The started exactly the way Cavs fans prefer. The first two offensive possessions included long jumpers by both Anderson Varejao and Devin Brown. Fantastic. The first half wasn’t particularly kind to the Cavaliers; LeBron had 3 fouls, the Bobcats shot 59% (70% first quarter) and scored 62 points, but somehow the Cavs were only down four.
The third quarter was much better. The Cavs’ defense picked it up (only allowing 27 points) and they fought back and took a 92-89 lead into the final period. LeBron James had 13 points in the period and Varejao chipped in 7. The offense looked a lot better too; guys were cutting and moving without the ball and the defense led to some fast break opportunities (James was picking off passes left and right).
Speaking of offense, the Cavs had seven guys in double figures. James led the Cavaliers with 29 points, Devin Brown had 20 (11-12 from the line), Varejao had 17, Z had 16 and Delonte West had 10. Off the bench, Wally Szczerbiak finished with 11 and Joe Smith had 13 (the only other Cavalier who scored was Daniel Gibson and he finished with 2). Whats impressive to me (to a certain extent) was the fact that the Cavs had seven guys in double digits, scored 118, shot 52% but only made three 3s (out of 13).
LeBron wasn’t around for the last few minutes. James was in foul trouble for the bulk of the evening (he had to be taken out with 2 fouls early, 4 fouls in the third and 5 fouls in the fourth) and he fouled out with four minutes left. James finished with 29 points, 5 assists, 4 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks in only 31 minutes (though, he should be rested for Thursday’s game against the Bulls).
The crunch time ball movement was delightful. This was mostly due to Devin Brown (he had 8 assists! I haven’t been the biggest Brown fan, but he played great. Dear lord, if Pavlovic would have a 20 and 8 night I’d piss myself). Brown attacked the Bobcats and dished the ball off to both Szczerbiak and Z for big jumpers. Z had 6 points in the final two minutes.
Playoff rotation getting set? Neither Sasha Pavlovic nor Damon Jones got any court time, which can’t sit well with either of them (especially Jones). Daniel Gibson got a nice chunk of minutes (19) but didn’t do much with it (1-7 FG, 0-4 3pt). Somehow I imagine that Jones and Sasha could get big minutes Thursday night in Chicago, but at this point, I’m no longer surprised by anything Coach Mike does with his rotations. Wally gave himself a huge boost by scoring 9 points in the fourth quarter (including 6 straight at one point). That’s not good news for Sasha’s minutes, especially when you combine that with Devin Brown’s 20 points, 8 assist evening.
Jason Richardson is pretty good. Richardson had 31 points, 7 assists and 6 boards. He was 4-8 from behind the arc but just 1-3 from the line. Richardson kept Charlotte in the game late; he scored 11 points in the final period and he hit two 3s in the last minute. He might be a guy that the Cavs would look to acquire this offseason (Bobcats stink and JRich is owed $40 million over the next three seasons).
The Bulls… again. The Cavs go for their 3rd straight win when they face Chicago Thursday night on TNT (no Fred McLeod for me!). You’d think the game would go well; James only played 31 minutes, the Cavs won their first road game in roughly a month, and they played a solid crunch time without LeBron. Apparently Ben Wallace is healthy enough to play, but Brown has been keeping him out just to be safe (gulp). If Wallace plays against the Bulls, the Cavs will actually have everyone healthy; Gibson, Pavlovic, Z, Andy, Wallace… I’d like to see them play these last games at full strength (especially since Wallace changes how the offense so much), so they don’t have to be trying things out in the first round.