Post mortem - You give the Cavs credit for making a serious run at the Heat in the second half - so serious that they came within one point of tying the game and had the opportunity to go ahead, but Daniel Gibson couldn't quite finish on a drive to the hoop.
But let's be honest. There was some fairly ugly hoops played in this one. In this game and for the past several, the Cavs haven't played with the first-half intensity that we were used to seeing. They settled for jump shots - long jump shots - and it would come back to haunt them.
By the time they were able to make their run at the Heat, they had to blitz Dwyane Wade whenever he touched the ball. The result: Wade was free to choose Daequan Cook (an Ohio State product) or Maurice Chalmers for wide-open three-pointers. On the night, they hit 11-14 combined to toast the Cavaliers. For the record, the Heat forced the Cavs to shoot 30 three-pointers of their own. They hit just as many as Cook-Chalmers combined.
That maneuver also put them into other precarious situations on defense. When you have Shawn Marion on Mo Williams going to the hoop, who's going to win that battle? Yup, that's what I thought.
All-in-all, not an especially good night for the Cavs, but how they respond to the loss is more important than the loss.
Coach Mike Brown on the Cavs shooting 30 three-point shots:
This one looked more than dicey as the Cavaliers enter the fourth quarter. The Heat had the lead at 67-58 to end the third and the momentum. For much of the game, the Cavs looked listless.
Then, they just flicked it on. On defense they came up with a couple of memorable stops in the fourth quarter, including one where Delonte West and Mo Williams worked like hell to create a steal. West got the ball and found LeBron James streaking to the basket for an easy slam dunk.
So it went for the fourth quarter as Cleveland remebered they are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and decided to play that way, forcing five turnovers and holding the Heat to 35 percent shooting.
James deserves some praise for hindering a driving Heat led by Dwyane Wade. In the final quarter, James held him to just six points. Once again they won a game because of defense.
Mike Brown on what was said between the third and fourth quarters:
Game: Cavs (23-4) vs. Houston Broadcast: TV: FSOhio WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starters: Cavs: LeBron James (F); Ben Wallace (F); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G); Rockets: Shane Battier (F); Luis Scola (F); Yao Ming (C); Tracy McGrady (G); Rafer Alston (G).
Injuries/inactives: Cavs: Eric Snow, Jawad Williams, Darnell Jackson. Rockets: Steve Francis, Joey Dorsey.
Officials: Scott Foster, Rodney Mott and Phil Robinson.
Streaking: The Cavaliers have won three in a row, 13 in a row at Quicken Loans Arena. The Rockets have won four in a row. Three things to watch:
They’re a very good team that’s a defensive minded team. They have size inside and size along the perimeter with Battier and McGrady and it causes match-up problems for us.To read more or comment...
Give Oklahoma City credit, they played much better than when they appeared in Cleveland. Yes, the Cavaliers eventually wore them down, but this Thunder team hustled, made the Cavaliers work for everything and beat them on the boards. Ultimately the Cavs won because they out shot the Thunder hitting more than 55 percent from the floor. LeBron James played masterfully, scoring 31. Mo Williams backed him up with 20 points and Delonte West added 18.
Mike Brown on the Cavs winning three consecutive on the road:
Cavs 105, Nuggets 88
Remember a few years ago when everyone screamed about whether Zydrunas Ilgauskas was worth the cash the Cavs were giving him? Many talked about letting him go? Ummm...yeah.
Ilgauskas shows what his presence can do for the Cavaliers offense tonight. Sure he tied his season best with 23 points, but because someone had to guard him on the perimeter that middle was wide open for some aggressive drives by other players, including LeBron James (33 points) and Delonte West (22 points).
The Cavaliers didn't look perfect in this game - far from it. In fact on more than one occasion it looked as if they were just trying to give it to Denver with crappy shot selection and transition defense.
What kept them from blowing it: the Nuggets shot selection was a lot worse, chucking up jump shots left and right without hesitation.
Ultimately, it took a Mike Brown timeout to get them straight and eventually win this one in a cakewalk.
From the coach's office:
George Karl on the Nuggets' play tonight:
So I'm sitting between Mary Schmitt-Boyer of the PD and Bob Finnan of the News-Herald and we all in near unison declare tonight's game the most boring we'd seen in a while. For me, that's not as many as those two, but it's still a significant number. It remained that way until 1:20 of the third quarter when LeBron James awakened his teammates and the Target Center crowd with a thunderous dunk. From there it was all downhil for the fans as the Cavs poured it on.
The key to the win: first there was James' 14 points. But secondly, the Cavs played in the manner that made them 20-4 coming into the night's game. The yshot 63 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, while holding the Timberwolves to a mere 29 percent in the same category. They outscored the T-wolves 30-14 in the quarter. Outrebounded them 12-8 and beat them in the paint and on the fastbreak. James impressed the Minneapolis crowd so much they gave him a standing ovation. Delonte West added 21 points to give James a hand. Hitting 9-of-16 shots and agressively moving to the hoop. Quotable: From the coach's office:
Mike Brown on the game Delonte West had:
Early lackluster play doomed the Cavaliers tonight. In the first quarter they weren't as aggressive as they have been in going after the ball. The Hawks beat them on the boards throughout the game with the Cavaliers only winning the fourth quarter by a single board.
This team's dilemma is that they've grown accustomed to be able to turn things on at will. The problem: With center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and guard Daniel Gibson gone, they do not have that luxury. They have to play intelligent basketball throughout the quarter.
In the fourth quarter their defense failed them. It reminded me of those days when they were close to grasping a win only to have it yanked away becuase they couldn't get a defensive stop. The Hawks' Joe Johnson burned them with 11 points in the fourth quarter and even Coach Mike Brown admitted that they didn't have an answer for him.
It didn't hurt that the Hawks shot 39 free throws to the Cavs 23.
On the good side: they erased a 14 point deficit to make things close and even had the chance to tie the game on separate three-point attempts by Mo Williams and Delonte West that both landed with thuds.
Both got good looks, but neither shot fell. I don't necesarily know that there's such a thing as a good win. However, with their win streak now gone, this one can serve as a reality check that in their current roster configuration, the Cavs need to play four quarters of basketball, not just over two.
Coach Mike Brown on the disparity in free throws:
Post mortem: It wasn't pretty to start, but it's a win that any casual observer would take. Coach Brown didn't think so after his post game comments, but this is a game that last year's Cavs team wouldn't have won. Logically speaking they shouldn't have won this one. They lost the battle in the paint (40-32), lost on fastbreak points (16-7).
But the defense won this one for them. Consider this: they held the Sixers to just 47 points in the final three quarters and forced 20 turnovers that turned into 20 points. When you do that, you can expect to at least be competitive.
Brown should be content knowing that when he needed players to step up, they did. LeBron James hit 28, but Anderson Varejao, playing 35 minutes scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and had seven rebounds.
The backcourt of Mo Williams and Delonte West delivered 30 total points. But a huge effort came from rookie Darnell Jackson who grabbed eight rebounds - five of them offensive.
Philadelphia is a team that's underachieved in the eyes of a lot of people. Perhaps that's a case of not having gelled yet, but the Cavs didn't allow their marquee players - Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Andre Miller - to find any sort of groove.
Overall: a not-so-pretty win, but a good one nonetheless.
Mike Brown on rookie forward Darnell Jackson:
Post mortem: Cavaliers didn't look their best tonight. Luckily the 76ers weren't especially impressive either.
After locking down on opponents in previous games, LeBron James didn't look particularly dominating on defense against Andre Inguodala, allowing him 21 first half points. In the post game he said that Coach Mike Brown challenged hm to return to the form he'd been exhibiting the past few games against some of the league's better forwards.
Having lost Daniel ''Boobie'' Gibson to a sprained left big toe earlier this week and center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in this game, the Cavs needed someone to step up. Enter Mo Williams who tossed in 27 points and Anderson Varejao who added 15 points and eight rebounds.
Say what you will about the ugliness of this game, but last year at this is time this is one the Cavs would have rolled over and played dead in or they would rely strictly on No. 23. Not this season. Williams displayed tonight by getting a season high 27 points that he can step up and fill that void when needed.
From the coach's office:
Mike Brown on the game overall:
Post Mortem: Sorry for no halftime fellas, but my laptop is getting a bit buggy with wireless.
Tonight proved to be a night for the record books as Z and LeBron set individual ones for rebounds and steals respectively and the team set a league record by winning their ninth consecutive game by 12 or more points. They also extended records already established by winning their 12th in a row at home and 17-of-18 their last 18.
But let's get down to the nitty gritty. This is one the Cavs won with offense and defense in the third quarter when they out scored the Raptors 31-16. They had five steals, forced nine turnovers and had 11 fastbreak points to blow the game open.
Defensively, they held Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal to a combined two points in the quarter. While LeBron led them in scoring, he got help from guard Mo Williams with seven points. James continues to impress with his lockown defense while, Wililams may have played his most balanced game on the year tonight.
From the way they've extended this win streak, one thing is becoming abundantly clear. The blase attitude that it only matters as long as they get to the playoffs is gone. They understand the value of beating teams early and often. It's the right attitude to carry throughout the season and, yes, the playoffs.
From the coach's office:
Mike Brown on the team coming back with the right attitude in the second half:
At the half:
Cavs 55, Bobcats 35
If you're out there watching this game, email me please. Please? Please? Let's face it, it was never really "close". The Bobcats hit 4-of-21 shots for a whopping 19 percent. At the end of two quarters, they're up to a staggering 31 percent. Yippee.
The Cavs defense is smothering the Bobcats defensively. They're contesting every shot, hold a rebounding advantage. Emeka Okafor and Gerald Wallace have proven to be non-factors thus far. Yes, the Bobcats made a run - when the second team was in - during the second quarter to get within nine points, but that only lasted until the regulars retunred and began to dominate.
Game: Cavs (15-3) at Bobcats (7-11)
Broadcast: Broadcast: TV: FSOhio Radio WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starters: Cavs: LeBron James (F); Ben Wallace (F); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G); Bobcats: Gerald Wallace (F): Sean May (F); Emeka Okafor (C); Jason Richardson (G); Raymond Felton (G).
Injuries: Cavs: Eric Snow (left knee); Bobcats: none
Officials: Tony Brothers, Marc Davis, Sean Wright
Streaking: The Cavaliers have won six in a row. The Bobcats have two consecutive wins.
Three things to watch:
Cavs 97, Pacers 73
Another laugher as the Cavaliers prepare to go into Charlotte Saturday and take on the Bobcats.
Again, defense wins this one with some timely offense to put it away. The Cavaliers won their 11th consecutive at home and 15-of-16.
If this were last year and LeBron James scored just 11 points, any sane person would have said the team's collective hindquarters were cooked. Not tonight. On a night when the team handed out Anderson Varejao wigs, it would be the Wild Thing who provided the offensive spark the team needed in the second quarter. The rest of the team would then join in. Varejao finished with 17 as did Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Defensively they held the Pacers to just 40 percent shooting from the floor, forced 16 turnovers that led to 29 points, blocked 10 shots and had seven steals.
Coach Mike Brown on how the team won:
If you watched last night's game, you saw the Cavaliers dismantle the New York Knicks by some outrageous score of 118-82. Believe it or not, it was worse. At one point, the Cavs led by as many as 42.
However, per usual with any team that plays in the New York area, the game wasn't really the story. The story surrounded LeBron James' free agency - again - as it relates to the Knicks.
After last night I sincerely hope that Knicks fans and its media cannot seriously expect that James would want to go anywhere near that organization in 2010. Yes, everyone can see what Knicks honcho Donnie Walsh is concocting for the NBA's equivalent of the Summer of Love, when a horde of free agents will come to the market and looked to be wooed with cash and plenty of it.
The problem: James has said market size doesn't matter. And right now, and, barring some miracle, that's all the Knicks have to offer. It's a really big city with a ton of stuff to do. Yes, James is really into big cities as he's shown by the place he chose to live after being drafted by the Cavs.
Does he live in Bratenahl on the shores of Lake Erie with its toney huge homes with that lakefront view? A suburb that just happens to be minutes from Quicken Loans Arena and Cleveland's night life, what there is of it? Ummm...no. He lives in Bath - sprawling and suburban. He can charter a jet to New York any time he wants without playing for the Knicks.
That Knicks team? The damage that Isiah Thomas wrought will be felt for another few years. They have no superstar for the city that never sleeps. They don't play New York's type of hoops. Mike D'Antoni's flashy up-and-down game is more suited to the West Coast than East. And they sure as heck didn't play anything that remotely passed for defense Wednesday night.
About the only way they can get better quickly is through free agency. Well, that and prayer.
Trust me NYC, Northeast Ohioans feel your pain as far as what's happened with your team. While the Cavs still have no championships to speak, we have experienced something similar. They had an owner named Ted Stepien who nearly drove the team off a cliff or straight out of town with his inane personnel moves and amateurish approach to professional sports. Sound familiar?
No, the Knicks aren't about to leave New York, but their fans will have to be patient. The Cavaliers came out of the darkness in the late '80s and now again with LeBron James and a supporting cast that looks as if they could actually win a few games without him.
The pieces are there for a championship for the Cavs (another big man might be nice). In New York, the Knicks don't just need the salary cap room to sign James, they need everything else to surround him. Problem for them: it's already here - at home.
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