And I would have missed one hell of a game.
Perhaps realizing that the five hour flight home would be a lot more fun if it came after a win, the Cavs slashed the Not Oakland lead to two points, at 70-68, midway through the third quarter. Not Oak .. eh, Golden State (I’m already tired of the joke) pushed the lead back out to double digits, and seemed to have the game in hand with an 87-75 lead in the fourth quarter. Led by unlikely heroes in Sasha Pavlovic and David Wesley, the Cavs fought back, and finally regained the lead on a LeBron James three pointer at 90-89. The two teams swapped the lead several times in the waning minutes of regulation. The Cavs had two chances to win it, but Pavlovic and James each missed long jumpers, and the game went into overtime.
James led all scorers (note: I do have that phrase hot-keyed on my laptop), and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao both notched double-doubles (Z with 14 points and 11 rebounds in only 25 minutes, and Varejao with 12 points and 12 boards). In his first game with the Warriors since the big trade with Indiana, Stephen Jackson led the way with 29 points. Monta Ellis added 16, and Al Harrington scored 14.
True Grit: I admit it. I had this game chalked up as another loss. Somewhere in the saved drafts of this column is a version, written somewhere around halftime, that chewed the Cavs for blowing four games in a row to end their road trip, and that was about ready to call for wholesale changes in the player personnel, the coaching staff, the front office, and the Quicken Loans Arena hot dog vendors (who technically had nothing to do with the recent rough patch, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the dog I had the last time at The Q, so I decided to throw them in as well).
It would have been easy (easier than professionals would care to admit) to pack it in after falling behind by 19 points. The Cavs did not.
Wesley was put into the game as a desperation move, after Damon Jones threw the ball away on two consecutive possessions. (Note: The game log gives one of those turnovers to Ilgauskas. That’s why game logs are not perfect.) Wesley had a couple of huge steals in the final minutes of regulation; he hit a three-pointer to open the extra session; he found LeBron with a nice pass the next time the Cavs had the ball; and he pulled down six rebounds during his fifteen minutes on the court. Last time I wrote about Wesley, I suggested that he was already retired. He did not look like a retired player tonight. He showed energy, and desire, and hustle … and he deserves to be praised for it.
Is That A Coaching Adjustment I See?: Coach Mike Brown is, well, consistent. He will trot the same starting five out there every game, as long as they’re reasonably healthy; and he’ll send them back out to start the second half without fail. Until tonight. With Drew Gooden struggling again, and after Varejao had provided so much energy in the first half, Coach Brown started Andy at the outset of the second half. One of the fairer criticisms of Brown, in my mind, has been his inflexibility / his aim to stay “consistent” with his rotation even if some of those players are consistently sucking. Tonight, Coach Brown saw that Gooden did not have it, and Varejao did … and he went along with it.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
Bear, Sports Page, Forested Terrain: More free throw woes for the Cavs, as they hit only 14 of their 28 attempts from the line. You all know this song by now; I’m not going to sing the same verse. I’ll just mention that they made yet another game waaaay too close with their pathetic free throw shooting; and that on four separate occasions, Cavs players missed both free throws from the line (once each for LeBron, Ilgauskas, Gooden, and Wesley).
The Nightly FSO Missed Play: Yes, it’s becoming a regular feature: the nightly “what play did Fox Sports Ohio miss?” lament. This time, it was a fast break and dunk by Golden State’s Mickael Pietrus; FSO decided that it was more important to show a reply of Gooden falling on his ass and turning the ball over.
WHAT LIES AHEAD: