Cavs rolled to a 100-87 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The
win, their fourth in a row, improved their record to 6-2, still best
in the Eastern Conference. LeBron James (idea: have
him wear that water-can’t-penetrate-it ‘fro during a game) led the
way with 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Drew Gooden bounced
back from a couple of low-scoring games to chip in 17. Zach Randolph
led Portland with 26 points (on what seemed like a thousand free throw
attempts) and 11 boards.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
And They’re Out Of The Gate
… And For a Change, They Haven’t Slipped: After the previous
two games against the Celtics and Knicks, in which they started very
slowly, the Cavs really needed to have a game in which they had a strong
effort right from the start. They succeeded, jumping out to a
six point lead almost immediately. They did eventually give that
lead back … but it was nice for them to not have to dig out of a double-digit
hole, as opposed to their previous two games.
Let It Snow: I’ve been
a frequent critic of Eric Snow, so it’s only fair that I give him
props when he does well. Tonight, he did very well – a perfect
6-of-6 from the floor for 13 points. He hit a nice assortment
of jumpers and layups (including one where he beat his man off the dribble
and drove through the lane). If he can sustain that kind of performance
– no, I’m not being a smartass here, I don’t mean he is going
to shoot 100% every night – then he’ll be one of the complementary
pieces the Cavs need. Contrary to what plenty of fans think, the
Cavs don’t need an All-Star at point guard. Instead, they need
a Paxsonesque point guard – one who can play without the ball, spot
up and hit jumpers, and generally not hurt you with his play.
Tonight, Snow was that guy.
The LeBron Atlas Watch:
Looks like this is going to become at least a semi-regular feature.
Once again, LeBron had a streak of plays that essentially decided the
game. With Cleveland up 60-53 in the third quarter, LeBron drove
the ball and pulled up for a bank shot. A few seconds later, he
grabbed the rebound from a missed Blazers shot, leading to one of Snow’s
baskets. The Blazers missed their next shot too, and again LeBron
grabbed the rebound, drove coast to coast, and scored on a layup (which
became a three point play, as he was fouled). Portland missed
yet another shot, and then James drilled a three pointer. Just
like that, the Cavs had a 17 point lead. A minute later,
James tomahawked a dunk. And that was the game, even though 15
But They Did OK Without Him Too:
LeBron picked up his second foul with six and a half minutes remaining
in the first quarter. That put him on the bench for the rest of
the period. At the time, the Cavs were leading by six points.
At the end of the quarter … the Cavs were still leading by six points.
Larry Hughes in particular seemed to turn up the energy a notch in LeBron’s
absence, getting a couple of assists and being one heck of a pest on
Passing Fancy: Although
the box score doesn’t show it (the Cavs logged but 18 assists), Cleveland
did an excellent job of moving the ball around on offense. Everybody
was zipping the ball around the court as though the Ebola virus were
strapped to it. Many of the passes would have led to assists,
but the Cavs did not have a particularly good night shooting the ball,
at least from outside.
course LeBron had his usual visionary passes (he set the tone early
with a nice back-handed dish to Hughes for a dunk), but other players
are getting into the act too. Watching the Cavs’ offense is
like watching a child grow up – you can see what they are becoming,
and while they are not there yet (and still have a ways to go), they
consistently are taking additional steps on the road there. The
most impressive development of the season thus far has been the strides
taken by the offense. It is becoming rarer and rarer to have LeBron
dribbling out the clock while the other four guys stand like guards
at Buckingham Palace. That is not a bad thing.
Youth is Served: Daniel
Gibson made his NBA debut, playing the final minute of what had become
garbage time. He made the most of it – the one time he touched
the ball, he drove the ball hard to the hoop, then kicked it out to
Pavlovic, who drained a three pointer. (That gave the Cavs 100
points, which meant free Taco Bell chalupas for all!) You can’t
extrapolate too much from one play, but boy did he look like a real
point guard. Certainly more so than anybody else we have seen
in a while.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
“Game 8” In The Pool?: It took Hughes all of eight games
to leave a game with an injury. To be fair:
Midway through the second quarter, after
Sasha Pavlovic missed a jumper, Hughes swatted the rebound away from
Portland’s Martell Webster. Webster dove for the ball, and rolled
onto Hughes’ right foot. That ended Hughes’ evening.
Fortunately, the injury did not appear to be too serious, as Hughes
returned to the bench in the second half.
The Second Unit: The Blazers’
bench outscored the Cavs’ bench, 47-26. That’s not to say
the Cavs’ reserves played poorly – Pavlovic had 8 points and another
solid defensive effort, Damon Jones had 7 points (all of them from inside
the three point line), Donyell Marshall had 8 points and led the team
with 8 rebounds – but Portland’s bench had more energy. Travis
Outlaw had 16 points; Juan Dixon and LaMarcus Aldridge added 14 and
13 points respectively; and Sergio Rodriguez dished out a game-high
8 assists. (Imagine that, the Cavs having problems guarding a
smaller, quicker point guard.)
David Wesley played. Alas, that in itself is bad news these days.
After the Cavs had built a 20 point lead late in the third quarter,
Coach Mike Brown inserted Wesley. Two minutes, one personal foul,
a missed shot, and a dribble-off-his-foot turnover later, the lead was
down to 13 points, and Wesley was back on the bench. With the
emergence of Sasha Pavlovic, Wesley’s slow start has not been as harmful
to the team. But Wesley is in real danger of ending his career
on a sour note. I wrote before the season started that Wesley could be another Lucious
Harris – a long-time shooting
guard who comes to Cleveland and watches his career fall off a cliff
– and while I didn’t want to be right, so far I am.
You’re Seven Feet Tall For A Reason:
If I see one more Cavs frontcourt player try to lay the ball in instead
of dunking it, I will … well, I’m not sure what I’ll do.
I’ve never been one to throw things at the TV (only exception to that
rule: Marquis Grissom’s deer-in-the-headlights muff of an easy
fly ball during the 1997 ALCS). But I’ll figure out some appropriate
action to take. Donyell Marshall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas both had
easy dunks … both decided to lay the ball in instead … and both
missed their shots. You know how teams will have drills in practice
the day after a game in which they miss a lot of free throws?
Maybe that’s what Coach Brown needs to do: have a dunking drill
for the big men the day after they miss (or, more accurately, pass up
the opportunity) more than one dunk.
Michael Reghi, Where Are You Now That
We Need You: I’ve deliberately not said anything about new
Cavs announcer Fred McLeod. I was (am) a big fan of previous Cavs’
announcer Michael Reghi, and think that he got the wrong end of the
Spalding (is there such a thing? But I want to keep the reference
basketball related) when he was canned shortly before the season.
After a few games, I can confidently say: he’s much better than
seems likeable enough, and tries to call the game, but the game he’s
seeing often bears at most a passing reference to the game actually
being played. Here’s one example: Portland’s Randolph
took a pass on his way to the hoop, but ran right over Snow for an offensive
foul. As Randolph was charging to the hoop, Z came over to help,
swatting at Randolph’s shot. When the foul was called, McLeod
said that Z had taken the charge. Mind you, there is no way in
the physical universe that Z could have taken the charge – he was
dashing (well, dashing for him at least) over to help Snow. But McLeod
persisted in his call that Z had established position, and reversed
it only after Snow peeled himself off the floor.
again, McLeod and partner Scott Williams bring a certain cluelessness
that makes their banter unintentionally funny. The best exchange
came as the broadcast returned from a time out, with “Hang On Sloopy”
being played in the Q. Of course, this is Buckeye country (not
to mention that they have a relatively big game this weekend; check
the many other articles on this site), and the fans were doing the “O!
H! I! O!” chant after each chorus. Williams said “why are
they singing about Snoopy?”. In all seriousness. McLeod
then had to point out that the word is actually “Sloopy”, and how
it was a big song from the 60s. It wasn’t quite as noteworthy
as Al Michaels explaining to
Peter Jennings the falsity of a reported sighting during the O.J. Simpson
Bronco chase, but only because
the stage wasn’t nearly as large.
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves come to the Q on Friday night.
I like it when star players get mentioned ahead of the team. It’s
almost rock star-ish, like “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” or
“Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band”. Anyway, the Cavs
will try to extend their winning streak to five games.