Los Angeles 101, Cleveland 91

First half: Good. Second half: Not Good. The Cavs held a ten point lead going into halftime and managed to go into the fourth quarter trailing by 5. Lamar Odom killed them for most of the game but his third quarter hurt the most. Odom had 15 of his game high 28 in the crucial third period. The Cavs never got any offensive flow going (16 point third quarter, 14 point (!) fourth quarter).

Defense was not good. The Cavs guards didn’t redirect any of the Laker wings. The Cavs bigs let their post players set up way too close to the rim. They got beat down court. They didn’t box out (looking at you J.J.). It was awful. I know the Lakers are a great offensive team, but this was ridiculous; they got everything they wanted (48% FG) and the Cavs looked a step slow. They weren’t physical nearly enough and the Lakers had easy shots all game. Also, maybe someone should’ve guarded Lamar Odom somepoint. You can’t ask Wally to defend a guy like Odom, that just isn’t gonna end well.

You could view this game a couple of ways. On one hand, you can place this loss squarely on the defense (and the bigs). Odom and Gasol (18-12-6) both had huge games and the Lakers had easy shots for most of the afternoon. On the other hand, if you wanted, you could put this game at LeBron’s feet. James had a offnight (to say the least) but the Cavalier role players actually stepped up (at the offensive end). Z finished with 22 and 9 (with a couple of blocks and assists), Mo threw in 19 points and Wally gave ’em 16 off the bench. Bitch about the D and the refs all you want, but the Cavs aren’t going to win many games against the Lakers (or Celtics/Magic) when James goes 5-20 from the floor. They can survive a bad game against the Hawks or Hornets and what not, but they have to play perfect if they’re gonna beat the elite teams with James having an off night.

You could also say they weren’t gonna go 41-0 at home. Which is true. But the Cavs didn’t seemed focused enough, especially for a game this big. There was never any sense of urgency, there was never any sustained defensive intensity. Of course, it stinks when your guards are Wally and Mo; they’re trying defensively, but missing both West and Sasha Pavlovic (who could be out six weeks with an ankle sprain) really hurts the overall D.

Not gonna lie, I thoroughly enjoyed the goofy, white, Euro big man battle. Both Z and Pau Gasol are fundamentally sound big men with great offensive games, but who don’t have any defensive reputation to speak of. Which was kinda how this played out. Z got what he wanted on his end and Pau got what he wanted on his. Both guys were knocking down open jumpers, using their old-man post moves and passing the ball around. I liked what I saw from Z in a big game and Gasol surprised me with his intensity.

Ignore the refs and get the fuck back on defense.
Look, the refs sucked. Their calls didn’t change the game (not putting a body on Lamar Odom, however, did) but the Cavs got too distracted by the officiating. Remember the Detroit series two years ago, James got fouled and no call? What did the Cavs do? They came out, said we lost and moved on. James got beat a couple times down the court while he was bitching to the officials (and he wasn’t the only one). Maybe Phil Jackson worked the refs, maybe the NBA hates the Cavaliers- I really don’t care. You guys haven’t won anything yet, you don’t deserve all the calls just suck it up and get back on defense. (But the refs were awful, I won’t deny that).

Kobe was sick (like, actually sick). The Laker star was vomiting during pre-game, had an IV at halftime and sat most of the fourth quarter. But he still gave Los Angeles 19 points on 8-18 shooting. Bryant hit a high arcing turnaround over LeBron to put LA up 6 with under 3 minutes to go, which was basically the dagger. Once that thing went in, the Cavs had no answer.

Ben and Andy did not have good games. Look, this is the same thing with Gibson- stop trying to do everything and focus on what you’re good at. You guys are in the NBA because you can play defense and rebound. If you aren’t doing that, I don’t particularly want to see you on the court. Wallace can’t be afraid to shoot the ball; he can’t keep passing the ball 2 feet from the rim. Let them foul you, I don’t care about the free throws. I do care about him passing up 3 foot shots. And Andy? No more jumpers please.

and finally…

The sky isn’t falling but at this point there should be concerns. After the first Laker game, we were making excuses because our front line wasn’t at full strength. Well… um… what now? I honestly do believe that the Cavs can win with this group, but I’d be a little more comfortable if they’d grab another big (even if it’s Joe Smith). They need more offense out of the unit and Hickson (who I really really like) isn’t ready to give them more than a few spot minutes. Ferry is in a tough spot; Wally is obviously the biggest trading chip, but he’s become valuable to the Cavs with the way he’s played after all the injuries. Pavlovic was another chip and he’s out, Terrance Kinsey is out and Delonte isn’t back yet. If you trade Wally (especially for a big), you almost have to get some kind of wing player back. I know they didn’t want to trade Eric Snow’s contract, but they may have to after this.

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