The Cavs rebounded from their tough loss
at Miami Thursday night to crush the Charlotte Bobcats, 101-81, last
night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland took an 8-7 lead on a Larry
Hughes jumper with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, and
never looked back. Aided by some tough defense and the Bobcats’
refusal to make any shots they took from the paint, the Cavs led by
five points (24-19) after one quarter, extended it to 16 points (50-34)
by the half, and maintained that margin the rest of the way.
LeBron James, who still appears to be
playing at less than full strength on his tired legs and injured toe,
nevertheless led the Cavs with 18 points; he also pulled down 10 rebounds.
Drew Gooden backed him up with 16 points, Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall
each scored 13, and Anderson Varejao put up 12 points and 13 rebounds
in a little less than 20 minutes of work. Gerald Wallace led Charlotte
with 16 points, and rookie Adam Morrison chipped in 14.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
No Excuses: It was the second
night of a away-and-home back-to-back. The game was against a
Charlotte team that had recently been playing much better than their
record (heading into last night’s game, they had won three of their
last four, including road wins against the Lakers and Nuggets).
In other words, it was the perfect setup for the Cavs to blow a winnable
game, then sheepishly hang their heads in the post-game interviews while
explaining how, for the [insert some large number here]th time,
the dog ate their homework.
Instead, they went out and dominated
the Bobcats. From start to finish. The Cavs never got on
a huge run. But every time you glanced at the scoreboard, their
lead was a point or two more than the last time you checked.
The only time that Charlotte really challenged
was during the third quarter, when they cut what had been a 16 point
Cavalier lead down to nine. But the Cavs got points on each of
their next three possessions, pushing their lead back to fourteen points,
and then delivered the game to the Human Victory Cigars (who came in
the form of Scot Pollard and David Wesley on this particular evening)
with a 16-7 run in the first half of the fourth quarter.
It’s Not Easy To Have A Good Game
When You Shoot Two For Ten:
But Sasha Pavlovic managed to do just that. His apparently poor
shooting night came as something of a surprise; he did not seem to be
forcing shots, which will often happen when a bench player has strung
together a couple of good games. If anything, he looked like a
point guard in training – he had five assists (tops on the Cavs),
and would have had a couple more had his teammates been a little more
proficient in their layups. He also had four steals. Hey,
let’s put those two together in the form of a written highlight reel:
early in the fourth quarter, he stole the ball from Charlotte’s Melvin
Ely, then led the break to the other basket. He bounced a perfect
pass to LeBron, who was streaking down the left lane, and LeBron thundered
home a huge dunk.
Has Sasha earned the additional playing
time (which seems to have come right out of Damon Jones’s minutes)?
Is he being showcased in anticipation of the trading deadline later
this month? I do not know. I do know that I have not seen
Sasha play this consistently well as a Cavalier, and it’s intriguing
to see him scratching the surface of his visible potential.
It’s Much Easier To Have A Good
Game When You Shoot Eight For Thirteen: When Gooden is on,
he makes you wonder why the Cavs don’t run every other play through
him. He is the Cavs’ best post player, and last night was another
example of why. That little jump hook of his, especially when
he shoots it from the right baseline, is money. That 15-foot jumper
of his, especially when he shoots it from the right baseline, is money.
Hey, that’s the trick! Put Gooden on the right baseline, and
never let him leave! (Except to let him crash the offensive boards.)
What Rock Did They Find This Guy Under?:
Charlotte has a reserve forward named Walter Herrmann. Before
last night, I had never been introduced to Mr. Herrmann’s body of
work. I did not even know that Mr. Herrmann existed.
That all changed with 9:31 remaining,
when Herrmann entered the game. Mind you, he wanted to enter the
game earlier than that. He was at the scorer’s table with all
of the visible excitement of the small kid at the Y who called “next
game” about a half hour ago, has been pacing the sideline ever since,
and who is finally, finally going to play. To get a true
mental image, consider that:
On the Cavs’ first possession A.W.
(After Walter), Herrmann was left to guard both Marshall and Varejao.
Varejao was in the lane; Marshall, out by the three point line.
(I know, it’s a stretch. Try to imagine it.) Herrmann
ran to guard Marshall … then sprinted towards Varejao … then twirled
and ran back towards Marshall ... et cetera. Varejao and Marshall
were the two paddles; Herrmann, the human Pong ball bouncing between
them. I had never seen a human being try to chase his tail before.
And in that moment, he won me over.
He had me at hello. The Walter Herrmann Era is starting, and I want
in on the ground floor. Even though this is a Cavs’ column,
we’re going to check in on Walter from time to time. (P.S.:
Herrmann later drilled a three-pointer and finished with five points.)
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
What Rock Did They Put This Guy Under?:
The only down side to last night’s offense was the complete lack of
any role for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The big guy took only five shots,
scored four points, and was basically as invisible as a seven-foot-three
fella can be. Not a major gripe; they did score north of 100 points,
I’ve Run Out Of Snappy Lead-Ins:
The Cavs’ free throw shooting sucks. It has cost them some victories
this season, and it has made close games out of would-be blowouts.
Last night, it made a mere blowout out of what should have been …
well, whatever is one step beyond “blowout”. The main culprits
were LeBron and Varejao, both of whom went 4-for-8 from the stripe.
Varejao has always been a butcher from the line, so his troubles aren’t
LeBron is another story; he is far too
good a shooter to be averaging under 70% from the line, as he currently
is. (Interesting stat: LeBron’s free throw percentage
has gone down in each of his seasons, from 0.754 as a rookie
in 2003-04, to .750 in 2004-05, to .738 last season, and now to .688.)
His form is visibly off – he is shooting his free throws while standing
almost perfectly straight. He’s not bending his knees, so he
is not getting any ass into his shots. And the result is … 4-for-8
shooting from the free throw line. Has this gone unnoticed by
everybody on the Cavs’ coaching staff?
Still Going Crazee: Following
up on my column about last Sunday’s
game against Phoenix, the
brain cells behind the scoreboards at The Q are still misspelling the
name of sponsor Northfield Park during their in-game promotions.
Were I “Northfiled” Park, I would misplace a couple of zeroes on
the next check I send to the Cavs.
I’m also not sure of exactly where
the Cavs’ PR department is trying to go with some of its in-game promotions.
Last night’s game “featured” (term used very loosely, I assure
you) a sing-off between two young ladies whose voices … words fail
me. Think of a Roseanne Barr – Carl Lewis duet of the Star-Spangled Banner, and you’ll
be in the ballpark. (You still won’t be close to home plate,
but you will be in the ballpark.) I could only sit there and think:
they are making me wish I were deaf just so they can win a #&%^*#$%
pizza? Even Nicole!, the Cavs’ eternally perky hostess,
looked like she wanted to jab her ears repeatedly with her microphone.
I completely forgot to mention this gem
from the other day: during one of the breaks in the Phoenix game,
a group of young kids (think eight to ten years old) came out to dance
to … Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”? Yeah. That
Michael Jackson. A brilliant idea, having small children dance
to a song by a man whose lasting legacy will be his fondness (in the
NAMBLA sense) for small children.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: Having little
kids dance to Michael Jackson music. Suggesting to O.J. Simpson
that he write a guide on how he would have murdered his estranged wife.
Which idea was the product of the most brain damage? E-mail me with your thoughts. Bonus points if your
answer is in the form of haiku. (It works for Hiko
it can work for me too.)
WHAT LIES AHEAD: