Not a bad way to start the second half. The Cavs showed off their defensive skills, holding the new-look Raptors to just 36% shooting in Shawn Marion’s debut. The Raptors were without Chris Bosh, and they really could’ve used him. Cleveland got whatever they wanted inside and they hounded Toronto’s shooters (the defense was the best we’ve seen in a while), resulting in a fairly easy victory. The game was close for much of the first half (Cavs led 24-23 and 47-41 at the breaks) but they eventually just wore the Raptors down (15 point lead at the end of three).
Two different starters (one really different). Anderson Varejao (who looks nice and tan) started in place of Ben Wallace, who hurt himself playing football or something (broken glass in his arm? WTF?) and Tarence Kinsey came back and started in place of future-former Cavalier Wally Szczerbiak, who came off the bench (because of trade talks?). Both guys played well; Varejao was active, scoring 5 points while pulling down 14 boards and Kinsey had a nice hustle game, scoring 5 points himself while bugging the hell out of Anthony Parker. I’d also like to note that Andy is much more effective when he’s paired with a scoring center; I find myself yelling at him a lot less when he doesn’t think he has to score.
LeBron was pretty good. James had a ho-hum type evening of 20 points, 9 boards, 9 assists, a steal and a ridonkulous block. He could’ve had another assist, but Z missed an early lay-up (though they still got a bucket). James finished 9-17 from the floor (his jumper started to fall late) but just 2-2 from the line, as he didn’t get any calls inside. The King eventually took out his frustration with a couple of sick dunk in traffic (including a nice alley-oop off a lob from Z).
Meanwhile, Z abused Bargnani. The Big Fella led everyone with 22 points off a variety of old man post moves (the ugly hook was out in full force) and face up jumpers. Z looked relaxed and in rhythm and had himself a nice game of 22 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and 2 blocks (though he missed both freebies). I thought he did a pretty good job on Bargnani, especially after the first period, holding the young Italian to 11 points on just 5-14 shooting.
Mo also had a solid, if unspectacular, game. Williams had 17 points off of just 11 shots (making 7) and pitched in 4 assists and 2 boards. I thought he chose his spots well, not forcing things and taking what the defense gave him. More than once his shot dropped without the net even budging.
Wally played well in his possible last game as a Cavalier. Szcerbiak made all four of his shots (11 points) and grabbed 4 boards (to go with an assist and a block). Wally has stepped up with all these injuries and you can tell he doesn’t want to be traded. One of the more underrated aspects of Delonte’s is that they haven’t been to use Wally at the 4 as much (allowing them to go small and create some mismatches). If the Cavs do stand pat (or once Wally returns from his buyout), I can’t wait to see them go back to that small-ball lineup where Wally pulls his big defender out to 3pt line.
The deadline looms… Who knows what the Cavs will do. They’ve obviously been talking to teams, but as much they want to make a move (and as much as I’d like them to make a move), I’m not so sure they pull the trigger. Of course you’d like to make something happen with Wally’s deal, but you don’t want to make a trade just to do it. I wonder if they’ll call New Orleans up now that Oklahoma rejected Tyson Chandler (sure it was due to injury, but if you’re just giving up Wally…). Or maybe they’ll just wait for Joe Smith to be bought out, now that he’s not going to the Bayou. I really wouldn’t be shocked either way at this point.