Who are we kidding? This article is going to run on a Sunday morning. The Browns may be playing for draft position with five weeks to go, but they are still the Browns ... and with it being a Sunday, odds are that the number of clicks from readers who are "working" will be rather low.
In other words, I could put my aunt's recipe for stuffing here, and I'm not sure anybody would notice.
That said, the Cavs never trailed on their way to a 97-85 dismantling of the Milwaukee Bucks last night at Milwaukee's Bradley Center. The win was the Cavs's fifth in a row and was also their fifth in a row by double digits. The final score was a bit deceiving: the Bucks stayed with the Cavs most of the way, and were trailing by only three points with a little under five minutes to play. The Cavs then reeled off the next nine points in a row to put the game away.
Cleveland is now 14-3 (their best start ever) and leads the Central Division by three games. Milwaukee dropped to 7-12 on the season, giving them sole possession of the Central Division basement.
Only three Cavs made it into double digits last night: LeBron James led all scorers with 32, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 23 (and 17 rebounds), and Mo Williams put up 13 in his first return to his old hometown. Michael Redd, returning after missing several games with an ankle injury, led the Bucks with 20 points.
It's the NBA. Where "it'll never happen again (until the next time)" happens.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Remember Him?: In the past three games, LeBron had averaged only 25 minutes of playing time, and had not even set foot on the court during any of the fourth quarters. He wasn't needed, as the Cavs had already built huge leads, and could turn it over to The Tarence Kinsey Brigade for the final twelve minutes.
Last night, for the first time in a while, the Cavs needed James to take over. Well, remember when I said that "the Cavs reeled off the next nine points in a row" down the stretch? I misspelled LeBron James in that sentence. It was actually LeBron who put the game away, as he swishes a pair of free throws, then knifed to the hoop for a layup, then drained a three-pointer, and capped it off with another jump shot.
Bron's numbers are down slightly across the board this season. Points, rebounds, assists, even blocks ... they're all lower this season than last. (Of course, the largest decrease has been in minutes played, as Bron is getting almost five fewer minutes per game this year.) But he is always capable of taking over a game, and he reminded everybody of that last night.
GNIDLAPS: Every season, James has added a new dimension to his game. This season, it's been blocked shots. More nights than not, LeBron blocks a shot hard enough to leave an imprint of the ball in his hand. (It came as a surprise to see that Bron's blocks per game are actually down slightly; maybe his blocks are simply more memorable this year.)
Last night, Milwaukee's Ramon Sessions was the victim. During the second quarter, Sessions drove to a layup on the left side of the hoop ... except he didn't see the large number 23 lurking below the hoop. James crushed the ball into the $500 seats. Sessions is still curling in the fetal position and twitching every so often. It Wasn't A One-Man Show. It Was A Two-Man Show: LeBron did not need to carry the team on his back entirely by himself; Ilgauskas hit his outside jumpers early and often, and completely overmatched anybody the Bucks tried to use to guard him (usually Dan Gadzuric or Malik Allen). Give credit to the Cavs for recognizing that the Bucks are woeful in the middle ... actually, the entire team is woeful. They are the Los Angeles Clippers East. I expect no fewer than ten million articles next February linking Redd to the Cavs as the Bucks look to rebuild yet again. Anyway, Ilgauskas was able to take advantage of the Bucks' weaknesses and have a big game.
That's The Guy You Want Leading The Break: Did we mention how Ilgauskas is a terror in the open court too? Early in the second quarter, the Bucks turned the ball over. Z, seeing the play develop minutes before it actually occurred, started lumbering to the opposite end. Wally Szczerbiak, who was probably startled by the rumble, tossed the ball in Z's general direction. Z caught up to it and laid it in the hoop. (He also took three steps prior to the layup, but that's about average as NBA drives go.)
Back To Basics: The Cavs' rebounding has been one of their hallmarks in recent years, and they showed it last night. The Bucks actually grab more boards per game on average (which may have something to do with their shot selection), but the Cavs dominated the boards last night, 53-38. In addition to Ilgauskas and his 17 rebounds, Ben Wallace (10 boards) made a strong showing.
It's always fun when the Cavs' announcers receive some new point of emphasis and are told to mention it twelve jillion times during a broadcast. Within the past week, somebody in the Cavs' production machine realized that a back tap (which is one of Wallace's weapons of choice) counts as a rebound. Consequently (I figured I'd get into character), Austin Carr and Fred McLeod have pointed out several times that "a back tap counts as a rebound".
Grudging Admiration Department: If you've stopped here before, you know my level of appreciation for Sasha Pavlovic's game (zero). Sasha was the one Cavs member who was actually being booed during this past Wednesday's blowout of Oklahoma City, and not without reason: he is a human turnover machine.
Well, last night Sasha teased like Derek Anderson, showing why he still gets chance after chance. He took only two shots (both three-pointers), but made them both (including a huge basket that extended the Cavs; lead to 82-77 after the Bucks had trimmed the margin to two). More importantly, he played tenacious defense on the Bucks' Redd in the fourth quarter (Redd finished with a very un-Redd-esque line of 5-of-16 shooting).
Do I believe that Sasha has turned the corner? No (unless this is some kind of Frank Lloyd Wright-style building with ten thousand corners). In fact, I shudder at the inevitable increase in playing time that Sasha will get the next few games because of last night's performance. But he played well last night, and credit where credit is due, yadda yadda yadda.
Uncle Austin: AC, after a third-quarter drive by LeBron to the basket, knocking over Milwaukee's Luke Ridnour: "LeBron swatted the fly, and the fly fell to the ground."
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
A Tale Of Two Statistics: LeBron and Ilgauskas combined: 23-of-44 from the field.
The rest of the Cavaliers: 16-of-50 from the field.
If the Bucks have to postpone their next home game so they have enough time to repair the rims, we'll understand.
One More: As a team, the Cavs were 5-of-22 (22.7%) from three-point range.
That is all.
The Boobie-Meter: He's officially in a slump, folks. Boobie Gibson was 1-of-9 from the field (including 0-of-4 from long distance) last night. He did play some in-your-face defense on Redd, so his night wasn't a total loss. But when I started The Boobie-Meter a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking it would allow for gratuitous links to far better endowed celebrities than, say, Kirsten Dunst.
We Interrupt The Game To Bring You ... What, Exactly?: I don't ask for much from my sports broadcasts. A decent video feed, announcers who do not openly snore during the broadcast, ads that are only mildly annoying ... just make it over those relatively low hurdles, and I'm satisfied.
Usually, Fox Sports Ohio clears them. But they have a terrible habit of missing live action because they are bringing you Tonight's State Farm Agent or the Dual Action Cleanse Run of the Game or whatever. And so it was last night, when FSO showed footage of Bucks center Andrew Bogut injuring his knee, and missed a shot by LeBron. (As it turned out, LeBron missed the shot too.)
Here is my one directive to FSO: never, ever, ever, ever, ever miss live action. If you feel it necessary to show footage from a previous game, wait until a break in the action. If you just have to show that reverse angle of something that happened two week ago, hold your water until the clock stops. If the entire arena goes up in smoke, with explosions from the rafters, and you want to show dramatic shots of fans in the Supplemental Oxygen Recommended seats being rescued, make sure that the ball hasn't been inbounded first.
We won't even get started on the evils of the baseline camera.
Tonight's Poll: How Many Fans Have Brain Damage?: Each night, FSO runs a poll with four different possible choices, and then tallies the voting results as fans text message their responses. Last night's question was "who is the best Ohio college player currently playing in the NBA?" The choices were Redd, New Orleans' David West and James Posey, and Utah's Kosta Koufos.
Bear in mind, the first three are established players (if not stars), whereas Koufos has scored all of 49 points in this, his rookie season.
The voting? Redd received 52 percent (makes sense so far). West garnered 18 percent. Posey, 8 percent.
Koufos received 21 percent of the vote.
Bear in mind, many of these same people also vote in local and national elections that count.
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
One of the stories that has really flown under the radar this season is how we are now less than two years away from the summer of 2010, when LeBron James could potentially be a free agent. Amazingly, nobody has contemplated the possibility of Bron bolting to New York to join the Knicks. With New York coming to Quicken Loans Arena this Wednesday, we can only hope that the national media picks up on this story and reports it, again and again and again. The Cavs will then close out the week with a back-to-back against Indiana on Friday and at Charlotte on Saturday.