The night started kinda slow, but the Cavs turned it on at the end. They were a little sloppy to start things off; not ‘bad passes leading to turnover’ sloppy (though there was a few instances of that) but more of a ‘I had a steal but couldn’t control it’ type sloppy. Even when Minnesota made some runs to get close, the game never felt in doubt and the Cavs were always in control. And with 14 points by LeBron in the final period (as much as the entire Timberwolve team), the Cavs pulled ahead for good.
LeBron received a ‘standing O’ and quite deservedly. James had some sweet stats, but they don’t tell the whole story. LBJ finished with 32 points (14-20 FG, 2-6 3pt), 6 boards, 3 assits, 2 steals and 2 blocks. But he absolutely played the part of superstar. James had seven or eight highlight, gasp inducing plays, including a couple trick shot layups, a thunderous dunk, some tight blocks and a sick no looker to J.J. Hickson for a wide open dunk. He was efficient, he was dominating and he was ruthless. It was awesome.
Delonte West bounced back with a nice game. After missing a lot of jumpers against Atlanta, tt looked like West made a concious effort to get inside. West attacked the basket throughout the game and it netted him some nice, tough lay-ups. West scored his Cavaliers high 21 points on 9-16 shooting and pitched in 5 assists, 2 boards and 2 steals. He wasn’t perfect though, he threw an alley-oop to LeBron off of the backboard and well, it didn’t quite work out (but it was still cool to see, not gonna lie).
Mike Miller had a pretty good audition, no? The former Florida Gator finished with 14 (7-12 FG) and 7 boards in 35 minutes. What was suprising to me was how aggressive Miller was off the dribble. All seven of Mike’s baskets came inside. In fact, all five of his misses came from beyond the arc. I liked his aggressiveness and it was nice to see that he could take his man off the dribble and finish close to the basket.
The bigs played great. Ben Wallace did a good job out there contesting shots and grabbing boards, Varejao gave them a double-double (13 points, 11 boards) and both rookies played some valuable minutes. Darnell Jackson got the extra minutes in the first half (0 points and 0 boards, though I thought he looked fine out there) and J.J. got to play in the second. I thought Hickson looked really well; he scored 7 points, was 3-3 from the floor (with a sweet face-up jumper) and he grabbed 5 boards and he met Al Jefferson at the rim, blocking his shot. Though it sucks having Z out, it’s not terrible that Hickson and Jackson are getting minutes at meaningful points in the game (those blowouts really helped them along).
Mo was ok, but he was in foul trouble. Williams played just 22 minutes, getting 6 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and a steal to go along with his 5 fouls. For some reason, Kevin Olie played well and was getting benefit of the doubt calls from the refs. I really don’t get it.
The bench gave them solid, if not great, minutes. Pavlovic shot just 2-6 but did enough little things (5 boards, 2 assists and good D) that I didn’t mind. He actually drove to set up Varejao, which was nice (and would’ve resulted in a charge last season). Wally Szczerbiak played fairly well in his return to the Target Center. Wally had 10 points on 4-8 shooting (2-3 3pt) but I was most impressed with his rebounding. Szczerbiak was stuck guarding Kevin Love and various other Minnesota bigs but he battled ’em down low and finished with 5 tough boards.
Denver on Friday. In by far their toughest game of this four game trip, the Cavs face the Nuggets at home on Friday night. Denver is 9-3 at home and 18-7 overall; this is going to be a good test to see how the Cavs hold up on the road. As of right now, I hear Z wants to play in the Denver game, but I haven’t seen anything that says it’s gonna happen. After they face the Nuggets on Friday, the Cavs will play in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.