The Cavs' offensive hot streak came to an end tonight, but their win streak didn't. Yet again (I keep finding reasons to write this) the team continues to show maturity in grinding out an 82-73 win over the Utah Jazz.
Here we go:
--The Jazz were playing their fourth road game in five nights, they lost all four. They didn't even get to Cleveland today until 10:30 a.m. because of weather in Philadelphia. Plus they were playing without two regulars, Matt Harpring, who had been playing great, and Gordon Giricek. By the way, Giricek's nickname is Gira. Shouldn't it either be Gorda or Giri? More on him in a second. Anyway, the Jazz were behind the 8-ball.
--The Cavs took note of this and really turned up the defensive energy in the second half. This was the difference in the game. The Cavs were a step quicker and could jump higher in the stretch run. They got most of the loose balls -- and in a game where neither team shot better than 38 percent, there are a lot of loose balls -- and turned them into transition points.
--This was led, in my opinion, by LeBron James. The Cavs played great defense all night, their rotations were so crisp. Time after time Carlos Boozer or Mehmet Okur, er, Memo, ran pick and rolls with Deron Williams and they were stymied by a show and a rotating third defender. However, it was LeBron that got very aggressive at the end of the third quarter, getting his hands on balls and really attacking the glass. He had 15 defensive rebounds, that's a great effort with Boozer in there. Donyell Marshall also played great defense in that stretch. To see LeBron get after it at the defensive end shows growth on his part. He knew this was a game to be won with defense and he won it that way.
--The Cavs had 61 rebounds to the Jazz's 41. The Jazz are eighth in the league in rebounding and they have Boozer. The Cavs out-rebounded them by 19 in the second half and 12 in the fourth quarter. Just pointing this out.
--LeBron's alley-opp dunk of Larry Hughes' lob in the third quarter is in his top five this year, I believe.
--The Jazz missed 16 straight shots in the first half. I think Larry Hughes was trying to one-up them.
--OK, OK, so Hughes was 2-of-17 shooting, had three travels, a carry and a double dribble. Yikes, bad stuff on offense. That 3-on-1 break where he kept it and got swatted by Andrei Kirilenko (hey, remember when that guy could play?)...not the best decision ever. However, he did a great job on Williams. He kept him in front of him, which really limited his effectiveness. This guy beat the Cavs by himself the last time out. Plus, he got a steal when defending a 3-on-1 break, that was impressive. Also, in something that was very interesting for me to learn, Larry his calling his own plays now.
--You know I was going to bring this up. In the first half, the Cavs had 32 points and 14 points in the paint. In the second half they had 50 points and 34 points in the paint. Also, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had three big baskets when the Cavs ran plays for him late. This is smart basketball, people. This is the basketball the Cavs didn't play for half a season.
--Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, this season has identified Sasha Pavlovic and Daniel Gibson has long-term players of the future. The Cavs' core used to look old (with Donyell, Eric Snow and Damon Jones as central cogs). Now, with Anderson Varejao, James and Drew Gooden, it looks really young.
--I hate sounding this optimistic, I am a card-carrying realist. But what am I supposed to write in an eight-game win streak when the Cavs are doing the things I cracked them for not doing for three months?
--OK, so here's my story with Gira. A year ago this week after Slobodan Milosevic died, I went up and asked Sasha about it. Being from Serbia (well, now Montenegro, although he's announced as being from Serbia & Montenegro, which doesn't exist anymore) I thought Sasha's perspective would be interesting for a note. I am not going to put words in Sasha's mouth -- or get involved in something I don't understand -- but after a brief conversation I gleaned that neither Sasha nor his father thought old Slobo was such a bad guy. In fact, Sasha complained that he couldn't get proper medical care at the end. OK, that was a can of worms I didn't want to open. So, Phil Miller of the Salt Lake Tribune reads my little note and decides to ask the Jazz's resident native of the Balkans...Giricek. Well Gira, who is Croatian, where Milosevic sort of laid waste, ripped the man up and down. So, I guess what I'm saying here is I'll bet Sasha and Gira didn't get along too well when both were with the Jazz a few years ago. All teams at every level have deep background stuff that affects them, but what I am saying is with the international players there is often stuff going on that we don't fully understand.
--So I'm done and I didn't write about Boozer? That's correct, I'm done with that stuff and have been for awhile now. Most interesting thing I saw all night -- other than the drunk guy who was directing traffic in the middle of Huron at 5 p.m. wearing a green hat and a pair of exposed fake women's breasts -- was a kid wearing an old No. 1 Boozer jersey. Except he put a piece of tape over the "zer" and replaced it with "bie" so it spelled Boobie. As in Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, who wears No. 1, in case you weren't following. Now that's creative, young man.