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.
It doesn't have to work 10 times a night, three times is enough. The ability to go to that play, especially in the middle of the lane -- which I honestly have not seen run so effectively since the preseason -- gives the Cavs another option and the opposition another worry. As a I mentioned in the linked story, just having James post on the block and not 20 feet from the basket creates problems for the defense. It totally messed up the Nets, who had been doing a great job of defending the lane in the first half and all the Cavs did in the third quarter was attack the rim for and-one plays. Plus, of course, LeBron is unstoppable around the rim. Give him post position too and it's game over.
Who knows if this strategy will last or even continue to work (once bitten, twice shy after I praised the new offensive system in October), but willingness to go to these plays could totally change how the Cavs operate in halfcourt sets in the postseason. Or not, we'll see.
--What you saw tonight was partly due to what amounted to a mini-camp this week. The Cavs got a day off, then two days of practice and a shootaround. That is honestly the most time they've had to work on stuff since January. There's no doubt this contributed to the cleaner game tonight.
--Though I still think the offense is the story of the night, it was the fifth straight game I thought the Cavs gave a solid defensive effort. Even in the losses to the Heat and Pistons, the defense was pretty good. Tossing out the overtime scoring to the Heat, the Cavs have held opponents to 85.6 points per game over the last five. Look, the offense is going to come and go, that has been painfully clear. The Cavs are at their best when the defense shows up every night and slowly that is coming around after a really bad spell.
--In my opinion the best play LeBron made all night happened without the ball. Right at the end of the first quarter the Cavs pulled off a home run play -- possibly something cooked up in practice recently since I've ever seen this before from them -- after the Nets made a free throw with 1.2 seconds left. First off, Eric Snow threw a great long pass. But instead of catching and then having to rush a jumper, LeBron let the ball bounce so the clock wouldn't start. He judged the angle and skip perfectly and picked the ball up and dunked it ahead of the buzzer. It was an innate/instinct play that was easy to overlook but I thought was superior.
--In the first half Boki Nachbar totally flopped and got a charge call against Anderson Varejao. Now, from what I've seen over three years Varejao never thinks he commits a foul. He's like Bill Laimbeer in that regard, he'll protest or give a shocked look at about every whistle. But didn't say a word after that call. Protesting would, after all, be bad for business.