Cleveland 102, Memphis 87

Let down game? Not quite. The Cavs came out and put Memphis on their heels, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. But, as was the case for most of the game, they let the Grizzlies back in (they tied it at 7) and from then on, it was a game of runs. The Cavs would build a 7-9 point lead and the Grizzlies would get it back down to 2 or 3. They weren’t put away until the fourth quarter.

LeBron James is very good at playing the game of basketball. The Chosen One finished with a triple double, including a game high 30 points to go along with 11 boards, 10 assists, 3 steals and another ridonkulous block. He also seems to be getting the hang of this defense thing, as he shut down Rudy Gay (season average: 19 ppg), holding the third year phenom to 10 points on 5 of 18 shooting. But it’s not like the Memphis fans didn’t get their moneys worth; for the first half of the third quarter, James completely dominated the ball game. He scored 11 of the first 15 Cavalier points in the quarter (he assisted on the other two baskets) and the Cavs finally built a 8-10 point lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

About that triple double… Now, god forbid I accuse the Cavs and LeBron of padding his stats, but LeBron sure played a lot of the fourth quarter. I was surprised that he started the quarter with the Cavs being up by 10. Then he grabbed his 10 board with a little under 9 minutes to go (Cavs lead was 14) and the countdown was on. A couple of guys missed some assist opportunities (Williams and Hickson) and then Boobie nailed a trey to give James 9 assists and the Cavs a 20 point lead with 5:52 to go. James didn’t net that 10th assist until there was just 2:04 left in a 20 point game. With the Cavs being short handed (Lorenzen Wright got the start in place of a flu-plagued Benny Wallace) and about to start a little West Coast swing (not to mention facing New Orleans on the second night of a back-to-back this Friday) I don’t think it’s really necessary or prudent for LeBron to log 40 minutes against this Memphis team. (of course, if Wally could hit a layup, LeBron prolly sits down with 5 minutes to go).

I love Delonte West. Brother Red was perfect in the first half, making all 5 of is field goal attempts (including three treys) and both free throws. West finished the game 7-9 from the floor for 19 points to which he added 6 boards, 4 assists and a steal. West continued to play his stellar defense, holding wunderkid OJ Mayo to just 6 points on 3-9 shooting.

Mo Williams isn’t an all-star because? Mo scored an efficient 16 points on 6-11 shooting (3-5 3pt) but he acutally missed a freebie (1-2 FT). Unlike West and James, Williams didn’t have the best night on defense as Kyle Lowry finished with 25 points and 7 assists. Now, this wasn’t all Mo’s fault- somehow Lowry finished with 16(!!!) free throw attempts, but it just kinda underscores the fact that the Cavs could use some defensive help for the PG position (paging Gerald Wallace, Gerald Wallace to the courtesy phone please).

J.J. Hickson is starting to look like an actual NBA player. Hickson made the most of his 28 minutes of court time, finishing with 9 points, 7 boards, a steal and a block. He played mostly solid defense and he even knocked down a face up jumper (if he can hit that shot with any regularity…). The Cavs have been able to bring him along at about the perfect pace; he was able to get non-pressure minutes during the early season blowouts and now he gets to play because of injuries, and while these aren’t meaningless games, this isn’t the stretch run either. He keeps getting a little more responsibility as the season wears on and Brown doesn’t have to play him in situations he’s not ready for. I’m not sure you could plan it better.

Hey look, Darius Miles! Former Cavalier Darius Miles got some playing time and he sure doesn’t look like he’s ready to retire any time soon. Miles had 13 points in 14 minutes on a variety of jumpers, post moves and free throws. He doesn’t have the lift he once had (he missed a break away dunk) but he hit a very nice turnaround in LeBron’s face (they actually had to switch LeBron to Miles because he was causing so much havoc). Never fear though, even though he’s bigger (huge shoulders) and can’t jump, he still did that stupid fist head bump thing after he made a basket.

and finally…

Bulls on Thursday and then… *gulp*. After the Cavs travel to Chicago to face Derek Rose and the Bulls, they get to start a fun little stretch. They’ll face the Hornets in Cleveland on Friday and then travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Martin Luther King Day. After that, they have a game in Portland and a back-to-back with Golden State and Utah. They get to finish out the month with a home game against the Kings and finally a back-to-back in Orlando and home against the Clippers. This is not an easy stretch of games (remember how Boston did on their West Coast swing) and we’ll know a lot more about this team by the team we’ll reach February.

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