The first three quarter: bleh. I watched the game already knowing the outcome (thanks Tivo!) and I figured I’d be in for an ugly first three quarters of basketball. And defensively, it was. The Cavs let the Clippers get inside at will, they weren’t boxing out and they just seemed a step slow. The Clippers basically outworked the Cavs. But I figured if they’re down 19 in the fourth period, than the offense must’ve been stagnant and filled with lots of bad jumpers and isolation plays. But it wasn’t; the Cavs moved the ball fairly well for the bulk of the game, but they either couldn’t finish, they’d throw the ball away or the shot just wouldn’t fall (they also could’ve gotten a few more free throws). Even though they weren’t playing well, I thought you had to be encouraged because they weren’t forcing the issue, they were still playing within themselves.
Fourth quarter: teh awesome. The defense finally picked up, the Clipper imploded and the Cavs finally hit some shots. Cleveland started the game 0-17 from behind the arc. Delonte West didn’t have a good game, the bench wasn’t particularly productive and Mo was flat out bad. But Coach Mike found a lineup that worked (Mo-Boobie-LeBron-Andy-Z) and rode that five for the bulk of the final period.
LeBron had a fantastic game. I loved the fact that LeBron stayed aggressive throughout the first three periods, driving to the rim and getting himself to the line. James missed a few ‘and one’ baskets, he missed another dunk and some easier shots didn’t fall (and he could’ve/should’ve gotten more fouls), but he settle for jumpers or stay outside. James finished 10-23 from the floor and led everyone with 32 points. He finished with his second straight triple double, netting 13 points, 11 assists to go with 2 steals and 2 blocks. LeBron consistently found Varejao and Joe Smith inside (Zach Randolph should really learn to keep his head up) and LeBron notched 10 points and 5 assists in the final 12 minutes.
Mo Williams didn’t have a good game, but he hit some big shots at the end. Williams finished 4-17 from the floor and 2-8 from behind the arc. He had some miscues in the first three period (ball bouncing weird, getting knocked down in transition) and he struggled against Eric Gordon (14 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and a crossover that killed multiple Cavaliers). But down the stretch, Mo was money. Williams had 12 points in the fourth period and hit two dagger treys. The first one came with 5 minutes left and cut the Clipper lead (which was at 19 with just under 11 minutes left) from 10 to 7 (76-69). After the Clippers retook the lead at 83-82 on a Al Thorton trey with 29 second left, Williams nailed a bomb from the corner with 6 seconds left to put the Cavs up 85-83.
I’d like to thank the Clippers for making all of this possible. There is no other team in the league that would allow the Cavs to win this game. They completely imploded down the stretch. Zach Randolph… wtf? That guy shot four 3s, making 1 and the other three attempts weren’t even close (prompting Fred McCleod to make a ‘just a bit outside’ Major League reference, which went completely Austin’s head). Randolph hoisted the Clippers final attempt, a 28 foot bomb which he air balled. Mike Dunleavy, who looks like a cross between a used car salesman and Tony Soprano, didn’t look like he cared for Zach’s attempt.
Hey look! Daniel Gibson! Boobie played for the entire fourth quarter and he definitely gave the Cavs a boost. He had a nice offensive rebound and put-back in the early moments of the final period and he hit the game tying trey with under 2 minutes to go (80-80) to complete the Cavalier comeback. It was nice to Boobie play well for an extended period and it was more than nice to see him knock down a big shot. Gibson finished with 5 points, 2 assists, 2 boards and a steal in 24 minutes.
Whew [wipes forehead], they didn’t blow that game. This win was their 22nd on the road this year, the best in franchise history, and they really needed it. The Cavs are still two games ahead of Boston in the loss column and are now tied with the Lakers for the best record in the NBA. The Cavs face almost-Cavalier Shaquille O’Neal and the Suns on Thursday and then travel to Sacramento to face the Kings on Friday night. They dodged a bullet against the Clippers, let’s hope they’re a little more focused for the rest this small trip.