Cleveland 88, Dallas 81

Two wins in a row, huh? A fan could get used to this. The Cavs snapped their seven game road losing streak by going inside (at one point they had 79 points and 40 of ’em came from inside the paint), playing tough defense (which was helped by the crappy Dallas offense) and taking decent shots down the stretch. This game wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination (both teams shot 36%) but at you could say that the Cavs were steady. They got the Mavericks down and never gave up the lead.

LeBron James did some LeBron James type things. Early in the fourth Dallas had cut the lead to 2 (70-68) and James came right back down the court and nailed a 25 foot fade away 3. It was quite ridiculous. James also had an insane dunk with just over a minute to go that sealed the victory (he broke a few ankles, made his way towards the rim and slammed it home with a ton of force). James didn’t shoot particularly well (9-21 FG, 5-10 FT) but he led all scorers with 24 points to go along with 8 boards, 7 assists and 3 steals. LBJ only played 36 minutes but that was due to foul trouble. I really enjoyed the fact that James stayed aggressive even though he kept taking shots from the Mavs (hell, he actually posted up on a regular basis too).

Larry Hughes was mediocre (and that’s a good thing). Sure, Hughes still only shot 6-15 (40%!), but to his credit, he did take a lot of good looks (but, on that same token, he missed a lot of good looks- I swear, check out his shot chart on ESPN). Hughes finished with 17 points, 9 boards adn 3 assists. This is all I’m asking for at this point; I don’t care if he shoots a poor percentage if he’s taking good shots and actually doing other things on the court. Nights like this, win or lose, are much more palpable than his 1-9, 2 boards, 1 assist evenings.

Z played pretty well. The big fella had 18 points, 11 boards and 1 assist (on a nifty bounce pass to Gooden. I’ve said it before, but the guy can pass when he has the opportunity… you know, cutters and other such things). Z also had two big shots on the fourth quarter (including one where he went glass). It was nice to see Ilgauskas 16 shots (hey, more attempts than Hughes!) and I’m glad the Cavs actually looked toward Big Z throughout the entire game.

Can Devin Brown get Sasha Pavlovic’s minutes? Brown is more active, takes better shots, plays more consistent defense and he actually rebounds (on both ends of the floor). Brown got 20 minutes and gave the Cavaliers 7 points (3-7 shooting), 6 boards, an assist (on a great find to Z) and a steal. Meanwhile, Pavlovic continued his recent nightmare, going 1-5 for 2 points and 3 boards. Oh, he also had another charge (this time at least he actually was out of control).

Daniel Gibson played well, but didn’t shoot great. Boobie was just 1-6 from behind the arc but the one he made was freaking money (pushed the Cavs lead from 2 to 5 with 4:28 to go). Gibson had 8 points, 3 boards and an assist and he also drew a couple fouls with the Reggie Miller leg kick.

The shot selection was not pretty. Both sides was simply hoisting shots. This game will help out the Cavaliers’ defensive stats, but this was ugly. All those terrible shots helped the Cavs win the rebounding battle handily (56-45 overall and 16-6 offensive). At least the Cavs went inside, they dominated the points in the paint (which kills me, they go inside against Dallas, who has two of the better shot blocking centers in Dampier and Diop, but they’ll settle for jumpers against the Knicks. Please explain that to me).

Joe Tait is awesome. I was out and about for the first 3 quarters so I heard bits and parts of this on the radio (I also tivo’d so I could see the whole thing- which is why this is late). Tait was in rare form and just seemed so disgusted by some of the Cavs mistakes. Good times. Unfortunately, it seemed that every time we turned the radio on, Ira Newble would check-in soon thereafter. Needless to say, we weren’t near a radio for the fourth quarter.

and finally…

Can this be the start of a win streak? Sure, the Cavs have lost 10 of their last 15 but now they’re 3 of their last 4 (and 4 of their last 6). Things could be looking up. They’re in New Orleans on Saturday to face the Hornets and then they have Atlanta and Sacramento at home the following week. If the Cavs continue to be aggressive at both ends of the floor, I see no reason why they can’t put together a nice 4 or 5 game win streak.

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