The Cavs bested the Milwaukee Bucks,
95-86, to win their third game in a row and second in a row on the road.
Despite trailing by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, the
Cavs were not to be denied. They scored 21 of the final 25 points of
the game to walk out with the win.
The Cavs were led by Drew Gooden with
31 points and 16 rebounds, both of them season highs (the 16 rebounds
tied his performance on November 4 at Charlotte). Larry Hughes
backed him up with 22 points. LeBron James was held to single
digits for the first time in two years, scoring only eight points; however,
he also dished out nine assists. Michael Redd topped the Bucks
with 26 points, and last year’s top overall pick, Andrew Bogut, had
16 rebounds and 10 points.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Is That A Butterfly I See?:
It has taken a third of the season, but we are finally seeing the Cavs
as Coach Mike Brown wanted us to see them. In the past few games,
the Cavs have ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the second half,
and (except for last Saturday’s Chicago game) have gotten wins as
Last night’s game continued this positive
trend. Throughout most of the game, Milwaukee held a lead from
between two and eight points. They never got hot enough to run
away with the game, but they also held fast whenever it looked like
the Cavs were about to take the lead. Cleveland was losing, 82-74,
with a little over six and a half minutes to go.
The Cavs then took complete control of
the game. They forced three Milwaukee turnovers (including a killing-what-little-momentum-we’ve-got
dribble off the foot by Charlie Bell with 1:20 to go. They prevented
the Bucks from scoring any field goals in the final seven minutes of
the game (aside from a “go ahead and score, we’ve got a flight to
catch” dunk by Redd with seconds remaining). For the quarter,
they held the Bucks to 11 points (mind you, the Bucks are normally one
of the Association’s highest-scoring teams). They moved the
ball around nicely, getting four assists on the five field goals they
made during this period. They looked like a veteran team that
knows how to pull out a win on the road, even against a decent opponent.
The butterfly may just be emerging from
When It Counts The Most:
Following up on the previous point: During crunch time, the Cavs
hit 11 of the 12 free throws they attempted. (The lone miss was
a meaningless one by Gooden with 25 seconds to go and the Cavs up by
Starting At Power Forward, Dr. Jekyll:
Gooden has had a very up-and-down season. He started out of the
blocks with several 20-plus point efforts, then had a terrible stretch
in the middle of November (including a 0-point, 15-minute performance
against the Celtics), then picked it up again around Thanksgiving, and
followed up with an inconsistent December.
Last night, he showed those signs of
being the power forward that everybody would like him to be. His
31 points (on 13-of-20 shooting from the field) and 16 rebounds speak
loudly enough; you can see from the box score that he had a great game.
What impressed me even more was how he responded like a seasoned veteran
down the stretch. Here’s what he did in the final few minutes
of the game:
I am not going to repeat my “Drew Gooden, All-Star” jinx here; he’s been too inconsistent and
does not have the numbers to warrant a trip to Vegas; besides, I don’t
want to doom him to two weeks of six point games. I’ll just
say that Gooden showed a taste of why he is a key part of this team.
You Don’t Have To Score To Win:
For the second game in a row, the Cavs made their move with little to
no scoring help provided by LeBron. This development is positive
– they are showing that they are not reliant on The Chosen One to
win. (Something that they have certainly been guilty of in the
It did seem like LeBron wanted to take
the scoring reins – he took two ill-advised jumpers towards the end
of the third quarter and an even more ill-advised three pointer from Arenas Junction. LeBron took all three shots early in
the shot clock, and he missed all of them badly.
To LeBron’s credit (we’re still in
the section of What I Liked, remember), he shifted gears. He stopped
jacking up the long shots, continued to move the ball around on offense,
and tightened his defense (even drawing a charge from Ruben Patterson
at one point). He continued to draw double teams whenever he touched
the ball, kept passing his way out of them, and the Cavs kept finding
the eventual open man for a shot.
Can A Coach Be Listed As
“Probable”?: During one time out late in the game, Coach
Brown reportedly slammed his clipboard to emphasize a point. That’s
what the Fox Sports Ohio announcers told us … and as play was about
to resume, we saw a shot of Coach Brown being treated for a cut on his
hand, presumably the fallout from said clipboard slamming. (We
can only wonder if a “CAUTION: Breaking this clipboard may cause
injury” warning label would have prevented
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
Larry Lofton: Remember Kenny
Lofton? At least a couple of times a season, he would crank a
long home run. (“Long” being a relative term; we’re talking
about “long” in the sense of “the right fielder has no chance
to leap over the wall and bring it back”, not in the Hafnerian sense
of “another souvenir for the mezzanine deck”.) After such
a home run, Lofton would then fancy himself a slugger, and swing for
the fences for the next week or so. Inevitably, he’d slump,
and would continue slumping until he got back to what he did best.
Hughes was Kenny Lofton last night.
He did score 22 points, and he looked very good from the outside in
the first half (he scored 16 points, including four three-pointers and
one other long jumper). He then forgot about slashing to the basket
for layups and free throws, settling for long jumpers … and in the
third quarter, he missed all four that he took. For the game,
he was 7-of-17 from the field, which is not terrible, but also not something
to highlight on the resume. Hughes is at his best when he is slashing
to the hoop; he cannot live by his outside shot alone.
They Count During Other Parts Of The
Game, Too: While I gave the Cavs kudos for their free throw
shooting down the stretch, that spurt merely raised the team’s overall
performance from the stripe from “Dudleyean” to “below average”. For the game,
the Cavs were only 16 of 24 from the line, for a 67% average.
(For those of you who don’t need to rely on “The Diff” for math,
that means the Cavs were 5 of 12 from the line until their streak in
the fourth quarter.) Hughes and Eric Snow each missed a pair of
free throws; if you’re going to do that, you may as well fumble the
ball out of bounds and get on with the game.
A mild crack on a guy who scored 22 points,
and continued observation of one of the team’s Achilles heels.
That’s all I have on the negative side.
WHAT LIES AHEAD: