Now that was impressive. The Cavs dominated this ballgame in every way imaginable; the only Dallas lead was 2-0, they outrebounded the Mavericks 52-35 (including 18 offensive), they had more assists, more steals, more blocks and they had five players in double figures.
The one issue: the third quarter. Now, I will say that the Cavs weren’t completely awful this time around, but they led by 9 at halftime (51-42) and let Dallas climb back to tie the game at 63. But they never let the Mavericks get the lead; after the tie, the Cavs outscored 9-3 to end the quarter and went into the fourth with a nice 6 point lead.
LeBron was awesome, but not spectacular- if that makes sense. In 34 minutes, James was just 8-20 from the floor (0-2 from 3pt) but he finished with 29 points, 8 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block (and just one TO). He repeatedly set up on the block (while not letting himself get pushed to the perimeter), allowing him to get some easy baskets and draw a ton of fouls. The free throws weren’t an issue Monday night, as LeBron was 13-15 from the stripe. The Cavs had a few possessions where LeBron dominated the ball, but they were few and far between.
This was what the Cavs look like when they’re clicking. James was on the block, Delonte West was just about everywhere (especially in the first quarter), Mo Williams was knocking down jumpers, Ben Wallace was doing the dirty work (he held Dirk to 3-11 FG and also grabbed 13 boards) and Z was hitting his open looks. The defensive intensity never wavered (even when Dallas made the run to tie the game, it was due to Cavalier turnovers) and the Cavs played with a focus that I haven’t seen all season (though, to be fair, I’ve only seen the Boston game).
Williams looked really good. Mo finished with 14 points (6-12 FG, 1-2 3pt), 6 assists and 4 boards in 34 minutes. That’s exactly what you want from him. Williams was the reason the Cavs went on a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter (and basically put the game away). During their 13-0 run (with LeBron sitting), Williams hit three jumpers and a trey (all from roughly the same spot on the floor) and dished out 2 assists.
The bench was great (and the rotation was just eight guys). Varejao looked like the guy we all fell in love with two seasons ago; he was active, he was annoying and he was productive (2 points, 6 boards, 4 steals and only one cringeworthy jumper). Wally Szczerbiak also had a good game, scoring 10 points on 4-6 shooting AND he wasn’t abused on the defensive end quite so much (still finished with 5 fouls though). Daniel Gibson was effective as well, scoring 7 points (just 1-4 from downtown) and dishing out 2 assists. The only other bench player to play while the outcome was in doubt was Pavlovic, but he wasn’t in there for too long. I expect Brown to end up with an eight or nine man rotation (as opposed to ten) once he figures out if he’s going to play J.J. Hickson on a regular basis.
Did I mention how good Delonte West was early on? Delonte had 9 points in the first period and he was really active at the defensive end, beating everyone to loose balls and getting himself in the passing lanes. West finished with 14 points (4-5 FG), 6 assits and 4 boards. All in all, the Cavs got 28 points (10-17 FG), 11 assists and 8 boards from their starting backcourt. Not too shabby, eh?
Z had a nice game too. The Cavs got 17 points (8-15 FG), 11 rebounds and 2 assists from the big fella. He gave up some offensive boards early on (though it wasn’t just him), but cleaned the glass really well as the game went on. Z wasn’t really a threat down low (though he had a couple close buckets) but his jumper was falling and the Cavs kept going back to that well throughout the night.
Honestly, this was really nice to see. Sure, the losses to Boston and New Orleans weren’t awful, but we were still wondering just how good this team is (they’ve either had great competition on the road or really really really crappy competition at home). Seeing the Cavs dominate the Mavericks, in Dallas no less, really eased the stress levels a bit. This team is good with a chance to be great. They looked like a team that knew what it wanted to do and went out there and executed it. Guys weren’t trying to do too much (including James) and everyone seemed to know their role and embrace it. Granted, Dallas isn’t what they one were, but a 20 point win in Big D is nothing to sneeze at.
Speaking of Mavericks…. go vote on Tuesday. I’m actually gonna be working one of the polling stations near my house. Gotta be there by 5:30. It’s gonna be sweet…