Salt Lake City -- Thoughts following the Cavs 99-98 loss here tonight:
--I didn't even look at a replay to see if Sasha Pavlovic was fouled on the last play. It doesn't matter and I don't care. In short, if the Cavs had gotten the rebound, they could've called timeout and set up a play with at least 3 seconds left. Secondly, it didn't come down to that.
--The Cavs lost the game because they allowed the Jazz to shoot 61 percent in the fourth quarter. Yes they had some terrible possessions in the middle of that Jazz run, but 98 points and 26 in the fourth is enough to win.
--Deron Williams is so amazingly quick for a guy his size. This was one of the best games of his career, so it is hard to judge him on this alone. He has amazing talent. I know he's pissed he's not in the All-Star Game, but he'll be in many in the future.
--Anderson Varejao had a really good game in place of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 17 rebounds and nine points. But he was outplayed down the stretch by Paul Millsap. He played 38 minutes, maybe he was a little tired.
--Those of you who come here often know I usually support big Z and I put a strong faith in points in the paint. Without Z tonight the Cavs lost that battle 46-28. You can't win that way. They had 21 offensive rebounds but got baskets on just eight of them.
--The 19 points in the first half from Larry Hughes didn't make an impression, he was shooting jumpers. But those 14 points in the fourth impressed the heck out of me because he was driving and getting to the basket. He was 10-of-10 at the line. Over the last six games, he'd taken just eight free throws. That is the Hughes the Cavs need.
--The Jazz are good. They've won six in a row and they're 21-6 at home. This isn't a bad loss. The problem is when you look at the loss in Miami and other losses like at Seattle, at New Jersey, at New Orleans, at Toronto, at Indiana. The Cavs have to at least split those types of games to be a legit contender. Which is why they're not yet.
--LeBron on the loss: "We have nothing to be disappointed about tonight, we had our chances to win and we didn't." So if you had chances and you didn't win, why exactly isn't that disappointing?
--Daniel Gibson hurt his toe pretty bad in the second quarter. I'd be surprised if he played against the Lakers and he might be out a bit. Eric Snow wasn't great when asked to play nearly 30 minutes.
--What has happened to Damon Jones? Mike Brown went to David Wesley instead of him in the second half. I'm sure he's not at all pleased.
--Sasha was complaining in the locker room after the game about the traveling call he got late. Seemed blatant to me.
--On another note, Gilbert Arenas took a little slap at LeBron the other day. He basically said LeBron doesn't want to take final shots. Before the game, LeBron denied hearing about it, even though it was on all the major jump sites. Yet he seemed awfully glad I asked because he had a ready-made answer: "I made two game-winners in the playoffs against him and knocked him out of the playoffs," James said. "I don't understand where he gets that from, that doesn't make sense to me." Well, Gilbert may have a point, but if I were him I'd keep my mouth closed on the matter for at least the next few years after what happened last year.
On a personal note...
It was a miracle I was able to make it here to Salt Lake. I took off from Cleveland yesterday at about 6 p.m. in weather I sure as heck wouldn't drive in, much less try to get a 737 airborne in. They had to put so much de-icing junk on the wings that they were green. It was a long, tough day because I changed planes in Denver and there was a snowstorm there as well.
After getting in to SLC around midnight, hours late, I had 15 minutes to kill waiting for my ride. So I did one of my favorite things. I sat right where people emerge from the concourse to the baggage claim and waiting family and friends. This is people watching at its finest, it's better than American Idol.
In the short time I was there, I observed grandparents meeting their newborn grandson for the first time. I saw a bleary-eyed and very nervous boyfriend meet his girlfriend's parents for the first time. He was too nervous to kiss her on the lips even though it was obvious he hadn't seen her in awhile. There was a solider returning from Iraq with just his mother waiting for him, their silent and tearful embrace was riveting. As a side note, I find soldiers leaving and coming home one of the most compassionate sights I see and I see it all the time at airports. Usually very moving stuff.
At center stage, though, was a guy about 20 years old with flowers. He was standing way at the front and everybody was watching him from behind. He had such a look of anticipation on his facing and he repeatedly stretched his neck to see those coming out of the tunnel. Nervously looking back-and-forth to the flight monitor, he must've been there quite some time waiting. Most of the women who saw him as they emerged smiled and whispered to friends with the word "cute" always included.
All the people behind him were half looking for their loved ones, half watching this young guy. After quite some time, his girlfriend finally emerged and was instantly embarrassed. When he hugged her there was an audible sight from the crowd and even a clap or two.
Call me sappy, but it is moments like these that make all the time on the road more tolerable.