Another ugly win at home, but we'll take it. The Cavs pulled out a 95-91 victory over Toronto, coming from seven points behind with five minutes remaining. LeBron James had the usual 26 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds. Donyell Marshall burned his former team for 19, and Daniel Gibson, in his first pro start, chipped in with 18. Chris Bosh and Anthony Parker led the Raptors with 18 points apiece.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Say Hello To My Little Friend: Daniel (“Dan”) (“Boobie”) Gibson, a man clearly in search of a decent nickname, had a terrific game in his first pro start. His 18 points included an assortment of long range jumpers (including 3 of 6 from three point range) and drives to the hoop (one of them was SportsCenter-worthy; a twisting left-handed layup that somehow went in). Much to the delight of Coach Mike Brown, Gibson also played tenacious defense. He was assigned to Raptors waterbug point guard T.J. Ford most of the night, and Ford finished with 8 points, well below his season average. All this despite being approximately five feet tall. (I know that he is listed as 6 feet; I also know better than to believe everything I read). He definitely has game, and it is great to see him getting some playing time. Once Larry Hughes returns, Gibson will likely have his minutes cut, but he should not fall into the Ira-Wesley-Shannon Brown Bermuda Triangle of Guys Who Rarely Get Off The Bench. (Shannon Brown shouldn't be there either, but that's another story.)
Welcome Back, Donyell: Marshall had his first good game in what seemed like weeks, with his 19 points and 6 rebounds. He did spend a lot of his time 25 feet from the hoop, but he also scored some points from the paint, which is exactly what he needs to do to set up his outside game. 'Yell is at his best when he's mixing the inside game with the outside.
Wild Thing: Anderson Varejao: 20 minutes played, 11 rebounds. That is sick. He also drew two more charges, extending what I can only assume is the league lead in that department. Interestingly, the refs seem to know that Varejao has a reputation for drawing charges, and now they are giving him the benefit of the doubt. On the first charge he drew, he was sliding to his left, and both of his feet were in the air at the time of the contact ... yet he got the call. As a Cavs fan, I think it is great that the refs are able to make a gutsy call like that. (And if I were a Raptors fan, I would have been throwing things at the TV.)
Man Among Boys: Although the box score may show that LeBron had a pedestrian (at least for him) 7 points in the second half, it does not tell the story, which is: LeBron won this game. The Cavs were down by 7, 84-77, with just over 5 minutes remaining. The Cavs' next six possessions:
Look Who's Here Again!: Eric Snow: 12 points, 6 assists. It won't land him in Las Vegas this February, but it's not too shabby. He is continuing to drive the ball to the hoop, and Good Things tend to happen when he does.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
Bombs Away!: The Cavs settled for too many outside shots; when they do that, they are lucky to pull out the W. They pulled the trigger from three point range 24 times last night. That is way, way, WAY too many shots from long range. They hit 10 of those 24 attempts, a 42% shooting percentage, which is about as high a percentage from beyond the arc as you could reasonably expect. In other words, a game like last night's – a close win that probably was much too difficult given the two teams' talent levels – is the ceiling of what we can expect when they take so many long range shots. That's not going to get this team to where they want to go.
On The Side Of The Milk Carton, Part I: As a result of the reliance on jumpers, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden were basically absent from the box score, combining for 4 points (all by Ilgauskas; Drew pulled a goose egg) in a combined 48 minutes of action. I see this as a shortcoming of the coaching staff as much as anything – the Cavs are not running any plays for their big men, and it's showing. The offense is reverting to Four Guys Waiting For LeBron To Do Something (and even then, they are not posting up LeBron any more; it's always LeBron with the ball on the wing). They need to get back to moving the ball around more and establishing a presence in the post. Remember the saying, “Babe Ruth's dead; throw strikes”? Maybe the new, NBA version of that mantra should be “Bill Russell's retired; post your man up”.
On The Side Of The Milk Carton, Part II: Has anybody seen Sasha Pavlovic lately? A couple of weeks ago, he seemed to be on the verge of becoming a key bench player. Now, he's reverting to the Same Old Sasha we saw last year. In one memorable sequence in the final minute of the first quarter, Pavlovic missed two long range jumpers and then ran right over a Raptor for a charge on what should have been an easy layup to end the quarter. The rap on Pavlovic has always been his inconsistency – you might get sniper-like shooting and double-digit points out of him one game, and then he'd be lucky to hit water if he fell out of a boat for the next week. It seems that Sasha may be reverting to that pattern, and it's being reflected in his minutes (he played a little less than 6 minutes last night).
Speaking Of Milk, Maybe He Should Drink Some: Larry Hughes missed his tenth consecutive game with an ankle sprain that originally was described as a “day to day” injury. That description makes one reminisce about the Butch Davis era for the Browns. For those who aren't familiar with Mr. Davis, he had a penchant for downplaying any injury. Browns fans quickly developed their own decoder ring for deciphering Davis's injury descriptions:
24 ... 23 ... 22 ...: This item actually fits more under a “Things I Noticed About The Game But Didn't Care About One Way Or The Other” heading. Seeing as though I don't have that category, I'll cram it in here. Anyway, for the first half of the game, the shot clocks were broken. This meant that the PA announcer had to periodically announce the time remaining: “15 seconds” ... “10 seconds” ... et cetera. I kept hoping for one of the teams to hold the ball at the 24 second mark, just to see if Mr. PA Announcer would respond with a guttural “bzzzzzz”, but it never happened. (The clocks were fixed by the start of the second half.)
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
The Cavs' home cooking continues as they host the Indiana Pacers this Saturday evening. The Pacers drubbed the Cavs the last time the two teams met; hopefully LeBron & Co. will come out looking for revenge.