Normally when your third starting point guard in three games has two more blocked shots than he has assists (and for the record he had two blocked shots so the math is simple) you're in for a long night.
In fact, for most teams, having to go to your third string point guard is a recipe for disaster in general. But with LeBron James making the ridiculous look normal every night and with the extreme depth of the Cavaliers roster shining through all night long, the Cavs overcame the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-99 on Saturday night at ‘The Q'.
Daniel Gibson may not be able to handle the ball or distribute it like most NBA point guards but the dude can shoot it. And Gibson's three-pointer with eight seconds left gave the Cavs a two point lead that even they weren't able to foul up with a turnover or a missed free throw.
It was a completely entertaining basketball game but it will not be part of any introductory course in basketball fundamentals. More on that below.
With Mo Williams and Delonte nursing injuries the Cavs went with Gibson at the outset. Boobie scored 13 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked those two shots, but in 33 minutes he tallied zero assists. Thankfully for the Cavs, James and many others stepped up and covered nicely with Williams and West watching from courtside.
James scored 37 points to go with nine rebounds and 12 assists and Shaquille O'Neal banged and bruised his way to 22 points and six boards. Each blocked a shot but James' block of Kevin Durant's runner from 8 feet as time ticked down toward 00:00 was the defensive play of the game and couldn't have come at a better time. James checked Durant as the play began and followed him down the lane as Durant went to the rim and pulled up with a little runner. James timed his leap and got a big piece of the shot as the Cavs clinched win number 34 on the season.
Durant scored 35 points himself on the night to keep the Thunder in the ballgame. He helped erase a 13 point Cavalier lead at the half and nearly worked the match up with James to a draw. But MVP's always have a trick to pull out of the bag and in this case the James block as well as his near triple-double was the trump card.
Russell Westbrook, a star in the making in his own right, backed up Durant with 23 points from the point guard position. He managed to find his way to five assists as well.
The Cavs turned the ball over 17 times (including six by James himself) on the night. Compounding that carelessness was the fact the Cavs also converted just 20-40 free throws in the win. I love Shaq, but I see no real need for everyone else on the roster to emulate his free throw numbers.
We might just have to get used to the turnovers and the missed free throws until Delonte and/or Mo comes back. Gibson is just fine as a spot-up three point specialist but his ball handling skills and passing ability are not NBA starting point guard caliber. That means most of the offense is going to run through James. And while James is a damn good ball handler for his size he's already carrying too much of the water on most nights. Adding more responsibility to his plate isn't an ideal situation.
On those occasions when James does decide to lay off the side pick and rolls and looks to initiate offense in a different way, Shaq is the preferred go-to guy. O'Neal will thunder his way to some easy baskets but he'll also get hammered a lot more and head to the line. He misses as much as he makes form there, if you hadn't noticed.
They Got Next
The suddenly shorthanded Cavs head to Miami on Monday night (730pm) to duel with Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat. Maximizing your free throw opportunities and minimizing your turnovers against Wade and his teammates is advised.