In a game that seemed more of
a coronation than a contest, the Cavs defeated the Washington Wizards,
97-82, earlier this afternoon at Quicken Loans (“Can We Interest You
In An Adjustable-Rate Loan?”) Arena.
LeBron James led the scoring with
… whoops! So much for cut-and-pasting that section from an earlier
column. Larry Hughes paced the Cavaliers with 27 points, while
LeBron added 23 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 16. Washington’s
Antawn Jamison led everybody with 28 points, and Jarvis Hayes added
Cleveland trailed only once in
the entire game (the Wizards’ Jamison scored the first two points
to provide a short-lived 2-0 lead), but did not really put the game
away until the fourth quarter. They initially looked like they
were going to blow Washington out of the arena, bursting to an 11-4
lead (thanks to a couple of baskets by both LeBron and Drew Gooden).
But Washington charged right back (including a four-point play by Hayes),
trimming the lead to one.
The next three quarters continued
in that fashion – Cleveland would push the lead out a few points,
occasionally into the double digits; but Washington would then roar
right back. In the second quarter, a Hughes three-point play extended
the Cavs’ lead to 34-24; a couple of Jamison baskets later, that lead
was sliced in half. Later in the quarter, Donyell Marshall drilled
a three-pointer to give Cleveland a 40-31 lead. Within a minute,
an Antonio Daniels jumper and a DeShawn Stevenson three-pointer made
it a four point game.
In the third quarter, a Hughes
fadeaway gave the Cavs a 52-43 lead. The Wizards’ Hayes personally
cut that lead to two points. The crowd at The Q was getting audibly
restless. Washington continued to keep the game close (they trailed
by only seven points, at 74-67, after three frames, and got as close
as six points early in the fourth), but eventually ran out of gas.
A 13-4 Cleveland run (with nine of those points coming from Ilgauskas)
put the game out of reach and allowed the home crowd to face the post-game
traffic with smiles on their faces.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Let’s Make Coach Brown Happy:
As you probably know already, the quickest way to Coach Mike Brown’s
heart is through a defensive stop. By the boxscore, the Cavs made
Brown happy no fewer than 50 times, as they held Washington to 29-of-79
(37%) from the field. They became particularly stingy during crunch
time, limiting the Wizards to 5-of-20 shooting during the fourth quarter.
Give Brown credit for running more double-teams at Jamison (who launched
an Arenas-like 27 shots and made only 10 of them) in the later stages
of the game. If they can hold teams to 82 points, they’ll win
a lot more than they’ll lose.
Getting To The Line:
The Cavs shot 39 free throws. That is huge, as it suggests that
they were not merely content to play HORSE from 20 or more feet.
LeBron and Hughes drove to the basket early and often, and Ilgauskas
repeatedly received the ball in the post. Take the ball to the
hole, and good things happen.
Doing Something From The Line:
30 of those 39 Cleveland free throws found their way to the bottom of
the net. That is also huge, given the Cavs’ troubles at the
line through so much of this past season. When Hughes is perfect
from the line (he made all eight of his attempts), you know you’re
having a good day. (LeBron and Z also did well, making 9-of-11
and 8-of-10, respectively. They balanced out Anderson Varejao,
who Ben Wallaced his way to a 3-of-8 performance.)
You Want Knuckleballs?
Go Find Phil Niekro: Hughes buried several outside jumpers
en route to his 27 points (he shot a healthy 9-of-17 from the floor).
His jumper, which so often flutters like a knuckleball in a wind tunnel,
was very accurate (as it has been for the past week or so). He
did occasionally fall into the trap of mistaking himself for a three-point
shooter, but most of his shots were the pull-up mid-range jumpers that
he can make regularly. If the Cavs would just rig him with a remote-controlled
shocking device, used whenever he tries to bomb from long range (“Hughes
dribbles to the three point line … he pulls up for BZZZZZZZT”),
then we’d really have something.
Giving Me Yet Another Reason
To Link To An Earlier Column: Last week, I wrote a column about Dual
Action Cleanse, Klee
Irwin’s lasting contribution to Western society. (That column
also described, almost in passing, the game in which the Cavs dismantled
the Hawks.) I described their Web site’s Live Chat feature,
in which helpful DAC associates presumably are only too ready to help
the rest of us realize just how full of crap we really are, and lamented
my inability to catch the site at a time when the feature is enabled.
(We’d suspect their employees take more bathroom breaks than the rest
of us, no?)
Anyway, I promised to continue
trying. I have to report, sadly, that I have still not been able
to catch them at a convenient time. The feature has been unavailable
every time. So I will have to continue waiting to submit my questions
(such as “I’ve had a patch of hair inexplicably growing on the back
of my head for almost a year; will your product help it disappear?”).
Speaking of recent off-topic subjects
in this space (note to new readers: this
space often bears at most a passing resemblance to a Cavs basketball
column; really, how often can I write
“they need to move around more on offense” before you all get bored?),
I have to relay a story that continues my “I Hate Waiting” theme (another gratuitous link!).
This one takes place at a local drug store (its initials are CVS).
I found myself in line at the store’s only open register. The
woman at the counter was attempting to buy three bottles of Tylenol.
She had four coupons for the three bottles. (Coupons.
That should have been my sign to drop my
items and run screaming from the store.) The cashier tried
to explain to her that she could use only one coupon per item.
After a few rounds of tense back-and-forth
(US-Soviet arms reduction talks were simple by comparison), our antagonist
reached to the candy rack, grabbed the cheapest bar she could find,
placed it on the counter, and demanded that the clerk try to scan the
coupon again. This time, the system allowed all of the coupons
And that brought us to the next
circle of this particular hell: Paying For The Purchases.
The total bill came to $2.47. How does our friend pay it?
With a sporking CHECK.
I assume that CVS has some minimum-amount policy for checks … but
that the clerk consciously ignored it, realizing that she’d be throwing
away another fifteen minutes of her life otherwise.
I guess retail shops and me do
not mix. I’d better use the Internet for all purchases going
forward. If I am dying and need some critical medicine within
the next few hours to save my life, I will still order it online and
take my chances. Better to exit this trough of mortal error in
my own home while waiting for the Fed Ex guy, than to sound the death
gurgle while twitching on the floor behind some customer who wants to
pay for his entire purchase in pennies.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: What
does “CVS” stand for, anyway?
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT
Water Seeking Its Own Level:
OK, class, put your books under your desks. It’s time for a
pop quiz. No fair looking at your neighbor’s paper. Here’s
What are the defining characteristics
of the 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers?
If you answer correctly (which
is to say “if you have the same answer as me”), then “playing
to the level of their opponent” would be at or near the top of the
list. On the plus side, it means that Cleveland usually hangs
tough against the NBA’s elite teams (sweeping the season series against
San Antonio; beating Detroit once and being reasonably close in a couple
of losses; almost beating the near-invincible Mavericks at home, where
they are really-truly-near-invincible).
On the minus side … it means
losing to some God-awful teams (Charlotte twice, Atlanta, Boston) and
making a lot of other games closer than they should be. That’s
exactly what the Cavs did today. They let Washington (a significantly
lesser opponent without their injured stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron
Butler) stay close well into the fourth quarter, before they finally
snuffed out the Wizards’ hopes for an upset.
Can Water Both Stand And Seek
Its Own Level At The Same Time?: We’ll give credit for another
answer to that question: the Cavs do not move particularly well
in the halfcourt offense. They often use a 1-4 set (that’s my
attempt to move up the Brian Windhorst food chain of basketball
fans), in which one
player (either a guard or LeBron) dribbles at the top of the three-point
arc while the other four form a conga line across the court, roughly
at free-throw-line depth. Players will move from one location
to another along the line, but none of those cuts really lead to scoring
opportunities. (Other than a sweet pass from Z to a cutting LeBron
in the game’s opening minutes, I can’t remember a single “wow,
that was niiice” pass by the Cavs the entire game.) Usually
within a quarter or so, the players relax on the whole cutting thing,
and stand around while James dribbles (what insiders call the “LeBron
And Four Guys Waiting For A Bus” set).
While they did not do too much
standing around today, and they did at times work the ball inside (as
mentioned earlier), they still had the uncomfortable look of a guy wearing
shoes two sizes too small. (Then again, they did win by 15.
My wallet’s too small for my fifties, and my diamond shoes are too
The Court Is 94 Feet Long
For Most, 70 For A Few: Last time, I praised Marshall for
his interior play (the lack of which has been a constant source of “What
I Didn’t Like”s this season). I suggested that maybe he was
rounding into form in time for the playoffs.
Well, here are two facts about
Donyell’s performance that tell you pretty much what you need to know:
The offensive paint is so foreign
to him, he has to show his passport whenever he enters it. Actually,
let’s not put this one entirely on Donyell’s shoulders; the coaching
staff needs to get their 6’10” power forwards closer to the basket,
where they belong. The times he has played closer to the hoop,
he has shown some nice post moves and the ability to grab offensive
rebounds. It’s sad to not see those strengths being used.
That’s What An Entire City
Sounds Like When It Holds Its Breath: Eight minutes remaining
in the third quarter. LeBron rises high for a jumper from maybe
ten feet away. He lands on the foot of Washington center Etan
Thomas, rolling his left ankle. He crumples to the arena floor,
in obvious agony. Goodbye, playoff hopes, was the thought
on the minds of Cavs fans everywhere.
Fortunately, LeBron picked himself
up, hobbled to the bench for a team timeout, then continued playing.
Not A Big Deal, Just Curious:
At every nationally-televised game in Cleveland over the winter months,
the announcers almost enthusiastically noted how frigid/snowy/windy/generally
sucky the Cleveland weather can be, complete with overviews of frozen
Lake Erie or a snow-covered street or whatever. Today, it’s
a gorgeous 70-plus degree spring day … and nada.
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
The series against Washington
continues on Wednesday evening, when the two teams play again at The
Q. It will then shift to Washington, as game 3 will take place
on Saturday afternoon at 5:30.