All things considered, it wouldn't have been surprising if the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors by 50 points. It also wasn't surprising that they ended up winning by six.
Several Cavaliers had great individual nights in Tuesday night's 114-108 win over the Warriors at The Q, but the team as a whole did not have a good night.
It's difficult to be too hard on the Cavs . . . who just won their fifth game in a row, to push their record to 8-3 on the season . . . so I'm making the executive decision not to. Before we talk Cavs, let me just say Golden State left me totally nonplussed.
The Warriors dressed (a league-minimum) eight players, and had seven who were actually available to play. And one of those players, Vladimir Radmanovic, was playing in his first game as a Warrior, after just coming from Charlotte in the infamous Stephen Jackson trade.However, all seven of those players scored in double-figures against the Cavs . . . and seemingly all of them can run four-second 40s, get a shot off within the first five seconds of the shot clock, and score enough for them to play sub-YMCA level defense.
It's the strangest system in all of basketball . . . if you can actually consider it basketball. Yes, they have super quick players. Yes, they have super athletic players. Yes, they have super lethal shooters.
But what the hell are they doing? Are they just hoping to make it to the playoffs by winning 55 trap games against the 29 teams that actually try to play defense? If so, it hasn't worked so far. Their three wins (against Memphis, Minnesota, and New York) have come against teams that, like the Warriors, are in last place in their respective divisions.
[Technically, the New York Knicks have the second-worst record, after the New Jersey Nets, in the Atlantic Division. But since I'm from Cleveland, I consider both New York-area teams to be under the same evil umbrella . . . for acting like their abysmal organizations have a chance to steal our superstar.]
Again, though, their offense is something to watch . . . whatever it is.
All awe aside, the one thing I was thinking when I was watching them was: The Warriors wanted Zydrunas Ilgauskas (in the Stephen Jackson trade)??? Z would be lagging at least four possessions behind these guys at all times. That doesn't make any sense . . . not that you'd expect any from Golden State's front office.
Since this team just can't work. I spent a lot of time window-shopping. And not just Monta Ellis. I was moving on to things like, "Wow, Anthony Morrow has a deadly shot. Maybe we could put together a nice package with Coby Karl as the centerpiece . . . and that's it. Just surround him with cash."
As fun as it is to poke fun at the Warriors, I am fully aware that we have two professional sports teams in Cleveland that rival Golden State's level of dysfunction.
Back to the Cavaliers.
Even though Cleveland couldn't settle into a defensive rhythm . . . and became seduced into the Warriors' too-fast offense . . . there were some great things that came out of this game.
First and foremost, J.J. Hickson had his third straight career game. Literally. In each of the last three games, J.J. has posted a new career high in points.
On Tuesday night, he had 21 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting, with nine rebounds, a steal and a block. And his night could have even been bigger, if you can believe that.
At halftime, he had 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting with eight rebounds.
Mike Brown can boast that he doesn't call plays for J.J. all he wants . . . but can I introduce a "New Cavalier Rule" here? It is: "If you're finding that your offense is struggling and lacking ball movement . . . especially in the second half . . . call plays for anyone who is shooting 100%."
The Cavaliers were settling for too many jumpers in the second half, and should have spent more time operating in the paint. Even the Warriors were doing that . . . using their quickness to get too-easy dribble penetration. J.J. could have helped. He didn't show any signs that he couldn't.
J.J.'s most exciting play was his last. With less than two minutes left to go in the game, and the Cavs only up by four, LeBron deflected a pass on the defensive end. The ball shot up in the air, and Anthony Parker caught it. He passed it up to Lebron, who hoisted a 40-foot lob to a wide open J.J. for a mammoth alley-oop dunk.
"Fox Sports Ohio" play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod exclaimed: "J.J. up top . . . Yes! . . . The Prince of Fresh Air has thrown it down!" (???) (Your move, A.C.)
The Cavaliers were without Shaquille O'Neal (strained shoulder) and Anderson Varejao (hip contusion). Both are not expected to play tonight in Washington . . . and may not play Friday in Indiana either.
Jamario Moon also sprained his ankle. It was bad enough that he didn't return to the game, but his status for the rest of the week was not immediately clear.
Both Delonte West and Darnell Jackson played about 14 minutes against Golden State. Delonte didn't do much offensively, and Darnell was active but turned the ball over four times.
With two of their big men out, the Cavs played a lot of small lineups tonight. That's not a problem against a team like Golden State . . . but it might not be as effective against Washington.
Most Valuable Player: J.J. Hickson.
J.J. must be at least serviceable right now. With both Shaq and Andy out . . . for at least one more game . . . it's important for J.J. to hold down the fort inside. And he's been not only been "serviceable," he's been awesome.
Over his last three games, J.J. is averaging 20 points on 74% shooting (23-of-31) with six rebounds.
Note: Mo Williams (16 points, six assists, eight rebounds) and Z (14 points, four rebounds) also had good games. They both shot 50% or better.
Least Valuable Player: Delonte West.
Delonte was only 1-of-4 from the floor, with two points and two assists. He didn't feel comfortable taking shots that he used to love . . . and he forced a couple others. He was active on defense, but he wasn't able to stop the Warriors either.
It was nice to see him back. Hopefully, he's able to quickly and seamlessly work his way back into the team on both ends of the court.
"The Diff Award" (for the difference maker, even in defeat): LeBron James.
LeBron had 31 points (on 11-of-19 shooting) with 12 assists and five rebounds and two, sweet, "chase down" blocks. He also iced the game with a jumper in the final seconds.
Without LeBron setting the table, the box scores would not have been as stacked as they are. Against Golden State you can find an open shot with ball movement . . . and LeBron was a catalyst.