I'm running out of ways to express the Cavs' dominance this season. But last night's game against Indiana can be summed up in these two facts:
Seemed completely out of the question not too long ago, didn't it? But this Cavs team - which is already The Most Fun Team In Cavs History - is truly a team. Six Cavs scored in double digits as Cleveland rolled to a 97-73 victory last night at Quicken Loans Arena. Now winners of seven in a row, the Cavs improved their record to 16-3, and extended their lead in the Central Division to 4.5 games (Detroit lost last night).
As you probably guessed, this was the rare game in which LeBron did not lead the Cavs in scoring. That honor goes to the trio of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, and Mo Williams, each with 17. James, for his part, had the Jason Kidd near-triple-double line, adding 11 assists and eight rebounds. The Pacers had only two players in double digits, with Troy Murphy's 15 points leading the team.
It's the NBA. Where a dream season happens.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
The Question Is, What Were The Other Three Percent Smoking: During the game, Fox Sports Ohio (your official Cavs broadcast partner!) ran its usual text-messaging poll. The question this time: which acquisition has helped his team the most? The choices: Detroit's Allen Iverson, Milwaukee's Richard Jefferson, Indiana's T.J. Ford, and Cleveland's Williams.
Surprisingly, 97% of the vote went to Williams. I say "surprisingly" because it should have been 100%. (Yes, I am a Cavs Homer member in good standing.)
Although his numbers are actually a touch below what he put up the past couple of seasons in Milwaukee, Williams has been critical for this Cavs team. He has a talent for hitting near-impossible shots (like the double-clutch jumper in the second quarter that gave the Cavs a 28-24 lead), and for making them at opportune times. Last season, particularly when LeBron was on the bench ironing his Superman cape, the Cavs were prone to surrendering huge runs to their opponents. Mo has changed that. When the other team has put together a couple of baskets and looks to be gaining some momentum, Mo hits a jumper or a runner in the lane or whatever, and that momentum gets reversed.
Make Every Night Curly Wig Night: Last night's promotion was Varejao Wig Night, with all fans getting a wig in the hairstyle of the Cavs' energetic forward. If that had anything to do with Varejao's performance, then there will be 30 more Wig Nights this season, as Anderson had what probably was the best half of basketball in his life. In the first half, he scored 17 points, with most of those points coming on mid-range jumpers (he was a perfect 7-of-7 in the half). In years past, we as Cavs fans would cover our eyes whenever Andy hoisted shots from more than, say, three inches from the hoop. But Varejao has clearly worked on his jumper, and while it will never win any awards for form (unless Joakim Noah is one of the judges), it's going in often enough to become a weapon.
The Boobie Meter: It's two strong games in a row for Daniel (Boobie) Gibson, and that means that male and alternatively-lifestyled female readers of this column are rejoicing! With 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including a couple of bombs from long distance (not to mention a sweet fallaway jumper and a knifing layup), Boobie has earned the rating of Brooke Burke. (Probably could have pushed the envelope with a NSFW photo, as most of you aren't at W today, but this one will do.) He's showing signs of breaking out of his shooting slump, and that is bad news for opponents who are already trying to cope with the Cavs' other hot outside shooters. Speaking of which...
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Three-Point Machine: ... Z made his fourth three-pointer of the young season, nailing a shot from the right corner during the fourth quarter. You just know that has to be a complete morale-killer for the other side. When the gawky seven-foot-three center is dropping threes on you ... you know that it is not your night. Props to Z for extending his range just a touch (he always had that 18 to 20-foot jumper down cold),
It's OK To Score Eleven When Your Guy Scores Only Four: Part of the reason James scored "only" 11 points is because he was so focused on shutting down Indiana' Danny Granger. Granger, you may recall, scored 33 points in the earlier matchup between the two teams. LeBron covered Granger from the opening play, and never allowed the Pacers' star to get into any kind of rhythm.
Play Of The Night, Part I: Fourth quarter, Cavs rolling with an 84-63 lead. The usual pick-and-fade between LeBron and Z, with Z drifting to the left baseline. Bron finds Z with a behind-the-back pass, and Z drained the resulting jumper.
Play Of The Night, Part II: Moments after that pass, Indiana's Ford tried to score on a layup. Remember a few weeks ago, when James smashed a Ford layup attempt in the closing minutes? It was another one of those types of blocks. (For good measure, James blocked another Ford shot - actually, more of a pass - a minute later.) Some lucky psychologist is going to make a mint as Ford lies on a couch and describes his LeBron-themed nightmares.
Uncle Austin: Pro sports announcers walk a certain line between objectivity and cheerleading. They are supposed to report the action, and are generally supposed to be even-handed in their commentary. (This statement excepts Boston announcer Tommy Heinsohn, who believes the Celtics should be 1,745-0 dating back to the 1980s, if it weren't for all those lousy referees.) But their checks are written by the teams they cover, so they aren't exactly objective. That's a given.
What's fun is when a former player-turned-announcer for a team acts like he's still right there with the rest of the guys. And so it was with our beloved AC last night. In the fourth quarter, with James driving to the hoop, a frustrated Granger fouled him rather hard, grabbing him and turning him around in midair. James and Granger shared some pleasantries (somehow, I don't think they were exchanging addresses for Christmas cards), and several other players got involved in the melee (relax, no need to check SportsCenter; no punches thrown or anything like that). AC got animated, saying that "next time, you oughta hit [Granger] in the head!" He's all ours, Cavs fans, and we wouldn't trade him for the world.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
Some Traditions Shouldn't Be So Traditional: A few years ago, the Cavs and Taco Bell ... ah, you don't need me to set the background. You already know that if the Cavs score at least 100 points in a home game, Taco Bell will treat all ticket-holders to a free chalupa. A few years ago, this promotion was fun: you'd see the Cavs lose, but at least you had the drama of possibly getting a free fast-food meal!
But this promotion, like so many other things in life, had a natural expiration date; and also like so many other things in life, that date was a lo-o-o-ong time ago. (I'm looking at you, Browns fans who still woof.)
I bring this up because the Cavs, with the ball, and having scored 97 points -- meaning they were only three points away from free fast food, oh joy oh joy oh joy! - dribbled out the remaining seconds on the clock. As they did, a smattering of boos arose from the Quicken Loans Arena crowd. That's right. Having won their seventh game in a row overall, and having stayed perfect at home (11-0) on this season, the Cavs ... were hearing boos. All because they would not run up the score, and embarrass an opponent, so that people who paid a hundred bucks for a ticket could get a fast food item that goes for 99 cents. (Note: I do not actually know what Taco Bell charges for a chalupa these days, nor do I care. If a chalupa actually goes for 79 cents, or $1.19, or whatever, please do not write me to correct my error. The point still stands.)
So I am saying: it is time to retire the chalupa promotion. Or if they really need to keep it, then make it something closer to Coach Mike Brown's heart: free chalupas for all if the opposition scores less than 80 points. Anything that leads to booing of a 16-3 team, one that has just completed demolishing yet another opponent, should not be allowed to continue.
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
It's back-to-back time! Actually, more like back-to-ba time, as tonight's game is against Charlotte, which has limped to a 7-11 record and is already rumored to be looking to break up its core. The Cavs return back home next Tuesday to face Toronto, and then have a home-and-away set with Philadelphia later in the week. Blah blah blah "one game at a time" blah blah blah, but this team could be 20-3 before much longer.