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Gameblog: Cavs at Magic

By George Thomas Published: January 29, 2009

Post mortem:
Magic 99, Cavs 88
And no, it wasn't that close. Though up at halftime, the Cavs let this one slip way from them in the third as they shot an abysmal 38 percent from the floor.  It was in that quarter that you could also tell they were losing their cool.  When Coach Mike Brown draws a technical, you know something is up. His beef?  The calls or lack thereof for LeBron James.  In the first half, James didn't go to the free throw line at all.  It took him to the 4:21 point in the that quarter to go to the line.  Brown, who apparently is still frustrated by non-calls from the Utah Jazz game last week, let his feelings be known.  Boom.  Technical.  A few moment later, Mo Williams got tagged with one as well.
But the Cavs did little to help themselves.  The fourth quarter played out even worse as the Magic at one point led by as many as 25 and were well on their way to giving the Cavs their worse butt kicking of the season. 
They had little answer for the Magic's All-Star center Dwight Howard and allowed the Magic to get off threes in the last two quarters that sealed their fate.  Not pretty at all. 

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Kings

By George Thomas Published: January 27, 2009

Post-mortem - Cavs 117, Kings 110
If those three people out there who read this weren't happy with the display they saw tonight, you're not alone.  At times it looked as if Coach Mike Brown was going to grind his teeth into nubs primarily because while the Cavs had plenty of offense, they forgot about defense - a fact that left Brown ''concerned'' because teams have scored more than 100 points on the Cavs in 3-of-5 games - a statistic Brown owns no love of.
The problem tonight:  the Cavs got beat off dribbles, blow buys and on perimeter defense.  Oh, is that all?  The Kings shot 50 percent from the floor and almost equally as high 48 percent from the three-point line.
There was a silver lining in this game as Mo Williams put on a shooting display knocking down 43 points, dishing out 11 assists and pulling down eight rebounds.  LeBron James scored a triple-double with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists.
That, however, wasn't enough to soothe Brown.
They definitely did not feel us defensively.  Obviously, you're going to play some games like this and the last few ballgames.  We just have to understand and to continue understanding that you have to win by playing on that (defensive) end of the floor.  It's tough as nail to play on that end of the floor for 82 games and I understand that.  We just have to make sure we get it back in practice first. - Coach Mike Brown.
I'm not disappointed, but we know we didn't play our best game defensively.  They made some tough shots, but we broke down defensively a lot tonight. I'm not disappointed, but we're not satisfied.  We took one step back defensively and we don't want to do that.  LeBron James.
By the numbers:
Over his last four games, Williams has eye-popping numbers:  28.8 points on 51 percent shooting, including 51 percent from 3-point range, four rebounds and 6 assists per game...The last time two teammates scored at least 23 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists was on Dec. 23, 1971 when the Cavs' Butch Beard (30 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assists) and John Johnson (24, points, nine rebounds and 12 assists) accomplished the feat.
First half:  Cavs, 60 Kings 56
When you let a team with nothing to lose shoot more than 50 percent from the floor in the half, things like close games will happen.  Right now the Kings are in this thing primarily because the Cavaliers seem to have forgotten what perimeter defense is.  The Kings have gotten off 16 three-point shots and connected on half of them.  At one point they led the Cavs by 11 before Cleveland awoke from a stupor to realize they were down.
Point guard Mo Williams continues the success he found while out west, hitting for 25 points in the first half while LeBron already has a double-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds.  Five more assists and he cracks that triple-double nut.
Unfortunately other than from Sasha Pavlovic, they're not getting much elsewhere.   They need to continue to crack down on their perimeter defense, as they did toward the end of the first half.
Game:  Cavs (34-8) vs. Miami Heat (10-35)
Broadcast:  TV: FSOhio. WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starters:  Cavs:  LeBron James (F); Ben Wallace (F); Anderson Varejao (C); Sasha Pavlovic (G); Mo Williams (G).  Kings: John Salmons (F); Jason Thompson (F); Brad Miller (C), Kevin Martin (G); Beno Udrih.
Injured-inactive: Cavs: Eric Snow (knee); Delonte West (wrist); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C).  Kings:  Donte Green; Kenny Thomas.
Officials: David Jones, John Goble and Courtney Kirkland.
Two things to watch:

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LeBron lifts Cavs with Buzzer Beater

By George Thomas Published: January 24, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif. - It came down to one shot.  Just one shot.
In a game that can only be described as a battle, the Cavaliers' LeBron James hit a jump shot over Ronny Turiaf sinking the Golden State Warriors with 4.7 seconds left on the clock in front of a sell-out crowd at Oracle Arena Friday night.
After it fell, all there was left to do was celebrate a thrilling victory.  James had 32 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the win, but none was more important than the final shot - a play drawn up by Coach Mike Brown.
''It's a great feeling to go out there, especially when you get it like that. You hear the horn and the shot goes in, there's no way they can make a comeback at it,'' James said.   ''It's a great feeling.  I wish everyone could get that type of feeling.''
The Cavaliers withstood the barrage that the Golden State Warriors love to subject teams.  It was a case of the Cavaliers trying to beating the Warriors at their own game - fast and furious hoops replete with three-pointers with defense being a secondary concern.
But instead of Cleveland getting burned by the three, the Warriors left singed as the Cavs shot 50 percent from the arc on 10-of-20 shots while the Warriors connected on 6-of-15.
Golden State began the game shooting that way as they unleashed a hail of artillery not seen since the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan before settling down later in the game.  With the scored tied at 28 at 11:12 in the second quarter, Golden State went on a torrid pace, outscoring the Cavaliers 16-4 to take a 44-32 advantage.  In possession of a lot of momentum, the Warriors looked as if they were in command of the game. Not so fast.
The Cavs went on a run of their own for the rest of the quarter.  Within seven minutes and courtesy of a 15-2 run, the Cavaliers found themselves up by a point with 3:24 left in the quarter, a slim lead that they would build on behind the rebounding and scoring of LeBron James and Tarence Kinsey.  Tarence Kinsey?  Yes, Tarence Kinsey.
''I think everybody stepped up.  The biggest guy to step up tonight was, of course, Tarence Kinsey,'' LeBron James said. ''TK's number was called tonight and he gave us solid minutes every part of the game he was in. It was great to see him give us some production.''
Kinsey (11 points, three rebounds) rose from the Cavaliers' bench just past midway in the second quarter and fed by James, made his presence known.  That's a good thing because the Cavs needed most of the team to beat the Warriors.
With that help, it looked as if the Cavaliers were ready to put the Warriors away.  The captured a lead they didn't relinquish the lead until 1:17 of the third quarter when Wally Szczerbiak would foul Golden State forward Corey Meggette, who completed the three-point play.
From there the battle continued as the teams traded shots and turnovers until the Cavaliers found themselves on a short end of a 94-90 score with 5:33 left in the game. Mo Williams, so good in the Cavs' win over the Portland Trail Blazers found himself struggling on this night as on the next possession, he missed a 3-point shot.
Perhaps the return of point guard Monta Ellis, who made his season debut after recovering from an injured left ankle caused by a moped accident, gave the Warriors a lift on the night, but there's little doubt that they had no plans to give up or bow to the Cavaliers.  They scratched for every point and scrapped for every ball.  That turned into a 95-94 advantage for them.
But neither did Cleveland.  It was a simple case of James not allowing them to give up.  In one mind-blowing series of fortunate events, he had what he thought was a layup easily blocked by Golden State's Andris Biedrins, but when Biedrins looked the pass it down the court, there was James leaping to snag the ball and put down the shot that he'd been denied, making the score 96-95.
The Cavs, looking to put a little room between themselves and the Warriors, instead turned the ball over, resulting in an easy layup for Ellis.  On the Cavs' next possession, Daniel ''Boobie'' Gibson knocked down a 3-point shot to give the Cavs a 99-97 lead that wouldn't hold, as the Warriors took a 101-99 lead over the Cavs.
Then for a brief moment the struggling and strife for the night ended for Mo Williams (14 points, six assists), as he connected on a three-point shot to put the Cavs up 102-101.  From there the game turned into pure drama. Quick shots: Guard Tarence Kinsey hit in double figures for just the second time this season…James became the team's all-time leading free-throw shooter.

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On the Road: Portland or Frisco? Portland!!!

By George Thomas Published: January 23, 2009

I'm getting my education in touring the NBA on this trip for sure.  Why do I say that?
The stop at Portland proved relaxing dare I say.  No pressure. Work was easy to get done.  The Trail Blazers organization was easy to deal with.
Then there's San Francisco.  I'd not been in NoCal for 13 years or so.  The last time was for a movie junket related to the film Wings of a Dove, starring Linus Roche and The Rain Maker directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Although I was violently ill one day during that trip, the second I was good enough to experience Coppola's vineyard and winery.  In short:  I didn't stay in the city.
Returning yesterday, I got the impression that Frisco is little more than New York City west.  A colleague confirmed the vibe I got.  But there was one distinct difference:  the level of snobbery encountered.
You see the Cavs practiced at a private athletic club and seeing as how part of my job is following them, I had to show up there. One Day One the door guy greeted us thusly:
"I'm sorry, sir, but because you are wearing jeans, unfortunately you have to go around to the backdoor to enter the building." 
About the only thing missing from his statement was:  "along with the rest of the riff raff."
This morning upon turning up for shootaround, things got a bit more ridiculous.  This time knowing to go to the back, we went there only to be told that we had to wait for the club manager, Pam, to escort us up.
Well heck, Pam didn't have to do any stinkin' escortin' yesterday. 
Tick. Tock.  Tick Tock.  Five minutes pass.  No Pam.
"I'm so sorry sir, we're trying to find her.
Tick.  Tock. Tick. Tock.  Ten minutes later.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.  Temperatures are beginning to rise.
"Pam will meet you up there, sir."
I bet she will.  I betcha Pam couldn't be found because she was up there salivating over muscular hoopsters.
It was all a bit surreal simply because after being profiled in one NBA town based upon the color of my skin, now it was coming because of my perceived class.  It was like something out of Beverly Hills Cop.
Perhaps I should have done this to try to get in and do interviews:

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James, Williams Extinguish the Blazers

By George Thomas Published: January 22, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - Normally after a loss the Cavaliers come back and take their frustrations out on the next team they face. Although it's certainly more difficult to do on the road, the Cavaliers continued the trend beating the Portland Trail Blazers 104-98 behind the scoring of LeBron James and (34 points) point guard Mo Williams (31 points - a season high).  The team hasn't lost two consecutive games all season. ''One thing I'm very excited about and happy about is the way we bounce back after losses,'' LeBron James said. We never let one hang over our heads.'' Going into the fourth quarter up 74-69, the Cavs were playing good enough defensively to take control of their game against the Portland, the offense was the problem and bouncing back didn't look like a viable option. They opened the quarter with LeBron James on the bench and it was clear to all that when it came to scoring, they looked hesitant with respect to what to do. After James returned, he and Williams took control to guide the Cavaliers in the right direction. ``It's pretty effective, especially when he's drawing attention and knocking down shots,'' Williams said of their collaborative effort.  ``It's basically pick your poison.  One-on-one no one can guard him.'' The Blazers closed the score to within one at 78-77 and suddenly things had grown too close for comfort. Eventually they would hold a lead at 82-81 after point guard Brandon Roy drove to the hoop for the scored and drew the foul and completed a three-point play from the line. This is a game that the Cavs could have lost easily. James began to feel and trust his stroke and broke out the second half hitting his first two jump shots.  Of the first six possessions in the second half, the Cavs took nothing but jump shots, with four coming from James. Of course it's easy to rely on him for scoring, but what happens when it come becomes inconsistent? Therein lies the rub.  The Cavs' success this year has been built on consistent team play and in this game in particular, it looked as if some of the teamwork carefully honed during the course of the first half of the season may be cast aside because the team's currently missing two starters in Delonte West and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Perhaps James sensed that because he eventually began to make an effort to mix his shots, driving to the hoop for layups, but also continuing to throw up the jumpers. ``Tonight was a case of let me go out there and do my thing offensively or you're going to get my team involved,'' James said.  ``But I got hot at one at one point and my teammates started knocking down shots too.'' The Cavs gathered just enough momentum to make a mini-run in an attempt to pull away from the Blazers as they outscored Portland 9-2 to take a six-point lead with 3:35 left in the game.  They would battle back and forth until Mo Williams gave the Cavs a valuable seven-point cushion with a huge three-point shot with two minutes left in the quarter at 95-88.  He all but sealed it with another just moments later to put the Cavs up 98-88 with just 48.9 seconds left in the game. If there were one night Williams needed to step up in a huge way, this would be it.  The Cavs, down two men, got just 15 points from their bench.  But defense played a larger role in this as well, as the Cavaliers cracked down on the Blazers holding them under 41 percent shooting in the game and beat them, though barely, on the boards.  Ultimately they won the game by outshooting them. 
The Cavs shot a blistering 53 percent from the field including almost 58 percent from the 3-point arc.  Williams himself accounted for 6-of-9 shots from that line. The Cavs move on to play Golden State Friday night. Quick shots:  James recorded his fourth double-double in fifth games and also tallied his 11th double-double on the season and the 116th of his career...Williams' 33 points were a season high...Wally Szczerbiak grabbed a season best 10 rebounds...Cleveland had two guys score more than 30 points in a game for the first time since Nov. 5, 2005 when Larry Hughes hit 37 and James 36...The Cavs have not lost two consecutive games this year. *

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Portland and Cap'n Crunch Donuts

By George Thomas Published: January 21, 2009

How unique is Portland?  I picked up a Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries donut at this place called Voo Doo Donut. I kid you not.  This thing, with cereal protruding like itty bitty mountains, looked like something otherworldly and guess what?  It tastes the same way.  It was unique, more than delish and its pleasures didn't last long enough - just like this short jaunt to Portland, Ore. There are very few cities that I've been to where I'd consider moving.  None of you out there should jump for joy at the prospect that I will be vacating Northeast Ohio anytime soon.  I also have a love of Chicago and the metropolitan Washington D.C. area.
But Portland is different.  In an era where we have cookie cutter suburbs where chains have chased out mom-and-pop businesses for the most part.  There's nothing wrong with big box stores - I confess to being a Best Buy addict myself, but when every city in states 3,000 miles away look the same, thanks but no thanks.
Portland is different.  It's unique, vibrant and it shows in its downtown area where there are a host of shops not seen in Northeast Ohio.

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On the Road: The Wrestler and Portland

By George Thomas Published: January 21, 2009

Sometimes reality and stereotypes actually meet.  Take going to Portland for instance.  I'd always heard this beautiful city was where hippies went to age and vote for Barack Obama.  Proof of the former:  the Alaska Airlines flight I was on where half the folks there sported flip-flops.  Glad no one suffered from athlete's foot and foot odor.  The proof of the latter came today when Barack Obama was inaugurated as president.  Oregon's folks gave him a 13-point edge over John McCain in the general election. 

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Cavs Unable to Slay Giant Lakers

By George Thomas Published: January 20, 2009

*map gthomas spt cavs¶ LOS ANGELES - With players diving for loose balls as if this was the last basketball game of the season and a crowd into things from the very beginning, Monday night's affair at the Staples Center said playoff hoops.  The calendar, however, read January.
That proved of little matter to the Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers as the teams battled back-and-forth before the Lakers won 105-88.
The game featured mini-runs by each team with neither being able to take a stranglehold on the game until late in the third quarter.
In fact the just a single point separated the two at the half as Cleveland held a 50-49 lead.  Despite that slim margin, it looked as if things were turning the Cavs' way with Kobe Bryant (20 points, 12 assists) held to a mere five points in the half.  Bryant may have been playing possum, adding six points in the third. 
The third quarter ultimately put the Cavs at a disadvantage, as the Lakers took what, in this game, passed for a commanding lead at 75-66 after the Lakers, at one point up 66-62, completed a one of those mini runs, outscoring the Cavs 9-4.  It didn't hurt that they shot an impressive 63 percent in the third.
''We were getting hurt on offense.  You got to give th credit to (Pau) Gasol and (Andrew Bynum),'' Coach Mike Brown said when asked about the difference in the first half and second. ''You've got to give the whole team credit, but Gasol and Bynum were a handful for us tonight.  In the second half we continued to play the way we did in the first half, but the shots did not go down.''
Into the fourth, LeBron James (23 points, nine rebounds) and Bryant looked as if they were going to turn it into a classic duel between NBA superstars - the second and third leading scorers in the lead, respectively.  Instead, the Lakers built on the lead established in the fourth quarter with defense their size.
''The Lakers' length bothered us a little bit, even at the rim,'' Brown said.  ''They did a nice job coming over and from the sidelines.''
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson put the Cavaliers at a disadvantage for most of the night as the Lakers twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum challenged the Cavs' smaller lineup.  There's little doubt that this was one of those games where the team definitely missed center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, as the Cleveland oftentimes found their lineup too small to contend with the much bigger Lakers squad. 
It was a strategy that Cleveland had no answer as at one point in the floor the smallest player Jackson had on the floor, Sasha Vujacic,  stood a mere 6-7 and 6-2 Daniel Gibson had the task of guarding him.
Still, despite what seemed like Herculean task with the Lakers at one point up by as many as 18 points at 91-73, the Cavaliers battled back to close within seven points with 3:32 left in the fourth quarter doing so with defense, gut and guile.  At one point you could see just how drained James was standing side-by-side with Bryant waiting for the game to resume.
No can accuse Cleveland of quitting because ultimately, the Lakers' used their primary weapon - size - to their advantage.  If anything it showed how much the team missed Ilgauskas in this one. 
The Cavs face the Portland Trail Blazers next.
No shootout:  Bryant's 20 points and James' 23 hardly qualified for a shootout.  Bryant may have been affected by a finger he dislocated in the first quarter.  As far as James, he was affected by Bryant's defense.
While Brown elected to put Sasha Pavlovic - who performed admirably - on Bryant to start the game, L.A. Coach Phil Jackson put Bryant on James from the start.
Life in the NBA:  New York Knick Stephon Marbury, who has been embroiled in a bit of a contract controversy with his team could be seen walking the baseline at the game.  He makes $200,000 for not playing against the Knicks Monday.
Quick shots:  Sasha Pavlovic got hit with a Flagrant foul-1 when he nailed the Lakers' Trevor Ariza in the head as he drove to the basket for what looked to be an easy score.¶ *

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. New Orleans Hornets

By George Thomas Published: January 16, 2009

Post -mortem:  Cavs 92, Hornets 78.
The Cavaliers won this game for two reason - defense and coaching. 
Defensively, they held Hornets to 37 percent shooting on the night, forced 13 turnovers and had six steals.  It's the kind of effort that's expected and has become the norm.  'Nuff said.
But in all of the excitement surrounding the team's success this season the one person who deserves much of the credit rarely gets mentioned - Coach Mike Brown.
He showed his basketball acumen by going with a small lineup for much of the second half that featured Wally Szczerbiak at center and James at power forward.  The maneuver left the Hornets befuddled and frustrated.
Mike Brown on the performances of Szczerbiak and Pavlovic, who scored 14 and 19 points respectively and combined to hit on 8-of-9 three-point shots:

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Gameblog: Cavs at Chicago Bulls

By George Thomas Published: January 15, 2009

Apologies for no halftime analysis, but I was working on getting news of Delonte West's injury and let's face it, if you're a Cavs' fan it's not good.
It's easy to look at West's 12 points per game, four assists and the rest of it and say that those numbers are replaceable, but there are other factors to deal with here.
This loss could be as big as losing Zydrunas Ilgauskas, primarily because West brings other intangibles to the game.  Those 12 points can be made up in other ways, but what about West's defense?
Other than LeBron James he might be the team's most consistent defender this season, taking on bigger, taller shooting guards in the league and rarely, if ever, truly getting lit up.
He's a crafty, intelligent ball player who plays defense that way, often blanketing opponents and still managing not to get called for a foul.
And for a while there, after his injury, the Cavaliers looked just a wee bit lost and, I'd argue, they missed his defense down the stretch with the game on the line and clinging to a very narrow lead.
So what next?  Who's got to step up?  I suspect you see Sasha Pavlovic move into that starting role and Daniel Gibson will still come off the bench, primarily because Mike Brown has consistently said that Gibson plays better in that particular role.
But if Cavs fans are honest and realistic, Pavlovic will have some big sneakers to fill because defensively, he's not West and he's never played as consistently as him.
After the game LeBron James had this look of resignation on his face as if something was slipping away from him with this wave of injuries.  He could be right, but the Cavs believed when the season started that they had a very deep bench.  Now, they get to find out just how true that is.
Mike Brown on Delonte West's injury:

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Grizzlies

By George Thomas Published: January 13, 2009

Post mortem:
Cavs 102, Grizzlies 87
Want to sum this win up succinctly?  Two words:  LEBRON JAMES.  While the team wasn't necessarily flat, James lit the fuse that blew this one open.  He walked into the locker room with just nine points and left the game with 30.  Toss in 11 rebounds and 10 assists that inspired his teammates and you get a win.  No one, least of all Rudy Gay had any answers for James as he dunked, hit layups, made steals, grabbed rebounds and dished the ball of.  Was he alone in his effort?  Not even close.
The backcourt tandem of Mo Williams (16 points) and Delonte West (19 points) combined for 35 points. But it was his defense that proved key as he may as well have kept O.J. Mayo bound, gagged and locked in a broom closet. Mayo averages close to 20 points per game, but scored just six on the night.
From the coach's office:
Mike Brown on West's defense:

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Celtics - Updated with Audio

By George Thomas Published: January 9, 2009

Post-game audio - Mike Brown and LeBron James on the victory over the Celtics:   boston-post-game
Pre-game audio:  brown-rivers
Post mortem:
Cavs 98, Celtics 83
All week the media heard and reported that this game had no more meaning than any other.  The Cavaliers, although the did so, cannot say that with a straight face after whipping on Celtics in a physical game.
They got this win with grit and hard-nosed defense in on of those games LeBron James refused to lose and he displayed that offensively and defensively in his best performance of the year with 38 points, seven rebounds, six assists and topping it off four steals and three blocked shots.
It was a night when his defense would prove as important as his offense as James, with some help, locked up Paul Pierce for most of the night.  Pierce only scored 11 points for the Celtics as James pretty much disarmed him in the game.
The numbers won't tell the story, but James had plenty of help from teammates who scrapped for balls, fought for rebounds and contested shots.  Overall the Cavs had seven blocks and an eye-popping 14 steals. 
Defense won the game for them.  It's that simple.   Was it a message game?  Maybe, but messages tend to matter when they're tied to more tangible results than a win in a single game.
From the coach's office:
Mike Brown on LeBron James' performance:
I know offensively he did a whale of a job carrying us, especially when we were stagnant and stalled out. 
LeBron James on the effect of the fans:
Tonight when Ben was making free throws and we were making runs, it was great.  Much respect to the Cavaliers fans.  They were unbelievable.
At the half:  Cavs 49, Celtics 40
Watching this game, you can't help but think that Cavs should be ahead by a wider margin.  In several intances, they created turnovers only to give the ball right back to the Celtics.
The Cletics are winning this game in almost every category, except one - shooting.  They're beating the Cavs in second-chance points and rebounds.  What's hurt them:  14 percent shooting from the three-point arc while the Cavs have hit on 57 percent of their overall shots.
Game:  Cavs (28-6) vs. Celtics (29-8)
Broadcast:  TV: FSOhio, ESPN. Radio:  WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starters: Cavs:  LeBron James (F), Ben Wallace (F); Anderson Varejao (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G): Celtics:  Paul Pierce (F); Kevin Garnett (F); Kendrick Perkins (C); Ray Allen (G); Rajon Rondo (G).
Inactives-injured: Cavs:  Eric Snow (knee); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (ankle).  Celtics:  Tony Allen (right ankle sprain).
Streaking:   The Cavs are defending an 18-game home winning streak. They've won one overall.   The Celtics have lost three-in-a-row. Officials: 
Three things to watch: 

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Cleveland Cavaliers: Of Leprechauns and Losses

By George Thomas Published: January 8, 2009

There was a surreal moment in the Cavaliers locker room post game last night.
With the game over at approximately 9;20 p.m. LeBron James did his media availability early and was set to get out of there.  Then he and everyone in the room started to pay attention to the Celtics-Rockets game that had been background noise.
Everyone remained focused on that screen - shot-to-shot, call-to-call.  But did so in a casual kind of way,  a way that bodes well for the team in this one.  Case in point:  Delonte West emerges from the tower room clad in nothing but a towel and quickly allows it to slip revealing as one Forrest Gump would say his BUT-TOCKS.  Sophomoric?  Yup.  Funny?  Absolutely.
They're loose, having fun and have nothing to lose.
I don't know that you could say the same about the Celtics and there are doubts coming from some quarters of Beantown in the wake of their loss to the Houston Rockets:

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Gameblog: Cavs vs. Bobcats

By George Thomas Published: January 7, 2009

I see the Muppet curmudgeons are back.  Apologies guys, but my PC kinda went blammo in Washington D.C. Barely got my game stuff filed.   Yes, I did buy a new one.  Here's tonight's gameblog:
What do you say about a game in which the Cavaliers never trailed?  It's as close to perfection as you're going to get in the NBA.
What to take away from this one: personally, everyone should be more and more impressed with the improvement Anderson Varejao's made in his offensive game over the summer and throughout the season.  Defensively, he was always there and brought that energy that seems to make his hair frizz out.  Tonight he dropped another 14 points and added six rebounds for a Zydrunas Ilgauskas-like performance.
In retrospect, the Cavs played like this was a warm up of other things to come - meaning Friday's wrasslin' match with the Celtics, a team that suddenly looks very, very mortal having lost 6-0f-8, including tonight against the Houston Rockets.
They could have very easily looked ahead on this one. They remained focus and now have their sights set on Boston.
From the locker room:
Mo Williams on the Cavs having a target on their backs.

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Gameblog - Cavs vs. Bulls

By George Thomas Published: January 2, 2009

Post mortem:  Cavs 117, Bulls 92
Defense was the word for this game.  The Cavaliers rode the Bulls from the jump and didn't let go.  They turned the Bulls best weapon, Derrick Rose, into a non-factor.   About the only one who did any damage is Ben Gordon with 22 points, but considering he only plays offense, that's not big surprise. 
By concentration on Rose, the Cavaliers threw the Bulls off their game.  Perimeter shooting, their strength, didn't come into play as they shot an abysmal 37 percent.
Conversely, the Cavs shot almost 51 percent and had seven players in double figure.  LeBron James had a triple-double, while Anderson Varejao led all scorers with 26. 
At the half:  Cavs 61, Bulls 47
The Cavaliers shot 56 percent form the floor to open the half.  Methinks someone got that memo about sluggish starts in recent games.  That's a nice little stat.  It's even more noteworthy when you consider that it comes with LeBron James only having taken one shot.  At the half, Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao, who the team needed to step up, has done so. The Cavs' bench players have outscored the Bulls reserves 18-6 in the first half.
Game:  Cavs (26-5) vs. Chicago Bulls (14-17)
Broadcast:  TV: FSOhio  Radio:  WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starters:  Cavs:  LeBron James (F); Ben Wallace (F); Anderson Varejao (C); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G).  Bulls:  Thabo Sefolosha (F); Tyrus Thomas (F); Aaron Gray (C); Ben Gordon (G); Derrick Rose (G).
Injuries-inactives:  Cavs:  Zydrunas Ilgauskas (left ankle), Eric Snow (knee); Bulls:  Drew Gooden (sprained right ankle); Luol Deng (sprained left ankle); Michael Ruffin (sprained left ankle), Kirk Hinrich (torn ulnar collateral ligament)
Streaking:  Cavaliers have won 16 consecutive at home, but lost their last one against the Miami Heat.  The Bulls lost their last game.
Officials:  Mike Callahan, Eric Lewis, Ed Malloy.

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