The Cavs had no business winning this ball game. The Blazers led for the entire second half, they had energy (the Cavs missed Varejao) and every single break seemed to go their way (I swear to God every loose ball somehow ended up working out in their favor). For most of the second half, the Blazer lead would seemingly fluctuate between 6 and 10 points and whenever the Cavs made a mini run, it would balloon back up to double digits.
Until LeBron James simply went off. James scored 17 of the Cavs 22 fourth quarter points, hit three 3s during a 12-0 fourth quarter run (which lasted roughly 1:30) and hit the go ahead layup with .3 seconds left (and um… he may have taken 3 steps on that shot… but shhh). He was nothing short of spectacular. James was the only Cavalier in double digits (37 points) and he also gave them 14 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks (he led in all categories). James was aggressive from the outset; he had a couple monster dunks early on and he went coast-to-coast for a basket about 6 times throughout the game. He did sprain his right ankle near the end of the first half, but he came out fine, if a bit tentative, in the second half (and honestly, ESPN seemed more concerned about it than he did).
Down the stretch, the Blazers made one play that impressed the hell out of me and another that confused the hell out of me. The nice play: LeBron just tied the game at 81 on another absurd 3, the Blazers come down and Travis Outlaw hits a big shot over Drew Gooden to give Portland the lead. For them to take back the lead, after LeBron’s gone off… I was quite impressed. Their next possession… notsomuch. After Gooden split a pair of free throws, the Blazers gave the ball to Brandon Roy (16 points, 8 assists and 7 boards), who decided to take a 24 foot, fade-away 3 pointer from the wing. Just a terrible shot. I don’t want to say it cost the Blazers the game, but you have to get a better look in that situation.
This game was ugly… except for the last 5 minutes or so. Neither team shot over 40%, neither team cracked 90 and the Cavs shot under 70% from the foul line. Somehow the Cavs cracked the 20 point barrier in each quarter (they were consistently mediocre) but don’t ask me how it happened. The Cavs threw the ball away (12 TOs) and gave up 11 Portland offensive rebounds. There were a few times where I thought they just might pack it in only to make a mini run and keep things respectable (like when Portland was up 14 with 3 minutes to go in the 3rd… somehow it’s a 6 point lead heading into the 4th).
Joel Pryzbilla killed them. The big fella had 9 points (3-3 FG), 9 boards (4 offensive) and 3 blocks in 25 minutes. At least two of his blocks came against LeBron and it seemed like everytime that Cavs got a stop, Pryzbilla somehow ended up snagging a big offensive board. He killed the Cavs all game long.
Remember how Larry Hughes kicked ass in the couple games? Ya, that well dried up. Hughes was a glorious 2-11 from the field and 4-6 from the line. His two baskets came on dunks (which I guess is somewhat remarkable) and he pitched in 3 assists and 2 boards. In case you were wondering, none of Larry’s 24 minutes of court time came in the final period (he can’t be pleased about that development, especially after his performance in the Laker game).
The Blazers are one of the top 3 point shooting teams but the Cavs shut them down. Some of this is luck and some of it Cavalier defense, but Portland shot just 3-14 from behind the arc. The Cavs did force them into some tough shots (like Roy’s final attempt) but they also dodged a couple of bullets here and there (Blake was just 2-6 and he missed some open looks).
The bench was decent… neither that good or that bad. With Varejao out, we got to see a little of Cedric Simmons and Dwayne Jones. Simmons looked really nervous sharing the floor with James and didn’t contribute much. However, Jones had a big offensive rebound and he made all four of his free throw attempts. Gibson and Jones both pitched in a couple of 3s apiece, but only one of them came in the second half (and it wasn’t in the 4th).
If you want your team to win, don’t taunt LeBron James. So LeBron gets into it with some fans in Toronto and he goes off and kills the Raptors. Then Wednesday night, LeBron gets into it with a Portland fan and singlehandedly brings the Cavs back from the brink finishes off the Blazers. If I’m Dan Gilbert, I try to work this in my favor. Gilbert should purchase court side seats for Cavalier road games and give them to people with the explicit instructions to heckle James. Hell, we don’t even need Gilbert involved… we just need Cavs fans to dress up in the opposing teams colors and piss LeBron off. You’d think that opposing fans would learn to stop giving this guy a hard time…. but let’s hope not.