much of the same. They took 27 3-pointers, which was more than a third of their shot attempts. That's out of whack. --This was the first game where not having Varejao really showed up. It was a game when an energy player could've made a difference, especially with as many loose balls as the Rocket got. --Houston is hot, they have won 14 of 17. It was going to be a tough one no matter what. We'll see just how mentally tough the Cavs are tomorrow in Atlanta against a struggling Hawks team. With the Nuggets, Magic and Spurs before the break, that is a pretty important game to win.
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Donyell Marshall, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Rockets: Rafer Alston, Tracy McGrady (maybe), Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Yao Ming
Officials Dan Crawford, James Capers, Tommy Nunez
--So, weird stuff going on with McGrady. He has a sinus infection and didn't come to shootaround and wasn't going to play. He wasn't here at the Toyota Center an hour before the game. But now they are saying he is coming and they have him on the active roster. We'll all find out together what happens. --Drew Gooden is out, Mike Brown wants to see how Donyell does in there but chances are you will see Newble playing some 4 and Cedric Simmons. Dwayne Jones will be used to foul Yao. --Rockets are playing great, they have won 13 of 16 and eight of nine. Good test for the Cavs, but being down three rotation players is a tall order. --So who is the official health care provider of the Houston Rockets? The Roger Clemens Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance. Hmmmmm, wonder if that will be undergoing a name change? Then again, he does know human performance.
Halftime -- Rockets 40, Cavs 39
--Cavs have done a pretty good job of hanging in there. The Rockets are just pounding it into Yao, who has 13 shots already. The Cavs actually tried a little zone in the first half to deal with it. Houston would be ahead by more if they weren't so bad from 3-point range at 1-of-11. Also, T-Mac shouldn't be playing, he's not well and is not good right now. --Donyell Marshall is filling in pretty well all things considered, he has six points and four rebounds. Dwayne Jones is working hard but getting his behind kicked. The Rockets are soundly winning the rebound battle as not having Drew Gooden and Anderson Varejao is showing up. --Yao is neutralizing Z, he needs to look for more pick and pops to get jumpers. Also the Cavs have just one offensive rebound. The Cavs also need to challenge Yao at the rim instead of trying so many 3s. He will commit fouls if you go right at him. --The Rockets are letting LeBron have wide open jumpers by going under pick-and-rolls, he's just not hitting them. If the Cavs are going to win, he needs to force them to be more honest like he did with the Trail Blazers.
Stars Yao, 22 points, 12 rebounds Skip to my Lou, 17 points, nine assists Bonzi Wells, 13 points, 10 rebounds LeBron, 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists
Mike Brown: "We've got to have other guys step up, tonight we didn't rebound as a team. That's a very big team and a good offensive rebounding team and they took advantage of us in that area." LeBron: "We miss some of our bigs, we are a better rebounding team than that. When you have 20 rebounds (on average) sitting on the sideline it hurts."
Cavs 114, Celtics 113 --Ever since that spat with the Paul Pierce spit in that preseason game in 2004, LeBron seems to take games against the Celtics personally. This is the ninth straight time he's scored more than 30 points against them and you could just tell he's been thinking about it for days. When I talked to him about his ankle after the Seattle game he told me all he cared about was getting back to play Boston. He also doesn't like how the new Celtics run their mouth so much and put them in the Pistons category. He's what he said:
"The Celtics and Pistons, they both can get fly with the mouth. It's in a competitive way, but sometimes it can get annoying. That's not what I do, that is not what our team is about. You go out there and win ballgames and you can do what you want to."
--No one could've expected this to be such a high-scoring game, it is not the way either team wants to play. Nonetheless, it was an exciting game with 28 lead changes and 23 ties. I maintain this would be a great playoff series. --You have to give the Cavs credit for the different ways they are winning and with the different lineups. As along as LeBron is playing, of course. For as well as the supporting cast played tonight, it was -11 when LeBron was on the bench. --Drew Gooden tweaked his right groin muscle. He is prone to pulling upper leg muscles, this is the third straight season he's had an adductor or groin injury. Usually it causes him to miss a game or two but he said to me after the game he was hoping to play Thursday. --Not having Garnett seemed to affect the Celtics rebounding more than anything else. They certainly got plenty of offense without him and got into the paint a lot. But the Cavs won the rebounding battle, 39-29 and had 17 offensive rebounds. --If the Cavs were to play these guys in the playoffs they would really have to work on a better way to deal with Rondo. When he plays well it seems like he can really unlock the Cavs' defense. Then again, having Anderson Varejao (which they have not had against Boston yet this year) makes a difference on how they can play the pick-and-roll. --I hope all the Zydrunas Ilgauskas haters are paying attention to how well he's played over the last month. He had another double-double tonight even though his shot was off. There are a lot of people that complain about Larry Hughes, who is also playing well, not living up to his contract. Well, Ilgauskas is earning his $10 million and re-signing him when he took a $6 million pay cut in 2005 was a very smart move. There may be some regret about giving him a fifth year, but that was the tradeoff to getting him to take the reduction in pay. I've said it before and I will keep saying it, someday No. 11 will be in the rafters. Tonight he passed one of the men up there, Larry Nance, in career blocks. --By the way, LeBron plead no contest to driving 101 miles an hour in court today and was fined $259. Tonight his game check was worth $118,500.00.
Pregame Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Brian Scalabrine, Kendrick Perkins Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydruans Ilgauskas
--The Celtics are an excellent halfcourt defense team and we know the Cavs are not a good halfcourt offensive team. Thus, pushing the ball will be important tonight. Especially off rebounds, which the Cavs should get more of with Kevin Garnett out. --The X-factor tonight could be Glen Davis, who is quick and burly. The Cavs don't have Andy Varejao to counteract him so it may fall to Dwayne Jones to bang with him. But he is very effecitve on pick-and-rolls. --Biggest key for Cavs maybe keeping Rondo out of driving in the paint. Allen and Perkins get open shots when teams get out of rotation. Rondo has hurt the Cavs with this before. Considering he can't shoot, the Cavs should give him space.
Halftime -- Celtics 66, Cavs 64 --The Cavs have given up 62 percent shooting and are down just two points, which is the good news. The bad news is their defense has been terrible. Their rotations and pick-and-roll coverage have been lax all night. They are going to have to be much more active. --Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are a combined 18-of-23 from the floor. Rondo is the real issue because he's totally got the Cavs on their heels. They've followed the scouting report and let him shoot from the outside and he's made them and now they are struggling dealing with his drives. That includes LeBron. You still have to make him take jumpers, I think, if he makes them he makes them. --The Cavs have done a great job of pushing the ball, they have 16 fastbreak points, which has kept them in the game with the Celtics scoring so much. LeBron has 21 points, which is tremendous, but he's also got seven assists already. He wants to win this game badly. --Drew Gooden may be playing his worst game of the year. He's been totally out of it. Which hurts doubly when Varejao is out.
Stars LeBron, 33 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds Ilgauskas, 21 points, 10 rebounds Hughes, 18 points, six assists Allen, 24 points, five assists Pierce, 19 points Rondo, 20 points, seven rebounds
Quotes: Mike Brown: "It's great to have other guys go out there and perform, to keep having bodies go down is tough. I have to give the guys in that locker room credit because they found a way to win and did it with lineups that haven't been out on the floor together in a long time and did it against a good team." Doc Rivers: "We can't use not having (Garnett) as an excuse. We're good enough with what we've got to win basketball games." Gooden: "I'm hoping to be back Thursday. I heal fast, I'm a superhero."
Cavs 98, Clippers 84 --As you would expect without their two best players and playing on a back-to-back, the Clips crashed down the stretch. Their legs got heavy and it showed when they tried to jump. On the other end, the Cavs seemed to warm up as the game went on. As a result the natural order of things was restored. --LeBron said his ankle isn't feeling that well but he felt he had to play because if the Cavs lost to the Sonics and then the Clippers it would've negated the wins in L.A. and Portland. He didn't seem to show too many ill effects, but he was hopefully he'd be much better by Tuesday's game. --The Cavs won the second half rebounding battle 32-11. Which is closer to what you'd expect with Chris Kaman out and Josh Powell playing center. --Funny moment after the game. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is being interviewed on the P.A. system and Mike Snyder says "Z, this was your 20th double-double." Then Z says, "21st actually." He was right, it is 21. Who says these guys don't care about their stats.
Clippers: Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas, Josh Powell Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Joe DeRosa, Matt Boland, David Jones
--LeBron worked out before the game and determined he could go. He doesn't look like he'll be 100 percent, but he shouldn't have to be to win tonight. --Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette have been out with injuries. Both are on the active roster, but it doesn't look like either are going to play. There's not much there for the Clippers considering Elton Brand is also out. Thornton has been playing well of late, too. --Clippers are hurt and tired coming off a loss last night in Minnesota, so the Cavs would be wise to try to jump on them early.
Halftime -- Clippers 47, Cavs 45 --Can you imagine if LeBron wasn't playing? --Not a whole lot of energy being shown by the Cavs in this one, which is somewhat typical coming back from the West Coast. But, folks, the Clippers have nine guys in uniform and one of them is Dan Dickau. The Cavs are being outrebounded, which tells you all you need to know. Also, they have just two second-chance points. Not their usual effort level, especially against the likes of Aaron Williams and Josh Powell. --LeBron attacked the basket in the first quarter and got eight free throws, then in the second he started hoisting up 3s. In fact, all the Cavs are. The other night in Seattle they shot them because they were way behind. Tonight they've taken 14 already. They are below .500 when they take more than 20 3s on the season. This is especially stupid because Z and Drew are actually making headway working out of the post. --Damon Jones played a very productive 10 minutes, he hit a 3 and had four assists. He is the closest thing to a true point guard the Cavs have in their rotation. --Al Thornton is pretty talented at scoring the ball, and he's upset about not being named to the rookie game. It is showing.
Stars LeBron 28 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists Z, 22 points, 13 rebounds Al Thornton, 23 points, seven rebounds
Quotes LeBron: "This was a tough game, it was almost like a road game because we had some jet lag. We just had to get some energy and we were able to pull it out." Mike Brown: "They had some guys out and it was human nature to let down a bit. They are in a tough situation, they were missing a lot of guys and they did what they were supposed to, they fought."