Another loss without LeBron. That’s how this game is going to look to people, and to a certain extent, it’s true. But the Cavs defense was terrible. I’m not sure if having LeBron James on the court is going to help Drew Gooden box out or Larry Hughes guard the back door. And ya, the Cavs are 0-4,849,543,897 when LeBron is out this year, but can we at least mention that when he’s been out, other Cavs have missed time as well? I mean, earlier in the year, the Cavs were missing LeBron, Hughes and Varejao and Thursday night they were missing LeBron, Pavlovic and Varejao. When you’re missing 3 rotation players, your level of play may suffer a bit (and I mean, it’s been two starters and their 6th man for gods sake).
And the level of play was awful. If you ever wondered what Damon Jones would look like playing small forward, tonight was your night. The Cavs started Larry Hughes with Ira Newble and Devin Brown on the wings (I mean, it makes sense, none of these guy are ball handlers or shooters, why not put them out there together). The Cavs let the Sonics shoot 61% in the first half and were down 40-24 after the first period and 62-42 at halftime. Certain guys gave a pretty good effort (Dwayne Jones, Ira Newble) while others made me want to break my television (Drew Gooden).
Let’s look at Drew a bit more, shall we? We all know that Drew doesn’t play during crunch time when Varejao is healthy. It’s kinda sad that Drew didn’t come anywhere near the court when the game (finally- more on this later) got close later in the 4th. Gooden didn’t lose his minutes to Varejao, he lost them to Jones. Gooden was decent offensively (he had a couple of nice jump hooks) but he was less than abysmal on the defensive end. Gooden got beat down the court for layups and dunks, Gooden got beat going back door and Gooden got beat on the glass. It was pathetic. The Cavs were missing LeBron James and Anderson Varejao and Gooden only got 19 minutes (against the Sonics!). If Drew thinks he’s disappointed, imagine how Mike Brown feels.
Larry Hughes played well. OK, better than well (28 points, 6 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals) but he still bugged me for some reason. He took decent shots for the most part, but he had a couple sequences that were just awful (like when he kept getting his shot blocked). He shot 10-21 from the field, made 4-8 from behind the arc and he made all his freebies (4-4) but for some reason I’m hesitant to say he played great (I guess the Cavs being down 23 points to the Sonics may have something to do with that). However, Hughes did score the Cavs first 10 points of the 3rd period to let them at least keep pace with Seattle.
Where was the intensity? The Cavs played a great 4th period; they blocked shots, they closed out, they rebounded and they executed their offense. Somehow they got within 3 points late in the game. The problem is, if they played anywhere close to that level at any point in time earlier in the game, they probably would’ve won (or at least had a chance). I can almost forgive the early deficit; the Cavs were feeling things out without LeBron, it was the last game of the road trip and the Sonics came out really really hot (the Cavs gave up a lot easy baskets, but Seattle also hit a ton of jumpers). However, I expected the Cavs to make a dent in the lead at some point, but it never happened. Hell, things never even got under 15 until late in the game. They never clamped down on defense, they couldn’t get on a roll offensively and they kept getting out hustled. It wasn’t until it was too late that they turned it on. I’m not sure who you blame for this, the coach, the circumstance… or Drew Gooden.
LeBron’s out, so the Cavs hoisted a ton of 3s (and made quite a bit). Larry Hughes shot 4-8 from downtown, Daniel Gibson was 3-7 and Damon Jones was 5-11(!). That’s three players shooting 26 treys (Donyell Marshall clanked the only 3 he took- that’s right, Donyell Marshall was out there).
Z had half a good game. He never got settled at the offensive end and went just 3-13 from the field. He wasn’t much better than Gooden at the defensive end, but he at least grabbed 9 boards (oh, didn’t I mention, Drew just had 3). However, late in the game, Z stepped up. He was running around on defense and he blocked and challenged multiple shots down the stretch. He also made all 11 free throws he attempted and finished with 17 points, 9 boards, 5 assists and 3 blocks.
Not a bad trip, but the last two games left a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, the Cavs won in Portland, but they looked listless until LeBron just went off at the end. Same thing happened in Seattle; they looked dead in the water until they made a (real) late push to make the final score look respectable. Both games ended up being close down the stretch, but the Cavs could’ve made life much easier on themselves if they could’ve started their charge earlier in the game. The Cavs come back home to face the Clippers and Celtics before heading out to play Houston next Thursday to play their last Western Conference road game of the year (think the Cavs won’t have a strong second half? They don’t have to go out West at all after the All-Star break).