Cleveland 98, Los Angeles Clippers 84

Sluggish game… but kinda a good thing. This was one of those mid-winter games where both teams are tired, but in the past these games have caused the Cavaliers trouble. But instead of playing down to their opponent, the Cavs executed (especially in the second half) and methodically put the Clippers away.

The Zydrunas based offense was a thing of… effective… beauty. With Chris Kaman and Elton Brand out, the Clippers had no one who could actually guard big Z (and the Cavs actually took advantage of this fact). The Cavs ran their offense through the big fella for the bulk of the game, and it worked. Z was 9-11 from the floor for 22 points and he found guys when they cut to the hoop (4 assists, but had a lot of passes that led to points). On the defensive end, Z had 4 blocks and grabbed 13 boards. By far the worst part of the offense was Fox Sports Ohio decision to go to the baseline cam whenever Z got the ball on the block. Awesome, the one angle where I can’t see anything, thanks guys.

On a related note, apparently FSNOhio has a Myspace page (the future is now). That’s right, FSNOhio on Myspace. I’m not saying that you should go pay them a visit and leave ’em a comment about that crappy baseline camera angle… but go pay them a visit and leave them a comment about the crappy baseline camera angle.

LeBron attacked… and attacked… and attacked. James was 8-19 from the floor and finished with 28 points, but the big number to me is his free throw attempts: 16 (he made 11 (68%)). With the offense going through Z and James, the Cavs got to the line 33 times (to the Clippers’ 20). LeBron grabbed 11 boards and dished out 7 assists (including two lobs to Larry Hughes, one of which he actually dunked).

Drew Gooden wasn’t useless. I was absolutely sick of Drew after his performance in Seattle, but he came back with a strong game against the Clippers. He was active on the boards (12) and he got some easy baskets on offense. Gooden was 6-10 from the floor and finished with 14 points. All three Cavalier front court starters finished with double-doubles (they’re going to need more games like this with Varejao out til after the break).

Not much help from the backcourt though. No one was bad, but everyone was decidedly average. The starting backcourt combined for 14 points, 5 boards and 0 assists. Neither guy was awful, Hughes had 10 points on 3-10 shooting while Newble had 4 on 2-5 (though he missed a point blank shot off a feed from Z), but neither was great either. Call me weird, but I’d liked to see the starting backcourt get at least a couple of assists, no?

Future non-Clipper Sam Cassell wasn’t a factor. Sam-I-Am got into foul trouble early and never got himself fully into the game. He finished with just 6 points and 3 assists and there numerous times where I forgot he was even on the floor.

The bench was solid. Daniel Gibson was the biggest contributor with 11 points (4-8 FG, 2-3 3pt) and both Damon Jones (3 pts) and Devin Brown (5 pts) provided a bit of help. As a team, the Cavs shot just 6-22 from behind the arc. Only Gibson was decent from beyond the arc (2-5), James, Hughes, Jones and Brown all shot 1-4 each. However, most of the 3s were good looks coming out of passes from Z in the post or LeBron penetrating. They only shot 27%, but I can’t fault them for most of the attempts.

Al Thorton looks like a stud. The rookie (who isn’t in the rookie-sophomore game) led the Clippers with 23 points and he also had 7 boards. He attacked a variety of Cavaliers from all over the court. He went in the post, he drove and he hit some jumpers. I know he shot 1-15 a couple games back… but he looked real good on Saturday night.

and finally…

Celtics on Tuesday. We still won’t be able to see the Cavs face the Celtics when both teams are at full strength. The Cavs are still missing Varejao and Pavlovic while KG has missed a few games for Boston recently. I think the Cavs have the talent to hang with Boston, though I’d like to see them match up with their full complement of guys (at least to see Anderson Varejao get under KG’s skin. Everytime I see them matched up it looks like Garnett wants to slug Andy).

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