Cavs 98, Bobcats 91
--This was a case study in how the Cavs hope to play in the playoffs. The idea is for Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace to help each other out at both ends. It worked well for tonight, just the fourth time they have played together and the healthiest they have both been in awhile. With Z playing well on offense, he was able to punish the Bobcats for shading toward LeBron James. LeBron had 10 assists and five of them went to Z. Also, with Z attracting more attention as he goes for offensive boards, Wallace had more space to work and he got six of them. On defense, the help defense in the interior was good, especially with Wallace. He came from the weak side a lot, which helped him get 15 rebounds overall. --The Cavs nearly got bit with Jason Richardson getting hot from the outside. If you remember, he had a 19-point quarter against the Cavs earlier this season. He had 14 in the fourth and several came over the hands of Devin Brown, whom I thought was playing good defense. In fact, other than a spurt or two, the Cavs played reasonable defense all night. But I also thought the Cavs offense got stagnant in the fourth, an old problem. LeBron got into a stretch where he was just tossing up shots, he went 2-of-8 in the fourth. --After the game, we got to ask LeBron about DeShawn Stevenson's comment from Thursday for the first time. If you are behind on this one, Stevenson told the Washington Post that James was "overrated" after he shut him down in the last minute of Thursday's loss to the Wizards. Now, James had time to come up with something because we first asked before the game and he said he'd answer after it afterward. Here is what LeBron said:
"With DeShawn Stevenson it is kind of funny. It's almost like Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy. There's no comparison. Enough said."
Ahem, this was supposed to be a slap and it is mildly funny. But even if you understand the Hip Hop references here, it's not a fitting retort. I suppose that will have to come on the court at some point. LeBron is Jay-Z in this scenario and he is saying, as Jay-Z, he wouldn't say something about a guy like Soulja Boy, who I guess LeBron is implying is second-rate. It would've been so much funnier if LeBron had said Vanilla Ice or Milli Vanilli. Am I dating myself? But it doesn't much hold water since Soulja Boy's song is played at every arena and LeBron himself has danced to the song on the bench during games. Two things I think come out of this: Stevenson laughs and Soulja Boy himself may be a little upset.
Pregame Starting lineups
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Matt Carroll, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Nazr Mohammed Cavs: Delonte West, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, LeBron James EDIT: I mean, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Officials Steve Javie, Tony Brothers, Pat Fraher
--Z is back after missing six games dealing with a bulging disc in his back. Supposedly, he will play his regular minutes. But Z is a rhythm player and has been throughout his career, so he may show some rust in this one. --This is a good matchup to see how the Wallace/Z combination fare. Okafor will stay near the basket and be a prime part of the offense. It will be interesting to see how they help each other out. --Watch out for Earl Boykins trying to prove a point to the Cavs today. He'll be a tough cover for West or Damon Jones and I expect him to get up plenty of shots. --The Bobcats have been playing pretty well of late, although they are simply a terrible road team. Richardson has been playing very well and Felton always seems to give the Cavs problems with his driving ability.
Halftime -- Cavs 47, Bobcats 40
--You can already tell the major difference Zydrunas Ilgauskas makes for this team. Although it wasn't a great offensive half, Z's 10 points are a factor as are his three offensive rebounds. LeBron has six assists already and several are just playing the two-man game with Ilgauskas. It opens up the offensive options. --The Cavs also did a nice job of playing defense in the second quarter after a rough start. They are allowing a little too much penetration, but they toughened up after Mike Brown called two timeouts to try and snap them into shape. Those defense lulls continue to be a major issue with his new version of the team. --I am keeping a little ledger in my head of Wally Szczerbiak and Sasha. There is a competition between these two to win minutes when Daniel Gibson gets back. So far in this one, neither have done much at all. --Notice the Cavs went to Joe Smith a lot more in the post in the first half. They liked the matchup I am sure, but I just think more plays need to be run for him in general and not just kick outs for 18 footers. The guy is the best scoring option in the post after Z.
Stars LeBron, 33 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds Z, 16 points, nine rebounds Wallace, 15 rebounds Richardson, 33 points
Quotes: LeBron on Z: "It's a treat for me to get him back and for all the rest of our bigs. They know they can open it up with Z being out there." Wallace: " "I don't know if a lot of people know but once your back starts acting up and it is not loose and right, it causes your whole body to pretty much shut down. It's a little bit looser and I'm trying to feel my way through it."