This was the definition of a solid victory. There was nothing really spectacular or amazing about the Cavs win over Chicago. Sure, LeBron had 41 points and every starter but Ben Wallace score in double figures, but this was a business-like win (and don’t worry about Ben, he finished with 14 boards). They knew they were better than the Bulls and they went out there and played like it.
LeBron was a beast. 41 points. 9 boards. 6 assists. 4 steals. In 36 mintes. He’s setting up closer to the basket, so A) he has to fight through less guys B) he’s drawing a ton of fouls (he was 15-16 from the line) and C) he’s having to work a lot less to get his points. This is allowing James to play under 40 minutes a game, which is going to keep him fresher for longer as the season goes on.
Delonte West is really playing well. The kid is all over the court diving for loose balls and causing havoc AND he’s shooting a ridiculous 55% from 3 pt range this year. West finished with 16 points, 3 boards and 3 assists. He knocked down 3 of 6 treys and he set up LeBron for a sick dunk off a break (he also tossed a nice alley-oop to J.J. Hickson during garbage time).
Ben Wallace looks healthy. Big Ben had zero points but grabbed 14 boards (6 offensive) in 29 minutes of playing time. Wallace was challenging shots all over the court, hanging out by the rim, stepping out on Drew Gooden and even picking up rookie Derek Rose on a couple of switches. Under Mike Brown, the Cavs are always going to have a good defense, but if Wallace can keep his activity at close to this level (and Brown keeps him under 30 minutes a game) then their defense could be sick.
Best part of the game? The 3rd quarter wasn’t vomit inducing. The Cavs went into halftime with a 12 point lead. And then they went into the final period with another 12 point lead. Now, the Cavs did have a couple stretches in the 3rd and 4th where they let off the gas and let Chicago hang around, but the outcome of the game was never seriously in doubt.
Z had a slow start, but rebounded (literally and figuratively) nicely. Illgauskas finisehd with 15 points and 10 boards, but shot just 6-16. But when you consider that he started off the game by shooting just 1-7, 6-16 ain’t terrible. Zydrunas also nailed a 3 from the corner which A) wasn’t a last second hoist and B) looked like a drawn up play. Ya, this guy is pretty skilled.
Derek Rose will be pretty good, huh? The Bulls rookie put in 20 points and dished out 7 assists. He started off the game by nailing a few jumpers, forcing the Cavs to pay attention to his shot for the rest of the game. Rose had a quick first step and seemed to get to the hole whenever he wanted. Now, sometimes he’d finish, sometimes not, but the kid can get inside on a regular basis. I did feel bad for him a couple of times, because there was a stretch where Rose got switched to guarding LeBron… and it was about as pretty as Drew Gooden’s stupid beard.
Ben Gordon kept this game from being larger blowout. Gordon came off the bench to throw in 31 points. He shot a smokin’ 11-19 from the floor and was 5-9 from beyond the arc. The game was never really in doubt, so it’s not like I’d say he kept them close or in it, but he kept it close enough that garbage time wasn’t too long.
The bench wasn’t awesome, but they did their jobs. Varejao play pretty well, being annoying on defense and moving constantly at the offensive end (however, he only finished with 2 boards in 28 minutes- though the Cavs did out rebound the Bulls 46-35). Neither Gibson (1 pt, 0-6, 0-2 3pt) or Szczerbiak (8 pts, 2-6, 0-2 3pt) really lit it up, but I thought they both played nice all around games. Both guys moved around on offense (didn’t just camp out in the corners) and played solid defense. The rotation was eight guys again, Pavlovic didn’t see any action until the game was well in hand.
This team is talented. A lot of people still lament that the Cavs don’t have LeBron’s Pippen yet, but it’s fairly obvious that this team’s level of talent has risen over the past year. Having guys like Williams and West out on the court gives LeBron a ton of different angles and options when attacking the basket. Having guys like Varejao, Gibson and Szczerbiak coming of the bench means that the Cavs don’t suffer a huge talent drop off when the starters sit (I mean, does anyone miss the Marshall and Jones substitution? I always groaned when those guys checked in). They played with a ton of confidence and I think that the 19 point win in Dallas really showed them how good they can be.