Washington -- Very little buzz here in D.C. over the impending Game 3, but that is understandable. While the Wizards tag this town as "the most powerful city in the world," it's also a place that loves a winner and will distance itself from a loser very quickly. However, again I will say believe the Wizards have a win in them and could make this weekend tough on the Cavs. Their guards are bound to make some shots at some point.To read more or comment...
--Don't confuse Drew Gooden's "Let it Rain" with Pacman Jones "Make it Rain." One involves a geeky-looking hand gesture. The other $81,000 in cash and strippers.
--Drew informed me tonight that he can't do his "rain dance" until he makes at least four shots in a row. Write this down, people.
--OK, that covers that. What's most important from Game 2 is the Cavs again got other players besides LeBron to step up. Gooden had an unbelievable second quarter, not just because he was making shots, but because he was making contested jumpers. Almost more important that Drew's hot streak was how Zydrunas Ilgauskas played. The Wizards seem determined to double-team James on pick-and-rolls so Z making jumpers off them is vital to the Cavs' offense. Also, I though Larry Hughes' decision-making was much better tonight. In fact, I'll go so far as to say Larry played better in Game 2 than he did in Game 1.
--Just re-establishing my point during this series, the Wizards have almost no margin for error on offense. If Antawn Jamison doesn't score 50 points, the Wizards need help from DeShawn Stevenson (who is 6-of-24 in two games) and Antonio Daniels (who is 7-of-18). It also doesn't help when Jarvis Hayes goes 2-of-11. I will again say, though, that the Wizards are going to make shots at some point in this series.
--All that out, the Cavs defense continues to bait the Wizards into hoisting those jumpers. They are going under most pick-and-rolls, which means they are denying drives. They are also helping well, which means most of the jumpers are contested. The Wizards are shooting less than 40 percent in the two games.
--On the big videoboards after Brendan Haywood got hit with a technical for screaming at Andy Varejao, you could just see him holding up one hand and gesturing but you couldn't see his fingers. It appeared to the crowd watching the screen that he flicked everyone off. I don't believe this was the case, but that's why the crowd started chanting "a------." What I'd like to know is if Etan Thomas was joining in the chant. After the game Andy told me "he was saying somethings and they were not nice." I'm sure. I agree with Bill Simmons, it's only a matter of time before someone just hauls off and socks Varejao during a game. Perhaps it will be Game 3.
--Before the game, I was checking out Damon Jones sweet red and white Li Ning shoes. Inside the shoe by the ankle, apparently just for Damon to see, is the phrase "I Am Global." I ran over to look inside LeBron's shoes to see if they said "I am a global icon" inside, but they have their own bodyguards. Here's all I need to tell you about Damon: His winter coat says "Damon Jones" on the back. Not "Damon." Not "Jones," like it was a high school letter jacket. Damon Jones. That and as he was walking into the locker room tonight in his pink shirt and gray suit, the camera guy who was recording his arrival wasn't ready. So Damon stopped, waited, and then started walking again when the guy had the thing on. Pure comedy.
I got a great deal of feedback on my column on Sunday, which was about two things. One, it was my view of the five different levels at which people watch games. Second, it was an in-depth breakdown of the Washington Wizards offensive and defensive sets including what the sets are called and how the Wizards signal them to each other. If you have a second, give it a read, I hope you'll find it entertaining.To read more or comment...
--It wasn't pretty, but the Cavs ground it out to take the lead in the series so today is a smashing success with a 97-82 win. Yet neither team played all that well and the Cavs let the Wizards hang around for three quarters before they really turned it on. Still, this was exactly the kind of game the Cavs want to play all series long, slow and grinding. In fact, I'd give their defense a A today. Two points of emphasis were accomplished, they kept the Wizards guards out of the lane on drives and made it tough for Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson to get clean looks by denying and contesting. Let Antawn Jamison get his, Washington can't win without help. Lots of jump shots, lots of misses for the Wizards.
--The Cavs also did a great, great, great job of limiting second-chance points (Wiz had just 2) and fastbreak points (Wiz had just 1). Once again, Washington has no chance when this happens.
--The Cavs and LeBron James played their best on offense in the first quarter. After then, LeBron was just 3-of-10 shooting. But he did get to the line a bunch of times by driving, which kept the Cavs in descent position during the game. So he had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, a quality effort. The Cavs had 16 points in the paint in the first quarter and just 32 for the game. This, of course, must improve.
--Zydrunas Ilgauskas played very well, especially in the fourth quarter when he had 11 of his 15 points. That is very big for both the Cavs and his confidence after last year. He cannot be defended by Darius Songalia, who fouled out, and if he gets position all Etan Thomas can do is foul.
--I thought Larry Hughes was the player of the game for the Cavs, even if I didn't love his decision-making all the time. He had a number of excellent plays on defense and led the Cavs with 27 points. Much of it came on jumpers, which as you know I think is dangerous over the long haul, but today it worked so I tip the cap.
--The offense still ain't great, it is wheezing on the execution scale. Just two assists that quarter for the Cavs again. But the defense continues to keep the Wizards guards out of the lane and the easy points to a minimum. Which is what is winning the game for the Cavs right now. The Wizards are still a mini streak away from tying this game and it is so dangerous to have let them hang around.
--The Cavs had a nice spurt in the middle of that quarter to push the lead to 12, which happened due to basket drives by LeBron. That has got to be the way the fourth quarter goes, the Cavs cannot rely on hitting jumpers. Also, no more contested 3s allowed for Donyell Marshall.
--I have seen LeBron turn his ankle like that at least eight times this season. It happens all the time, but his ankles are so thick that he seems to be able to withstand it. It's amazing, actually. It may be sore later and tomorrow. It would be a good reason not to practice tomorrow for him.
--Cavs are 19-of-27 at the foul line, right at their 70 percent average. Could be a factor.
--Sometimes I think Larry Hughes thinks the shot clock is only 14 seconds long because it gets to 12 and he looks to get the first shot he can. Then again, he's 8-of-15 from the field has been a big factor today. Bu blog readers know that "All roads lead to 40 percent" with Larry, so watch out. By the way, Larry's season percentage...40.000. No lie.
--When Darias Songalia is on Z, the ball should go there every time. And not for Z to throw a behind the back pass. Songalia shouldn't be able defend Z in Cleveland, Washington or Lithuania (Songalia is from Lithuanian, too, in case you missed it).
--Jarvis Hayes isn't showing butterflies in his first playoff game. He doesn't have fouls either, which LeBron should be drawing on him.
--Overall, so far I think the game has been officiated very fairly no matter what the crowd thinks. However, I have the impressed Luis Grillo is personally trying to keep the game close. He has been blowing his whistle a lot (two carries called on the Cavs). Still I think it has been pretty even.
--The Wizards are elated right now. They are right where they want to be. They outplayed the Cavs in the second quarter and have basically not gotten hot at all on offense. There was a six-point swing that went against them at the end of the half with Jarvis Hayes missing that 3 and Larry Hughes making one.
--The Cavs offense has stopped running. There's all of a sudden a lot of standing around going on. Trust me, this is not because the Wizards are camping down, although they are playing better. They are denying drives with a mix of defenses, but the Cavs made it easier on them by not throwing passes. After they got seven assists in the first quarter, the first assist in the second quarter didn't come until 4:50 left and then they didn't have another one until Drew Gooden gave it to Hughes. This is a classic example of the Cavs self-inflicted wounds allowing less talented teams to stay in the game.
--With that understood, it is easy to see why LeBron didn't play as well in the second quarter. He wasn't throwing many passes and wasn't getting many, which is why he went 0-of-4 with just one assist. The only guy who did anything was Andy Varejao, who the Wizards will continue to hack.
--This is all why the Wizards are still very much in this game. The Cavs had just six points in the paint in that quarter because they chucked up a bunch of jumpers.
--Here is a warning, the Wizards are shooing just 37 percent. Overall, it has been good defense by the Cavs because they've forced them into taking lots of jumpers. But trust me, sooner or later, the Wizards will go through a streak where they make a bunch of jumpers. Antawn Jamison was 7-of-17, but he could've easily been 10-of-17. The Cavs need to build a bigger cushion to ready for the run.
--Both teams had just three turnovers in the first half but the Cavs had nine fastbreak points to the Wizards' 0. I expect to see many more turnovers in the second half.
--Last year the Wizards never stopped Eric Snow when he was in the open floor, they just let him drive. Eric remembered and drove again.
--All the LeBron heavy hitters are here in the courtside seats. His agent, Leon Rose and Nike bigwig Lynn Merritt. And, of course, Wes Wesley. By the way, in the past I've written those seats belong to Nike. They actually belong on Mr. Wesley, as he informed be a few weeks ago. Thanks for reading.
--LeBron James is at it again. He's as active as he's been on season with and without the ball. Not only is he attacking, but he moving well to create angles and really seeing the floor. He's well on his way to another triple doube, with 9 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds already. The Wizards, as expected, are doubling and shading to him and he's burning them for it. If he continues to play at this level, the Cavs are unbeatable.
--A big moment for LeBron was with two minutes left and the shot clock going down. Instead of taking a fallway 18-footer, he looked at Darius Songalia and drove. That is how to get it done. It was a 3-point play. If he did that all year, he's have averaged three more points a game.
--The Cavs have made a lot of shots, going 12-of-22, but I feel it is a real percentage because they are mostly high-percentage looks. They are attacking the glass and setting up the guys in the post. Especially Drew Gooden, which is wise to make Antawn Jamison work at that end. Jamison is a terrible defender, especially 1-on-1. Most important, the Cavs had 16 points in the paint.
--It is impressive to see how strong Sasha has gone to the hole, even if he isn't finishing very well. This has been seen before, as has his disappearance after the first quarter. We'll see what happens when he comes back in for LeBron in a few minutes.
--A key play came at 6:32 when LeBron drew the charge on Antawn Jamison. It was a good call, but had it gone the other way it would've been James' second foul.
--Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson are non-factors so far, if it stays that way the Cavs are in good shape. If they get going, the Wizards won't go away.
--Z is off to a bad start (airball), we'll see if it carries over.
Hello from the Q. It's about five minutes before tipoff and there's some extra energy in the building already. But I can tell you that it is nowhere near the level of excitement before Game 1 last year. Perhaps that is natural, not only is this series have a lower profile, but the fans are preparing for a longer run. Nonetheless, there's a difference.To read more or comment...
--I've tried to build a persona as your friendly neighborhood realist over my career, yet I've been cracked as being too negative of late. So today, I put on the rosy glasses and patted the Cavs on the head for everything they've done this season. Drink it in and savor for the moment.To read more or comment...
I will be the first to admit, I didn't foresee the Cavs falling into the position they did tonight. I had been so impressed with the way the Bulls had been taking care of their business and frankly, I wasn't sure karma was on the Cavs side. But they had the easier final game, which is what it came down to, and it played out that way. The Bulls do not deserve to be No. 5 and neither did the Cavs, but everybody knew the score for a long time.To read more or comment...
Some video breakdown will be required to confirm this, but I think LeBron James scored three baskets out of deep post plays in the Cavs' win over the Nets tonight. That isn't many in the grand scheme, but it made such a major difference in the Cavs' offense in the second half. Not only did it make James unstoppable for a period there, it opened up the rest of the scheme.To read more or comment...
Auburn Hills, Mich. -- A few weeks ago I was talking to an executive from an Eastern Conference team on the phone and he asked me: "Why does LeBron stand out on top of the the key and dribble so much? You know, that's exactly what we all want him to do." This, of course, is a subject that has been bandied about here and in many other forums over the last few years. But it is, after all, a simple question.To read more or comment...
Washington -- After getting on Mike Brown for some issues Thursday night, I felt it was important to give him credit last night in the win over the Wizards. Surely it should've been an easier win than it was, but right now the sickly Cavs need anything they can get.To read more or comment...
A Cavs-Heat playoff series would surely pack an awful lot of drama (sounds like a TNT plug, I know). Too bad for the Cavs they: 1. Can't seem to beat the Heat in dramatic games. 2. Can't seem to beat the Heat in Miami. 3. Can't seem to avoid facing them in the first round.To read more or comment...
For the last few weeks or so I've got my own private intern covering the Cavs. His name is Jordan Zirm and he's a senior at Cleveland Heights High School. I've known him for about two years and, for some odd reason I can't explain, he actually wants to be a sportswriter. So for his senior project, he's been doing some of my dirty work, er, learning the trade.To read more or comment...
Minneapolis -- The weather is terrible here in Minnie, but because the city planners have connected the entire downtown with skywalks, I haven't been outside in two days. After what only can be described as a disappointing loss in Boston, the Cavs beat up the Timberwolves 101-88 tonight. I guess LeBron James makes a difference after all.To read more or comment...