Washington 101, Cleveland 99

How about a full 48 minutes of defense. For stretches of time, you can see how good this team can be; they’ll play defense, they’ll move the ball and they’ll knock down their open shots. For other stretches, they look awful; there will be no defensive rotation, everyone stands and watches LeBron and no one can buy a bucket. Mike Brown has to find a way to get more of first stretches and less of the latter. The Cavs played a great 2nd quarter, scoring 30 points and allowing just 19. But they proceeded to give up 34 points (on 71% shooting!) in the 3rd and (coupled with their brutal 2-16 start to the fourth) were again forced to play catch-up for the final period. While the Cavs outrebounded the Wizards 51-36, they allowed Washington to shoot 48% from the floor and they didn’t take care of the ball at their end of the court (17 turnovers).

LeBron had an average (for him anyways) evening. 25 points (9-22), 7 boards and 7 assists. He settled for a lot of jumpers after he missed a couple of early layups (including one to end the first quarter). James also had 7 turnovers, giving him 13 over the last two games (which could be a sign that they should give the reigns to Delonte West a little more). The Cavs had the final shot and a chance to tie or win the game, but James missed a 3 at the final buzzer (he was just 1-7 from downtown).

Sasha Pavlovic had his best game of the season. Was he perfect? No; he fouled out and he unleashed one of his patented behind-the-back-dribble-while-attempting-to-split-the-defense moves (with predictable results) but he was more than solid. Pavs had a season high 24 points and shot 9-15 from the field (5-9 from 3). However, he didn’t do much else; he only notched a single steal, assist and board in the rest of his 29 minutes of court time (but his scoring sure as hell helped out a lot). Sasha didn’t try to do too much (except for the aforementioned dribble drive) and he got himself open and took good shots. It would be huge for this team if he could regain some of last season’s form.

When the hell does Z return? This Wallace/Varejao combo is killing me. I know that Brown basically has to do it, but neither of these guys are any offensive threat. Wallace is like the big man version of Eric Snow; he’s not a good shooter and he looks surprised when he actually has the ball in scoring position. As for Varejao… I’m kinda torn. Pre-injury, he was knocking down his jumper on a regular basis. But since his return, that jumper has been iffy at best, but he still hoists them. Varejao finished with 12 boards (10 in the first half) and shot just 2-9 from the floor (I know he’s been hurt, but if you’re a big man who wants a $60 million contract, you should be able to pick up the offensive slack for Ben Wallace, no?). Andy also had a rough time on defense; he got himself in position to take a few charges, but the calls weren’t going his way (this is my other problem with Varejao: when the whistles are going his way, he’s a superb defender. But if they aren’t, a lot of plays end with him on his ass. He’s dependent on the refs calling the game in his favor). (Also, while I’m hating on Varejao, can we blame him for Z’s bad back? If Andy doesn’t hold out, Z isn’t forced to played 36+ minutes early in the season. Maybe if Andy was here all season, Z would still be chugging along).

Wally Szczerbiak, still not making shots. The good news: Wally was 2-5 from behind the arc. The bad news: Wally was 2-9 overall. What was impressive was the fact that Szczerbiak got of 9 shot attempts in just 13 minutes of court time. With Damon Jones playing so well (9 pts, 3-5 from 3) and Pavlovic having the defensive advantage (and offensive if he can continue to knock down shots), Wally may find himself the odd man out when Daniel Gibson returns. Szczerbiak needs to find some way to start hitting shots or he’s gonna be watching a lot of games from the bench (and turn himself in a huge trading chip for the following year).

Delonte West had a solid game. After playing just 20 minutes the night before, West made the most of his 32 minutes of court time. West finished with 10 points (3-6 FG, 2-3 3pt) 7 assists and 5 boards (3 offensive). He wasn’t spectacular, but he got inside and created shots for himself and others. If he could be a little more consistent, he would do wonders for this team (though if he was a little more consistent, he probably wouldn’t have been traded twice).

and finally…

Silver lining. These last two games have been frustrating as hell; the Cavs played poorly for long stretches of games and they’ve lost to mediocre teams. But here’s the thing, for as bad as the Cavs have played, they’ve been just one possession away from winning both of these games. You think having Gibson and/or Z wouldn’t have turned these losses into wins? I’m getting sick of watching the Varejao/Wallace front court and lord help me if Szczerbiak doesn’t turn this around, but I don’t want to get too upset, just because I know the Cavs are missing their 2nd and 3rd most important players. Hopefully with Pavlovic returning to form, the Cavs can at least get better on the defensive end (they should be able to lock down on the perimeter with Pavs and West) and you hope that they can start to cut down on the turnovers (it seems to me like they have trouble inbounding the ball at least once a game since the trade. This needs to be fixed. Now).

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