Cavs 105, Nuggets 88
Remember a few years ago when everyone screamed about whether Zydrunas Ilgauskas was worth the cash the Cavs were giving him? Many talked about letting him go? Ummm...yeah.
Ilgauskas shows what his presence can do for the Cavaliers offense tonight. Sure he tied his season best with 23 points, but because someone had to guard him on the perimeter that middle was wide open for some aggressive drives by other players, including LeBron James (33 points) and Delonte West (22 points).
The Cavaliers didn't look perfect in this game - far from it. In fact on more than one occasion it looked as if they were just trying to give it to Denver with crappy shot selection and transition defense.
What kept them from blowing it: the Nuggets shot selection was a lot worse, chucking up jump shots left and right without hesitation.
Ultimately, it took a Mike Brown timeout to get them straight and eventually win this one in a cakewalk.
From the coach's office:
George Karl on the Nuggets' play tonight:
We are not a jump shooting team. That was one of our failures. It felt like a Christmas season bad game. We didn't match the intensity for most of the game. People think that we are a good team and we have to prove that we are good. One thing that is always floating in my head is our offensive ineffectiveness. It seems that we have to be slapped before we start playing hard.
From the locker room:
LeBron James on the game's meaning:
I think it is a statement game; we wanted to make a statement. They are playing as hot as us, just as hot as Boston, just as hot as the Lakers.
At the half:
The Cavaliers should be well in control of this game, but you have to give Denver credit for locking down on defense to for an 8-2 run in the second to bring the Nuggets to within 12 and eventually 11 to end the half. In earlier comments I said to watch Z's performance. At the half: he had 15. Think he missed playing?
Cavs (21-4) at Denver Nuggets (17-8)
The Cavs 110, Denver 99
TV: ESPN, FSOhio Radio: WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Cavs: LeBron James (F); Ben Wallace (F); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G); Carmelo Anthony (F); Kenyon Martin (F); Nene (C); Dahntay Jones (G); Chauncey Billups (G)
Cavs: Zydrunas Ilgauskas (questionable); Daniel Gibson (out, left big toe sprain); Eric Snow (knee). Nuggets: Steven Hunter (out, right knee)
Cleveland has won one and the Nuggets have lost one.
What to watch:
- Billups vs. Mo Williams: The Nuggets trading for hometown product Billups was no accident nor is it turning out to be a mistake. Perhaps the Pistons thought that because of his slow start to the season, the point guard was showing his age. If that were the case, Billups has proved them wrong averaging more than 18 points per game with Denver. Williams will have his hands full because Billups plays defense as well and brought that attitude with him from Detroit. Not that Williams has anything to be ashamed. His presence helped to solidify the Cavs and bring a legitimate second-level scoring threat to aid LeBron James. He's been no slouch on defense, debunking those rumors that defense wasn't a part of his repertoire. It doesn't show up in the stats, but Williams has been tenacious. This should be a great battle.
- The game overall: Like the Cavs, the Nuggets are off to their best start in team history. If observers are honest, they would note that the Nuggets team Cleveland faced earlier in the season, wasn't the team they're playing now. With Billups, their defense has gelled and they play more like a team, not like a group of players led by two superstars trying to figure out who should get the ball more.
- LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony is always a great show. In that first game, they played fairly close with James winning the offensive battle 22-18, but in getting teammates involved, there was no contest as James dished out 11 assists in the victory.
- The Return of Z: The Cavs' center expects some stiffness and soreness for a while. Tonight he returns. How effective he is could determine the outcome of the game. One thing is certain, his return opens up the floor more for Mo Williams and Delonte West to work.
From the coach's office:
Coach Mike Brown on the effect Chauncey Billups has had on the Nuggets:
First of all you’ve got a great guy for off the floor, just for the organization, for the city, shoot for the whole state. He’s a class act hard to follow. Now you add that to his basketball skills and his leadership skills and you have a guy who is capable of changing the face of a franchise, which is what he’s done.
From the locker room:
Mo Williams on playing Chauncey Billups:
I love playing against Chauncey. It’s always a good matchup between us. We both have different strengths and we use our strengths to our advantage against one another. It’s always a fun…I take the challenge to play against the better guards in the league. He’s no different so I’m definitely looking forward to playing against him.