They look pretty good, don’t they? Ya, they were hyped up and ya, it was against Memphis, but the Cavs came out and dominated. Defensively, the first quarter was just about perfect; Cleveland held the Grizzlies to just 13 points on 28% shooting. I thought Delonte West really gave the Cavaliers a noticeable difference on the defensive end; West brought great on the ball pressure and he went inside to rebound (6 boards) and help out (1 block). All in all, this was a beating; the Cavs had more boards (46-33), more assists (27-12), more fast break points (19-13) and their biggest lead was 28 points.
LeBron and Z meshed well with the new guys. James had 25 points, 11 assists, 7 boards, 3 steals and a block (to go along with 6 turnovers) while Z had 22 points (8-17 from the floor), 13 rebounds (7 offensive) and a block. With the addition of West, LeBron didn’t have to run the offense as much (especially after the last game) and we frequently saw him set up on low block. LeBron also had a completely ridiculous double pump dunk, which I can’t even begin to describe.
Ben Wallace had some good moments and some so-so moments. I thought Big Ben looked really well speed wise; he defended the pick-and-roll really well and he even forced a 5 second violation on his own. From a pure speed/in shape standpoint, I thought Wallace looked good. However, one area I found lacking was his rebounding. His reaction speed seemed a bit slow; Wallace got beat on the boards more than once, but as this seemed to improve as the game went on. Offensively, he didn’t force anything (he tied his season high of 12 points) and he actually finished strong at the rim (4 dunks).
Delonte West could end up having the biggest impact of all these guys. West had 5 points, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block. He pushed the ball, he got inside (and dished) and he was active defensively. However, West didn’t shoot well; just (a Larry Hughes-esque) 2-12 from the field. He was just 1-5 from beyond the arc and most of his misses were short.
Wally seemed to be forcing things while Joe Smith looked completely at ease. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t seen him play in a couple years, but it looked like Szczerbiak had almost no lift on his jumper. Wally had 10 points on 4-10 shooting (2-4 from 3) and he looked a bit unsure of where his shots will come from. On the flip side, Joe Smith fit right in. Smith knocked down open looks from the baseline and from the elbow and when he ran the floor, he was actually looking for the ball (I’ll miss ya Drew!). Smith was 6-8 from the floor and finished with 14 points and 6 boards.
The Cavs announcers were pretty sweet themselves. At one point, Fred McLeod actually said the phrase “spank job” and things got dicey anytime that Rudy Gay was involved in a play. However, a special mention must be made to the “interview” with Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert sat in with the guys for the bulk of the second quarter, and wow, was it painful. Every time there was a commercial break, I was hoping that’d be the end of Gilbert in the booth… but nope, he was still there. Gilbert spent his TV time questioning the critics of the trade, commenting on the negative press from the national news media and making a shameless plug for the Lake Erie Monsters (hey fans, do you like fast paced NBA basketball? Then you’ll love minor league hockey! Minor league hockey goes with Cavalier basketball about as much as that redneck dating site that always advertises during Cavs games).
The bench was one aspect of the trade that didn’t get a whole lot of talk. The Cavs got 36 points from the bench crew. Damon Jones continued his strong play with 11 points while shooting 3-5 from behind the arc. Once everyone gets healthy, this is going to be one of the deepest teams in the league. I’m more than anxious to see how Coach Mike juggles the minutes of these guys (especially the big man rotation). Guys like Devin Brown and Jones have played themselves into Brown’s rotation, I’m interested in seeing how this works out.
So far, so good. The Cavs travel to Milwaukee on Tuesday then face the Celtics in Boston the next night. The team looked good in their first time out, but we’ll see how things look after a couple road games. After Boston, the Cavs face the Timberwolves at home on Friday and meet the Bulls for the first of four meetings. That should be fun.