was heartbreaking. Thousands of Cavs fans who know the Heimlich
Maneuver watched helplessly as the team choked away yet another huge
lead, falling to the Indiana Pacers by a score of 97-87. (The Cavs
led by as many as 16 points and went into the locker room at halftime
with an apparently comfortable 56-44 lead.) LeBron James had 30 points
and Drew Gooden scored 17; they were the only two Cavs in double digits.
Jermaine O’Neal paced (heh heh) the winners with 29 points, Jamaal
Tinsley added 19, and almost-Cav Sarunas Jasikevicius chipped in with
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Half: The Cavs got off to an excellent start in the game.
They led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter, and ended the
quarter with a 27-12 lead. Indiana shot a terrible 25% (5 for
20) in the first quarter; the 12 points in the quarter was a season
low for them. The Cavs’ defense certainly had much to do with
it, as they were swarming to the ball and not allowing the Pacers very
many uncontested shots. On the offensive side, the Cavs were moving
the ball nicely and often hitting the resulting shots, with 12 assists
in the half. The Cavs did see their lead cut to 7 points at one
point, but extended it back to 12 points by halftime.
Dr. Jekyll Showed Up Tonight:
The enigma that is Drew Gooden continues to amaze and surprise us all.
Tonight, we got Good Drew: the kind that scores 17 points (many
of them on long range jumpers; he has really increased his range this
season) and grabs a dozen rebounds. He is showing a knack for
contributing at critical points in the game. For example, as mentioned
a moment ago, the Pacers has whittled what had been a 16 point Cavalier
lead to 7 points, at 47-40. On Cleveland’s next possession,
LeBron missed a jumper. However, Gooden charged through the paint
and grabbed the rebound, leading to two points for LeBron. The
next time down the floor, Gooden hit a jumper. The lead was back
to double digits, and the momentum had shifted back to Cleveland.
Damon: He’s Not Just A Three
Point Shooter Any More: Damon Jones provided a nice spark
off the bench in the first half, scoring all 9 of his points and dishing
3 assists (all of them on consecutive baskets near the end of the first
quarter). The key to Damon’s game is that he is not simply standing
at the three point line and looking to bomb away. His first basket
was a good illustration of this: he took a pass at the arc, the
defender flew by him, then he dribbled closer to the basket and hit
a 17-footer. Last year’s Damon would have launched the three
ball, and likely would have missed it.
I Can’t Call A Grown Man
“Boobie”: But I may have to, as that is the preferred
nickname of rookie PG Daniel Gibson. Gibson got some more minutes
and generally made the most of them, scoring 7 points (including a three
pointer and a powerful dunk). He gives the team an offensive dimension
that just is not present when some of the other guards are on the floor.
And that brings us to…
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
Second Half: 31 points scored (including 9 in the third quarter).
Only 4 assists. 8 turnovers. 7 for 32 (22%) from the field.
Are you getting the idea of how futile the Cavs were during the second
half, or shall I go on? (I would, but then this column would get
one of those “Parental Advisory” type ratings.)
The Donut Offense:
Some of the blame for these losses has to be given to the coaching staff.
The Cavs fall into a very predictable pattern when they are losing:
they launch outside shot after outside shot. That is a Bad Thing
for several reasons. First, the farther you are from the basket,
the less likely your shot will go in. Second, missed long shots
lead to long rebounds, and that can mean fast breaks going the other
way. Third, when you are shooting jump shots, you are much less
likely to draw fouls, and thus are not visiting the free throw line
very often. It’s the Donut Offense – everything is outside,
and nothing’s in the middle.
And so it was again last night.
The Cavs have few designed plays for Ilgauskas and none for Gooden,
and it shows. (Here are some numbers to consider. In 12
games this season, Gooden has been to the free throw line 42 times,
Ilgauskas only 31.) Both Ilgauskas and Gooden have nice arrays
of offensive skills. It is about time that the Cavs use them.
The Dead Horse Department:
I know I have been hard on Eric Snow and David Wesley this season.
More often than not, one or both of them have appeared in the “Didn’t
Like It” section of this column.
And dammit, that is not going to stop
me from putting them there again. They are absolutely killing
this team. In nearly 30 minutes, Snow scored 6 points while displaying
an impressive array of masonry. Just as we have seen the previous
two years, opposing teams are leaving Snow wide open, daring him to
hurt them, and he rarely does. Most of those misses were wide-open
mid-range jumpers. (To be fair, he was absolutely jobbed on one
non-call. Midway through the third quarter, after the Pacers had
cut the score to 61-54, Snow received a pass along the baseline and
drove to the hoop. His shot was blocked cleanly by O’Neal …
except for that matter of O’Neal body-checking Snow. But the
refs did not blow the whistle … at least, not until calling a T on
Snow moments later.)
As for Wesley, he had one assist and
one shot attempt (missed) in approximately 18 minutes of play.
So the totals for the two players:
47:28 played, 6 points scored on 2-of-8 shooting, 5 assists, 2 rebounds,
4 turnovers. Coach Brown, I beseech you: these guys aren’t
getting it done. Please look past the “veteran leadership”
that they bring (which is dubious; the best kind of leadership is the
kind that hits shots) and give minutes to players who won’t hurt the
Spirit Of Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is a time for giving,
for sharing your bounty with others. Somebody has to tell the
Cavs that it should not extend to NBA games. The Cavs turned the
ball over 19 times. The entire ballgame was peppered with bad
passes, dribbles into traffic (even LeBron had the ball stolen from
him a couple of times, something you rarely see), palming violations,
and guys hanging out in the lane long enough to be charged rent.
Not that there are good times to turn the ball over, but the Cavs’
turnovers seemed to come at especially inopportune moments. The
worst sequence occurred about halfway through the fourth quarter.
With Indiana clinging to a 79-76 lead, the Cavs turned the ball over
on three of their next four possessions (a bad dribble by Gooden, a
travel on Ilgauskas, and a wayward pass by LeBron). Just like
that, Indiana had pushed the lead to 85-76, and the game was over.
Thanksgiving, Part II: The
turnovers are part of a larger, more disturbing trend: the Cavs
are not putting teams away when they have the chance. Frankly,
this team should be 12-1 right now. They have coughed away games
to the Bobcats, Hawks, Raptors, and now the Pacers – none of whom
have any chance of competing for the NBA championship, mind you.
We’ve seen flashes of LeBron’s absolute will to win, particularly
in the Wizards series last year. But the entire team needs to
develop that mindset – that killer instinct that sees an opponent
on the ground, and then kicks him a couple of times for good measure.
WHAT LIES AHEAD: