Of everything that happened tonight in the Cavs' second loss of the season to LeBron James, this is what stood out to me: Boobie Gibson talking about opponents "feeling" them.
That was a favorite phrase of Mike Brown over the years. When the Cavs started getting soft defensively, he said teams didn't "feel us." It was startling to hear Gibson use the same phrase, particularly since Byron Scott didn't deny before the game that the Cavs seem to be reverting back to their old defensive ways under Brown.
Scott didn't confirm it, either. He said he wasn't sure because he didn't watch all of the Cavs' games from last season, but that when he watches film from some of the games this year, he scratches his head sometimes and says "What the hell is that?" because they are things the Cavs never practice or discuss.
Brown's defense worked quite well. Scott's may eventually work, too, but the players seem to be slow in trusting it. Perhaps it's the losing streak, perhaps it's not wanting to let go of defensive philosophies that worked so well for so long. But for the first time in awhile, the Cavs seemed to defend Wednesday the way Scott wants.
Their defensive rotations were much crisper. The Heat, while they hit 10 3-pointers and shot 44 percent from the 3-point line, didn't seem to have quite as many wide open jumpers as previous opponents.
It's possible to do both. It's possible to play Scott's defense with the passion the Cavs did under Brown, which is what Gibson was referring to when he said "It was a point to make our presence felt. During this stretch, teams haven’t felt us at all. They’ve been doing what they want to do. What we wanted to do tonight was any opportunity to step in front of somebody or stop somebody from scoring, whatever that meant, that’s what we wanted to do."
And they did. Gibson got in front of James and prevented a dunk. Antawn Jamison clotheslined him while going for the ball and knocked him to the deck. Joey Graham tackled Dwyane Wade on a fastbreak, although Wade was explosive and strong enough to still get the dunk AND the foul.
The Cavs didn't put a lot of emphasis on the fact they were playing LeBron James again, and with good reason. It blew up in their face the last time.
But they played with passion and purpose in Wednesday's loss. They were aggressive in attacking the basket and going after the Heat. Scott has maintained that in order for the Cavs to turn this around, it would have to start on defense. Tonight was a good first step in that direction.
Daniel Gibson 26 points, 4 of 7 3-pointers
Anderson Varejao 18 points, 15 rebounds
Antawn Jamison 15 points, 5 of 18 shooting
Mo Williams 13 points, 9 assists
LeBron James 21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists
Dwyane Wade 28 points, 17 in fourth quarter
Chris Bosh 16 points, four rebounds
He said it
"No one is going to actually come up to me and try to hurt me. No one is actually going to come up to me and say anything to me. They may wait til I walk down the street and yell it after they just walk past, so I'm not worried. ... I'm not worried about nobody. No one is going to do anything. I'm a big guy, man. No one is going to say nothing to me." -- LeBron James, on New York fans and fans in general. James will travel to New York Friday and face the Knicks for the first time since signing with the Heat
All five Cavs starters played at least 37 minutes. Only three reserves played: J.J. Hickson, Joey Graham and Ramon Sessions. All five starters will get a day off Thursday while the rest of the team practices for Friday's game at Indiana.
Dwyane Wade hit six of his first seven shots in the fourth and scored 17 points in the quarter to extend the Heat's lead to 14 with 4:20 left in the game. The Heat were never really challenged the rest of the way.
* The Cavs' nine-game losing streak is the longest since they dropped 15 in a row the season before James arrived. They've also lost 10 straight on the road and 13 of their last 15 overall.
* The Cavs attempted 33 3-pointers. I repeat: THIRTY THREE! Only nine of them went in.
* Anderson Varejao has grabbed 31 rebounds in his last two games.