I have real mixed feelings about this game. On one hand, the Cavs won a game where they didn’t play their best. They were down by 10 a multiple junctions and they fought back take the lead and the game. However, their deficits were entirely of their own doing; the offense reverted to last years form (lots of jumpers and standing around) and they let Indiana out hustle them for loose balls and they gave up a lot of second chance points.
LeBron’s gonna get the pub, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled with his play (Le-Iso reared its ugly head). Now look, the guy had 27 points, 9 boards, 8 assists, 4 blocks and a steal. The man is a beast, this has been established. But James seemed to settle for jumpers (11-24 FG, 1-6 3pt) and he was rarely seen in the post (especially considering how he’s started the season). Down the stretch, the Cavs played a lot of the 1 on 5 offense, which ended up working out in the end, but I don’t think they can rely on that set for any length of time.
That’s not to say he played poorly. For a stretch in the 3rd period, James put the Cavs on his back and dragged them (and the crowd) back into the game. With 8:00 left in the third, the Cavs trailed 57-48. 9 points and 2 assists later, the Cavs had a 64-63 lead with 4:39 to go. A lead which the Cavs promptly coughed up and they went into the final period trailing 74-71.
Anderson Varejao was great. Great I tell you. With the Cavs energy and effort severly lacking, Varejao gave them the shot in the arm they so desperately needed. Andy was everywhere, scoring 18 points, grabbing 8 boards, netting 3 steals and flopping to get rookie Roy Hibbert (who was suprisingly effective) into foul trouble. After the Pacers stretched their 4th period lead back up to 7, Varejao scored 9 of the Cavs next 14 points to tie the game at 86.
Mo Williams was solid. Williams scored 10 points in the final period, including 8 points over the last six minutes. He’s really starting to knock down his long twos (especially from the left side) and he’s starting to develop some chemistry with LeBron. They’re playing a two man game, where one sets the pick for the other. I like this a lot; first of all I enjoy having LeBron roll to the hoop and Williams can shoot the pick and pop as well as anyone on the roster. My only complaint with Mo was that he coughed the ball up too many times (5).
For some reason Wally was playing crunch time. Well, I know the reason: Szczerbiak was on the floor when the Cavs made their run, so Brown wouldn’t switch lineups. Which is fine. Wally had 11 points on 3-4 shooting (1-1 3pt, 4-4 FT) and he hit a big 3 early in the 4th to keep the Cavs in it. Now, I think Wally has played fairly well, but lord help me if he keeps putting the ball on the floor. No. Bad Wally. I really don’t need Donyell Marshall flashbacks.
Ben Wallace played 19 minutes and didn’t record a rebound. Awesome. This could’ve been a reason why the Cavs were outrebounded 44-30 (ouch!). The Cavaliers gave up a ridiculous 19 offensive rebounds (hell, the Cavs had 23 defensive) and they’re gonna need Wallace (and quite frankly, the rest of team) to show a better effort.
Danny Granger was pretty god damn sweet. Granger scored 33 points (13-21 FG) and kept going at LeBron throughout the game. James didn’t stop him. Now, late in the game, James and Granger got into it a bit, and of course James came out the victor, but Granger played great. He’s the reason why they had the early lead (16 points in the 1st quarter) and every time the Cavs made a run to get back into it, Granger would make a few shots put the Pacers ahead once again. Now, he didn’t exacltly stuff the rest of the stat sheet (3 boards, 1 assist) but he shot the lights out.
It looked like the Cavs thought they would show up and the Pacers would simply keel over. The offense on Friday didn’t look like the previous four games. James was setting up away from the rim, the Cavs settled for jumpers (even down the stretch) and they never kept their intensity where it needed to be. They still won the game (which they should’ve), so I don’t want to come off as harsh, but they didn’t play their best ball and this wasn’t really a spectacular game (despite what FSNOhio would have you believe). They had to climb back in the game at least three times, they let themselves get down by double digits twice and, oh have I mentioned this yet, they got outrebounded 44-30.
Rematch against the Bulls on Saturday. It would’ve been nice for the Cavs to have a relatively easy win against the Pacers at home, especially before heading to the Windy City. The Bulls will be tougher on their home court and the Cavs can’t afford come out with the same effort they showed on Friday. The more they play with a better effort, the more likely it is that they’ll keep LeBron under 40 min/game for the season. Not having to expend crunch time energy against bad/mediocre teams will go a long way (now, maybe I’m not giving the Pacers their due, but it was fairly obvious that whenever the Cavs turned up the pressure, they took the Pacers out of the game. It was only when they stepped off the gas that Indiana made their runs).