other day, I wrote this about the Cavs’ chances against the
Dallas Mavericks: “I’m merely hoping for them to maintain dignity.”
God, proving once again that He has a sick sense of humor, delivered
exactly what I asked for … as the Cavs dropped an oh-so-winnable game
to the Mavericks, 95-92, at Dallas’s American Airlines Arena.
What’s that saying? Beware of what you wish for, because
you might get it? (For wisdom like that, you usually have
to make your way through a plate of sweet-and-sour pork first.)
Mavericks seemed like they were going to pull away from the Cavs midway
through the second quarter. Taking advantage of the inevitable
lull caused by LeBron James needing some rest and an understaffed Cavs
bench (Larry Hughes and Damon Jones both missed the game with flu-like
symptoms), Dallas opened a 14 point lead (46-32) with about four
minutes remaining in the half.
Cleveland credit – they never allowed Dallas to pull away. They
spent most of the third quarter trailing by eight to twelve points.
When Dallas would threaten to make it a blowout, the Cavs responded
with a basket to stem the tide (such as a knifing layup by LBJ to cut
the lead to 62-50, or Anderson Varejao’s layup moments later in response
to a Dallas basket). Conversely, every time Cleveland seemed to
get some momentum, Dallas found a way to score. (Not coincidentally,
the Cavs had a gun pointed at their own foot throughout much of the
game, with an apparently endless supply of ammo.)
cut to the chase. A Donyell Marshall layup sliced the lead to
five points (94-89) with less than two minutes to go. After Dallas’
Josh Howard split a pair of free throws, LeBron drove for a layup and
a foul. After he completed the three point play, Cleveland trailed
by three. A steal by Varejao led to a LeBron fast break.
He was fouled by Dirk Nowitzki, tumbled into the crowd, and came up
grimacing and holding his back.
missed both free throws, but Shannon Brown ended up with the rebound.
Ten seconds to play. With five seconds to go, LeBron lined up
a three pointer for the tie. No good. The rebound was batted
out to LeBron, who lined up a second three pointer with one second remaining.
No good. Game over. No joy in Mudville tonight.
his last minute misses, which will be endless cannon fodder for the
“let’s find the chinks in LeBron’s armor!” crowd, James led
all scorers with 39 points. Marshall added 14 in just under 20
minutes of playing time, and Sasha Pavlovic scored 11. Nowitzki
just missed a triple-double, with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and seven
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
They’re Miles Away From Being
This Close: I spent the game trying to decide whether
the Cavs are light years away from being a contender, or whether they
just need a few tweaks (with a legit point guard being one of those
“tweaks”). And I can’t make up my mind.
three quarters last night, the Cavs played decent, but the sense was
that Dallas was just sort of letting them hang around. (The TNT
announcers mentioned it several times; they could not believe that Dallas
wasn’t winning by much more.) But they shot well enough to stay
in the game, and then made a run down the stretch. And they had
the chance to send the game to overtime. Against a team that had
won 12 in a row, was on its home court (where it has yet to lose this
year), and is having an historic season.
than once, I’ve said that games can be enjoyable even when your team
loses. It’s not total fun; of course it is better to win.
But the fourth quarter of last night’s game was fun to watch; and
it gave Cavs fans a glimmer of hope that maybe their team can run with
the biggest dogs in the game.
The Earnest Byner Award:
Yes, LeBron missed two free throws and then two game-tying three pointers
in the game’s final seconds. Without LeBron, the Cavs would
not have been within the same time zone as the Mavericks. As mentioned,
he scored 39 points. Time and again, he slashed through the Dallas
defense like a Ginsu knife going through that steel can.
(Yet he remained sharp enough to slice this tomato!) Even with
his last two misses, he finished at 17-of-27 from the field.
more importantly, he manned up on Nowitzki in the final minutes.
Nowitzki had scored 10 points in the first six minutes of the fourth
quarter. His last points, coming on a pair of free throws, gave
Dallas a 14 point lead (79-65). He was basically abusing Varejao
and Marshall on defense. Then LeBron started covering him …
and that was it for Mr. Nowitzki. Dirk did not score another point
the rest of the game. Shutting down Dirk was paramount at that
time; otherwise, Dallas would have run away with the game, and the Human
White Flags would have gotten three or four minutes to burn.
is plenty of blame to go around for last night’s game. Putting
any significant amount of it on LeBron’s doorstep is selectively paying
attention to only the last seconds, and ignoring the 47 and a half minutes
that came before it.
Well, He Does Seem To Like
The Month Of March: We had a Shannon Brown sighting last night,
and it was something more than garbage time. With the Cavs’
already depleted backcourt being further hit by Pavlovic’s foul trouble
(he picked up his fifth foul near the end of the third quarter), Coach
Mike Brown had no choice but to insert Shannon. (No, Shannon hasn’t
earned first-name treatment yet; he’s getting it simply to avoid confusion
between him and his coach.) Shannon responded with a couple of
baskets (including a three-pointer), some scrappy defense (is there
such a thing as unscrappy defense?), and an energy that was sorely lacking
from some of his fellow buddies on the bench.
Brown, could we maybe see a little more of Shannon, and a little less
of some other guys (I have some suggestions; we’ll get there in a
minute), down the stretch? I’m talking about substantial minutes,
not a “put him in the game until he makes his first mistake, then
yank him out” trifling.
Danny Ferry: Yes,
Danny Ferry. I admire people who have qualities that I do not
possess, and Mr. Ferry obviously has oceans of patience where I have
but a raindrop.
the fourth quarter, with the Cavs starting to put some plays together,
they got a rebound off a Jason Terry miss and pushed the ball for a
fast break. The ball found its way into David Wesley’s hands.
Wesley had a clear path to the hoop. And … he missed the layup.
No, hold on there. Missed
does not do justice to what Wesley did. He banged the ball off
the bottom of the backboard. With no defenders around him.
The Mavericks collared the rebound, Terry hit a jumper at the other
end, and the lead was back to a dozen.
I GM, I would have cut Wesley on the spot. I wouldn’t have even
waited until the end of the game. It would have taken all available
restraint to wait till the next stoppage in play. And then I would
have had the PA guy announce, “the Cleveland Cavaliers have just released
David Wesley.” And I would have made him pay for the plane
ticket back home.
be fair, Ferry doesn’t have the luxury of not having to live with
the consequences of recommended knee-jerk decisions, like smart-ass
Internet columnists do. Besides, I have the attention span of
a two-year-old on Rit
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT
Letter: Big guy, you have had a lot to deal with in the past
three weeks … and you’re playing like a guy who has had a lot to
deal with in the past three weeks. If your head is in the right
place, terrific; if not, it makes more sense to see Scot Pollard bang
bodies until you’re ready to return. And with what you’ve
been through, no rational person would fault you for not being all there
right about now.
Who Am I?: It’s
time to play Who Am I again! Although I can’t hear you readers,
I sense that you’re cheering wildly (I’m thinking along the lines
of a player picking the “Sing Along With Colin” category on MTV’s
old show Remote Control). (Bonus points if you can name
the well-known comic who got his start on that show. No fair clicking
on the link first. The test becomes awfully easy if you make it
any further ado, Who Am I? …
was mentioned in pretty much every trade rumor involving the Cavs prior
to last week’s trading deadline. All that smoke didn’t have
a fire behind it, as I remained in Cleveland.
then, I have justified Danny Ferry’s love with the following game
We’re full of audience participation games today! In this one,
you get to play coach. You’ve been down by as many as 14 points,
but have cut the lead to single digits with a few minutes to go.
Most of that has been because of your star player. The other team
has figured out your plan, and is now running two and three defenders
at him every time he touches the ball. Because of this, other
players will be getting open looks. Who should you play:
this: I am not blaming Snow. He is what he is. Castigating
him for missing jumpers is like getting mad at an untrained dog for
peeing on the floor. He’s doing the best he can; he’s just
not equipped to do it any better. In a grind-it-out game, he can
play some defense, and he usually won’t turn the ball over (although
he had one hell of a “what was that???” pass in the first
quarter). But if you need somebody to hit open jumpers, he would
rank about 20th on the Cavs. (I would put Coach Brown,
the assistant coaches, Amanda Mercado, and possibly Nicole! before Snow.)
of coaching is about putting in the right personnel at the right time
– about evaluating the direction of the game, then responding in a
way that improves your chances. Coach Brown did not do that …
not by benching option A (Daniel Gibson) for Snow during much of the
fourth quarter, when the Mavericks were practically triple-dog daring
any other Cavalier to hit a shot. (It’s unknown whether Dallas created
a slight breach of etiquette by not going to the triple dare first.)
I Won’t Do This Often, But…:
Referees affect the outcomes of games a lot less often than you think.
Besides, nobody ever said that referees would call a perfect
game. All you can ask is that they call a fair and consistent
game. I don’t like whining about what the refs did or did not
do, or how they jobbed your favorite team.
that prologue, I have absolutely no comment on the blocking foul called
on Varejao with 2:33 remaining, when Dallas’s Terry plowed him over
while driving to the hoop. More accurately, I have no comment
that does not somehow refer to horse excrement.
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
Toronto Raptors will be in town Saturday night, looking for revenge
for the narrow defeat that the Cavs handed them a couple of weeks ago.
The Cavs will then host Houston on Monday evening.