Chicago 86, Cleveland 85

Tough loss. The Cavs looked good for stretches and made some nice plays, but they let Chicago slowly build up a six point lead throughout the fourth and by the time the Cavs decided to show some urgency, they ran out of time. Some Cavs played well (James and Shaq were both pretty good) but no one had a standout game. The Bulls got fine performances from a number of players (Derek Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Brad Miller and rookie Taj Gibson) and the Cavs only got 12 points from their bench (8 of which were Boobie’s).

Some crazy plays at the very end. On the Cavs’ last possession, LeBron drove left against Deng, jumped, made contact with Noah and the ball went out of bounds and the refs called it off James. While LeBron (not to mention the crowd) did not agree with the call, I think the refs got it right. Ya, maybe you could’ve called a foul on Noah’s help out, but James lost the ball on the way up when his elbow (which he led with) hit into Noah’s chest. Was there body contact? Sure. But if that’s Dwyane Wade and Anderson Varejao, I’d be pissed if Wade got that call. Anyways, the Cavs shouldn’t of even had the ball to begin with; they forced a turnover on a 24 second violation but it sure looked like Deng’s running floater glanced the rim (Brad Miller got the board). It should’ve been Bulls ball with 3 seconds to go.

But it shouldn’t have even come down to that last play. The Cavs didn’t show any of the intensity that ended the Wizards game. The defense was a step slow (as were the coaching adjustments), the offense was haphazard and they got no production from their bench (Z was 0-9 and Delonte was 1-4). The Bulls hung around and hung around and eventually took the lead. The Cavs didn’t help themselves at the line either, going 12-20 as a team (LeBron went 6-9).

The coaching was not good. Brown insisted on pairing Z with Shaq and it just didn’t work. Hell, he had a five in the second half that was West-Gibson-Parker-Z-Shaq. Three guards and a two seven footers. Awesome. Then, for the last two minutes, he goes small and puts LeBron at the four. Which is fine by me but I wanna know why a) you play one way for the whole game and switch at the end and b) why don’t they go small more often (especially if it’s something you feel comfortable using at crunch time)? The TNT guys ripped the offense during halftime and I can’t really blame ’em- the offense looks bad (though I will point out, again, that I’m pretty sure Mike Brown isn’t calling for LeBron to go one-on-five and hoist a 20 footer). Their second to last play was a Mo Williams running floater (that did not look good) and their final play consisted of James driving into traffic.

LeBron was good, not great. Well, he finished with 25 points, 7 boards, 6 assists and 2 trips into the stands that resulted in an injury (once tweaking his ankle and another jumped and landing awkwardly on an empty seat). While 25-7-6 is pretty damn good for most guys, James could’ve done more; he continues to settle for jumpers (though this could stem from not being comfortable with Shaq) and initiate the offense from 23 feet out. This may sound nitpicky (again, 25-7-6) but they aren’t going to beat good teams with James going 1-on-5.

The bench was not good. Gibson scored 5 points early but his only other basket came at the buzzer of the third quarter (Boobie only took four shots, making three. I would’ve liked to see them ride his current hot streak a bit). Meanwhile, Z went 0-9 and West missed all of his jumpers. J.J. Hickson didn’t have a good 3 minutes of PT (0-4, 2 boards, 1 TO) but I really don’t think he’s gonna ‘get it’ in these little 3 minute spurts. Oddly, in a game where Chicago’s length (Deng) and quickness (Rose, Hinrich, Ty Thomas) hurt the Cavs, Jamario Moon never made it off the bench. It’s fairly obvious that Brown doesn’t have a rotation down quite yet.

In the end, it was effort. The Bulls wanted this win more. They got the loose balls, they grabbed the offensive boards and made they made the plays down the stretch. The Cavs looked disjointed and slightly disinterested at times. I know it’s early and we all assumed (at least I hope we did) that they would struggle out of the gate but already having two losses at The Q (where they were 39-2 last season) doesn’t feel right. Coming off a 66 win season, they’re gonna get other teams’ best shot, they’re going to have to find a way to match the oppositions intensity or they’ll lose a few more games they should win.

and finally…

Lord knows what to expect tomorrow (from LeBron or the gasbags at ESPN). LeBron James in Madison Square Garden… following a loss. Triple double? 50 points? Both? All I know is, I expect the Cavs to come out and dominate and LeBron to make some stupid crazy plays.

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