The Cavaliers clinched home-court advantage throughout the Playoffs Monday night with a 117-109 victory over the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse, and they did it in style. Combining LeBron's usual heroics with yet another solid night from the guard tandem of Williams and West and the frenetic, kinetic act of Anderson Varejao, Cleveland went right after the win and the Pacers, out-running and out-hustling an explosive-yet-defenseless Indiana team that is lottery-bound. There is one game to go in this amazing regular season, and that game is our oyster. The real work is done.
Now where's our President's Trophy?
The Run that got it done: The Cavaliers gained permanent control of the game during a run that spanned the last ten minutes of the second period. They turned a 33-28 deficit into a 62-47 halftime lead, doing it with:
- Eleven points from LeBron, seven from Mo Williams, six from Delonte West,
LeBron's Line: 37 points on 12-of-23 from the field, 2-of-7 from long range and 11-of-14 from the line with five assists, five rebounds, a steal, and five turnovers in 35 minutes. A little three-happy- the entire team was, with 21 hoists from downtown- but he drove enough for government work, as those 14 free-throw attempts will attest. I'm not so sure about his defense on the night- Danny Granger poured in 38, though not all of them on LBJ- but I'm not Charley Rosen, so I won't spend a bunch of time bitching about it.
Senõr Strong-Balls: Perhaps inspired by the resilience of his manhood during the tet-a-tet with Shuttlesworth Sunday, Anderson Varejao was everywhere in Indiana- especially during Cleveland's 34-14 second-period run. The Brazilian dreamboat abetted his seven-point, 11-rebound performance with four steals, two blocks, a couple of suicidal ball-saves, and a pleasing 3-of-3 from the foul line. Anderson's energy changed the course of the game: its times like these one is tempted to cry, "Pay the man, Dan!" He was the second-best Cavalier on the floor Monday night, despite taking only four shots.
Redz: Delonte West is usually a patient player- sometimes a little too much so. But he was aggressive Monday night, looking for chances to get to the rim and even forcing the action, something he's not normally prone to doing. His aggressiveness resulted in twenty points, six boards, four assists, and three steals to go with a game-best +13. Delonte is averaging 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 steals during Cleveland's current five-game winning streak, the kind of numbers that will come in handy backing up the expected contributions of LeBron and Mo this spring.
Lest We Forget: Big Z and Mo did all right as well. The Lithuanian logged a double-double with 16 points and ten rebounds, while Mo had 18 and flashed his distributor side with a team-high eight assists. The most sensational dime came early in the third period, when he "Nashed it" down the baseline, sucked the defense into the basket area, and found LeBron streaking unattended down the lane, with spectacular results. LeBron had lulled Indiana to sleep by hanging out lethargically by the timeline before taking off for the basket.
Bronze this Stat: The Cavaliers finished with the best road record in franchise history at 27-14.
The Race for the Eighth Seed: It's over. Chicago's come-from-behind victory in Auburn Hills Monday night make it official: the Cavaliers will meet their old nemesis, the Detroit Pistons, in the first round of the Playoffs.
Next: Wednesday night at 8:00, when the Cavaliers finish the regular season and go for 40-1 at home against the 76ers.