There’s a couple of ways to take this game. You can tip your cap, you can lament the poor D and you can lament the poor offensive execution. All three are legit.
Tipping my cap. Manu Ginobili… dear lord. 46 points, 8 assists, 5 boards and 3 steals. He was 15-20 from the floor! He was 7-8 from behind the arc! He was 8-9 from the foul line! (ok, that last one isn’t as impressive… but still). I spent most of the game wondering when they’d switch LeBron on him… but it never really materialized. I also kept waiting for the Cavs to knock him on his ass (legitimately, not due to a flop) and he did fall hard… with a minute left in the game. To a certain extent there’s only so much you can do when a guy is hot like that (I mean, 7-8 from downtown!) but I would’ve liked to see someone body him up.
The defense was not good. Manu’s hot streak facilitated everything, but the Cavs didn’t keep him out of the lane either (this I put on Hughes and Devin Brown) and when the defense collapsed, the Spurs found the open men camped outside for 3. The Spurs scored 41 points in the final period! 41 points! That’s insane. The Cavs would have stretches of decent D, but they never lasted very long (someone always ended up making a boneheaded play). One play in particular sticks out: just under two minutes to go, leading 103-100 with 6 seconds left on the 24 clock, the Spurs were inbounding from the baseline corner. LeBron simply fell asleep on the play and lost Ime Udoka, who ran right under the rim and got a layup (which basically put the game out of reach). It’s not like LeBron got picked or didn’t know who his man was… he just lost him.
The offense was good, but there were things I didn’t like. It’s hard to fault the offense when they score 105 points for the game and 30 for the final period, but I will. A lot of the scoring came via the jumpshot. The Cavs were 11-22 from beyond the arc, but they seemed to settle for 3s late in the game (especially after the Spurs hit a few bombs to take and build the lead). LeBron was the main culprit, as he was just 1-5 from downtown. The Cavs rarely ventured inside and they ended up with just 16 free throw attempts. Again, it’s hard to find fault with 105 points against the Spurs, but there weren’t a lot of good shots taken down the stretch.
All that being said, LeBron was pretty awesome. James finished with 39 points, 9 assists and 6 boards. He shot the ball fairly well (17-31 FG but just 1-5 3pt and 4-7 FT) but seemed to grow frustrated with the foul and free throw situation. James got a tech late in the first half after he picked up his 3rd foul while attempting to block a shot by Duncan. James was frustrated because he felt he should’ve gone to the stripe the last few times down the court. However, to me, the fouls that James picked up were pretty legit. He got mostly wrist when he blocked Timmy D’s shot. James definitely should’ve had more free throws (though he should’ve attacked more often too) but if anyone deserves to be pissed at the refs, it’s Z (who was in foul trouble all game). For all the contact the refs allowed out there, three of the big fella’s four fouls were iffy at best (and dead wrong at worst).
My reaction to Larry’s performance against Orlando: freaking awesome. Against San Antonio: Pretty sweet, but…. Against the Magic this past Monday, Hughes was taking good shots and attacking the rim (netting 13 FTAs) on his way to 40 points. Against the Spurs on Wednesday, Larry scored 26 points (11-19 FG, 4-7 3pt) but had just one free throw attempt (which he missed). Versus the Magic he was hot and playing the right way, versus the Spurs he was just hot (and that worries me). It wasn’t that Hughes took bad shots, it’s just that a lot of his jumpers fell. Check out his shot chart, from what I can tell, only four of his shots came inside of 15 feet. Don’t get me wrong, Larry was awesome (6 boards, 3 assists and no turnovers) but I dunno… I just think his Orlando game was something to build off of, whereas the only lessons learned from the Spurs game was that it sure is nice when long jumpers fall.
Drew Gooden is practically worthless. He guy doesn’t go up strong (really, a reverse layup in traffic?), he rebounds well but gives up offensive boards too often (off a free throw) and he regularly loses his man on defense (and let’s not get into his ‘help’ D). To his credit, Drew still grabbed 11 boards even when his shot was falling (2-8) but the Cavs could’ve used him during crunch time, but Mike Brown (for some reason) was relying on Donyell Marshall (who did hit a big 3 with about six minutes to go… but who also was outrebounded by Damon Stoudamire). I can’t wait for Varejao to return.
The Cavs held the lead for the bulk of this game. The Cavs led after the first 3 periods. While their lead was as high as 12, they usually had a pretty solid cushion of 3-7 points. They even had the lead for the first half of the fourth quarter. Then this happened (keep in mind, these are consecutive possessions):
6:13 – Bruce Bowen makes 22-foot three point jumper (Manu Ginobili assists)
5:39 – Manu Ginobili makes 25-foot three point jumper
5:03 – Bruce Bowen makes 9-foot jumper (Michael Finley assists)
4:22 – Bruce Bowen makes 24-foot three point jumper (Manu Ginobili assists)
3:53 – Manu Ginobili makes 25-foot three point jumper (Michael Finley assists)
3:08 – Manu Ginobili makes 25-foot three point jumper (Michael Finley assists)
Before Bowen’s 3, the Cavs held a lead of 88-84. After Ginobili’s final dagger, they were down 101-95. A 17-7 run, 6-6 from the field in just over three minutes. Yup, that’ll do a team in.
Rest up boys. This was the 5th game in 7 nights and the last game before the All-Star break. The Cavs need this time to heal up. Daniel Gibson could’ve suited up for Wednesday’s ball game, but Mike Brown said he’d be on a 15 minute limit and with the break coming up, he’d rather not chance it (which makes sense). The Cavs next game is on Tuesday, at home against the Rockets and they then play the next night in Indiana (and why wouldn’t they come out with a back-to-back, second game on the road?). Oh, and if you haven’t heard, the trade deadline is a week from Thursday.