Not the prettiest game, but it counts as a W. The Cavs held a listless New Orleans team to just 13 first quarter points and though the lead would fluctuate throughout the game, the outcome was never seriously in doubt. Wally Szczerbiak and Sasha Pavlovic combined to go 7-8 from downtown in the first half and James took over late as the Cavs methodically put the Hornets away.
James had a near triple double. The King finished with 29 points (12-24 FG, 0-2 3pt, 5-6 FT), 14 boards, 7 assists, 3 steals and a block. After scoring 15 points through the first three quarters, LBJ poured in 14 over the final twelve minutes. He really seemed focused on the boards, grabbing some tough bounds in traffic, and he didn’t seem afraid to go inside (he was actually posting up on a semi-regular basis). However late in the game, he took (some could say settled for) more than a few jumpers, but he was hot (and at that point, no one could make jack), so it worked out.
Sasha Pavlovic?! Alright then. I’ve been pleasantly surprised this season by Sasha’s ability to hit the long ball cold off the bench (it seems he’s always hitting the first jumper he takes) and he was on fire on Friday. Sasha finished 7-10 from the floor (4-4 3pt, 1-1 FT) and it was remarkable how under control he was. He wasn’t rushing his jumpers, he wasn’t forcing the issue and he seemed to take what the defense gave him. When they pressed, he drove (again, under control) and when they sagged off, he nailed jumpers. Sasha probably prepared for this season as if he’d be the starter and now he’s getting the chance to prove himself (I mean, he got 43(!) minutes). I’m gonna be real interested to see how he responds in Delonte’s absence.
The Hornets are a mess. They put forth minimal effort, especially considering the Cavs had a draining overtime loss against the Bulls the night before. Chris Paul looked perpetually pissed off, Tyson Chandler finished 1-3 from the floor and David West… well, he just looked bored (and somewhat insulted that the Cavs had Wally D-ing him up). They came out hot, building a quick 7-2 lead and making their first four shots, but the Cavs tightened up the defense and the Hornets never really overcame it. I was really (really really really) worried about this game and the Cavs more or less slept walked through it. I really thought Paul would kill them but instead, he got himself thrown out late (James Posey also got tossed late- it really wasn’t their best hour).
Besides Wally and Sasha (and that LeBron guy), the Cavs didn’t shoot well. James was 12-24, Sasha was 7-10 (19 points) and Wally was 4-6 (14 points) Varejao missed his first five shots (finishin 2-7), Mo was 4-13 overall and 0-6 from downtown, Hickson was 0-4 (in just 10 minutes) and Boobie… well, Boobie was 2-5 from 3… and 2-10 overall (ugh). The Cavs seemed to match New Orleans’ energy at times throughout the second half, but whenever the Hornets made a mini run, LeBron would just make a couple of huge buckets and the game would be out of reach yet again.
Didn’t see this coming, but I’ll take it. In no way did I expect the Cavs to push their home record to 20-0. I figured the combination of traveling, injuries (mental fatigue from said injuries) adn the opponent would lead to a lackluster effort. Obviously, I was gladly mistaken. Now the Cavs get to travel to Los Angeles to face Kobe and the Lakers to start their four game West Coast trek. This is a nice victory, especially given the circumstances, but they’ll have to have a better offensive plan than “drive and kick” against the likes of the Lakers and Blazers.