Cleveland 98, Boston 83

Felt good, didn’t it? The Cavaliers and LeBron James completely dominated the defending champs. The Cavs got the first lead (on a Ben Wallace floater of all things) and never trailed for the rest of the game. They came out hot, hitting their first six shots in route to a 33-23 first quarter tally. The sick thing was, LeBron didn’t score his first points until nearly halfway through the first period (he hit two freebies with 6:43 to make it 16-10) and he didn’t make his first basket until there was less than five minutes left in the period (he made an ‘and one’ layup with 4:44 left to make it 21-14).

LeBron is a fucking animal. He’s a beast. He’s a man-child. He’s a man-beast-child. Anyway you put it, the dude is the best basketball player on the planet. James led everyone with 38 points (13-25 FG, 3-7 3pt and 9-9 FT) and stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 7 boards, 6 assists, 4 steals and 3 thunderous blocks. But he didn’t just dominate the offensive end, he shut down the overrated Paul Pierce (11 pts, 4-15 FG, 1-5 3pt) and he was diving, scrapping and fighting from baseline to baseline. He fed his big men, he found his shooters and he took over when the Cavs needed him to take over (the Cavs scored 23 points in the third period, James scored or assisted on 18 of those 23 points).

But it wasn’t like the other starters didn’t do anything. Anderson Varejao finished with 14 points and 9 boards (and drew a tech on Kevin Garnett). Mo Williams threw in 13 points (off of a couple of sweet floaters), Delonte West had 8 and Benny Wallace had 9 points, 3 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks. While James was the obvious focal point, the rest of the guys did their job to just about perfection.

Though there were some rough patches. The Cavs went the first four minutes of the second period without a field goal (and while they only scored 16 in the quarter, they held Boston to just 17). Boston crept close after halftime (cutting the Cavalier lead to four and five- 49-45 and 56-51, respectively), but the Cavs ended up finishing the period with a bigger lead (12, 72-60) than what they started with (49-40).

For how thoroughly the Cavaliers dominated, I was surprised by some of Boston’s stats. For instance, the Celtics outrebounded the Cavaliers 42-30, had 15 offensive boards (though many came in garbage time) to the Cavs 4 and ended up with ten more assists (25-15). Individually, KG’s stats stuck out the most. If you saw the box score, you’d say KG had a solid night: 18 points (8-15 FG), 15 boards and 3 assists. But I thought Garnett was way too passive (too many interior passes when he should’ve been going up strong) and that he settled for too many jumpers (he finished with two free throw attempts).

Speaking of surprises, I still hate Kendrick Perkins. Perkins (who owns the biggest disparity between the amount of talent he possess and the amount of trash he talks) may have finished with 13 points on 6-7 shooting, but that was because the Cavs left him alone all night and KG found him for some dunks. So besides the dunks that were all KG’s doing, Perkins other stats consisted of 1 rebound, 1 assist and 1 steal. Well played sir. It’s a special kind of center that can play 11 more minutes than Wally Szczerbiak and still get outrebounded by two. Also, he looks like a giant turtle.

The Cavalier second unit was mediocre (but better than Boston’s). Daniel Gibson was the best of the bench bunch, scoring 10 points on 3-4 shooting (2-3 3pt) to go along with 3 assists, 2 boards a steal and a block. I still say the Cavs win that series last year if he stays healthy. Meanwhile, both JJ Hickson and Szczerbiak did OK. Wally hit his first shot (3-ball from the corner), which he assumed meant he should keep shooting whenever he felt like it. Nope; he finished the game 1-4 from the floor (1-2 from downtown) but tallied an assist and the aforementioned 3 boards.

The Celtics actually resorted to hack-a-Wallace. That’s the sign of a great team right there, huh? They can’t actually stop their opponent, they’ll just hack the shitty free throw shooter. Well, Big Ben made them pay, making 5-10 from the stripe (which is better than his season average of 45%). It was pretty pathetic; the Cavs led by 18 points with under 4 minutes to play and Boston was still hacking Wallace.

and finally…

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great win and all…. The Cavs dominated the Celtics, no question about it. LeBron cemented himself as the frontrunner for the MVP award. And while it was nice to take it too a Boston team, this game doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. Yes, it was a statement game (message received methinks) but it’s only one game in the middle of January. The Cavs have to continue to play with the kind of focus they displayed on Friday night. They may have the best record in the East but they also have six of the next seven games on the road (including a four game trip out West with games against the Lakers, Blazers, Warriors and Jazz- oh, and they’re only home game? Against Chris Paul and the Hornets). This statement game may not mean a whole lot if they follow the Celtics lead and stink it up out West.

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