First half: meh. I wouldn’t say the Cavs played poorly in the first half, but they definitely were not sharp. They had a lot of turnovers (11) and it led to a bunch of easy buckets for the Nets. The Cavs took a lot of jumpers and just seemed kinda lazy. They were down as many as 9, but kept it around 5 for most the half and they entered the locker room trailing by 3 (52-49).
Second half: hooray! The Cavs tried something different this game, instead of coming out after halftime and completely sucking ass, they played extremely well. Their defensive pressure was off the charts (holding New Jersey to just 13 points in the 3rd), they stopped turning the ball over (1 TO for the second half) and they shot the fucking lights out. The Cavaliers scored the first 12 points of the 3rd by hitting four treys (Williams and West made two each). After that opening, they never looked back; the Nets never got within 7 and the Cavs kept their focus for the last 24 minutes.
As usual, LeBron was awesome. James led everyone with 31 points and he pitched in 8 boards, 4 assists and a sweet chasedown block. His defensive effort was awesome and though he wasn’t in the post too often, he had some variety in his shot selection and he only needed 20 shots for his 31 points. Since the Nets have no interior defense, James could get to the rim at will and he was rewarded with 17 free throws (making 12 of ’em).
Ben Wallace, also awesome. The stats say 3 points, 4 block and 8 boards (4 offensive) in 26 minutes, which is nice. But the stats don’t show everything he did. He set the tone at the defensive end, guarding all 5 positions, blocking shots and diving on the floor for loose balls. The Nets tried to slow the Cavs down late in the 3rd by going to hack-a-Ben and Wallace made ’em pay by swishing both freebies. It was that kind of night for the Cavaliers (well, in the second half).
Mo Williams was awesome. 16 points, 6 boards, 6 assists and a steal. That’s sweet. He got both LeBron and Z some easy buckets and he’s developing a nice two-man game with James (LeBron got him a layup off a pass from the high post). Williams struggled a bit defensively while guarding Devin Harris (23 points) but I thought the effort was there.
I liked what Z did, even though his shot wasn’t falling. Z was just 4-14 in his 33 minutes of playing time, but he grabbed 9 boards and had 4 assists. So far, this is the best that the Cavs have used the big fella game in, game out. They’re consistently getting him the ball in the post, they’re actually using his passing out of the high post and he even hoisting 3s. I though Z’s defense was great and I really like how he rebounded the basketball.
Brook Lopez will be a starting NBA center for a number of years. Shocking, I know but I was impressed by the kid (he had 15 points and 13 boards). Now, he got schooled a number of times by both Z and Varejao, but it looks like once he gets used to the league, he’ll be fine.
Delonte West passed his first test. The 6-3 West was matched up against the 6-6 Vince Carter and I was really interested to see how he stacked up. Well, Carter finished with just 12 points on 3-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Delonte scored 16, hit all 4 of his treys and grabbed 6 boards. West has been nothing short of awesome this season.
I have a fun game for everyone. Whenever Wally Szczerbiak checks in, count the number of possessions the opposition has before Wally’s man hoists a shot. Don’t worry, you won’t have to count much more past one. Also, Szczerbiak is Derek Zoolander.
The bench was solid, again. Varejao continued his strong play (his confidence looks sky high right now), scoring 8 points and 5 boards while being an all-around pain in the ass. Daniel Gibson had 7 points, but not much else (though he hit two treys, one of ’em ended up being a 4-point play). The aforementioned Szczerbiak had 4 points in 14 minutes, which was exactly what Sasha Pavlovic put up (I thought Pavs has done well in his limited amount of PT this season). Unfortunately, J.J. Hickson didn’t see any action until garbage time, but he did get 4 points and a block in his 3 minutes.
Detroit tomorrow. The Cavs are finally doing what good teams should do: beat the bad teams soundly, so you can rest your star players. LeBron was under 40 minutes again while the Cavs cruised to their 8th win in a row (and Ben Wallace was under 30). The Cavs are playing at an extremely high level right now and I’m really interested to see how they handle the Pistons. Which brings me to my next item: I’m not going to be able to see how they handle the Pistons. I’m gonna be out of town for the next 5 days or so (driving out to Colorado), so I won’t be around for either the Detroit game OR the Atlanta game on Saturday. Thankfully, the Cavs have some off days, so I won’t be missing a lot of action.