Asides from the first period, the Cavs dominated. The offense looked really good; LeBron didn’t settle for jumpers (though his shot looks great in this early season), the Cavs dominated the post (both Shaq and LeBron showed off some jump hooks) and the shooters made their shots (Mo and Boobie combined to go 7-9 from behind the arc). The offense flowed, their defense was stifling (the Wizards shot 39% for the game) and they looked comfortable with each other.
About that first quarter. It was ugly. While Washington came out like they gave a damn, the Cavs sleptwalked through that first period. The offense was bad (the Cavs had just 3 points over the final half of the quarter) and the defense was worse (at one point the Wizards made seven straight shots). They were going under screens (leaving Arenas and Butlter free to fire away) and they lost track of Wizard big men, allowing them to get easy dunks and offensive rebounds. The lead was 14 after one period (31-17) and got as high as 18 in the early second (37-19).
Shaq and Boobie got the crowd going. For as much as Gibson frustrates me sometimes, when he plays well, the Cavs and their fans seem to respond really well. Gibson scored 8 second quarter points (two treys and an offensive putback) and he fed Shaq on a break leading to an one-handed dunk (which REALLY got the crowd going). Meanwhile, Shaq, who also had 8 points in the quarter, got Washington’s big men in foul trouble (he drew 5 fouls in the period) and made four straight free throws.
Far and away Shaq’s best game as a Cavalier thus far. The big fella finished with 21 points, 8 boards, 3 assists and 2 or 3 Shawn Rogers-esque fouls near the rim (including a crowd pleasing throw down of DeShawn Stevenson). O’neal was definitely the most active I’ve seen him as a Cavalier (especially offensively); he showed off a rolling hook shot and a turnaround jumphook, he spun baseline and pinned a guy on his back, he ran the floor (he really had to stretch to dunk that ball from Boobie) and he drew the double team that allowed Boobie and Williams to get good looks at the basket. Basically, Shaq looked like Shaq.
LeBron had a good game as well. LeBron debuted his jumphook (it went in) and set up in the post throughout the game (though he still found a way to hoist seven 3s). James played powerfoward (both next to Shaq and next to Varejao) for the bulk of his second quater minutes and the Cavs cut Washington’s lead to four (54-50) by halftime. LeBron finished with 27 points, 8 boards, 6 assists and 3 steals. I like the fact that LeBron ended up taking 13 free throws (making 11) as it shows that the Cavs took advantage of the Wizards foul trouble (and Washington wrapped him up anything he was near the rim). When LeBron and Shaq combine to make 18 of 23 freebies, the Cavs are in a good spot.
It was a rough night for a few Cavaliers. Z finished 1-6 (with 3 weak fouls), Delonte went 2-7 and Anthony Parker was a rim bending 2-12 (but it was a great moment when he broke through and hit a trey to put the Cavs up 67-62 in the third- all made possible by an Anderson Varejao offensive board). Jamario Moon finished 1-4, but he was chuckin during the late stages of the game.
More J.J. Hickson please. Hickson grabbed two boards in his four minutes of court time. I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t too pleased when Brown brought out the twin towers to start the second quarter; the Cavs had given up easy dunks and offensive boards to the Wizards athletic bigs, I wasn’t sure two old, lumbering centers would do the trick (but when Shaq gets them all in foul trouble….). Offensively, Hickson bricked the only jumper he took but he also got the Cavs an extra possession by skying for a board. I’d like to see more of this.
Is there a more fun player to hate than DeShawn Stevenson? First of all, there’s no downside. I have no fear that he’s gonna torch the Cavs and have a big game in Cleveland. None. Boo away Cleveland fans, we won’t be seeing any Reggie Miller-like performances out of this guy. Stevenson finished 0-4 for 3 points, got decked by Shaq and bowled over Boobie for a charge. Missed shots, a dumb ducktail haircut, running into a fan favorite for a charge and getting clobbered by Shaq? Well done DeShawn, we really couldn’t ask for anything more.
Bulls on Thursday. I’m interested to see how Thursday’s game in Cleveland plays out. The Bulls had a really nice win against the Spurts at home but followed it up by laying an egg in Boston. The Cavs have now won three games in a row by double digits and I’m interested to see how Shaq follows up this performance.