Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Devin Brown, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Raptors: Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Andrea Bargnani, Rasho Nestovic
Joe Forte, Michael Smith, Sean Wright
--Mike Brown made the decision to sit LeBron, he said he could've played. No reason to rush anything in November. Plus I don't think LeBron did a lot at shootaround today and they'd like to see how he plays with the finger taped. --Chris Bosh is also out, so the headliners are gone. TJ Ford is active but not starting. --Cavs obviously have a massive scoring void. No idea how they are going to deal with it other than pounding the ball in to Z, whom the Raptors have always had trouble defending. Z will have to have a good night. I also envision Gooden or Sasha taking advantage and getting up a load of shots. Historically, teams tend to play well in the short run when a star goes down. But with Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall also out, the Cavs are so thin it might not matter. --I've been thinking...how long before Drew attempts that first 3-pointer? --The Raptors will probably look to bomb away from the outside off penetration from Calderon and/or Ford. Cavs' defensive rotations are going to have to be tight for them to stay in the game.
Halftime -- Raptors 54, Cavs 49
--This game is going how you'd expect it. The Cavs are scrapping and Gooden is stepping up to take the most shots. The Cavs offense really puttered in the second quarter. They have only seven assists in the game and two came on the last two possessions. Still they are in it somehow. --Ford and Calderon have combined for 11 assists and their ability to get their shooters open is really working. The Raptors shot 60 percent for most of the half and Carlos Delfino came off the bench to hit 6-of-7 shots and score 15 points. The bench points so far are 21-5. The Cavs are going to have to find a way to contest more shots, the Raptors will have a cool spell but if they are up 12 points when they have it, it won't matter. --Z got just five shots in the first half and didn't get the ball in the post much. The Cavs struggle when they try to create on the outside, even though that is about all they are trying so far. He's going to need to step up in the second half to take the pressure off the shooters. He's also not crashing the offensive boards well because he's out on the perimeter.
Postgame -- Raptors 91, Cavs 82 Stars Carlos Delfino, 24 points, seven rebounds Andrea Bargnani, 26 points Drew Gooden, 15 points, 14 rebounds Daniel Gibson, 24 points, seven assists
--For the Cavs to win this game they were either going to have to play unexpectedly good offense or unexpected good defense. They did neither, so they didn't win. Meanwhile, the Raptors had two guys (Delfino and Bargnani) get their career highs. That's pretty much the story. --Not sure whose fault it was, but Z getting seven shots isn't going to do it. Rasho Nesterovic has never been able to stop him before. Some of it was him not working to get into position, he had a low energy night...just one offensive rebound. But he also wasn't in the post all that much either. --Want to know why the Raptors survived, other than they have a deeper team? TJ Ford and Jose Calderon combined for 16 assists, the Cavs had 13 as a team. If you can't keep those guys in front of you then you have to be cleaner in rotations...yet Delfino seemed to be taking wide open shots all night. --Obviously the 82 points after the 74 the other night shows the Cavs have scoring problems without LeBron. Here's why, the low assists, and just four second chance points (the double teams weren't there to force the opposition out of position) and just six fastbreak points. --It appears that LeBron will play on Sunday, he could've played tonight. He will probably practice tomorrow and give the green light would by my guess.
Quotes --Mike Brown: "I thought our guys did a decent job of competing but we did some things defensively where we put ourselves in a bind. We had some mental breakdowns and it put us in a predicament." --Z: "When LeBron is not there it makes it so much harder for everybody else. When he gets the ball the defense shifts toward him and a lot of opportunities open up from offensive rebounds to easy baskets. That's why 70 percent of our plays go through him and we didn't have a lot of time to prepare not to have him."
The Cavs released this statement about LeBron James' injured finger:
"Cavaliers forward LeBron James experienced a sprained left index finger late in the second quarter of the Cavaliers game against the Detroit Pistons last night. He did not return to the game after half-time. X-rays taken at the arena were negative and he traveled with the team to Toronto after the game. LeBron underwent a MRI today at Cleveland Clinic Toronto which confirmed the sprain. He is currently listed as day to day and will be a game time decision for tomorrow night’s game in Toronto against the Raptors."
Overall, it is good news for the team because there was concern there could be something more serious in there. It takes a lot to keep James out of the lineup, but I expect the Cavs to be very cautious with this injury. They won't want him to re-injure it so quickly. At the very least, though, this is the type of injury that can linger for weeks. That is nothing new, James plays with nagging stuff all the time.
LeBron James suffered a left index finger sprain with 4:41 left in the second quarter Wednesday here at the Palace. He drove down the lane and Nazr Mohammed slapped at the ball and got LeBron's hand.
He grimaced, made both free throws and finished the half was was in discomfort much of the time and was holding it as he went to the locker room.
The team took X-rays that were negative, in other words they showed no fracture. Team officials just told me that at this point they think it is minor and that it is a day-to-day thing. He might miss some time. LeBron returned to the floor with the finger taped in a suit not looking like he was in a great deal of discomfort. But he was icing his hand, too, which led me to believe there may be more hurting than his finger. The Cavs officially are being very vague about the injury, which is standard.
LeBron went with the team to Toronto. They are off tomorrow but he will likely have another X-ray and an MRI, which will show if there is any tissue damage. LeBron briefed his teammates and the mood in the locker room after the game was cautiously optimistic. Guess everyone will know more tomorrow.
Pregame Starting lineups:
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Pistons: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace
Officials: Ron Garretson, Violet Palmer, Mary Ayotte...Garretson was here for the Brawl Game, Palmer loves to call traveling on Z, and Ayotte and Damon Jones have a bit of a history, he ejected Jones in a game last season.
--This is the Cavs fourth game in five nights and comes off an overtime game. The Pistons have had a few days off. This matters in these games, not sure you are going to see a true rivalry game tonight. Especially hard hit might by Ilgauskas, who played 44 minutes last night and in general isn't great on back-to-backs. The Pistons may get to have their fun in this one. --Rasheed missed the last two games with knee soreness and Hamilton is coming off the flu, we'll see if there are any effects on them. Wallace is toughest on the Cavs when he his willing to play with his back to the basket and not just chuck 3s. Sometimes it seems like it depends on his mood. --Look for the Pistons to try to get very physical with the Cavs, especially with the big men. That especially includes Jason Maxiell, whose energy has always given the Cavs problems. Might be interesting to see Dwayne Jones bang with him tonight for a few minutes. Also, you'll get probably a look at the Pistons young shot-blocking specialist, Cheikh Samb. --There just isn't a whole lot of respect for the Cavs here, the Pistons feel like they lost last year and the Cavs didn't win. Those respect issues pop up everywhere, even the Cavs locker room. On the door, five years after the logo switched, the Pistons still put up the old Cavs logo. --The Palace is a great arena, it's 20 years old and is still one of the best in the NBA. But its staging areas are too small. One of the things that happens is the dance team has to go through its rehearsal on the loading dock before the game. It is apparently very popular here at the Palace, when I walked through to go to the Cavs locker room an hour ago there were dozens and dozens of employees who came to watch.
Halftime -- Pistons 48, Cavs 43 --If the Pistons want this game they can have it. The Cavs legs look very heavy, which really shows up in rebouding and on defensive rotations. LeBron's already hurt himself twice. The Cavs are the best rebounding team in the league and are getting beat up pretty bad. They have have even gone to some zone because they're trying to contain the Pistons movement a little bit. That said, if they make the mistake of letting the Cavs/LeBron hang around it could bite them. --Ira Newble was guarding Antonio McDyess in the first quarter. Um, no. --Chauncey Billups has made it his mission to hold down Daniel Gibson after Game 6 last season. He did it in the preseason and he's being very physical with him tonight. --Maxiel's energy is hurting the Cavs and Dwayne Jones has not yet looked like he's going to have one of his productive nights. This could end up deciding the game. --Both Z and Drew are having energy issues and as a result the Cavs are not scoring in the paint. That and the Pistons are going a pretty good job on defense and challenging inside shots. The Cavs probably are going to need to get hot from the outside, which is very possible, if they have a chance to win. That or turn up the defense big time.
Postgame -- Pistons 109, Cavs 74 Stars: Tayshaun Prince, 16 points Richard Hamilton, 18 points, six assists
--Based on the way things were going this was probably going to be a loss no matter what. The Cavs just didn't have anything close to the energy the Pistons were bringing. They got beat on the boards, 43-23, which should tell you everything you need to know. But after LeBron got hurt, the damage to the Cavs' mentally was obvious and they packed it in pretty quick. --There is another blog entry on the LeBron injury, all the info is there. --I don't think any further analysis is needed on this one
Quotes: Mike Brown: "Detroit brought more energy than we did. You could see it in the way they set screens, got out in transition and you could see it in rebounding the ball." Drew Gooden: "It was more of a surprise than anything because I didn't know anything of (the injury) until we stepped on the floor and I didn't see him. But we still have to find a way to fight through adversity."
Pregame Starting lineup
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials: Bennett Salvatore, Derrick Collins, Mark Lindsay
--So the Celtics are pretty good, but what has been surprising his how well they have played on defense so far. A big part of it has been James Posey, who I expect to guard LeBron a bunch tonight. I also expect him to be physical. --The Big Three are one thing, but if the Cavs have any chance they have to hold the others down. In the preseason game in Boston, the Cavs let Perkins get wide open dunks and Eddie House came off the bench and nailed a bunch of shots. Also, Rondo just went down the lane whenever he wanted. If that happens again tonight, it will be another blowout. --The Cavs are running hot on offense right now, especially with the 3-point shot. Let's see how engaged they get into running plays or whether they start settling. That will be key. --Celtics will play small at times with Pierce or Brian Scalabrine or even Posey playing the 4. That means Ira Newble will get time tonight.
Halftime -- Celtics 49, Cavs 46 --This game is going about how you'd expect, Cavs had a nice start but the Celtics defense has worn them down and broken their flow. The Cavs had seven assists on their first nine baskets and then just two the rest of the half. Boston forced them into contested jumpers by denying drives and pushing out the posts. They also only had three fastbreak points in the half because they messed up like four or five fastbreak chances, they need those easy points. --Ray Allen is active and the Cavs are paying so much attention to Garnett and Pierce that he's hurting them. Hence the danger of the Big 3. Bigger issue, Perkins keep getting open on the backside and he's got nine points. Just better concentration is needed to deal with that. They have done an OK job keeping Rondo out of the lane. --It appears the Cavs will need a big scoring half from LeBron to win this game. Boston plays good defense and he's often just going to have to create in the halfcourt. --Devin Brown's technical was a little bizarre. He tried to help Ray Allen up and got shoved aside by Rondo and was hit with it because of his reaction. Not normal for a mild mannered guy like Devin. --Cavs are in a bit of foul trouble, Drew Gooden has 3. Expect Kevin Garnett to force the issue early in the half.
Postgame -- Cavs 109, Celtics 104, OT Stars LeBron James, 38 points, 13 assists Drew Gooden, 24 points, 13 rebounds Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 15 points, 14 rebounds Ray Allen, 29 points, seven rebounds
--Z, Drew and LeBron: 77 points, 31 rebounds, 18 assists, seven blocks. Garnett, Allen, Pierce: 64 points, 18 rebounds, 15 assists, six blocks. I wrote about this two weeks ago, the production the Cavs are getting out of their frontcourt is off the charts. Who knows if it will last, they are all logging heavy minutes. --The Cavs winning this game was pivotal and not just because it was the Celtics. This game was played at a slower pace and much of the time was a defense-based game. The Cavs have been winning by running recently. They got beat on the backside paying too much attention to the Big 3 at times, but overall they played excellent defense. Their rotations were very strong and Pierce and Garnett didn't have much room to operate. --Gooden's focus tonight was remarkable, he was locked in for much of the game. Beyond hitting all those jumpers, this was the most noteworthy thing of the night. Drew was even doing some trash talking to Garnett and the Celtics bench. --The key play in the game was LeBron missing the jumper at the end of regulation. Now, that may not be a great shot, but he was hitting his jumpers all night and he was talking trash with Pierce the entire second half and he wanted to bury one in his face. Remember these guys have a history. Anyway, missing that shot focused him and he immediately went to the basket to start overtime. It later earned him space to hit a big 3-pointer with 1:50 left that turned the tide. He had 11 points in overtime. --Overall, I thought the Celtics played great defense on the Cavs, who didn't have great spacing and ball movement tonight. Still, they had 24 assists on 38 baskets, which would've been tremendous last season. The offense, indeed, is maturing. --Interesting that Allen, who had 29 points but needed 25 shots to get there while James had 38 points on 25 shots, missed those free throws late in regulation. I felt rookie ref Mark Lindsay blew that call because Allen dribbled the ball off his leg. As Rasheed Wallace would love to say in that spot..."Ball don't lie." --Sasha Pavlovic is showing some proof that he's turning the corner. Not just because his shot is falling now, but because he's got legs after the third quarter. Daniel Gibson was just 3-of-11 tonight and the bench gave just eight points so Sasha's 16 were needed. --Between them Z and Drew now have 17 double-doubles on the season after both got them tonight.
Quotes: LeBron: "We know how to win ballgames, no matter if we are shorthanded or not. No matter what the score is or how much time is on the clock." Gooden: "There was a lot of trash talking out there, but it is fun. I like that type of atmosphere." Doc Rivers: "Give Cleveland all the credit, they played hard the entire game. But we thought we had our chances before overtime."
Yesterday, Anderson Varejao and agent Dan Fegan broke their silence in an interview with ESPN. My reaction was in a column in today's paper.
The two sides have avoided making this a media war for five months so the fact that Varejao side is now talking and so are the Cavs, behind the scenes to the media at least, shows just how far apart they are.
Both sides are doing a bunch of scrapping over the details. I don't not have access to all the information and I certainly have grown tired of the he said/he said stuff. After five months of writing about this I just don't think any of that matters except to the men in the trenches, as I said in the column.
My personal opinon on the matter is the Varejao and Fegan have misjudged the market and are scrambling like mad to get around the restricted free agency rules which have been in place for years. They are trying to put public pressure on the Cavs by angling in the media, first saying they'll take a one-year, $5 million contract, then saying they'd bel willing to go to arbibitration, now saying they demand a sign-and-trade.
That's all sounds so good, but no team in the NBA would give Varejao a one-year deal right now. Varejao would never give up position for a rebound, so why would the Cavs give up their refusal rights to an aribitrator? Nobody in the NBA would. As for a sign-and-trade now, who is fooling whom? The summer is for sign-and-trades, the summer is for doing contracts. You don't think Fegan has been working on sign-and-trades since July? Of course he has and there is no deal to make. There one coming now just like there wasn't then. See, so much of this is common NBA sense, which is why so much of this is nonsense.
By the way, Varejao trying to indict the Cleveland media saying he never asked for a contract averaging $10-$11 million a year is rich. One of the worst kept secrets in the NBA is that Fegan asked for six years and more than $60 million a few days before training camp. Executives all over the league have been taking to each other and to media members about that figure. It's not even inside information anymore, everybody knows it. Maybe that is not what they are asking for now, but they asked for it then.
From the Cavs side, their failure is to not have a backup plan in place. While Varejao was refusing to talk all summer, Danny Ferry should've been making a deal to secure another big man. Now they are paying for the lack of a plan B on the court. Also, Danny obviously miscalulated by going to Brazil unannouced. They didn't help matters, so it was a risk that failed.
The real crazy thing about this is they all this agony is over a non-starter. A key bench player and a key player in the playoffs, but at the end of the day he is a complementary big man who is good at taking charges. He's valuable to the Cavs, they want him back, and all that stuff. They have offered him a pile of money. They have said they will put incentives in there that will pay him millions more if he becomes an All-Star or First Team All-NBA or whatever. They just don't think he's worth more than the $6.4 million they are paying Drew Gooden, a player averaging a double-double, this year.
After that, it's all pretty academic.
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Pacers: Jamaal Tinsley, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster
Officials: Bob Delaney, Monty McCutchen, Olandis Poole
--Jermaine O'Neal was not cleared by team medical staff with a left knee issue and isn't playing. This is a break for the Cavs, but the Pacers are 3-0 without O'Neal this season so Indy certainly can cope. --Based on the mood in the Cavs locker room before the game, I get the impression they are not thrilled they're here on an afternoon back-to-back. There may be some low-energy and interest issues. Of course, this is the easiest game of the next week as two games with Boston, one at Detroit and one at Toronto await. So that has to be in their minds, too. --Granger has been playing great for Indy and has been attacking so expect him to go at James today. And vice versa, of course. --The Pacers under Jim O'Brien like to push the tempo and shoot a bunch from the outside. This is how the Cavs have been playing lately, too. Even if it doesn't suit them and doing on the road in the second game of a back-to-back doesn't seem all that strategic.
Halftime -- Cavs 54, Pacers 46
--The Cavs are having a lot of fun out there and it has picked up their energy. They are talking a lot and laughing a lot. Normally this wouldn't be ideal, but considering they needed something to pick up their mood it has probably been good. While LeBron got to sit for nine minutes he was practically working as a color commentator on the sidelines by joking with and even instructing his teammates. Once when Drew Gooden took a long jumper, LeBron yelled: "He's feeling himself..." then..."Drew, run the offense!" when it missed. All of it can be heard because Conseco Fieldhouse is so quiet today. Like after LeBron made a layup and screamed "I'm a beast" to the Cavs' bench. --Early in the game I thought LeBron might slap Drew when he fumbled away two passes and messed up a few times on defense. But Mike Brown stuck with him (does he have another choice) and Drew ended up having a good half. --Jaamal Tinsley just attacked Daniel Gibson, who sat the last 19 minutes of the half. Boobie couldn't stop him. But once Eric Snow went in there, Tinsley's drives stopped quick. Boobie will be needed in the second half, but this is an example of where Snow is valuable. --The Cavs have been excellent on offense, picking up 12 assists. The 7-of-10 3-pointers has them in the lead including two from Sasha, Devin Brown and Ira Newble. Not something you want to rely on on the road. But the Cavs have eight offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points which is also helping. --Triple double warning...LeBron's got 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Postgame -- Cavs 111, Pacers 106 Stars LeBron James, 30 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals Drew Gooden, 23 points, 12 rebounds Sasha Pavlovic, 22 points, five assists Jamaal Tinsley, 24 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists Marquis Daniels, 25 points
--So LeBron had another triple double, he's great and everyone knows it. The interesting thing about it is watching him get them because the offense is running better than it has in three years. Also the spacing has been strong of late. Everything looks good when guys are hitting 3s, but for the most part the Cavs are getting quality shots with the game on the line and that was usually not the case last season. --Pacers went on a 24-4 run in the second half when the Cavs got lazy. Yes, in the NBA home teams using go on runs when they get down but the Cavs turned the ball over eight times in the third quarter. So that continues to be an issue. However, the Cavs get credit for getting their minds right in the fourth quarter when they had just one turnover and scored 38 points. --Mike Brown said after the game that he thought the Cavs were pretty good in halfcourt defense and I tend to agree. They gave up a lot of points but 24 were fastbreak points from all the turnovers. The Pacers shot 43 percent and 35 percent in the fourth and the Cavs did force a lot of contested shots. --The Boobie Gibson ejection was comical. The foul call was wrong and when McCutchen saw the replay I am sure he knew it was wrong. It fouled Gibson out because he'd committed some poor fouls earlier. It's automatic when you throw something that you get tossed and Boobie tossed the mouthpiece. Eric Snow was trying to argue that the mouthpiece didn't leave the floor and they were pointing at it sitting on the baseline like it was a bloody glove. He'll learn from that one. --Pavlovic was under control today. He plays out of control sometimes, especially when he drives to the basket. He didn't force anything and found a rhythm. We'll see if it continues but this could be a game when he turns the corner after being pretty bad since signing. --The Cavs didn't get a lot of foul calls today because they didn't drive the ball much. They had just 28 points in the paint to the Pacers 42, which is a large reason why the Pacers got 13 more free throws. There were bad calls both ways. --Crazy play with David Harrison getting called for goal-tending when he hung on the rim with 50 seconds to play and Jeff Foster's putback was called off. Cavs came down and hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, which made it a five-point swing. That break went the Cavs way and they took advantage. Not sure why Harrison felt the need to hold onto the rim. --Ilgauskas had eight points and eight rebounds, an average game for him. He is probably going to struggle on back-to-backs because it wears on him so much. --The Cavs going 3-1 this week was important with two games with Boston, one in Detroit and one in Toronto next week. Going 2-2 would be a plus, 1-3 is a reality. But with LeBron playing the way he is right now, anything is possible.
Quotes: LeBron on Boobie's ejection: "His mouthpiece is too big first off and it's red and white. It's easy for the refs to see, if he had a clear one like mine the refs wouldn't have seen it." LeBron on the 3-pointers: "There's no way you can guard our team if we're making shots like that when they double me. We're shooting the ball outstanding." Damon Jones: "I'll be glad to keep taking open shots that LeBron gets me. I love 'em."
Raptors: Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilguaskas
Officials Mark Wunderlich, Kevin Fehr, Scott Wall
--This guy Moon is one of the stories of the year in the NBA so far. He's a 27-year-old rookie that got a training camp invite after an open tryout and then somehow made the team even know the Raptors had 15 guaranteed contracts. Now the former Harlem Globetrotter is in the starting lineup. Parker usually covers LeBron but I suppose it is possible Moon could be on him at times. --TJ Ford is out with an arm stinger, which is lucky for the Cavs because they have problems with his quickness. Calderon, though, is a starter-quality players. --The Raptors play small in general and all their players like to shoot from the outside. The challenge for the Cavs will be to deny dribble penetration as much as possible and scramble back on the weakside to cover those spot up shooters. This is the type of team that has been beating them early in the season. --Look for Ira Newble and Eric Snow to get some extended playing time today. --This is a 1 p.m. game in the middle of a road trip for the Raptors. They all left for Thanksgiving and then all flew to Cleveland separately yesterday. Chances are they will be a little lethgaric, the Cavs can take advantage of this early.
Halftime -- Raptors 56, Cavs 52
--56 points and 54 percent shooting for the Raptors. Not the type of defense that is going to get it done. Period. --The Raptors are a jump shot team and they are hitting a lot of them. At one point the Cavs had 24 points in the paint, the Raps had eight and they were ahead by nine. But the Cavs are forcing to help too much on dribble penetration. It's understandable when it happens with Calderon, but guys like Jason Kapono are getting to the basket. --Because of the way the Raptors play, it is possible there will be wild swings. When they hit a few in a row they get up big but their misses come in bunches too and lead to fastbreak points off long rebounds. The Cavs have 13 fastbreak points in the half. --Chris Bosh scored 16 points in the first quarter with Eric Snow and Ira Newble spending time on him. That should be avoided, of course. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas has five turnovers in the first half, the Raptors have just three as a team. The Cavs' seven turnovers have cost them 12 points. --LeBron is getting zero foul calls and he's getting frustrated. He'll need to continue to put pressure on the officials by driving. But he's done a great job of beating double teams with passing. In fact, all the Cavs have. They have 15 assists on 22 baskets, which is great execution. If they play a little defense in the second half, they'll have an excellent chance to win.
Postgame -- Cavs 111, Raptors 108
Stars: LeBron James, 37 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists Chris Bosh, 41 points Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 16 points, 15 rebounds
--First off, Bosh was great and LeBron was again unstoppable. Bosh had 17 points in the fourth and LeBron had 14 including a crazy fallaway jumper with 16 seconds left that put the Cavs up 3 and two free throws with 2.5 seconds left. --This is not the way the Cavs want to win games. Bosh is one thing, he's hard to guard. The last two games have shown how valuable Anderson Varejao is because the Cavs have all sorts of trouble with active power forwards. Calderon is a handful, too, but he cannot be permitted to just drive into the middle of the floor. --Plus the Cavs put up 30 3-pointers. This is not the way for them to win. It was fun for the fans to watch them make 13, in fact this was a very enjoyable game to attend at the Q, I will bet most people left feeling they got their money's worth. But that's not the Cavs' game. They won this one and as they are searching right now, they will take them however they can get it. --Classic moment in the second half when the Cavs mascot had a skit using a bunch of four-foot high inflatable dinosaurs to mock the Raptors. LeBron James Jr. apparently was taken by them because he wanted one. So LeBron's mom, Gloria, walked into the back and got one and brought it out to him, carrying it down the whole court. He sat it in front of him for the rest of the game. --So LeBron is averaging 39 points, 10 rebounds and 9.4 assists over the last five games. Last guy to do that over a five-game span was Oscar Robertson in 1960. Because the Cavs are .500, LeBron isn't getting Player of the Week Awards, etc., but this is the best November he's ever had. The ratings are down and most of the talk shows I hear are talking Browns and Buckeyes, which is fine at this time of the year, but I am getting the feeling some people are missing this guy playing at this level. --LeBron did not come out in the second half and Gibson played 43 minutes so we'll see how it affects them today at Indiana. By the way, this is the fourth straight back-to-back when the Cavs have played a team who had the day off before. All the Cavs back-to-backs so far have had the second game on the road.
LeBron: "It's not as easy as it may look. I'm just getting into my comfort zone. I just tried to do whatever it took for us to win." Mike Brown: "He gets a triple-double and it seems effortless, he comes up with those numbers all the time. You try not to take it for granted, but he's so talented that sometimes you do."
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilguaskas Wolves: Marko Jaric, Rashad McCants, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, Michael Doleac
Officials: Jack Nies, Courtney Kirkland, Eli Roe
--Randy Wittman changed his starting lineup for the Cavs, putting Gomes in ahead of rookie Corey Brewer and Doleac in instead of Antoine Walker. He doesn't want the rookie, who is having defensive issues against bigger players, against LeBron. Doleac is in there to deal with Z. --Jefferson could really give the Cavs problems tonight. He's a really good back to the basket scorer and he racks up fouls. Dwayne Jones is going to have to give the team something and I don't mean five fouls in four minutes. --The Wolves are not a good team and a poor defensive team. The Cavs need to apply pressure with drives and moving offense and they will get all the points the need. Bigger issue is defense, especially keeping Jefferson under control and not losing track of Walker, who can kill you if he's left open from the outside.
Halftime -- Cavs 46, Bucks 42
--Cavs started playing much better defense in the second quarter when Eric Snow came into the game. Not to say he made the difference, but he was +7 in his seven minutes on the floor. After the Wolves shot 57 percent in the first quarter, they shot 6-of-23 in the second quarter as the Cavs really contested shots and were pretty good in their rotations. --The downfall for the Cavs has been rebounding. The Wolves are the second best rebounding team in the league -- CLARIFICATION: They give up the second fewest total rebounds -- and they have five more rebounds and four more offensive rebounds. Their 10 second-chance points have helped them stay in the game despite not shooting well of late. --LeBron could get 50 tonight if he stays hot from outside. The officials are giving him calls and the matchups all favor him. --Before the game, I asked LeBron about his free-throw shooting because he'd hit 31-of-37. I told him I wasn't trying to jinx him but after he started 2-of-5 he stared over at me on press row. Oh well. He's got 23 points, it's not like he's in the tank or anything. However the Cavs are 8-of-15 at the line. --Dwayne Jones got five rebounds in 15 minutes and played pretty good defense. He was a part of the second quarter turnaround, too. --Al Jefferson has great post moves and is really developing into a star. He's got 18 points and I'm not sure how the Cavs can guard him without bringing double teams, which they may want to consider. --Look for the Cavs to get Daniel Gibson in the game more in the second half and take advantage of the mismatches with Ilgauskas. Big Z has just three shots and for a time he was being guarded by rookie Chris Richard.
Postgame --Cavs 97, Wolves 86
Stars: LeBron James, 45 points, 6-of-10 on 3-pointers, eight rebounds Al Jefferson, 30 points, eight rebounds Drew Gooden, 17 points, nine rebounds
--In case no one is paying attention -- and I'm getting the impression much of the country isn't at the moment --LeBron is playing some of the best basketball of his career. He was on cruise control tonight and he still put up 45. Obviously when he's making his outside shots it's over, it always has been. But he would've had 35 tonight even if he wasn't drilling his 3s. He mixed up his drives and his jumpers very well, which made him hard for the Wolves to guard. He had 45 points on 26 shots, that's remarkable. Four straight games of 34 or more points and he's leading the NBA in scoring at 30 points a game. --Al Jefferson is going to be a stud. Gee am I glad I voted him most improved player last year. His post moves are fantastic. --Antonie Walker was hoisting threes, Gerald Green was having a career game in a loss and Jefferson will killing in the post. Yet the Cavs still won. I had to pinch myself, I thought I was in Boston. --Cavs played really good defense in the second and third quarters. First and fourth...not so much. Baby steps on that end. But, along with LeBron, that defense is why they won. Wolves started 12-of-20 and then went 13-of-39 largely because the Cavs were forcing contested jumpers. 86 points, that is in the Cavs' zone. --Cavs turned around the rebounding in the second half, won the battle 42-37 and won the second-chance points battle 17-12. Again, this is a mark of them playing their style of game. Plus all the long rebounds off those contested jumpers helped them rack up 15 fastbreak points. --If Dwayne Jones played half as well as his did tonight -- 10 rebounds, four points in 24 minutes -- he'd really help the Cavs. I am not yet convinced. --Daniel Gibson has 14 assists in the three games at PG since Larry Hughes went down. That's got to be a career high in a three-game stretch. He's working and he's improving at point guard. --I've said this before and I'll say it again, they play they have the best music selection in the NBA at the Target Center. The topoff was playing Purple Rain at the end of the game.
Quotes Mike Brown: "LeBron's an amazing talent, I don't know how he keeps doing what he does. I'm watching him and I get exhausted." LeBron: "We call these trap games. When you come into an environment and think just because the team hasn't played well and young that you can win. But did a great job of not falling into the trap." Devin Brown: "LeBron is something special when he gets goin' like that...you just sit back."
Happy Thanksgiving all you loyal blog readers. Be thinking of me when you sleep in tomorrow and are ready to eat as I wake up at 5 a.m. to get a flight and pray the weather in Chicago holds.
Bucks: Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Desmond Mason, Yi Jianlian, Andrew Bogut Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Jim Clark, Bennie Adams, Tommy Nunez
--The Cavs only reserve big man right now is Dwayne Jones with Cedric Simmons out with another left ankly injury. The Bucks have a good big man rotation with energy man Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Villaneuva coming off the bench. Keep an eye on that. --Desmond Mason has developed a bit of a rep as one of the guys in the league who does a good job on LeBron on defense. Let's see how he handles him tonight when he's hot and rested. --The Bucks have not been scoring very well in the early season and the Cavs spent their three off days working on defense. Of course, Williams will be everything Gibson can handle and Redd can go for 40 if he's hot from the outside. --Eric Snow is back and available, but he's probably not in the rotation. That is unless Charlie Bell, Redd or Williams gets going, then watch how fast Mike Brown tries his defensive stopper. --Drew Gooden has always seemed to play well against the Bucks. Now he's got a new opposite number in Yi Jianlian. Drew is stronger than Yi, we'll see if he can take advantage.
Halftime -- Cavs 53, Bucks 49 --Cavs had a 14-point lead and then got lazy and it showed as they turned the ball over seven times in the second quarter which led to -- prepare -- 14 points. Also, Cavs are being beat on second chance points. Cavs are effort challenged at the moment. --Royal "with Cheese" Ivey has 11 points off the bench. Enough said. --LeBron can get to the basket whenever he wants, we'll see how much he goes. The Bucks have been bringing doubles and then backing off and he's attacked when they've backed off. We'll see if Milwaukee sticks to that plan. --Early in the game the Cavs were posting up a bunch and then they went away from it. The Bucks outscored them in the paint and at the line in the first half. Cavs can't win that way. --I thought Drew Gooden's attempt at being a point guard on that one possession worked out just fine. --Ira Newble has his moments out there, but he sure seems to get beat on a lot of rebounds, too.
Postgame -- Bucks 111, Cavs 107
Michael Redd, 34 points, 20-of-25 free throws, seven assists LeBron, 24 points, seven assists, seven rebounds Mo Williams, 20 points, nine assists Daniel Gibson, 26 points, 5-of-8 on 3s
--Bucks played very well, they must be given credit first off. They worked their game plan well and took advantage of the way the officials were calling the game by using drives to get fouls and free points. --Now that's out of the way, the Cavs' defense is just flat out not getting it done. There is no reason to talk about the offense right now. It's doing its job and then some. Coming into this game, the Bucks were averaging 89 points and shooting 41 percent from the field on the road. Tonight they get 111 and shot 48 percent. And that was after a 5-of-17 start. --Redd was great in the third quarter but he made contested shots. That spurt did not decide the game. It was Redd driving and the Cavs reaching in and being slow to rotate that made a difference. Mo Williams drove through the lane a couple of times and went around three guys. --In their six losses the Cavs are giving up 108 points and 48 percent shooting. That is why they are 5-6. Not because of injuries or holdouts. This team needs to play defense to win, even more so than getting great performances from LeBron, which he had tonight. --Royal Ivey had 10 points this season until tonight, when he had 15. --Bucks had more rebounds, scored 15 more points off turnovers, had more fastbreak points, more second chance points and a load more bench points. Amazing the Cavs just lost by four. --Speaking of injuries, Donyell Marshall is out another eight weeks. The team announced it after the game, which is quite shady to say the least. And they announced it quite poorly. Here is the press release, word for word:
"Cavaliers forward Donyell Marshall today completed a period of additional examination and evaluation for his sprained right wrist. The initial treatment of rest and immobilization for 7-10 days was step one and has been completed. After additional opinions and evaluations were gained, step two started today with a cortisone shot to the impacted area of his wrist. A period of further immobilization, and then rehab to promote healing and resolution of his symptoms, will now commence. It is estimated that the complete treatment and rehab process will take 6-8 weeks starting today. Donyell will be listed as Out during that time period and his status will be updated as appropriate."
Talk about burying the lead. This is semi-NBA standard, I remember the release from the Suns when Amare Stoudemire had knee surgery and the word "microfracture" was in the last paragraph. I will now commence to make a comment about the promotion of healing and resolution of symptoms. The Cavs are going to need another big man and sooner rather than later. Ira Newble played 26 minutes and had just two rebounds. He's fighting but he can't do it night in and night out against so many bigger bodies.
Mike Brown: "107 points and shooting 47 percent from the field should be good enough for us to win any basketball game we play. We've got to figure out what our identity is." LeBron: "We know what we need to do defensively, we have to continue to get better and figure some things out."
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Mike Callahan, Pat Fraher, Ed Malloy...Pay no attention to the fact that Callahan and Malloy went to the same high school as Tim Donaghy.
--Sasha will start in place of Larry Hughes, out for a month with a bruised leg. Same lineup started in Utah last week. --The Cavs have problems defending the Boozer/Williams pick-and-roll, let's see how they handle it tonight. Williams overall didn't play great last week, except for that one drive. --Brewer, who is my early candidate for most improved player, sneaked up on the Cavs last time, especially with his ball hawking after rebounds and on outlet passes. I suspect they will pay a little more attention. In general, the Jazz like to try to pick the pocket of rebounds --Paul Millsap had a career day last time against the Cavs, mostly because he worked harder. We'll see how they deal with him tonight. --Kirilenko can bother LeBron with his height both on jumpers and get blocks on weak drives. But if LeBron goes right at him, he has no chance whatsoever. We'll see who's will wins, especially early.
Halftime -- Jazz 43, Cavs 39 --Cavs are playing some pretty good defense tonight, especially on the pick-and-roll. They've been burned because they are devoting three players to it, but overall it has been under control. --The Jazz are the best offensive team in the NBA, averaging 109 points a game but are on pace for just 86. Expect them to pick it up some, therefore so must the Cavs on offense. They have done a great job scoring in the paint -- 26 points -- but their jump shooting has been quite poor. --Williams is again not playing well, he's just 2-of-9. Still, lookout. --Daniel Gibson is trying to prove he can get his own shot tonight, trying to dribble drive and run off screens. So far he's 1-of-6. --Ira Newble did a respectable job working on Millsap, who still got five rebounds in 8:32. --LeBron needs to became way more active for the Cavs to have a chance. Sometimes he gets the ball in the post and just waits for the Jazz to bring a double team and then looks to pass. He's not yet in attack mode. --The Jazz started the game 3-of-16 shooting and were only down three points. The Cavs may live to regret that. --Oh, no good Boozer signs that I saw. And Brian you may be right, Cavs bench has two points in the first half.
Postgame -- Cavs 99, Jazz 94
Stars: LeBron James, 40 points LeBron James, 10 rebounds LeBron James, nine assists LeBron James, three blocks Carlos Boozer, 26 points, 11 rebounds Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 17 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks
--Guess LeBron did get active in the second half, if you think 34 points is a good half. --Let's count the big plays LeBron made in the final eight minutes. He makes what could be an all-time highlight in his career by jumping out of bounds and batting the ball to Damon Jones for a 3-pointer. He hits a 26-foot 3-pointer on the Cavs' fourth shot in one posession. He gets a 3-point play on a dunk in transition. He hits Ilgauskas for a jumper to give the Cavs the lead with 40 seconds left. He hits two free throws with 18 seconds left. He gets the block on Carlos Boozer (that's what the stat guys called it, not a steal). He hits two free throws with 3.8 seconds left. He gets the game-winning rebound. He hits two more free throws just for the hell of it. --As an aside, the Cavs are 38-of-43 at the line the last two games. --This was the best defense the Cavs have played to date. They did an excellent job helping and dealing with the pick-and-roll. When they threw zone at Utah in the third quarter they didn't know what to do and started missing long jumpers and turning it over, which let the Cavs pile up a bunch of fastbreak points. --Ilgauskas is playing like an All-Star. And since some people seem to think this is so important, he had three assists tonight. --It seemed like Deron Williams was too obsessed with trying to take Gibson 1-on-1 and took a lot of off balance or bad shots. He went 4-of-17. Boobie seemed like he was trying to create his own shot too much and went 1-of-9. Both players were out of their comfort zone. --Boozer was excellent in the fourth quarter but he didn't get many easy looks tonight like he did last week in Utah. By the way, Boozer badly wanted a foul on LeBron when he stripped him late even though it looked clean on the replays. Here is another reminder that calls usually even out. --Ira Newble has earned the right to play and he battled in there. With LeBron, Damon Jones, Dwayne Jones and Devin Brown he was part of an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter. He deserves minutes every night right now. However, he's going to get bulled by the bigger guys he is defending and giving my so many minutes late in the game might not be a great idea. --The Cavs are 5-5 yet have not led a single game going into the fourth quarter yet. They have some issues to be sure, but looking at these 10 games before this all started I did not rule out 3-7.
Quotes Mike Brown: "Hopefully sooner or later, people will start talking about LeBron as a great defender." LeBron: "Once I get going it is hard to stop me. I think my teammates fed off me being aggressive." Jerry Sloan: "It looked like we were afraid to get over in front of (James). He had a huge second half and that was the ball game." Boozer: "They have great fans and they're very animated trying to distract me a little bit. But it's all part of sports, it's all fun and games."
The Cavaliers will make an annoucement today that Larry Hughes is expected to miss about a month with a bone bruise in his left leg. It stems from the collision he had with Leandro Barbosa on Nov. 3. He missed three games after it but when he came back he was limping and obviously not playing well. He went just 2-of-12 against the Orlando Magic Wednesday and left the game limping. In Los Angeles in his first game back, he sat out the fourth quarter limping.
This is part of the Larry Hughes experience. He is a fragile for a pro basketball player. He has always played hard but his body just can't handle the banging like others. Last year the ankle injury was a freak accident. The finger injury happened during play but he got unlikely when the first surgery ended up failing. So he's been fragile and unlucky.
It is hard to predict how this will affect the Cavs. They had not been getting much production out of Hughes and there was a logjam at guard. Sasha Pavlovic will likely be the starter again and Devin Brown and Damon Jones will keeping getting big minutes. Still, they again have three rotation players from last season out with injury with Eric Snow and Donyell Marshall.
Magic: Jameer Nelson, Keith Bogans, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials: Tom Washington, Leon Wood, Leroy Richardson
--Sasha Pavlovic is back from back spasms. --Not to say the Cavs don't know they are home yet, but they are wearing their road uniforms tonight and nobody seems to know why. --Just to clear this up, LeBron before the game on Stephon Marbury: "I couldn't have a guy like that on my team." Somehow, I don't think he's alone in that thinking. --The Cavs of course have nobody to defend Dwight Howard, but look for Dwayne Jones to go out there and foul him a bunch tonight. Then again, the Magic have no one to defend LeBron. --Big matchup will be how the Cavs handle Rashard Lewis, who is playing power forward right now for Orlando. We'll see how Gooden handles him, but he plays on the perimeter a lot so it wouldn't be shocking to me to see Ira Newble out there on him for stretches. The resurgent Ira Newble, that is.
Halftime -- Cavs 56, Magic 55 --This has been a well played and enjoyable game. Surprising considering one time is coming off a back-to-back and the other is just in from the coast. --It seems to me that the Magic could score at will on the Cavs if they wanted to the way the home team is playing defense tonight. They have 16 assists on 22 baskets and Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo have no problem getting into the lane. Folks, Bobbie Gibson is just not a good defender right now. Plus Dwight Howard is on pace for an eight-dunk night. However, they insist on shooting all those 3s. They are 4-of-14 on 3s, yet have still shot 52 percent. What does that tell you? If the Cavs don't pick up the defense, it will be a loss. --The Cavs drive-and-kick offense has been excellent tonight, though. They have 13 assists on 21 baskets. LeBron has been great with 14 points and 7 assists. --Guess I was wrong about Newble playing. --Four of the Cavs starters have at least 10 points...Larry Hughes is 0-of-5. --Gibson has 13 points on 4 official shots. The guy is amazing in that regard.
Postgame -- Magic 117, Cavs 116 OT Stars LeBron James, 39 points, 13 rebounds, 14 assists, two blocks Dwight Howard, 35 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks Jameer Nelson, 21 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds
--According to my view and the play-by-play, the Magic had a foul to give in the final seconds. They committed just one foul in the final two minutes, but it was an offensive foul with 1:18 left. That's not a team foul. So had Leon Wood called a slap and not a jump, there would've been no free throws. At least from what I can tell. Maybe I'm wrong. Considering it is LeBron James, he probably should get that call. I don't think the officials wanted to call anything, but they had to. --Last week they were fortunate on a foul with Kevin Martin, tonight they didn't get the call. That's the way it works in the NBA. --Some guy threw something at the officials as they were leaving the floor. A few moments later there was a guy in handcuffs -- still holding two LeBron bobbleheads, which was pretty impressive -- not a great scene. --Ultimately, if you are the Cavs you cannot give up 108 points in regulation and win. Now, the Magic have a great offensive style. Howard is unguardable, Nelson and Arroyo are too quick for any of the Cavs guards, and when the Cavs help inside on drives or Howard the Magic have 3-point shooters everywhere. They have a chance to be a great team. 31 assists in 40 baskets for Orlando. Part of it is fantastic offensive basketball. But the Cavs are ranked 25th in field goal defense in the NBA, last year they were in the top seven or eight all year. That is where they must improve. --Great play call to get Dwight Howard the ball on Orlando's last possession. Plus he made the free throws. A 62 percent free-throw shooter, he goes 13-of-16 on the night. But he did miss one late in regulation that helped get the Cavs to overtime. --LeBron was off the charts again tonight. Get this, the last time someone had 39 points, 13 points and 14 assists in a game was in 1968 when Wilt Chamberlain did it. Of course, Wilt had 53 points, 32 boards and 14 assists, but still, that's saying something. LeBron is a superstud and he's better than ever right now. Yet it should be alarming that LeBron keeps putting up triple doubles and the Cavs are losing. Even with Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas playing well. That is an issue and it points to the defense, again. --Larry Hughes is 17-of-58 shooting on the season with 14 assists and 10 turnover. The complaints about the structure of the offense aside, those raw numbers say all you need to hear. Obviously, he's simply not getting it done right now. --Mike Brown made a strange decision late in regulation when he subbed Devin Brown for Sasha Pavlovic for an offensive possession. Devin committed a terrible turnover and it led to an easy Orlando basket. Of course Sasha airballed a massive 3-pointer a few moments later, the second airball 3 he's put up in a tight spot over the last week. Sasha is 14-of-50 shooting on the season, by the way. --The Cavs were 19-of-22 at the foul line. Those were some pretty impressive free throws LeBron made to force overtime. --Overall, it was an exciting and well played game. The Cavs have to like how well they are executing on offense and how well they are coming from behind in the fourth quarters, but at the end of the day they are not playing complete ballgames. --Ilgauskas suffered a bruised shin, Hughes hurt his left leg again, and Damon Jones is having back problems. Injury bug is sticking around.
Quotes: Mike Brown: "You hope LeBron James driving to the hole may get something, but I wasn't out there and I didn't have a whistle in my mouth. LeBron did the right thing, he drove the basketball to get a layup for trying to get fouled, the guy is 6-8 and 240 pounds with the speed and athleticism that he has it is almost impossible to stop him without fouling him or without him getting a shot off. Somehow, someway he didn't." LeBron: "I got into the lane, he got some of the ball but he got some of my arm also. Once I felt a little contact, I'm trying to get the shot up. But it didn't go our way. I am not going to harp on it." Stan Van Gundy: "Which call didn't he get? I didn't see too many. You've got to put together the film of calls LeBron doesn't get for me."
By the time I got home from Denver this afternoon, my e-mail inbox already had several queries about Stephon Marbury with the news of his sudden and bizzare departure from the New York Knicks. Then things kicked up a notch when one of my close friends in the business, ESPN's Chris Sheridan, wrote a column where he listed the Cavs as Marbury's potential No. 1 trade destination as part of a sign-and-trade package for Anderson Varejao. Thanks for the extra work, Chris.
So let's deal with it. Based on my conversations with Cavs people now and over the years, I would doubt they would look to bring Marbury in via trade or even after a buyout. His history of dragging teams down is well documented as the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, and Phoenix Suns all got much better quickly. He's played on losing teams his whole career, which can't be a coincidence. That's a well-worn tale. He has had problems co-existing with other stars in the past.
A bigger issue whenever considering Marbury, though, is that he has an ongoing and mostly one-sided fued with LeBron James. I broke it all down in this blog post from the summer. Right there should be the end of the conversation. But to go further, Marbury is not the type of character player the Cavs front office values and it starts with the news about him sleeping with a Knick intern that was made public over the summer.
All the fans sending me e-mails and Sheridan's story about a trade for Marbury giving the Cavs a load of cap room in 2009 do have merit. Here's what you need to understand as a side point here. The Cavs don't want cap room. They want expiring contracts that they can trade so they can target a player or two, not bid and overpay for whatever free agent is available. This is how most major transactions are getting done in the NBA these days. So Marbury would actually have value to the Cavs before the summer of 2009, he'd have value a massive expiring deal next year. It would also allow them to move some unwanted contracts now instead of later. Everybody knows the Knicks love bad contracts.
For that reason, I will label a Marbury move has "highly unlikely" but not "impossible." It's one of those never say never situations. But don't spend a great deal of time thinking about it.
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Nuggets: Allen Iverson, Yakhouba Diaware, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby
--Sasha Pavlovic is out with back spasms, although he is still active. --This is maybe the toughest back-to-back the Cavs have this season, considering it is the fourth game in five nights, the last game on a six-game trip and in Denver. However, the Nuggets are coming off a four-game road trip, which has certain affects. --Rebounding will be a big factor in the game. The Nuggets like to run and push it after defensive rebounds. The Cavs are not great at transition defense and tend to hoist a lot of jumpers that lead to long rebounds. It may be hard to control. Same goes for turnovers, which the Cavs give away from time to time. --The Nuggets will try a bunch different guys on LeBron, the idea is to keep him away from the basket. --Not sure how Daniel Gibson covers A.I.
Larry Hughes ejection --Maybe those of you watching on television have some information I am not aware of, but it appeared that Larry had been complaining two or three straight trips down the floor about a non-foul call on a jump shot. Whatever he said to Bill Spooner must have been magic, because he ejected him with anger, punching the air as he tossed him. I couldn't read his lips on the replay but I'm sure he'll be asked after the game.
It is never good to get thrown out, but with Sasha Pavlovic already out and the Cavs a little gassed from last night it might come back and haunt them. Look for Ira Newble to get some extra minutes now.
Halftime -- Nuggets 58, Cavs 43 --This one is going about like you'd expect considering the circumstances. The Nuggets are quicker and more focused than the Cavs and they are pushing them around. They are beating them back and getting free and easy points. This is what the Nuggets do and often this is what the Cavs allow them to do. They've won six of the last eight. --The Cavs are back to playing lazy and slow offense, they are shooting just 35 percent because they are standing and dribbling and playing 1-on-1 basketball a great deal. --LeBron is playing hard and the Nuggets can't defend him. Doesn't look like it will be enough. --Save the e-mails on the free throw shooting and all the tips for LeBron. He will not change until he decides he wants to change. It is not good, everybody knows it. LeBron has drawn nine fouls but he's not taking advantage. --Despite that, the big difference in the game is really the spurt at the start of the second quarter when the Cavs committed five turnovers and it fueled the Nuggets' big run. --Iverson is just too quick for anyone the Cavs can put on him, Gibson is getting frustrated. --The Nuggets have 30 points in the paint, which is terrible for the Cavs defense. That is an out of control number. --Folks, I am not kidding, Coolio is singing "1, 2, 3, 4" live here right now. My head is bouncing from memories of my college days. Oh, now he's doing "Fantastic Voyage." --The Nuggets will shoot the opposition back into games, but it will take some effort I don't see in the Cavs tonight. This has the potential for a mega blowout.
Postgame -- Nuggets 122, Cavs 100 Stars Allen Iverson, 37 points, eight assists...and lots of lessons given to Daniel Gibson Carmelo Anthony, 22 points, nine rebounds...and gamesmanship, see below. LeBron James, 27 points *I refuse to acknowledge garbage time submissions
--Larry Hughes said he was complaining because Carmelo Anthony was hitting him on the arm whenever he took a jump shot and the referees were not responding to his pleas to get a call. Here's what he said: "I said what I had to say and it's over with. I got hit four straight times and I asked him to call a foul. Melo kept smacking my arm. He was trying to get away with it, on the first shot he fell and then smacked me on the leg and that started it off. It's a good tactic if you can get away with it. You have to be allowed to say something about it. Any time you get ejected it's over the top. You say what you have to say. I am not going to drag it on, I want to move on." --Cavs played like they were ready to go home and so now they are. They didn't try very hard on either end, though some disagree with that (see farther below). Not even for pride's sake, considering the Nuggets are 7-2 against them in the LeBron era. --Not sure how much analysis can be done on this one. It was the most points the Cavs have given up in the Mike Brown era in regulation, that tells you something about the defensive effort. In general, the Cavs did not play very good defense on this trip. They did so in spurts and it got them some wins, but they were nowhere near the level they were at a year ago. --Nuggets numbers: 50 points in the paint, 21 fastbreak points, 55 percent shooting. --Considering the schedule, 4-4 is a fair start. In the George Karl standings (road wins minus home losses) the Cavs are at +2 right now. Believe it or not, that's the same as Boston though it is early. --Wednesday is a tough game. Cavs are coming home from the trip and Orlando is 4-0 on the road. That will be a fair test to see where the Cavs are at.
Quotes Mike Brown: "We got our behinds beat from me on down." LeBron James: "I'm not too disappointed. We didn't execute offensively or defensively. I think we tried to do some things right. I'm not disappointed in our effort, not today. We played well out here and now we can go home."
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Clippers: Sam Cassell, Quinton Ross, Corey Maggette, Tim Thomas, Chris Kaman
--Hughes is back after missing three games, no minute restrictions. Devin Brown was out of the rotation before Larry got hurt. It will be interesting to see who loses minutes tonight. Damon Jones may be the guy, but he's played steady since the preseason. --Cuttino Mobley is out with a leg injury for the Clippers. So is Elton Brand, who has a torn Achilles --Kaman is third in the NBA in rebounds, Ilgauskas is fourth. Both are also good offensive rebounders. Keep an eye on that battled tonight, Kaman has been playing great and one of the main reasons the Clippers are 4-1. --Ruben Patterson has been effective in guarding LeBron for periods in the past and the Cavs have had trouble guarding him when he plays power forward. He could be an X factor. --Clippers are a good 3-point shooting team, if the Cavs are late in their rotations, they will pay.
Halftime -- Cavs 50, Clippers 44 --The Clippers are having a classic coming home game, they look low on energy and sloppy. It happens coming off long road trips and if you don't believe me wait until you see the Cavs Wednesday. The Cavs can win this game if they want it, but I'm not sure yet. This second half in a way may define whether this is a successful trip or not. --The Cavs offense has been much better tonight than in Sac. They've got 28 points in the paint and 15 free throws, they are driving it and pushing it. Mike Brown used his practice time here well. --LeBron is really working on Quinton Ross, who is giving up 60, yes 60, pounds to him. If he keeps posting him up he will continue to have success. LeBron has four steals in the first half, by the way. --Larry Hughes has come back and played well, making 4-of-5 shoots. Devin Brown has also done well of the bench, right not Sasha is the odd man out. --Maggette is having his way with 18 points, the Cavs may need to alter their defense on him a bit. He's getting open lanes and getting to the line. He also has six boards. --Ilgauskas has just two rebounds in the first half, but Gooden has 12. Could easily reverse in the second half.
Postgame -- Cavs 103, Clippers 95
Stars LeBron James, 22 points, eight assists and six picks...He was in complete control in the fourth Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 25 points...In a great rhythm Drew Gooden, 18 points, 17 boards...who'd have thought Ira Newble would prevent him from going 20/20 Sam Cassell, 29 points on 19 shots...he's still got it
--There is one game left, but the Cavs have to consider this road trip a success. The Clippers went after it in the second half and the Cavs handled it. They played in the fourth quarter like they were 100 percent sure they were going to win. If the ending had gone different in Utah this thing may really have been special. --LeBron had five assists (one for a 3) and two baskets in the fourth quarter, meaning he was responsible for 15 points. Yet the way he did it was more impressive than if he'd scored them all by himself. The Cavs actually ran offense instead of standing around in the fourth quarter and the Clippers couldn't cover it. --The Cavs had 54 points in the paint tonight, a season-high. They also shot a season-best 51 percent. These numbers are related. --Ilgauskas' rebound streak ended tonight, but he really played his best offensive game of the season with 13 points in the fourth quarter. Chris Kaman ate him up in the third and he responded by outplaying him at both ends down the stretch. --The Cavs' opponents are shooting 36 percent in the fourth quarter in their wins. Tonight the Clippers shot 35. --Devin Brown and Damon Jones combined for 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Newble had eight rebounds in 15 minutes after he had seven in Phoenix. How long can the bench keep this up? Larry Hughes, Daniel Gibson, and Drew Gooden did even play in the fourth, and it wasn't their fault. --The Cavs were 4-0 in Cali last year and they're 3-0 this year. --Oh, um, the Cavs were 16-of-27 at the foul line and 2-6 in the last minute. --Hughes look pretty good in his return with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. But he was limping pretty bad in the second half. Sasha Pavlovic also had back spasms and Brown looked like he tweaked a leg muscle late in the game. Come back tomorrow for the injury report. --When I looked at the Cavs schedule at the start of training camp, I said the best-case scenario is them starting 4-4. After the preseason, my expectations were lowered. They have continued to get better every game, shown more confidence, and the offense has started to come around even with all sorts of injuries and a constantly changing big-man rotation. --O.J. Mayo was hanging out in the hallway outside the Cavs locker room after the game. He got a steady stream of hellos from players, agent-types, hangers on, and even a handshake from Mike Brown. Meanwhile, nobody seemed to pay any attention to Penny Marshall.
Quotes Mike Brown: "When our defense shows up, we give ourselves a pretty good chance to win and it showed up in the fourth. LeBron: "This is the best offensively that we have played in three years. The way we are getting the ball upcourt, sharing the ball, and getting into our rhythm, this is the best we've played this season. Mike Dunleavy: "Ilgauskas made some big shots. They set him up with LeBron penetration and we had to help."
Pregame Starting lineups:
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Kings: Francisco Garcia, Kevin Martin, Brad Miller, John Salmons, Mikki Moore
Refs Mike Callahan, Tony Brothers, Brian Forte. Forte is a fresh-faced rookie, never seen him before.
--Larry Hughes is sitting out his third straight game with his bruised knee. --Sad to see a non-sellout and little energy in this building. When it is filled and hoping like it has been for years, is it one of the best in league. Now, it just seems old. --You know all that dust LeBron throws up has to come down and it just did all over me and my keyboard. --The Kings are hurt (Mike Bibby) and suspended (Ron Artest). Kevin Martin and John Salmons will shoot a bunch, if the Cavs play good defense they have an excellent chance of winning.
Halftime -- Kings 48, Cavs 48
--The Cavs are having energy issues, which is one of reasons this is a trap game. Always happens in the middle of a trip. Both teams are shooting poorly, one of them figures to heat up in the second half. --LeBron is not showing much aggression on offense and the Cavs are generally being a little lazy at that end. They are still scoring but not being efficient. They have only 10 points in the paint yet have 14 3-point attempts, that's a direct sign lazy offense. --Kevin Martin is shooting anytime he gets more than a foot of space, which he seems to be allowed quite a bit. He'll get 35 if the Cavs don't start paying more attention, he's very talented. --Devin Brown played great minutes in the first half. He had 11 points, but he was very active at both ends. He was playing with more energy than any Cav on the court. Damon Jones has also done pretty well off the bench. --Daniel Gibson is starting to have chronic foul problems. He does not have great lateral quickness and it is showing as he tries to guard quicker opponents. He's going to need to play a little smarter or it is going to keep happening because he often gets out of position. --The Kings are 14-of-14 at the foul line. Wednesday the Jazz made their first 17 tries at the line. The Cavs have missed six of them. --Cavs.com's Joe Gabriele: "Brad Miller has a Johnnycakes mustache." If you are a Sopranos fan, you get it. --Cedric Simmons got his first action, nine minutes worth. Didn't look good but not too bad either. He's playing tenative, which is to be expected.
Postgame -- Cavs 93, Kings 91
Stars: LeBron James, 26 points...the last seven were huge. Devin Brown, 20 points, 11 rebounds...My guess is Larry Hughes will play the next game. Kevin Martin, 32 points...Seven baskets, 32 points. That's free-throw shooting, Tex.
--The NBA season is a grand balance. The Cavs lost one they could've won in Utah and won one tonight they probably should've lost. --LeBron did not do anything special until the game's final two minutes. Then he made like four plays in a row in a little over a minute and the Cavs won. That 3-point play that pretty much won the game looked like what he did to the Pistons last season. In case you didn't think he had low energy, he didn't get his first rebound until there was nine minutes left in the game. --Still not exactly sure how Damon Jones missed that layup with 12 seconds left, but I'll bet he's glad no one will remember it. --Guess Kevin Martin isn't yet a star because the refs swallowed their whistles when Drew Gooden obviously fouled him with about seven seconds to go. The Kings have a serious case to complain about there. But you all know my philosophy, breaks and calls even out and officials very rarely decide games. --Devin Brown was at his best tonight. He may not play a better game this season. He had 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, which was key of course. But deeper, he played four different positions including point guard and power forward for a stretch. Also, he threw down that dunk in transition. That right there was a sign that's he's back in shape after coming to training camp about 10-15 pounds heavy. --Expect the Cavs to see loads of zone in the near future once teams break down this game film. The Jazz messed them up a little with it Wednesday and the Kings played it all night tonight. All the Cavs did was toss up 3-pointers. They were 7-of-25, which is why they shot 38 percent, which is why they should've lost. Mike Brown said he liked the ball movement, but there certainly wasn't a whole lot of driving and kicking. By the way, in their first four games the Kings had given up an average of 105 points and 51 percent shooting. --Forget about the Kings trading Mike Bibby and not getting a point guard in return. Umm, Sac had seven assists tonight. Their offense was mostly just guys dribbling toward the rim and getting fouled (maybe the Cavs could watch). Which they were very good at to say the least, going 33-of-35 at the line. Martin was 17-of-18, so you figure he would've tied the game if the foul had been called on Gooden. But then probably LeBron would've taken the last shot on a iso play, driven and gotten a return foul from the refs. Then it would've gotten interesting, eh? --Where did the Cavs actually win it? Look at Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Cavs had 18 offensive rebounds, Z had 8, and they won the second-chance points 16-2. That and LeBron James carrying at the end, normal Cavs script. By the way, Z had 15 boards which for him is just average these days.
Quotes: LeBron James: "I had to seize the moment...I saw it open up a bit in the fourth and I just started feeling good." Devin Brown: "I surprised Mike Brown when I threw down that dunk. I don't think he thought I'd be able to dunk again when I showed up to camp at 240 pounds." Reggie Theus: "Obviously I there wasn't a person in the building that didn't think (Martin) got fouled."
For the last 18 months, Terry Pluto and I have been working on a book about LeBron James and the Cavs. The Franchise, LeBron James and the remaking of the Cleveland Cavaliers is now finished and will be in book stores very soon. The first excerpts of the book are available now on ESPN.com, a piece about LeBron's Nike deal and about the night the Cavs won the lottery and what was happening in New Jersey, Cleveland and Akron.
I am biased of course, but this is the most complete work ever written about LeBron and his career. It gives you all the background from what was going on within the Cavs and within LeBron and his family in the time leading up to him being a Cav and the wild and often wonderful first four seasons. From the gory details of the Shawn Kemp nightmare to the shoe companies starting to recruit LeBron when he was 16 to the strange and bumpy ownership transition, it is a detailed behind-the-scenes look at it all complete with in-depth interviews and perspective.
I'll be talking much about it more in the coming weeks, but I just wanted to let all of you know it was coming. If you want, you can get it quickest by ordering it now.
However, this a Cavs blog and not a book blog so we won't talk about it too much. But guess what, the book has its own blog. There will be lots of content there in coming weeks including Q & As with Terry and I, deleted sections of the book (not everything fit) and more.
Also now on ESPN is this cool interactive chart I helped with on how LeBron has developed his mind, body and leadership since his high school years and since he was a rookie. I spent some time talking with him and his current and former trainers for this piece.
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur
Refs: Joey Crawford, Luis Grillo, Phil Robinson. Veteran staff and Joey just loves Mike Brown, he's hits him with technicals more than any other official.
--Devin Brown has a fractured left pinky finger but he will try to play. --Larry Hughes (knee) is out again. --No idea how the Cavs are going to cover Williams. I think Devin, if he can go, will play important minutes off the bench like last night on Baron Davis. He has good size like Williams, who is a stud. --Z had 56 rebounds over the last four games, the most in a four-game stretch in his career. But let's see how he does on a back-to-back after going 38 minutes last night. You know bouncing off Boozer all night will get old fast. --LeBron said his eye is still a little swollen and sore from last night but he'll be OK. --Brewer is one of the rising young players in the league, keep an eye on him. --I expect the Jazz to just totally swarm LeBron and force the ball away from him even more than normal. Kirilenko's length with bother him but he's much stronger so being aggressive is the order of the day. --Sasha is still getting his legs, he's 3-of-16 so far. Don't expect a major breakthrough tonight either, but he should be a little better.
Halftime -- Jazz 52, Cavs 48
--It is remarkable the Cavs are only down four points. They have 13 turnovers, may of which came from lazy or absent-minded plays, which has cost them 18 points. They have missed eight free throws. They are being killed by the Jazz's big men because they are shorthanded. --However, Sasha Pavlovic has come to play save for a few bad, bad turnovers. He's got 17 points on just 10 shots. He's running the floor very well and is responsible for most of the Cavs' 15 fastbreak points. --The Cavs couldn't figure out Boozer and Williams in pick-and-rolls in the first quarter. Then in the second, due to foul trouble and no depth at big man, Paul Millsap was abusing Devin Brown or whichever smaller guy the Cavs put on him, he scored 15 points in the quarter. --LeBron has been active and passed the ball well but he's not shooting well. He's just 3-of-9 and 4-of-10 from the line. Still, it looks like his first triple-double is coming because he's got 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He needs to score 15-20 points in the second half for the Cavs to have a chance. --Good news for the Cavs is that they are in the game, bad news is Williams, Kirilenko and Okur all played poorly in the first half. Williams and Okur are a combined 2-of-12 and Kirilenko got in foul trouble early guarding LeBron and has just two points. Williams also has six turnovers. --Z had seven rebounds and six points in the first quarter and nothing in the second. He may be just tired. --Brewer had five steals in the first half, mostly just cherrypicking when the Cavs weren't paying attention. Taking care of the ball will be important in the second half. --It will be interesting to see what Mike Brown does to solve the problems with the Jazz's bigs. He tried going to zone a few times, but the Cavs are not good at zone and they give up lots off offensive rebounds out of it. He just simply doesn't want to even try Cedric Simmons, I guess.
Postgame -- Jazz 103, Cavs 101
Stars: LeBron James (duh) 32 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists, three steals, two blocks. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 18 points, 14 rebounds...he's playing like an All-Star. Carlos Boozer, 23 points, 12 boards...yep, that's what Booz does. Paul Millsap, career-high 24 points...a second round pick, folks. Deron Williams, was just 4-of-12 shooting but the last one was a biggie, eh?
--First, WOW, what a great game. Not all that well played by either team, but it was tight the whole way and there were some great performances. --Next, WOWEE, what a shot LeBron hit with 6.8 seconds left. Ronnie Brewer had his fingers in his nose and he made it. Just a big time, big time play. --Then, WOWEE WOW, what a great move by Deron Williams. Having the mind to make the move and then pulling it off...so impressive. This guy may be a Hall of Famer. There may have been two Hall of Famers who made plays in the last seven seconds. Remember this one, folks. --Historically, Jerry Sloan does not call a timeout in that spot and Williams knew that. But with three timeouts and seven seconds, Sloan did try to call one. I will have to see extended replays, but it appeared Devin Brown tried to stay with him but he didn't want to foul. Obviously you have to stop the ball or at least redirect it in that spot. But at the same time the Cavs had a man on him and Ilgauskas was there to defend the rim but didn't. I honestly think it was just a big-time play. --As tired as the Cavs were, they probably get beat in overtime. Then again, they would've have the momentum. --Looking at the big picture for a moment, I know this is still the second week of the season, but this game had the feel of the loss in Dallas last March. The Cavs did not play great, they really struggled in some areas, and they didn't finish. But considering the circumstances it was a great effort while fighting Utah's depth on the road in the middle of a long trip on the second night of a back-to-back. --Afterward the Cavs locker room was sort of wired. They knew it was a near miss but they felt good about the fight. They didn't play with this sort of focus on the road last season until after the All-Star break. --Maybe it won't last, but I was talking with LeBron about the last week. Seven days ago after that loss to Dallas in the home opener it looked like the Cavs might start the season 0-8. But they have progressively played better every single game despite dealing with mounting injuries and this rough, rough schedule. LeBron said "I feel a lot better about where we are now than I did at this same time last year." --OK, all of that out of the way. 19 turnovers, 29 points off them. Lots of them were the mindless or unforced kind. Part of it was fatigue, part of it was just plain carelessness. Also, there's 10 missed free throws. Old story there. --The Cavs have a problem with their big men. They seem willing to live with it for the moment, but against super strong teams like Utah it will hurt being understaffed. Dwayne Jones got three fouls in five minutes and the next thing you know Devin Brown is guarding Millsap. 50 points in the paint. Issues. --The offense had some loose possessions in the fourth quarter, but they still scored 34 points. LeBron was almost perfect in his decision-making. They just couldn't get enough stops to win. --Daniel Gibson had 12 points on just five shots. Agree with Maureen from the comments section, he's got to get more plays called for him. --I actually think the game was decided in the three and a half minutes LeBron rested at the end of the third and start of the fourth. The Cavs lost seven points in that stretch and spent the rest of the game catching up. When Hughes comes back, having Pavlovic better prepared to be with that second unit may help. That and running a play or two for Boobie. --As is the case 95 percent of the time in the NBA, the officials did not decide this game.
Quotes: Mike Brown: "Give the Jazz credit, but we also have to look a little bit at ourselves. The turnovers were our biggest killer." LeBron: "We've gave our all tonight in a hostile enviornment. We gave ourselves a chance to win. I made a tough shot and Deron made one that was even tougher." Jerry Sloan: "We got the ball inbounds and Williams knew what to do with it."
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Warriors: Baron Davis, Kelenna Azubuike, Andris Biedrins, Mickael Pietrus, Al Harrington.
--Larry Hughes is out tonight and probably tomorrow night with a bruised knee. Sasha may not have the wind to play huge minutes, but he's getting them anyway. Devin Brown will also get time in his place, too. --Expect this game to be a lot like the Phoenix game. Both teams will play small for long stretches and the Cavs will have the advantage on the inside but not on the outside. If it becomes a high-scoring game the Cavs are in trouble. --If you haven't picked up sleeper Kelenna Azubuike on your fantasy team, you might want to. This guy is one of the best up and coming young scorers in the league. Yes, yes, the Cavs cut him in favor of Mike Wilks in 2005. --No Stephen Jackson tonight for the Warriors, he's on suspension.
Halftime -- Warriors 54, Cavs 54
--Cavs had a bit of a scare with LeBron James in the first quarter. He got scraped on the left eyelid by Biedrins. He's fine. --The Cavs are having lots of trouble with Golden State's quick guards. In both pick-and-rolls and in transition, both Monta Ellis (14 points) and Baron Davis (14) are burning them good. This is pretty much a pure matchup issue. --A reason why the Cavs had a big lead in the first quarter was because they were limiting the Warriors transition. They gave up no points off turnovers and no fastbreak points. In the second quarter they combined to give up 12 points in transition. The Warriors will shoot contested jumpers and miss them in bunches, the Cavs need to force them in that direction. --Devin Brown has been excellent off the bench, he's got four rebounds, five assists and three points in 16 minutes. Most important, he's done an OK job guarding Davis for stretches. --The Warriors are playing lots of zone, which is designed to make the Cavs take jumpers and they are. Ilgauskas and Gooden had just five points in the second quarter after getting 13 in the first. More at issue, is the Cavs ball movement often stops against the zone, when it moves there's usually a good shot to be had. --LeBron took 10 shots in the first half and had seven rebounds, so he's being active. However, he's got to look to attack the zone more, when he gets inside the Warriors can't handle him. --The Cavs have fewer second chance points than the Warriors, if they keeps up they probably will not win.
Postgame -- Cavs 108, Warriors 104
Stars: LeBron James, 24 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists Daniel Gibson, 22 points Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 22 points, 13 rebounds, ONE assist
--First off, LeBron was just excellent in this game. His 24 points on 16 shots was efficient. His 14 rebounds were huge, he had three blocks. And nine assists against just two turnovers. It was an MVP-type effort. --Late in the game, he jumped all over Drew Gooden when Drew hoisted a 20-footer with 14 seconds on the shot clock and the Cavs ahead by five points. Then he went to him on the bench and tried to cheer him up. This is what he said about it: "I'm the leader of the this team and he has to know what is a good shot and what is not a good shot. I got on him about it. It's nothing personal, I just want him to get better. I went up to him and explained it and then you move on as men and as professionals. It can be uncomfortable but I have to do it, I don't want to embarrass my teammates in way way. But if it happens again, I'll go off again." --Cavs had 30 assists -- that's not a misprint -- on 41 baskets tonight. Plus they committed just 14 turnovers. Much more evidence is needed to justify whether they are getting it or not, but when the ball moves that well the offense has a chance even with it's structural issues. --Mike Brown was just oozing after the game because Daniel Gibson's big 3-pointer to clinch the game included a "hockey assist" for LeBron. I was just amazed Zydrunas Ilgauskas got a game-winning assist. Contact Elias Sports Bureau on that one. --Speaking of Z, he logged another crazy 38 minutes but he was huge down the stretch. He had three pretty big offensive rebounds in the fourth, two of which led to putbacks. --Cavs let Al Harrington hit the first three shots of the fourth quarter and then held them to 5-of-20 shooting the rest of the way. LeBron was on Baron Davis for much of that stretch. --Sasha Pavlovic is having a rough go of it as he plays into shape, he was just 2-of-11 shooting. --After the game, I found myself in a weird spot. I was standing in between LeBron and Gibson as they were watching the highlights of the game on some sports show. Watching them watch themselves and make comments to each other about stuff that happened only moments before was a little surreal. Gibson was joking about how Gooden almost knocked him over in celebration after he hit the 3-pointer and LeBron cringed when he saw himself get ripped in the eye in the first half. But he liked how they showed his blocks after showing Harrington dunking on him. "Yeeeeah," he said.
Quotes Mike Brown: "LeBron is our guy, not only offensively but defensively against bigger guards like Baron...41 baskets and 30 assists, that's mind-boggling." LeBron: "(The eye) It bothers me now, it bothered me during the game, I can barely see. But I had to be out there." Don Nelson: "We had a chance to win, I thought the key plays were the three open court blocks by James. Those were sensational plays. Unbelievable."
Off to SLC for the first back-to-back, a brutal West-to-Easter where you lose and hour. If any of you have my phone number, don't call it tomorrow.
Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Suns: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Grant Hill, Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw
Refs Dan Crawford, Rodney Mott and Eli Roe. Crawford is one of the best in the NBA, no relation of any sort to Joey.
--Amare Stoudemire was a late scratch with knee pain, Diaw will play in his place. With the Cavs without Donyell Marshall (wrist) both teams will play small a lot. There will be mismatches, there is a recipe for the Cavs to be able to dominate on the boards. --It is always a test of wills when playing the Suns. They want you to run with them and to a degree you can't help it, but you have to try to keep yourself from playing their game non-stop. In the past, the Cavs have taken the bait and been blown out. --Expect to see Sasha Pavlovic get his first playing time tonight. He's looked good in limited practice but he's fighting all sorts of conditioning issues. He's been flying all over the world, he's been in nine time zones in five days and he's not in game shape. Don't expect great things right away. --Those of us in Phoenix didn't get an extra hour of sleep overnight. They don't do daylight savings time in Arizona so the clocks stayed the same.
Halftime -- Cavs 45, Suns 38
--All things considered, the Cavs have played extremely well. LeBron James is just 3-of-12 shooting and the Cavs have hit just 40 percent of their shots yet they are ahead. --A huge stat is that the Suns only have six fastbreak points, which is a unreal number for them. They are not making shots and are not in sync you can tell, but the Cavs have hustled on defense and shown pretty good focus. --The rebounds differential is massive, Cavs have a 35-17 edge and a 12-1 edge in second-chance points. You have to figure the Suns will Heat up, so the Cavs will have to continue this to stay in front. Zydrunas Ilgauskas has five offensive rebounds and 14 points. There is no one to defend him on the Suns, but he's played a like of minutes...20. We'll see if he wears down. --Ira Newble's looks very fresh and his jumping like he hasn't since before his knee and foot injuries four years ago. He has six rebounds and two putback baskets in the first half alone. --You have to figure the Suns have a huge run in them, the Cavs will need LeBron to get hot to win this game.
Postgame -- Suns 103, Cavs 92
--The halftime ceremony to honor Jerry Colangelo was almost 30 minutes long, which no doubt affected the Cavs at the start of the second half. There was a really cool montage as this jazz musician played a long version of My Way and Colangelo's speech was emotional but everything else could've been cut. That includes Kevin Johnson, who mocked Cleveland just for fun, and Dan Majerle, who told a five minute story that was pretty lame. LeBron said it messed with the team but it is no excuse, which is the proper attitude because the Suns had to sit through it too, but it changed momentum without a doubt. --The Cavs got very passive on offense early in the second half when they lost their lead. Guys were passing up wide open shots. That's not how you play against the Suns. You can't shoot too fast, though, and they didn't manage the offense well. --The Suns don't foul a lot, but it's still a little hard to believe LeBron couldn't have gotten more than two free throw attempts. He needed 26 shots for his 27 points, that's not effective. Overall, the offense wasn't effective in the half court and on most nights right now, it just isn't going to be. Been ringing that bells for years now. --Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas both looked a little tired at the end, they Suns were beating them to rebounds. They combined for 18 rebounds in the first half, just nine in the second. Mike Brown only played eight men, Devin Brown and Dwayne Jones didn't play. It was likely a matchup issue, but the matchups will be roughly the same Tuesday at Golden State. --The Cavs gave up 65 points and 54 percent shooting in the second half. Steve Nash was amazing with his floating jumpers in the lane, that is a shot that really can't be stopped because the opposition is trying so hard to keep him in front of them. Still, it is impossible to win any game giving up those numbers. The Cavs didn't help themselves with 11 turnovers in each half. --LeBron's shooting work is paying off thus far. He missed a lot of contested shots tonight and didn't have fouls to show for it. But he's 6-of-12 so far on 3-pointers. --Larry Hughes banged left knees with Leandro Barbosa in the first half and was limping a little in the second half. His right knee is already bothering him and he's giving it extra treatment. He also ices his foot from the injury in last year's playoffs and his chest, which he hurt against the Mavericks. He's already banged up. "Maybe someday my luck with change," Hughes said to me afterward wrapped in about 10 pounds of ice. "But not so far." --Hughes is 9-of-33 shooting for the season. Last year the phrase was that with Hughes "all roads lead to 40 percent." May have to adjust that this season.
Quotes: --Mike Brown: "We have to be the aggressors on offense, especially with the guys we have." --LeBron James: "I thought we played well at times, we just need to be more consistent." --Drew Gooden: "A couple of times I had to stop and catch my breath."
Catch you all from the Bay Area as the tour rolls on...
Trying something new here on the blog. The plan is to update before, in the middle and after each game starting tonight. Here we go.
Starting lineups: Knicks: Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson, Zach Randolph, and Eddy Curry. Some talent there, eh? Cavs: Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden.
Refs: Bennett Salvatore, Bill Spooner, Gary Zielinski. Bennett likes to make a few calls early in every game to let everyone know who is boss.
--The New York media was asking LeBron before the game about his opinion of Joe Girardi, he is the most famous Yankee fan in Cleveland after all. He also said: "Ask me after the game about how I responded to the other night. We'll be a totally different team tonight, I'll promise you that." --Knicks color man Walt Frazier is wearing a fantastic plaid suit. The 70s were great to him and he's not leaving them.
Halftime -- Cavs 55, Knicks 54 --LeBron has 23 points and is being very active, especially in transition. He's stopping the offense an awful lot, but at least it is in the post area instead of 24 feet from the basket. Still when he the double teams come it gets ugly. --The Cavs are going to have problems guarding the post anytime Donyell Marshall and Dwayne Jones are on the floor. Against the Knicks, who have three really good post players, it is a giant sore spot. Eddy Curry is having his way against Drew Gooden anyway, putting Jones out there makes it a joke. It is a miracle the Cavs are up considering the Knicks have 28 points in the paint and are shooting 53 percent thanks to their interior dominance. --For the Cavs to win, they are going to have to come up with some way to make it harder for Curry and Zach Randolph. The Knicks may help them if Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford get shot happy, which is surely possible. It is fun to watch. When the ball goes to Crawford, Curry or Randolph, isn't usually isn't going anywhere but it.
Postgame -- Cavs 110, Knicks 106
--This is how the Cavs are probably going to have to play for awhile until they get everyone in uniform and their minds right. LeBron is going to have to take over and they're going to have to play defense in the second half to get wins. Both happened big time tonight. --As I wrote about last week, LeBron is really playing a lot down in the post. We'll see how it develops, but it gives him a lot more options at the end of the shot clock. By getting the ball so close to the basket tonight he put the Knicks to the test and they couldn't handle him. He got to the line 22 times, which makes him very hard to control. I felt bad for Renaldo Balkman, he had played at all in the preseason and Isiah Thomas throws him in there against LeBron. 46 seconds later, he had three fouls and a seat. --James also attacked in transition. The Cavs need as many easy baskets as they can get, especially against a weak defensive team like the Knicks. In a key play, with 2:35 left Mike Brown told his team he wanted a timeout and all the Knicks saw him and stopped playing. LeBron never called it and went to the basket for an easy one. --Daniel Gibson does what the Cavs have been dying for years, he makes open shots when teams leave LeBron. He's obviously not going to be this hot very often, but having him as a reliable option makes a huge difference in the team's offensive attack. He's also never afraid. --Want to bet the New York tabloids rip Stephon Marbury on his defense on Boobie tomorrow? --While the second unit may be woeful at times, you have to give them credit for the way they fought at the start of the fourth quarter. The group of James, Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall, Devin Brown and Dwayne Jones really battled for five minutes. They were down five and were able to tie it mostly off gritty defense. Dwayne Jones got embarrassed a few times against Eddy Curry tonight but he battled him down the stretch. --Jamal Crawford owns the Cavs, period. --Not that I usually follow these sorts of things, but I believe the spread on tonight's game was Cavs -5. Nate Robinson made a layup at the buzzer to make it a four point game...hmmmm.
LeBron: "When you give Boobie an open shot like that, it is almost like practice." Boobie: "It was one of those moments where you get into the zone. It did take me back (to Game 6) a bit." Isiah Thomas: "LeBron was incredible. He was drawing so much attention that we left a couple of guys open and we paid for it."
Just posted this story about the Cavs not picking up Shannon Brown's option for next year.
This was a late decision. How late? Early in the day yesterday I heard the Cavs were going to pick it up. Sometime between then and midnight, the decision was made by the Cavs front office not to pick it up.
Shannon may end up proving the Cavs wrong on this one down the road. He has great athletic gifts and he's still developing. From what I understand, both he and his family took the decision very hard and are pretty upset about it.
It is not a great reflection on Danny Ferry, who made Brown his only first-round draft choice thus far in his tenure with the 25th overall pick last year. It would not be surprising if the Cavs look to trade him later on in the season.
Brown did not play well in summer league in my opinion, even though his scoring stats looked good. He scored a bunch of points in the preseason but did not handle the ball well, shoot the ball well or make good decisions. Last night he was 0-of-5 with two turnovers in five minutes.
The fact that Sasha Pavlovic is now back and under contract for three years probably had a lot to do with this decison.
The Cavs did pick up the option on Cedric Simmons.
More on it later.
The Cavs got crushed by the Mavericks tonight. They are a deeper and better team. But that's not the story.
There's 81 games left in this season, which is obvious but worth pointing out at this juncture. Because at the moment the Cavs are getting worse and not better. They are going to need some time to get what is ailing them straightened out. Time they have, there is absolutely no reason for them or the fans to start to panic, but it isn't going to be easy and that's what we're going to talk about.
There's no use blaming the absence of Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic on this one, that's not what is really hurting the Cavs right now. Nor it is the inability of the front office to get a point guard. At this point in their history, the Cavs are fractured emotionally and it as plain as day both on the court and in the locker room.
There's been lots of stories written about this, many by me, over the last several months. None of it is new and none of what I am about to write is breaking news. But at this point, what is happening needs to be explained and I'm going to try to do it for you.
For the last two years, there's been mostly harmony here at Quicken Loans Arena. Danny Ferry and Mike Brown have fostered a family atmosphere and Dan Gilbert has funneled money into the franchise. Veterans were paid. Young guys were hungry. LeBron James was exploding. Mike Brown was teaching defense. The facilities became amazing. The operation is first class. Everybody was happy and excited and, for the most part, everyone got along. Playing as the sum being greater than the parts plus a superstar, the Cavs won 100 regular season games and four playoff series.
The natural progression of things has changed and the Cavs family is now feuding as they deal with the transition. Young players are holding out because they want their money now. Veteran players being eased aside are angry about playing time, some wanting more, some wanting to be traded. Mike Brown's attempts at teaching offense have been bumpy to say the least. The front office is keeping a closer eye on the future than the present.
All of this is combining and has been since the Cavs season ended last June. It was a storm on the horizon. It is the undercurrent of why the Cavs are playing sick since the start of training camp, because they are sick. It shows in they way they conduct themselves, it shows in what they say to the media and to their family members about the team, it shows in the effort and focus level they are putting out on the floor for the last month.
LeBron James, who has a good of a feel as anyone, has said two things of interest to me in the last week. One is "If we don't get this fixed, we're going to keep getting blown out." He's right about that one. And "'I'm not going to allow our team not to play well. I won't let those guys not work hard in practice or not work hard in games." That one is going to be an extreme test of his powers based on what is going on right now.
Paul Silas always used to say, and I refer to it all the time, that "In the NBA, ain't nothing going to be a bed of roses." That and his line: "Happy wife, happy life" couldn't be more true. So the Cavs are going through the thorns right now and it is to be expected. In some ways, they are going through a backlog of thorns from the last two years.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out, and I'll be attempting to describe it to you. There's at least five months to watch the drama unfold.