Sonics 101, Cavs 95
--I spoke with LeBron after the game. He said the ankle was sore but not too bad, he was able to wear normal shoes. There wasn't much swelling, mostly it is just stiff and sore. LeBron said he wasn't sure he'd be able to play against the Clippers on Saturday but was pretty sure he'd be back by Tuesday's game against the Celtics at home. --The Cavs only played one quarter of defense, therefore they did not deserve to win. Pretty simple. They gave up 40 points in the first quarter because they seemed like they were pouting that LeBron was out. The Sonic shot 62 percent through the first three quarters, that's not winning basketball. LeBron not playing is probably good for them in some ways, they have to learn to suck it up. So they are not as good on offense without him, the defensive display was inexcusable against a team like the Sonics. --Tip your cap to Kevin Durant, he is a rookie and he took the game over when the Sonics saw the lead cut to three points. Major potential there. --I do give the Cavs credit for not quitting and Larry Hughes played pretty well, except when he tried to shoot over Kevin Durant twice in a row in the second half and getting swatted on jumpers. It was like watching a little kid try to play 1-on-1 against his older brother. --But that, of course, wasn't the funniest moment of the night. That belongs to Donyell Marshall when he checked into the game for the first time since November due to a wrist injury. He tore off his warmup...and his jersey as he checked into the game. He was left in an undershirt and had to be told by the official what he'd done. Then the ballboy just sort of stood there and watched instead of helping him as Donyell got called for a delay of game. Which, as Gene Hackman said in The Royal Tenebaums: "That's one last (bleep) you to the old man." LeBron nearly needed a new pair of underwear. Afterward, he was still laughing. "They are going to be showing that on the bloopers for years," LeBron said. "My kids are going to be laughing at that."
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, Devin Brown, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Sonics: Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, Kurt Thomas
--On a back-to-back without LeBron with two big wins on this trip, doesn't bode well for Cavs. They'll need a big game from Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Larry Hughes just to stay close. --The Sonics can score, especially at home. The Cavs without LeBron are a terrible team, especially on offense. LeBron should earn MVP votes tonight.
Halftime -- Sonics 62, Cavs 42 --Cavs waved the white flag on this one before it even started. It is one thing to have scoring problems without LeBron, but it is another not to defend or rebound. The Cavs gave up 40 points in the first quarter, the most they've given up in a quarter this season. The Sonics got something like 12 of the first 13 rebounds of the game. That's effort stuff. So lose, but at least lose playing hard. --Mike Brown isn't setting a very good example for maintaining poise, he was just throwing lineups out there. When LeBron is out his rotations go nuts and that is a weakness. He's got to have a better handle on what's going on out there.
Stars Durant, 24 points, four assists Wilcox, 18 points, 13 rebounds Hughes, 28 points, six rebounds Ilgauskas, 17 points, nine rebounds
Cavs 84, Trail Blazers 83
--Two things learned tonight: 1. The Cavs are an experienced team in close, tight games and the Blazers, even with their success, still have learning to do. 2. Joe Johnson is not LeBron James. --Seriously the Cavs were down 11 points with four minutes to play and LeBron was getting his shots blocked left and right. No one else was thinking about making a shot and this had loss written all over it. But LeBron is just frankly running a barnstorming campaign for MVP and who knows where it will stop. Not only were his 3-pointers major momentum swingers with three minutes left, it changed the Blazers' confidence level in defending him. --All this week on Portland TV and in the newspaper everyone has been lauding Brandon Roy for his defense on Joe Johnson in the final seconds of the Blazers win over the Hawks on Sunday and how the Blazers are so good in close games. Both are very true, but LeBron is not Joe Johnson and the Cavs aren't the Hawks. What the Cavs are is a playoff-hardened great fourth quarter team with the best finisher in the NBA right now. --Roy did not expect LeBron to go left on the final shot, in fact I don't think Roy thought he was driving. He looked caught on his heels because he was ready to contest a jumper and LeBron caught him and the rest of the Blazers by surprise. The help was not there. That was the genius, not the shot. The shot was easy and wide open. --The atmosphere at the Rose Garden was amazing, like a playoff game. Maybe the loudest arena from start to finish I have heard this year. Five years ago the Cavs were here for the home opener and you could tell the fans hated the team. Now, they love them and this will be something special once Greg Oden gets here. In the future, Cavs-Blazers games will be on Sundays and Thursdays, I think. --LeBron did it all with a sore right ankle and hurt left pinky. He said the ankle may bother him tomorrow, we'll see. But his supporting cast really, really owes him tonight. He went 13-of-29, everybody else went 13-of-45. This should've been a loss. --That said, the Cavs played pretty good defense all night. They contested most shots at the rim, especially in the fourth when Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a major factor. And they forced lots of jump shots, which is why the Blazers shot a season-low 35 percent. Plus the Cavs went on runs at the end of the first, second and third quarters to cut leads down to size, which is what good, experienced teams do. --The Cavs are now 12-12 on the road after once being 5-11. They are 9-4 out West and two of those losses were on the second night of back-to-backs in the altitude in Salt Lake, where they barely lost, and Denver. Next week they have a chance to sweep Texas for the first time in like forever. If they win tomorrow, they will have totally swept the coast...both L.A. teams, Golden State, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle. That is pretty impressive. --All the Nike brass was here tonight, including Phil Knight. Based on everything I know, I don't think LeBron has yet been a good investment for Nike by the sheer balance-and-loss statment. His shoes and gear don't move like other $100 million guys like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. But you can bet Knight and his execs were quite happy the swoosh was on his feet tonight. --One more thing before I go, I spent yesterday at Nike in the Bo Jackson building where the Cavs were practicing. I am waiting for the end of practice and I wander over to these large white boards under a staircase. They are filled with autographs with dates from athletes who worked out there. It was amazing stuff. A Shaq O'Neal signature from 1992, track star Michael Johnson, Dan Fouts, Tony Gywnn, Jerry Rice, Casey Martin, Wesley Snipes, Kevin Durant when he was at Oak Hill in classic cursive that looked like a fifth graders', and hundreds more that I am forgetting. But what was amazing was that it was literally tucked away in a back corner. I was wearing Adidas shoes and and Under Armour shirt, partially to draw a reaction from the Nike folks. But at that moment under those stairs, I was in awe.
Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Blazers: Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Przybilla
--The Blazers are great at home, 18-4, and they are a streak shooting team, especially from the outside. What will be important for the Cavs is to stay close and to keep steady in their rotations to keep from giving up wide-open 3s. Like Phoenix last week. --Portland has a great bench, led by the surprising Travis Outlaw. Obviously there's no Anderson Varejao. So how the Cavs second unit holds its own will be key. Drew Gooden needs to play better, yes, but Donyell Marshall has to contribute as well. --The Blazers biggest weakness is interior defense, which is why Z is likely a big part of the Cavs game plan. If he has a good game it could make a difference.
Halftime -- Blazers 48, Cavs 42 --LeBron went to the locker room early with what looked like a turned right ankle. That's about all the Cavs could take right now. It happened on a drive to the basket late in the half. He turns his ankles regularly and is OK because his ankles are huge but the way the Cavs luck is going you never know. --The Cavs are struggling on offense. They are not executing much well, even passing. As a result they are not getting many good shots and it shows. They have had success skipping to open 3-point shooters but that is about it. Also they are missing lots of short shots. The Blazers are being aggressive but not doing anything super special. Actually being down just six points and shooting 33 percent on the road is impressive --Portland is winning this game because of volume. They have 13 more shots than the Cavs, which is shocking because the Cavs usually get more free throws than their opponent. They are doing this because they are not committing turnovers and they are getting some offensive rebounds. --Mike Brown got his first technical foul of the year complaining about a charge on LeBron late in the first half. The call was probably right but the official, Mark Lindsay, is weak. --Larry Hughes has three dunks in the last week, that may equal his total for the rest of the season.
Stars LeBron James, 37 points, 14 rebounds Brandon Roy, 16 points LaMarcus Aldridge, 16 points, nine rebounds
Quotes...let me sum them up: "LeBron did what LeBron does."
LeBron: "I do what I do. I prepare myself to be the best player on the floor every night no matter what building I'm in. My teammates feed off than and I feed off them." Mike Brown: "LeBron put us on his back tonight. We couldn't make a basket to save our lives but he did what superstars do." Martell Webster: "LeBron really showed why he is who he is and what he does is what he does."
Just got back from Cavs practice this evening at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Mary Schmitt Boyer from the Cleveland Plain Dealer just mentioned the name "Jason Kidd" and LeBron James made some pretty candid comments on how badly he wants the Cavs to trade for him. Here it is:
"I would love to have a guy like Jason Kidd to be a part of this franchise, I think it makes us that much better of a team. Everyone knows how much I love Jason Kidd just throughout the summertime. It's not hard to see how much I'd love to have him as part of the team. Honestly, when you see Jason Kidd wants to be traded, you shouldn't have to go to the front office and tell them to get on it. It's Jason Kidd."
Then I was asked if being paired with Kidd could bring a championship to Cleveland. He said: "Yeah..(pause and a smile)...It's that easy."
Too bad it's not that easy. The point is that the James is making clear he wants some action here. Even if the Cavs don't pull it off, they owe it to him to make every effort. I am sure Danny Ferry is. I honestly don't see a deal that makes sense without a complex three-team swap but stranger things have happened. Right now, though, I'd put the chances at about 15 percent.
Cavs 98, Lakers 95 --First things first, Danny Ferry was not on the trip to Los Angeles. I can only assume he's trying everything in his power to put together a package for Jason Kidd at this moment. I don't think it is likely, but I'll bet he's trying to do something. More to come on that. --So, it's Monday morning and here's the recap from Sunday afternoon. So sorry I am late but I made a rookie mistake with my travel plans. Even though the Cavs are staying in L.A. thru tomorrow, for some reason I flew to Portland from LAX last night. Which is stupid for many, many reasons not to mention it is 70 in L.A. and 35 here. The Cavs players had begged to stay in Miami last weekend but Mike Brown didn't let them come down until Sunday so the tradeoff was an extra day in L.A. and I didn't get the message in time. I didn't get to Portland until midnight and was too tired to blog. Sorry! --Anyway, I filed this story for ESPN.com from the rental car bus last night. A good look, I think, at how LeBron has been taking it to Kobe for several years now. --Didn't help with my tight schedule that the game took forever and then LeBron refused to talk to the media until he got his suit on. Finally, I yelled into the locker room that all the cameras had left and he came out. --The Cavs got a terrible break losing Varejao and I suspect he'll be out for awhile. I talked with some people close to him and they told me it was a grade-2 sprain, which means a partial tear of a ligament, which means a couple weeks. To lose two rotation players in four days in terrible to any team. --One of the great moments was watching the coaching huddle after Zydrunas Ilgauskas fouled out. You could see Mike Brown and his assistants talking about who to put in. They considered Donyell Marshall, who will now be getting some time, and decided to go with Ira Newble. Ira, by the way, was great down the stretch. The man started the game at shooting guard and finished at power forward. He held down the fort, got a couple of rebounds, and sent a little message with his dunk. --Larry Hughes has played two excellent games in a row. His jumpers have been falling, which was bound to happen at some point, but much more important his defense in L.A. was simply off the charts. He made at least five great defensive plays in the fourth quarter including taking a charge on Kobe with a minute left and his two-man defense with LeBron on the final play. I'd suggest calling the Nets with this information. --LeBron is flat cold-blooded in the fourth quarters this season. He was a master at both ends. Sometimes it doesn't work out, but do you hear anyone complaining about his clutch play of late? Me either.
Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown
Officials: Ed Malloy, Tony Brothers, Mike Callahan
--Early game here in L.A., but since the Cavs are still on East Coast time it might not affect them as much. But I must say LeBron seemed a little groggy before the game. --I expect Kobe to be looking for some payback. First off the Lakers are coming off losses in San Antonio and Dallas and are about to leave on a nine-game road trip. So they really need this win. Second, Kobe was a little hurt last month in Cleveland and didn't play that well down the stretch and may be in the mood to settle the score. LeBron has gotten the better of him the last few times out. --Every time I watch the Lakers on TV, it seems like Lamar Odom can't make a shot. But against the Cavs he seems to hit everything. Gooden has never been able to handle him, we'll see if that continues today. --Who says LeBron loves the glitz and glamour? He pulled out a new quote I'd never heard from him before when ask about whether or not he's on the bucket list when Nicholson or others sit courtside here. He said: "All I care about is if there's a floor, two baskets and one ball, I don't care who is sitting courtside." Since he almost always does care, I think this is bull, but it sounds like this could be in the cliche rotation soon. --Last time the Cavs were at the Staples Center for the Clippers in November, OJ Mayo was hanging out outside the Cavs locker room waiting to chat with LeBron. I guess he'd gotten some tickets from Mike Dunleavy, at least that is what I remember hearing. Since OJ has since been slapped by the high and mighty NCAA for getting free tickets and access after Carmelo Anthony gave him two tix for a Laker game last week, I guess he won't be here today. But I remember after that game when Mike Brown was done talking to the media, he walked over and shook Mayo's hand. As he was going back into the locker room I complimented Mike on being highly aware of his surroundings. He just winked at me.
Halftime -- Cavs 49, Lakers 40
--Quick survey: Was there more time spent playing or more time during timeouts in the first half? This is going to be a night game. --So the Lakers say roofers clothes that were wet and put down on a catwalk to dry was the source of the leak. So there's leaks in the roof and roofers working on the leaks but the water didn't actually come from a leaky roof? Uh, OK, anyone else smell something? --In the first quarter the Cavs allowed dribble penetration and it led to all sorts of issues defensively as the Lakers shot 63 percent. In the second they kept the Lakers, save for Kobe, out of the lane and the Lakers shot 30 percent. That seems like it will be a crux. --LeBron is really pushing the ball and attacking the glass. When he does, the NBA is his oyster. Kobe is a tremendous scorer but he still relies on having to make jumpers a lot. LeBron can control the game with his size and speed and therein lies the difference. Kobe may have a different mental makeup at this point and therefore he's got certain advantages, but nobody in the NBA has LeBron's size and skill and you are seeing that today. --By the way, every time LeBron goes to the basket he looks over to the corner floor seats and gestures to buddy Maverick Carter and Kanye West. Yeah, he doesn't know who is sitting courtside at all.
Postgame Stars LeBron, 41 points, nine rebounds Z, 16 points, 11 rebounds Hughes, 16 points Kobe, 33 points, 12 rebounds
Suns 110, Cavs 108
--There's two ways to look at this game. The Cavs got totally outplayed in the second half. They let a soft defensive team with no basket defender be more physical than them and take them out of their rhythm. They regressed on offense in the second half to last year with LeBron just dribbling and hoping for something to develop. Then there's the other way: It took the Suns hitting a record 17 3-pointers just to beat the Cavs by two points and LeBron had two layups fall out of the rim in the fourth. I think both are vaild. --First half: 20 free throws, 14 assists, Zydrunas Ilgauskas 17 points. Second half: seven free throws, 35 percent shooting, seven assists, Z had four points. This is my point. --A huge turning pointing in the game was the turnovers in the third quarter. The Cavs had three in the first half and six in the third and it seemed to give the Suns energy and take the Cavs out of what they had been doing. If a few bounces go their way in the fourth, the Cavs could've won but the Suns outplayed them down the stretch. LeBron James let Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell rough him up. --LeBron was angry about the last play of the game because the design got messed up. He wanted Larry Hughes to throw him the ball no matter what. Also, the Suns had a foul to give and so Daniel Gibson got tackled by Steve Nash but there was no call. Boobie tried to show the contact because a foul before the inbounds would've been two shots and it ended up taking him out of the play and he was the second option. That's why he kicked over the trash can. --LeBron told me that the wrap on his left knee was for a floor burn, but he seemed to be in a lot of discomfort for just a burn. Maybe he should've consulted Chris Jent for how to deal with it. --I give Mike D'Antoni lots of credit for the winning basket. The Cavs had their offensive team in so not calling a timeout was wise. You had Zydrunas Ilgauskas ending up on Shawn Marion, mismatch that led to the winning points.
Pregame Starting lineups
Suns: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Grant Hill, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire Cavs: Larry Hughes, Ira Newble, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
--You read that right, Ira is starting in place of Sasha Pavlovic. It is mildly surprising but you have to understand two things, Ira will probably only play around 12-15 minutes and Mike Brown is guarding his crafted rotation very carefully. Because he's a big guard, Newble is a close match to Pavlovic although not the offensive threat. But Mike hasn't play Ira at guard all season, having him mostly guard power forwards. This is a tough first test. --The Cavs haven't beaten the Suns in two seasons largely because they simply don't have the offense to keep up with them. We'll see if the great ball movement from the other night carries over, if it does they have a chance. A huge factor will be rebounding, the Cavs will win it but will they do it on the offensive end and prevent the Suns from fastbreaking is the issue. --This road trip has taken Phoenix to Milwaukee, where they barely won, Minnesota, where they lost, and now here. I think they'd much rather be back in Arizona right now.
Halftime -- Cavs 69, Suns 56
--Two major stats to look at: Cavs have 14 more shots and 10 nine more rebounds. Lots of extra possessions. Turnovers, Cavs: 3. Which is why the fastbreak points are: Suns 10, Cavs 9. This is how you beat the Suns. We'll see if it lasts. --In the first half a couple times the Suns doubled Zydrunas Ilgauskas and left LeBron 1-on-1. Talk about a dream Cavs scenario. Just tells you how the Suns defend the basket. --Phoenix can make up leads in no time with their 3-point shooting, but they have to be concerned that they are 9-of-19 from behind the line and still down 13. That's what happens when you give up 70 points in a half. --Cavs assistant Mike Malone just got some extra respect from the players. The bench was chirping at Raja Bell for flopping late in the first half. When there was a timeout Bell came over to the bench and starting talking back and, I think, flicked someone off. Malone got up in his face and, I guess, told him to go away. After the timeout, players were lining up to give props to Malone. What can I say, he's a firey Irishman.
Stars Steve Nash, 26 points, nine assists Raja Bell, 27 points, four assists Amare Stoudemire, 22 points, six rebounds LeBron James, 36 points, seven rebounds Larry Hughes, 25 points, eight rebounds Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 21 points, 10 rebounds
Quotes LeBron: "It was a great game with both teams trying to execute at the end. They just made one more play." Mike D'Antoni: "We shot 54 percent, 51 percent from three and needed every bit of it." Mike Brown: "They are a smart team, they know how to hold, they know how to grab and they know how to get away with it.”
Cavs 121, Wizards 85
--So this was didn't finish the way anyone thought it would. This was historic tonight, folks. The Cavs set records for points in a quarter (43 in the third) and their 39 assists and six turnovers is a first since they started keeping the turnover stat. There's a bunch of the other records, but please go look at my story on Ohio.com for that. I do write for a newspaper, too, by the way. --So a bunch of stuff went the Cavs way, they got all the loose balls, Larry Hughes was dunking, Devin Brown was hitting 3-pointers, etc. That stuff isn't going to happen but a couple times in a season. More important, the Cavs' ball movement was off the charts. It has been getting better and better over the last month but you can see they are really committing to it now. Sasha Pavlovic had seven assists, that's a career high and he did it in 19 minutes. It's easy to mock Mike Brown's drive-and-kick offense, but there's no doubt they have been working on it and it's getting better. --Bad break to lose Sasha to a foot injury because he was just starting to break out of his slump. He has a sprain and there's an MRI set for tomorrow. He was able to leave the arena without crutches, but he might be out a bit. I have a good idea why he's breaking out, though. His dad, Dusan, is finally here. Usually he and the family come for Christmas but he wasn't around last month. He was a great player in his day and he's got the hard Cold War stare that just cuts right through you. When Sasha was in his first year with the Cavs, Paul Silas once said to me "I don't like that guy, he gives me dirty looks because I don't play his son," I said, "Paul, he looks at everybody that way." He doesn't speak any English, which is too bad because I'd love to interview him. Sasha talks to him on the phone after every game, even if it is 5 a.m. in Serbia. In fact, all Sasha does is talk to people at home on the phone. His bill must be outrageous. Anyway, Dusan is here and I expect Sasha to continue to play better when he gets back. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas got a lot of frustrations against Brendan Haywood out tonight. Haywood's had quite a bit of success against Big Z over the last few years. Z went 10-for-10 tonight and none of them, in my memory, was an offensive putback. They went to him and he executed, especially on his mid-range jumpers, which had been shaky of late.
Pregame Starting lineups
Wizards: Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Steve Javie, Brian Forte and last seen doing a Cavs game in San Antonio, Mark Wunderlich
--This is a interesting matchup of two hot teams. The Wiz are getting huge seasons from Butler and Jamison, who the Cavs have always had trouble guarding. Supposedly they are playing much better defense this season, too. We'll see about that. But they have some talent on their bench, especially Darius Songalia and the rookie showing lots of promise, Nick Young. --The Cavs will need to hold serve here, they are already down 0-1 in this series and there could be a tiebreaker. These two teams could end up playing in the playoffs again, right now they'd be the 4-5 matchup. --Lenny Wilkens is here and is being honored at halftime. Before the game he had a photo op with Mike Brown and Danny Ferry. Ferry and Brown were smiling, Lenny wasn't. When working the book The Franchise with Terry Pluto (ahem, available at all local book retailers and online at Amazon.com), we interviewed Lenny, former Cavs GM Wayne Embry and former owner Gordon Gund. Even 20 years later, the emotions involving the Ferry-Ron Harper trade are very raw. All three men got pretty heated when talking about it and all three have their own version of events. It was such a hot spot and murky, Terry and I didn't really address it all that much in the book because it would've just been these guys yelling about each other. Here's the point, Lenny's is still mad about it today and even though he probably doesn't have anything against Danny, it's probably not good for his blood pressure to be posing for pictures with him.
Halftime -- Cavs 52, Wizards 46 --Cavs are shooting 54 percent at home and are only up four. That should be somewhat concerning. When the Wizards went zone the Cavs settled for lots of jumpers in the second quarter after they lived on feeding Z early on. --Even though it looks ugly, recently Z has been able to finish with back to the basket moves. Giving him touches only helps because even if he misses, there are not usually long rebounds and it gives the Cavs a chance to get back on defense. --Nick Young posterized LeBron on a dunk early in the second quarter. It was pretty impressive. We'll see if LeBron gets him back. --Larry Hughes is celebrating his 29th birthday by airballing layups. --So far the Wiz bench as outplayed the Cavs, that group didn't play all that well in the second quarter. They'll have to pick it up in the fourth. --Expect Jamison or Butler to get hot in the second half.
Postgame -- Cavs 121, Wizards 85
Stars LeBron James, 23 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 24 points, 6 rebounds Drew Gooden, 18 points, 10 rebounds
Quotes Eddie Jordan: "It was painful, bordering on embarrassing. We played them without LeBron (in December). I certainly remember LeBron saying very shortly after our game that he was going to remember all the butt kicking they got while he was out and people talking about him and that when he came back he was going to get some payback. This was one of those paybacks." LeBron: "Offensively we were unbelievable tonight. We were near perfect."
Cavs 97, Heat 90 --This is my fifth year on the Cavs beat and it's the first time I've written about a win here at the AmericanAirlines Arena. I remember my first game here when the Heat were 0-7 and they got their first win with Dwyane Wade. There were like 10,000 people here, maybe, and the upper deck was behind a curtain like it was a WNBA game. Anyway, it's been awhile since the Cavs left here with a win. --The Heat lost this game, and therefore the Cavs won it, because they could not get stops down the stretch and the Cavs did. Wade was awesome with 42 points including the last 18 the Heat scored but he was getting no help at either end. The Cavs held Miami to 8-of-21 shooting in the fourth. --This game reminded me of that game last season when Wade got 40 on the Cavs here because Mike Brown refused to change his defense when it was getting burned time and time again. That time it was on the high pick-and-roll. Tonight Wade was killing the Cavs 1-on-1 even with James on him and Mike just kept doing it. He said he didn't want to double because he was afraid of giving up 3s but the Cavs were doubling Shaq the whole second half and he couldn't even jump. --LeBron didn't play great down the stretch, he was just 1-of-6 in the fourth. He did, however, play very well in the third when the game really turned in the Cavs favor. It was a big step for the Cavs to win, even against a terrible team, without James carrying them down the stretch. --You know Damon Jones loved sticking it to Pat Riley late in the game with his eight points in the fourth. He's still upset Riley wouldn't match the Cavs contract offer three years ago. He once again proved tonight that he can be a good contributor when given time. Also, I have noticed that he's really working hard on the defensive end. That will never be a strongsuit but he's giving effort. As for the mohawk.....um, no. --Sasha Pavlovic played his best game in weeks tonight...10 points and four assists. Is that a big game? Anyway, LeBron was talking last week about how Sasha is a completely different player when he plays with confidence. As soon as he hit his first jumper tonight, he started getting more and more involved in the offense and passing. Last season the Cavs always used to call the first play of the game for him to try and get him started. Tonight LeBron was directly looking for him when he got hot, ignoring other open players. LeBron wants Sasha to succeed and he wants to help and Sasha just playing with confidence makes a difference. --So some writers here in the press room were just talking and we were comparing Wade's current situation with that of Kevin Garnett with the Wolves, Paul Pierce with the Celtics and LeBron's first year in Cleveland. And what do all those teams have in common? Ricky Davis!
Note: Due to a computer virus I've picked up on this road trip, I will be unable to do an in-game blog tonight. It's been a real bummer dealing with it over the weekend down here in sunny Florida, let me tell you. So my sincere apologies, I'll be back after the game.
Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Heat: Jason Williams, Dwyane Wade, Dorell Wright, Udonis Haslem, Shaquille O'Neal
Officials Eddie Rush, Bill Kennedy, Rodney Mott
--Big-time trap game. Heat have lost 13 straight but have been playing better. They should've won their last two games down here. Believe it or not, four of the starters are the same from the NBA title team. --Miami is one of the worst defensive teams in the league, especially defending the 3-point line. If the Cavs move the ball well, they will get good shots. --Cavs haven't won here in the LeBron era and they've blown some big leads. Been quite a bad run. Nine straight losses overall here at AAA.
Stars LeBron, 28 points, five assists Ilgauskas, 13 points, 11 rebounds Wade, 42 points, seven assists
Quotes: LeBron: "We're just a better team, we know how to win games late. D. Wade tried to will his team to victory but we made more plays." Wade: "We are going to win one day...I have a nice chiseled frame." Ok, ok, those are from two different questions, but it's still funny.
Cavs 90, Spurs 88 Dealing with some computer issues, so I'm going to have to be a little brief tonight until I get it figured out.
--Let's take a vote: How many of you thought Manu Ginobili's jumper was going in at the buzzer? Well, everyone on the Cavs bench was ready for it after the last few games. --Very solid win for a number of reasons. Yes, it's the Spurs. Yes, it's the Spurs in San Antonio, high quality. When you look at this streak of nine wins in 11 games, there's victories over the Lakers and Warriors at home and wins in Dallas and San Antonio. I'll be checking tomorrow whether the Cavs have ever won in Dallas and in SA in the same season. Nobody does that, much less Eastern teams. More important to the flow of the season, the Cavs continue to play well, especially in the fourth quarters. Their defense for the last four weeks has been up to their level of last season and LeBron James is playing better than ever and the results speak for themselves. --Ok, Ok, this was one of those rare game affected by officiating. In the stretch run players from both teams were executing at a high level and the officials were blowing calls all over the place. You know I almost never, ever cite officials but tonight was different. In general, they let them play, which is good, but there were lots of mistakes. Here's all you need to know, after the game the TNT crew was waiting for like a half hour outside the official's locker room to get the microphone one of the refs was wearing back. The only thing I can think is they were all huddled watching the replays and probably slapping their heads. Although, after seeing it, I think they sort of evened out. Obviously LeBron barreled into Fabricio Oberto when he made the winning basket with 33 seconds left. Oberto was showing off the red mark on his chest made by LeBron's head. But I submit there were at least six other highly questionable calls/non-calls in the final minutes, including the continuation Tony Parker was given when the game was tied with three minutes to go. Both coaches and players were lining up to complain to officials. --The Cavs bench was excellent again. Anderson Varejao had eight rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. Daniel Gibson made another huge 3-pointer in the closing moments. Damon Jones had a few big baskets and Devin Brown's hustle was key, too. In the second quarter the Cavs went on a 22-7 run with LeBron on the bench. --I hear and read lots of complaining about the starting lineup. Stop worrying about it, pay attention to who finishes. Just because Sasha Pavlovic starts doesn't mean he has a huge role. He does need to play better, but forget about the Cavs changing their lineup, they are hot and they are making no changes right now. --There may be some lingering issues with LeBron's ankle. You could hear him scream when he hit the floor after he landed on Parker's ankle in the third quarter. He said afterward it was tightening up. The Cavs have three days to rest and he'll probably need them. --How about Ginobili and Varejao both flopping when they had the ball tonight? Classic work. --Before the game I talked with Zydrunas Ilgauskas about the obscene gesture -- oh, what the heck, this is the net -- he flicked off Donyell Marshall on the bench in Memphis and it got caught on camera. I guess in practice on Monday, Z went over Donyell's back on a rebound and 'Yell wanted a call. Z told him he never get called for going over the back. Then Z did, for his third foul, in the second quarter against the Grizzlies. Donyell was staring at him when he came back to the bench with a smile and that was Z's reaction. "I guess that's the same in any language." By the way, Z was excellent tonight on offense with 17 points and bothered Tim Duncan as much as he could on the defensive end.
Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Spurs: Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto
Officials Mark Wunderlich, Marc Davis, Ed Malloy
--So Cavs still have the same problem as they did the last time they were here, there is no one to guard Tony Parker. But Parker's had some foot problems and isn't 100 percent...supposedly. This will be the key to the game, if they can keep him under control. He sets everything up. --LeBron will get an extra test today, of course. He's been great lately in mixing up his drives and jumpers but he hasn't seen Bowen in awhile. Plus the Spurs wrote the book on how to play help defense on LeBron. --Brent Barry is back for SA, he's been out with a calf injury. He's been playing great for them and spreads the defense well. Could be an X-factor.
Stars LeBron James, 27 points, nine rebounds, seven assists Anderson Varejao, 12 points, 14 rebounds Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 17 points Tim Duncan, 20 points, 11 rebounds Manu Ginobili, 31 points Tony Parker, 23 points, six assists
Cavs 132, Grizzlies 125, OT --Can't believe the Grizzlies decided to let Mike Miller basically play LeBron James alone on a island for much of the night. Sometimes they double teamed but most of the time they left those two alone. Thus, LeBron puts in 51. You won't see that again for awhile unless it's Bruce Bowen. Miller was just disheartened by the end and the late doubles Memphis did bring only meant fouls and easy passes to open teammates. Meanwhile Marc Iavaroni says: "I thought our defense improved." --LeBron had 28 shots tonight to get 51 points. That is just sick. I went over the case for why LeBron is having a career year in the paper yesterday. There's some crazy stuff in there. Anyway, the guy is averaging 30 points a game and he's yet to have a 30-shot game. Kobe took 44 shots last night. Just think about that for a second. --Now consider this: In the fourth quarter the Cavs had total 10 baskets and four free throws. James had six of the baskets, three assists and three free throws. In overtime, the Cavs had four baskets, LeBron had two of them and one assist. Also, don't forget the steal he made with 39 seconds left in regulation with the game tied. I don't know if he can win the Most Valuable Player Award but I am going to keep pointing stuff like this out. --Cavs have 12 fourth quarter come-from-behind wins. Grizzlies are 1-9 in games decided by five points or less. It can be summed up on one play: one second on the shot clock with the ball under the basket and LeBron gets a layup late in the fourth quarter. --The bench had 45 points on 15-of-28 shooting. LeBron sets most of them up, indeed, but Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao, Devin Brown and Damon Jones are combining to play high-quality ball. Over the last 10 games they are averaging almost 35 points a game. --Funny moment in the third quarter. Zydrunas Ilgauskas got fouled and made the shot, which the officials waved off but still gave Z two shots. Which didn't make sense. Mike Brown calls LeBron over and LeBron tells him: "They say he doesn't get the basket because he traveled but they are still giving him the two shots. I've never heard that rule before in my life, but we're going to roll with it, coach." --This was not the type of game the Cavs like, giving up 53 percent shooting and 29 fastbreak points and 15 3-pointers. It was played at the Grizzlies pace. --In addition, I felt there was some really bad execution in the late fourth quarter. First off, ahead by 3, how you do you let Juan Carlos Navarro get any separation. Mike Brown doesn't believe in fouling in that spot, but I say if there's a pick coming to free him, tackle him. Second, with Miller just staring at him and 10 seconds left LeBron waits too long and is forced to take a crazy 3. He's still got to work on that one.
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Grizz: Mike Conley, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol, Darko Millcic
--The Grizzlies are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, giving up 105 points a game and 47 percent shooting. The Cavs haven't broken 100 points without the help of overtime in 13 games. We'll see which streak prevails. --Grizz PGs Conley and Kyle Lowry are both weak shooters, but they get into the lane very well. Could be a problem for Damon Jones or Daniel Gibson tonight. By the way, some here in Memphis say they have their worst shooting guards in the league. Ha, we'll see about that. --Rudy Gay and Mike Miller both have issues handling the ball and the Cavs have been pretty active in stripping of late. We'll see if that becomes a factor. --LeBron has had some really big games here in the past. It is a great building but usually not a tough place to play for the visiting team. Last year he had one of those games where he got hot from the outside and scored like 20 points in seven minutes.
Halftime -- Cavs 56, Grizzlies 53 --Cavs have outplayed the Grizzlies for the most part, killing them on the boards but Memphis has stayed in the game with 3-pointers. They are 7-of-10 on them, which is why they are shooting 55 percent overall. Perhaps Mike Brown will instruct his players to stay attached to Juan Carlos Navarro in the second half? --Anderson Varejao hit a few jumpers in the first half. The release and rotation are ugly but he's been hitting them consistently since coming to the team. A development in his game. Bench is playing very well again, Boobie has 10 and Devin Brown has made some nice plays. --I believe LeBron can get to the basket on the Grizzlies any time they don't bring the double team, especially when they have Gasol and Milicic on the back line. Let's see if he goes to that in the second half. He hit some 3s early, which might cause him to get into a bad habit. --Drew Gooden has nine points and nine rebounds. Jerry West is gone, but he's still trying to prove him point I guess.
Stars LeBron, 51 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, three steals Daniel Gibson, 18 points Rudy Gay, 30 points, nine rebounds Juan Carlos Navarro, 26 points Michael Conley, 20 points
Quotes LeBron: "They weren't as aggressive as I thought they'd be. If that happens and I get the opportunity to play one-on-one there may be a few more games like this." Mike Brown: "When LeBron gets in a rhythm he makes great decisions for us." Marc Iavaroni: "I think LeBron's got more passing ability than Magic because he can put it on a dime with zip."
Mike Brown got a new contract today. Cavs never tell me the numbers, but I called some people and it sounds he's on his way to getting his pay doubled from a little over $2 million this year to more than $4 million during the extension, which gives him two more years to 2011. Bet he had a good weekend.
In general, I'm not in favor giving a coach a contract extension in the middle of the season. Last summer I mocked the Indians for signing Eric Wedge in the middle of the season and joked about a "mission accomplished" banner. Also, James Dolan was laughed at across the league when he extended Isiah Thomas' contract during last season. This deal should've been given last summer. But the Cavs didn't sign anyone over the summer, doing deals in the regular season has become, well, regular. So, I will move on about the timing. They told him last summer they were going to extend him and they've stuck to their promise.
I find myself feeling like I am defending Brown a lot to readers or on talk shows. People really focus on his shortcomings. He has them and they've been discussed here a great deal and they will be discussed more. I think part of the reason is that he doesn't command respect with his demeanor. In front of the cameras he's always hokey, pretends to know nothing and always tries to divert attention with jokes. It's an act, the man is usually well prepared and a very deep thinker. He also always takes the blame for things, never calling out a player or ever raising personnel issues. Remember the Paul Silas line: "Look, you can't make chicken salad with you know what." That earns him points in the organization but not with the fans.
The NBA is a bottom line business. Here are some bottom lines: Brown's got the best winning percentage in team history. He has the first back-to-back 50 win seasons in 14 years. He's got four playoff series wins in two years. He promised he'd make the Cavs a defense-based team and he has. Over the last year coaches like Sam Mitchell, Lawrence Frank and Eddie Jordan have gotten new deals and Brown has accomplished more than all of them. He was one of the lowest-paid coaches in the league, he had earned a raise. Sure, he's got LeBron James. Show me someone considered to be a good coach who didn't have great players.
The last Cavs coach who merited an extension was Mike Fratello, who never got the Cavs out of the first round of the playoffs. The Cavs haven't exactly had a great history to put Brown's accomplishments in great context but looking at the coaches the Cavs have had over the last decade what he's done deserves positive attention.
Cavs 113, Bobcats 108, 2OT --This game was a like a mini-series. There are so many wild and clutch moments to talk about and recap that I just don't have the energy. In my mind there were five huge moments: 1. LeBron wins jumpball when the Bobcats should've had the ball with a chance to win it. Refs didn't know who to give it, too, but it was out off LeBron. Yes, they would have had to go the length of the floor in five seconds but... 2. Raymond Felton nails 3-pointer with .3 left in regulation to force OT. Right over Larry Hughes. And all the Bobcats had was five seconds. 3. Nazr Mohammed fouls out on a dumb play in first overtime. He had 21 points and 15 rebounds and was killing the Cavs inside. 4. Daniel Gibson's steal with a minute left in first OT. After Damon Jones missed a wide open 3, Boobie's hustle got the Cavs another possession and Damon another shot from the same spot, which he made. 5. Damon's 3-pointer to clinch it with 1:25 left in second overtime. --No doubt in my mind the Bobcats just ran out of gas. Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace and Felton all played more than 50 minutes. Their legs went on the jumpers in the second OT. No Cavs played more than LeBron, who logged 49 minutes. Richardson, by the way, started 6-of-7 and finished 1-of-19. Think about that for a moment. --Larry Hughes had 16 points and some nice defense. We were all rooting for him to outscore Saint Louis' 20 points from last night. (SLU is where Larry played for a year). By the way, I asked him before the game about the historic low, he had no idea. Larry is a little aloof when it comes to the media, so create all the websites you want, he doesn't even know much less care. --Andy Varejao wins a purple heart for having his leg wrapped in hose and padding and playing one of the best games of his career over 42 minutes. His activity made a difference. --According to Elias Sports Bureau, no one in NBA history has had at least 31 points, 19 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in a game as LeBron did. Don't forget the eight turnovers, though. Still, I think his favorite moment of the night was in the first half when he dunked on Mohammed's head. Payback for the finger injury? --Too bad about Felton's ankle. It looked really bad and you hate to see that. Looked like a freak thing, though. Cavs were talking about it in the locker room after the game, Felton was just getting out of their x-ray room in the locker room when the Cavs got in there. He wasn't able to walk. --Doesn't this Bobcats team look like it should be better than 13-22? Consider Adam Morrison and Sean May should be with this team. Don't know enough what the issues are. --This was the first time in 13 games the Cavs have scored a 100 points and that was a double OT game vs. Indiana. Bad offense, right? Guess what, Cavs are 9-4 in those 13 games.
Bobcats: Jeff McInnis, Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Ron Garrettson, Mark Lindsay, Derrick Collins
--The Bobcats are playing awfully small these days, but it has been working. They've had big man issues all season so now they are just rolling with it. Worked in Boston the other night. --I actually like some of the 'Cats, loyal blog readers know I think Wallace is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Plus I've always liked Felton. --Appears Anderson Varejao is going to play, that is important against the Bobcats the way they play.
Halftime -- Cavs 58, Bobcats 51
--Bobcats made a bunch of jumpers in the first quarter and scored 37 points, missed a bunch of them in the second quarter and scored 14. That's what happens when you play chuck and dunk basketball. --Major difference in the second quarter was the way the small group pushed the ball after the rebounds. In the first six minutes of the second quarter the Cavs scored 10 fastbreak point and Anderson Varejao had seven points, seven rebounds, two steals, and a +11 on plus/minus. He obviously made a big impact. Then the starters came back in and the game got ugly again. --Cavs have 11 turnovers, but it has only cost them seven points. Why? Because the Bobcats have been shooting jumpers on fastbreaks. --Ilgauskas has been very active tonight with 10 points and six rebounds in the first, he'd been in a bit of a slump.
Stars LeBron James, 31 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists, four steals Anderson Varejao, 16 points, 18 rebounds Gerald Wallace, 27 points, 12 rebounds Nazr Mohammed, 21 points, 15 rebounds
Quotes: Mike Brown: Literally nothing worth reporting. LeBron: "Their team made play after play and we did a good job of getting the stops we needed and we made big shots." DJones: On the 3-pointers in the first overtime: "I've missed a lot of shots in my career and I've made a lot, too. I'll take my chances on making 50 percent."
Hawks 90, Cavs 81 --A few times every season teams on back-to-backs are going to play flat and going to get beat. A classic case happened to the Cavs in Denver earlier this season. And while it would be tempting to chalk tonight up to that, I simply cannot. This game was a reminder of the deep flaws the Cavs have. In general, they are a one-man team (obvious, I know, but this put it in bold letters). Second, they are so fragile mentally. --LeBron James went 13-of-22, the rest of the Cavs went 19-of-66. Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic and Daniel Gibson combined to go 4-of-24. But in Sasha's defense, he missed just two shots. Of course, he didn't make any shots, either. Every town the Cavs go into, all I hear is people just mock their guard play. How can they not? --After the game, I asked LeBron two questions. 1. Why does the small unit move the ball so much better than the big unit on offense? 2. What is wrong in the third quarter? He started both answers with what he could do about it. That's the thing, what more can the man do? The fixes don't start with him, in general, I don't think. --Anderson Varejao looked like he got messed up bad in the fourth quarter when he jammed his left leg. After the game in the locker room he had an ugly red welt developing on top of the knee and his foot was in ice but he was happy. He said he thought he messed up his knee and his Achilles in the same play. The doctor took him back and looked at his knee and declared it fine, just a bruise. He's a little more concerned about the Achilles, but Andy said it is not torn and he just was so relieved. He was actually happy. Which goes to just how fragile the Cavs are. Had he stayed in the game, the Cavs may have won, but that isn't the point. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas' shot is totally flat right now. I went to talk to him in the locker room about it and Sasha, who was sitting next to him, said: "He has been spending too much time around me. It is getting in his head, too." I said: "Sasha, just don't think then." I'm sorta serious there. Anyway, if Z can't shoot then the Cavs are in more trouble than I thought. Z shrugged his shoulders and said he'd be working on it. --Ignoring all the stuff that came before it, Drew Gooden's travel with 1:30 left and the Cavs down by five really decided the game. If the Cavs score there, everything is different in the last minute. Which is why Drew often isn't in the game in those circumstances.
Tonight's recap: Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Hawks: Anthony Johnson, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford
Officials Scott Foster, Rodney Mott, Tommy Nunez
--The Cavs were extremely loose in the locker room before the game, joking around and having fun. It's a team on a winning streak for sure. Do they lack focus? We'll see, but they are surely enjoying being around each other at the moment --Joe Johnson struggled against Sasha Pavlovic last week, he made a bunch of shots at the end of the game to pad his stats, but the Cavs held him in check for the bulk of the game, we'll see if that changes. --Look for Mike Brown to use his small lineup a lot tonight with Damon Jones, Devin Brown and Gibson out there with LeBron and Andy Varejao. It's a good matchup against the Hawks, who like to play small at times. --This is a good litmus test for the Cavs. They took care of business last night, let's see if they can again tonight. This game will decide just how long this winning streak will last.
Stars LeBron, 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists Joe Johnson, 29 points, seven rebounds Al Horford, 10 points, 15 rebounds
Quotes Mike Brown: "Tonight was one of the worst nights we've had in moving the ball. We had a lack of execution." LeBron: "Hey, don't wait until the fourth quarter, we have start the third quarter like we start the first quarter. I don't know how we can do that, I don't know if it is our effort level or our mindset but we have to do a better job because that is where were are losing ball games." Andy: "I thought something very bad happened because my knee and my Achilles both hurt bad. I was scared."
Halftime -- Hawks 36, Cavs 32 --Ick, that's some nasty basketball out there. It's not just sloppy, it's careless. At times. Both teams are showing effort, but it's like an executionless effort. --Cavs may have had their worst offense half of the year with all their players. 28 percent, 32 points and they are only down four on the road in the second night of a back-to-back. So they are either in great shape or about ready to get blown out. They have been saved by 11 second-chance points but still missed a lot of close layups. --Both teams have been playing decent defense and contesting shots, but also both are making a lot of unforced errors. LeBron is waiting for double teams tonight, which is a bad sign. He'll need to be more aggressive but he's going to need some help. --Cavs are reaching a lot of defense, which also can be a downfall of theirs because they let teams get free points. Overall, they've done OK with rotations and given up just 40 percent shooting. --Let's all hope this first half gets forgotten.
Cavs 95, Sonics 79
--I might need some help with this one, I haven't seen too many Cavs blowouts this year, I don't really know how to break it down. This was actually the biggest point differential of the season. --Cavs really came out wanting to apply pressure and run and they kept it up for most of the game. They had 15 steals, which is a season high, which allowed them to get out and run a lot. That made it a fun game to watch for the fans. --Chew on all this, which explains why the Cavs have won four straight and six of seven. For the seventh straight game they held the opponent to 95 points or less. For the six straight game they won the rebound battle. For the seventh time in eight games they won the bench scoring battle (Cavs had 45 bench points tonight). All positive trends, just like the record. All reasons beyond LeBron just being hot that the Cavs are winning. --Did you see Devin Brown's dunk in the second half? All I can say is: damn. In the preseason, Mike Brown told Devin he wasn't sure if he'd be able to dunk this year because he was a little out of shape. Well Devin's in shape now and he's been throwing them down. He got upset with me after the game when I asked him if he dunked a lot in the past. He was like "go to the tapes, man, I can throw them down!" Ok, Ok, I'm a believer. --Mike Brown had Damon Jones in the lineup tonight and he played small like he did at the end of the Raptors game for several stretches. As a result, Daniel Gibson was able to get open a lot and he nailed five 3-pointers. I don't have stats to back this up, but I'll guess Boobie hits about 70 percent from 3 when he's open. This small, spread-the-floor lineup was a staple last season Mike seemed to have forgotten about, which is highly effective when Andy is playing well like he is now. --Speaking of Andy, Dan Fegan was in the building tonight for the first time this season. Seems like everybody made nice and the Cavs gave him good seats. The beginning of kinder relations? Hmm, we'll see. --Funny moment in the fourth quarter. Cavs got a steal and Boobie threw the ball to LeBron on the break in traffic and it was short and it ended up being a turnover. LeBron looked and Boobie and said "through that (bleep) long next time." Moments later there was another turnover and Boobie had the ball again with LeBron running a post route while being double covered. He threw it long, LeBron got it and got fouled. Talk about in-game adjustments. --Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic go 9-of-21 and score 22 points, wow the Cavs really are hot. Meanwhile, media members also have a new name for Drew Gooden: "Blackbeard." Although, I prefer the nickname I gave him a few weeks ago, "American Taliban."
Sonics: Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nick Collison, Kurt Thomas Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Bennett Salvatore, Jason Phillips, Leroy Richardson
--LeBron is going to be guarded tonight by one of the following: Green, Durant, or Wally Szczerbiak at most times. Two rookies and a slow spot-up shooter. Should be a green light. --On paper, this should be a victory and an easy one. But the Cavs just don't believe in such things. They'd rather look like the worst team in the league for awhile, then look like an average team for awhile, then look like a Finals team in the fourth quarter. --Durant is a talent, but he's a volume scorer at this point in his career. He takes lots of jumpers and goes through hot and cold streaks. He has great athleticism and can get to the basket, but many nights just doesn't. So if the Cavs leave him open they run the risk of being shown up, but if the body him and contest shots he will miss and make mistakes. He's got a 2:3 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. --The Sonics have good guards, but Delonte West and Luke Ridenour are hurting right now.
Halftime -- Cavs 45, Sonics 33
--Cavs are shooting 37 percent and are up by 12, wow, that is remarkable. Sonics have 11 turnovers and it has cost them 15 points which is why they are not in the game right now. --The Cavs energy level has been pretty good and they have been active on defense, picking up seven steals and lots of loose balls. That is an improvement from recent practice when they've come out flat against lessor teams. --LeBron is really playing well, really looking to get to the basket. He's 7-of-10 and hasn't drawn a foul but is playing very aggressive and applying heat to the Sonics big men. His activity has pushed the Cavs. He had a crazy dunk were he jumped off the wrong foot and too far out yet still saved it and threw it down. --Larry Hughes has been pretty active on defense, getting three steals. The crowd booed him when he pulled up for a 18-footer in transition. Banger Brother update: 4-of-14 (not bad, actually). Sasha's jumper dry spell is in danger of reaching double figures, has been at least four games since he made one. UPDATE: Sasha makes 14-footer from base line in third quarter, time to eat words.
Stars LeBron, 22 points, eight rebounds Gibson, 17 points Varejao, 14 points, nine rebounds Durant, 24 points, six rebounds
Quotes: LeBron: "We came in with the mindset to get the job done. Early on we got defensive stops and we were able to get the lead." Devin Brown on his dunk: "The lob was there too, if he'd have thrown it to me." P.J. Carlesimo: "We couldn't locate Boobie (yes, he actually said "Boobie"), even with the way he's shooting."
Cavs 93, Raptors 90
--This game felt like May. Sunday afternoon, sellout, Cavs playing small and LeBron taking over. It was just like last year. I am not sure you could've left this building today and not been amazed in what you saw, even if you were a Raptors fan. --LeBron's 24 points in the fourth were a record for the Cavs in a quarter. The late Terry Furlow (1978) and World B. Free ('85) shared the record with 23. He had 56 points in here on a Sunday afternoon in 2005, but you know the Cavs lost that one. --For what it is worth, I felt like the Cavs could win the game after three quarters. When I said this on press row, the Plain Dealer's Branson Wright offered to bet me $40 CAD. I didn't accept. But what I saw was the Raptors really just shooting nothing but jumpers. I was sure they would start missing. They only had two points in the paint in the third. Of course, I didn't forsee LeBron going off like that. --In the fourth, LeBron was talking trash with the Raptors bench and Chris Bosh's cousin and his girlfriend. This I can tell you about LeBron, talking trash does not faze him. Seen it for years. But Bosh's fam got something out of it, I think he sent his jersey over there after the game. --The Cavs got 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting from Larry Hughes, they can't afford to waste that. --Where we sit here in Toronto, we are almost in the Cavs huddle. I saw Mike Brown tell Damon Jones to go into the game. I really think it was spur of the moment, because it happened in the middle of the timeout. Several teammates pat him on the butt in the second quarter. They wanted him to do well and he did. Not good news for Mr. Pavlovic, or least it shouldn't be. --Damon's +/- for the game: +27. Circumstantial, yes, but true. --3 straight, 17-17, the Cavs are mediocre again!
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Raps: Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani
Officials Bill Spooner, Tony Brothers, Gary Zielinski
--This morning my hotel was chock full of hung over Rutgers fans from yesterday's International Bowl. Apparently, there's a long of hung over people on your average Sunday morning in Toronto. Let's see how the Cavs handle this 1 p.m. start. --LeBron James was out before the game getting extra shooting in, he's been doing that lately. Sort of what he did a lot at the end of last season. He needs to challenge Moon at every turn, especially if he bodies him up. Moon is a promising player but he can't handle LeBron's size. --It will be interesting to see how the Cavs play the Raptors with Varejao this time around. Chris Bosh lit them up for 40 points in his only game against them and they have trouble staying attached to Bargnani. --Calderon is not a good matchup for Daniel Gibson, we'll see how Hughes handles him. The Raptors live on penetrate and kickouts for 3-pointers. --My Sunday column today dealt with Mike Bibby potential and Mike Brown if you'd like to read.
Halftime -- Raptors 43, Cavs 33
--33 points on 35 percent shooting in a half. That's NBA quality right there. Nobody is making anything and the Cavs have nine turnovers, which has allowed the Raps to get 13 fastbreak points. That's the difference in the game, the Cavs halfcourt defense hasn't been bad. Only down 10? A minor miracle. --Wow can Jamario Moon jump, and wow can't Larry Hughes. How come when Sasha and Larry go into the lane the ball always comes flying out the other direction? --Damon Jones made an appearance after seven games. In the middle of the huddle, Mike Brown looked over and told him to go into the game. Several teammates patted him on the butt and he did well. When he was on the court the Cavs were +8 and he had two assists to Hughes' zero. Play him some more. --Jose Calderon had eight assists in the half, guess than question got answered. --Chris Bosh has the longest neck in the NBA. He actually looks like a dinosaur.
Stars LeBron James, 39 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists Larry Hughes, 14 points Anderson Varejao, 13 rebounds Chris Bosh, 23 points Anthony Parker, 20 points Jose Calderon, 16 points, 11 assists
Quotes LeBron: "I can't describe it, I just like I was out there by myself." Mike Brown: "LeBron just put us on his back. What a tremendous, tremendous performance." Jamario Moon: "We didn't expect LeBron to go off like he did. Once they cut the lead down to five or six, I was like, oh man, it is going to be a long quarter."
Cavs 97, Kings 93
--Eek. Consider this: No Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin or Ron Artest. Kings shoot 55 percent. Kings score 54 points in paint (season high allowed by Cavs). Kings hold Cavs to 38.5 percent shooting. Now consider this: Cavs have season-low nine turnovers. Cavs force a season-high 22 turnovers. Cavs bench scores 37 points. So was this a good game or a bad game for the Cavs? An ugly win, I suppose. --Then again, tonight Dallas only beat Miami without Shaq and Wade by five at home, the Spurs only beat the Knicks by four at home and the Celtics only beat the Grizzlies by four at home. So, it's the NBA, a win is a win. --Anderson Varejao has been playing some high quality basketball over the last three weeks. After looking slow and out of sync in the first few games, he's back in a big way. He's also making jumpers....more jumpers than Sasha Pavlovic has been making. And that's not a joke. Tonight he took two charges and made two big hustle plays to get loose balls in the final minute. --LeBron James scored two points in the fourth quarter in this game, 17 less than the other night against Atlanta. But his impact was almost as big, he had five assists in the fourth. Also, when he turned up his game in the first half when the Cavs were down 12 and got the rest of the team to follow was a big moment. That is leadership right there. He also didn't want to come out of the game as usual to start the second quarter to keep the run going. Several times during the game he was getting on teammates in the huddle as well. During one timeout, Mike Brown didn't even talk, LeBron led the huddle. --Devin Brown has been solid since getting a chance to be in the rotation, which is stable for the moment. By the way, I think he's got five dunks this season and four of them have been against the Kings. --On Daniel Gibson's clutch 3-pointer with 11 seconds left he was lucky to fumble the ball, because it got him space to get the shot off. Don't think it should've come down to that, but it was a big clutch shot. He's established himself as probably the best clutch jump shooter on the team. --Sunday's game at Toronto will be interesting. The Cavs have won four of five, but they did not play good defense tonight. If they don't play good defense up north, they'll get run out of the building.
Kings: Beno Udrih, Francisco Garcia, John Salmons, Mikki Moore, Brad Miller Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
--LeBron is OK after missing practice with a sore right big toe yesterday. He says he doesn't know how it happened and it won't limit him. We'll see, it may be an excuse not to be aggressive early on. --The Kings are without Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, and Mike Bibby. So there is zero excuse to lose this game. However, the Kings are coming off a win and these are your 07-08 Cavs we are talking about. --Salmons has really picked up the scoring, filling the void. He will shoot from the mid-range and attack the basket. Plus Moore shot about 80 percent against the Cavs in the playoffs for the Nets last season.
Halftime -- Cavs 49, Kings 49
--The first quarter was about the lowest effort level the Cavs shown all year. They allowed 24 points in the paint and were beaten to every lose ball. LeBron was so angry that he refused to come out to start the second quarter and his energy turned things around. He created three straight turnovers and it turned the lead from 12 down to four in about a minute of court time. He was showing leadership there. --The Cavs forced seven turnovers in the second quarter and they had 10 fastbreak points, which got the game back even. They are now showing more energy. Then again, the dreaded third quarter awaits. --LeBron has 19 points on just nine shots. His outside shot is falling and he's been aggressive for the most part. Could be another big night. The Cavs are 9-4 when he score more than 30 points. --Sasha and Larry are right back on normal pace, they are 2-of-13. On one possession late in the first half, LeBron was in midair and he had both Sasha and Larry open. What a decision! He picked Larry...he missed. --The Cavs halftime shows at home this season have been really, really lame. They have cut the budget big time. A few weeks ago, it was Mr. Slinky. Right now there is someone doing trick pool shots. Seriously.
Stars LeBron, 24 points, 10 assists, five steals Ilgauskas, 14 points, 15 rebounds Daniel Gibson, 13 points John Salmons, 22 points, seven rebounds
Quotes Reggie Theus: "We have all the built-in excuses we need...but I can't help but thinking we gave them a gift. I think we outplayed them." Mike Brown: "We found a way to win the game. We lost the hustle game at times but we won enough catagories to win." LeBron: "I just took what the defense gave me. Our bench did a great job of coming in and bringing energy.
Hawks 98, Hawks 94
--So, I guess LeBron decided to stop playing passive. 32 points in the second half, 12 in the last 1:40, 19 in the fourth quarter. This is the thing about LeBron that it is easy to forget, he is a generational talent and at any moment he can go off like that. Which is why there were 20,562 fans at Quicken Loans Arena on a snowy Wednesday night for a game against the Hawks, just in case. Sometimes I forget. --Anyway, two things happened in the second half. First, LeBron was more more aggressive in going to the basket in the third quarter, which set up the fourth. Second, Mike Brown changed his offense and started putting LeBron at the top of the key a lot. He then played one-on-one instead of running off pick-and-rolls. Now, this is not a great way to play offense, it is a Band Aid, but it worked for tonight. Largely because the Cavs kept moving, they had 16 assists in the second half. --The LeBron jumpers down the stretch were clutch, but they were also true. What I mean by that is that his technique was solid. Since he's come back from the injury, he's been falling away a lot, his old bad habit. In the fourth, he was squaring up. Even on the shot he made with 32 seconds left, he got square and was balanced. If he continues to do that, his jump shot will be improved. --Larry Hughes was 6-of-10 tonight and with him and Daniel Gibson on the floor late in the game and the Cavs spread the floor, the Hawks had to respect the wings and they had to respect LeBron's drive so he had space outside. Sorta of how things would look if the Cavs had good guard play every night. --There were two women wearing halter tops and body paint sitting about four rows behind the Cavs bench. At every time out they would stand up and hold up signs so the Cavs in the huddle could see them. Usually they save such shameless stuff for the hotels. Of course, there was that one woman in Atlanta who stood by the tunnel and had a bunch of cash hanging out of her low-cut top last year. --I keep hearing these Bulls-Cavs rumors involving all sorts of different players. I highly respect Sam Smith, but he openly says in this column where he spreads the rumor that he heard it from a fan and can't confirm any of it. So if he can't confirm it and I can't confirm it and it just comes from message boards, what do you want me to say about it? Forget that common sense says division rivals don't trade with each other, that Kirk Hinrich is only shooting slightly better than Hughes this season or that Ben Wallace contract is longer and his output as sharply downhill as Hughes. If Larry is about to get traded, I don't know about it, I just hear about executives turning down every deal with Hughes in it. So if he gets dealt in the next day or so, I will be glad to give credit elsewhere. --If you are interested, I guest hosted TrueHoop at ESPN.com today and had what I think was a cool post about the life of an advance scout that you may enjoy. Or not.
Hawks: Anthony Johnson, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials: Joey Crawford, Scott Wall, Olandis Poole
--Ira Newble is out sick, he probably would've gotten a lot of playing time tonight because the Hawks play a lot of guys his size. --The Hawks are much improved, especially offensively. They have established their roles well and share the load. Three guys average 15 points or more. Marvin Williams has become an excellent mid-range shooter and Johnson is one of the best pure long-range shooters in the NBA. Horford is a rookie of the year candidate. --The Cavs had two full practices to work on their offensive spacing issues. LeBron has been getting hammered with double teams and they have been working on countermeasures. Also, they have spent practice time working on getting Daniel Gibson some more shots, teams are camping down on him more. Of course everything would be easier if Sasha and Hughes actually made even 40 percent of their shots. --Josh Smith is one of the most dynamic players in the league right now. He is a prolific shot blocker, especially coming from the weakside. The Cavs (especially Sasha and LeBron) will have to be mindful of him.
Halftime -- Hawks 38, Cavs 37
--The Cavs ought to be ashamed they are behind in this game. The Cavs are shooting 32 percent on the road and are winning. The reason, plain and simple, is turnovers. The Cavs have 10 of them in the first half. The Hawks have 10 points off them, but it's actually cost the Cavs more than that because of the lost shot chances. The Cavs have nine more rebounds yet have fewer shots. --LeBron has four points on five shots. Over the last several games, he is looking more and more like the guy who started last season. A couple of times coming off screens he's been triple teamed, so the scoring is going to be hard in that situation. But he's also only got two assists. He's playing passive and that is when he's easiest to defend. --The Cavs missed their last seven shots in the half and shot 43 percent, before that they were shooting 55 percent. Still much of that came from Drew Gooden, who is 6-of-7. Otherwise the offense has been weak. We still don't know if Horford can guard Z, who has just three shots in the first half. They are not putting the big guy in position. Not what you'd expect after Mike Brown had two days of practice.
Stars LeBron, 36 points, six assists Larry Hughes, 14 points Drew Gooden, 13 points, seven rebounds Josh Smith, 20 points, eight rebounds Joe Johnson, 24 points
Quotes Mike Brown: "LeBron was being LeBron. We have all the confidence in the world in him." LeBron: "I was just trying to be aggressive. I have confidence that I can knock down my jump shot." Johnson: "(LeBron) carried his team tonight. For awhile it seemed like he couldn't miss."
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