Yawn. I dunno about you, but this game had all the trappings of a late season contest between two mediocre Eastern Conference teams. Wait a second… The Cavs followed up last night’s debacle in Detroit by getting themselves down 10 early. They played terrible in the first quarter but somehow got to the quarter break only down 27-22 (and that’s with LeBron fouling Louis Williams on a desperation bomb).
Delonte West had his best game as a Cavalier (not there’s a lot of competition for that distinction). West returned from his injury to toss in 18 points, dish out 11 assists, grab 6 boards, block 3 shots and nab 2 steals. That’s a pretty complete game, no? West looked like he did when he first arrived in Cleveland… like a point guard. Lately he’s been in the ‘bring the ball up, pass to LeBron then watch LeBron’ mode (like Snow, Jones and Gibson before him). Against Philly he was initiating the offense and attacking. More of this please.
LeBron was his usual awesome self. My biggest question coming into the game was how was LeBron going to react to the Detroit loss. Well, he finished with 26-9-9 (and only one turnover). He seemed to pick and choose his spots for the bulk of the game. Every once in awhile he’d post up, then later he’d simply drive for a power dunk, while other times he’d nail a jumper; now, I could be wrong, but all of this seemed to happen because of LeBron’s choosing, not because of Mike Brown’s offense. It’s like LeBron simply decides that he hasn’t dunked in a bit, so why not? He’s pretty good.
Pavlovic was hurt and Gibson left mid-game. I’m not sure what the issue was (as I’ve been using the tivo to fast forward through FSN’s “commentary”) but the cameras caught Sasha with a bag of ice on his leg. So that’s awesome. Gibson tweaked his ankle playing a some defense, but he looked pretty decent out there (8 points, 2-4 from 3). Ben Wallace was still out with back spasms… you know, I’m starting to think that this team may not get healthy for the playoffs.
Z was solid. 14 points and 5 boards. Not the best game (he got burned on alley-oops to Dalember) but I thought he was effective overall. His jumper has looked good since his return from injury, but he hasn’t been getting to the line lately (no FT attempts against Philly).
Varejao didn’t impress me. I keep telling myself that he’s still a bit hurt and that’s why he hasn’t looked the same these past couple of weeks… but I don’t know if injuries can explain 1-5 shooting for 2 points and 5 boards (also, 3 turnovers). With all the injuries and new players, the Cavs and LeBron will need Varejao playing at a high level if they want any chance of beating Detroit of Boston (hell, or Washington) in the postseason.
The bench was OK, but they did enough. Joe Smith was the main cog off the pine, with 13 points and 8 boards. Wally Szczerbiak was a non-factor again with 1 point in 10 minutes. I’ll give him this, at least he’s trying; Wally is grabbing rebounds and bustin his ass… but if he’s not making shots (0-4) then what’s the point? As for the rest of the bench, Gibson looked decent before he left, Dwayne Jones got a bit of time and Damon Jones only got 4 minutes (which is kinda surprising… ya, he got abused by Billups, but only 4 minutes?).
I’m starting to get worried. I knew the trade would mess up some chemistry issues, but I figured that there’d be enough time for them to get settled before the playoffs began… Now I’m not so sure. I like the fact that they’ve played really well at home, so at least I know they can play with good teams, but their road woes are worrisome. There’s still enough games left for them to develop a little chemistry, but I don’t know if A) I trust them to stay healthy and B) if I trust Mike Brown to figure out a good rotation before the playoffs start (btw, I love the fact that Austin Carr was commending Brown for whittling down the rotation… when Ben Wallace, Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic were all out with various ailments. Yes Austin, Brown was shortening the rotation all on his own…). I dunno, I don’t want to start making excuses, but this is starting to feel like a lost season…