Five in a row! This is really nice. The Cavs have had a pretty favorable schedule to start the season (especially when compared to last year) and they’ve taken advantage. Now, all is not perfect (they’ve actually been outrebounded in the last three games (127-102) and I think LeBron has been relying too much on his jumper in crunch time) but they haven’t had let downs against teams they should beat.
41 is apparently the magic number. For the third time this season, James dropped in 41 points. James also added 6 assists, 5 boards and 3 steals (before checking the box score, I figured his other numbers would be higher, because A) he was really active and B) Austin Carr mentioned that James could be closing in on a triple-double. Good call Austin). While there was some Le-Iso, I thought it was better than previous games; LeBron shot some jumpers, true, but they were 2s, off of a jab step move (aka he wasn’t hoisting long treys).
Anderson Varejao had another solid (no, great) outing. Andy had 13 points (5-5 FG) and 10 boards in 23 minutes. He was active on the defensive end (2 blocks) but he picked up a lot of ticky-tack fouls (5 in total). Now, I don’t really blame him for most of the fouls, the refs weren’t exactly kind to the Cavaliers in general (and especially in the first half) but Andy got the worst of it (he was not pleased). Andy was also really active on the offensive end, he and James worked the pick and roll to perfection througout the second half.
But besides Varejao, the bench was bunk. Gibson: 23 min, 0 points, 0-8 FG, 0-6 3pt. Szczerbiak: 24 min, 0 points, 0-3 FG, 0-1 3pt, 0-2 FT(!!). Wally also picked up 3 fouls in the first half, so we got see Sasha Pavlovic for 5 min. Turns out, Sasha was the second leading scorer off the bench, with a whopping 2 points. J.J. Hickson also saw some action, scoring a single point in 5 minutes of play.
Z sat for the 4th quarter (thanks to Varejao) but he played a solid game as well. It’s nice to be able to play Illgauskas for just 23 minutes, especially when he scores 15 points and grabs 10 boards in that short amount of time. Z has had a great start to the season and I really like how the Cavs are using him; they’re getting him regular touches in the post, setting him up for jumpers at key spots on the floor and even using him in the high post to utilize his passing (Z had 3 assists).
For a quarter there, Luke Ridenour looked like Mark Price. Ridenour torched the Cavs for 14 points in the third period. He was on fire, hitting 3s, setting guys up. The Cavs didn’t help by going under some screens, but I gotta give the man credit, he was killing ’em.
Let’s forget about the 3 point shooting, shall we? The Cavs were 3-20. Three for twenty. Gibson was a brutal 0-6. Wally missed both he took. Williams was 1-5. West 1-3… and LeBron was 1-4. It was not a pretty night from beyond the arc.
Williams had a nice game against his former team. 16 points and 5 assists ain’t terrible, right? While Mo hit his free throws (9-10- btw, isn’t it nice having a PG who is money from the line again? I’ve miss this), he was just 3-11 from the floor. His shot wasn’t falling, but he forced the issue and went inside, creating points for himself and others. Another nice sign was that he got in both Z and LeBron’s faces when they got chippy about some early fouls (I like seing him assert himself out there).
Andrew Bogut sucks. 20 minutes, 2-7 FG, 7 boards, 5 fouls. Well done.
Delonte West has been nothing but solid. West was efficient, scoring 11 points on 5-7 FG, but also aggressive, pushing the ball when the time was right. I’ve said it before, but it makes a world of difference having guys with high ball IQ out there night in night out. For instance, West made a great entry pass to Z in the post, which directly led to Z getting an easy bucket. This would’ve never happened with their guards last season, the Cavs always screwed up the entry pass. I wasn’t a fan of starting West at the 2, but he’s made a believer out of me; West has been great.
They’re handling the teams they should beat. While Milwaukee made a run or two throughout the game, the final outcome was never in doubt for a second. The Cavs had complete control over the game. They go for six in a row against the Nuggets this Thursday on TNT. I’m interested to see how Denver plays with Billups (I like the trade better for Denver to be honest), but if the Cavaliers play their game (and if the bench scores some points) they shouldn’t have too hard of time with the Nuggets.