Both teams were short handed. The Warriors played just seven guys (though all seven were in double figures) and the Cavaliers were without both Shaq (37 years old/shoulder) and Anderson Varejao (hip) and Jamario Moon left midway thanks to a sprained ankle.
Hey look! Offense! It does exist. The Cavs had 35 after one quarter, 66 at the half and shot 58% from the floor to finish with 114 points. The first quarter was fantastic; J.J. Hickson had 12 points, the Cavs had 9 assists on 12 buckets and things were looking very, very nice. They moved the ball well and picked apart Golden State’s defense with patience and good ball movement.
LeBron was a beast (go figure). I’ll be honest, there were times during the game where James looked bored. In the first half he’d just draw the defense and get the other Cavaliers easy buckets. He’d zip these one-handed passes to wide open teammates almost effortlessly. Things bogged down a bit when LeBron got sucked into it with Corey Maggette and went one-on-one while settling for jumpers (some went in, some missed but everyone else stood around). James finished with 31 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, a steal and a couple of monster dunks.
For the third game in a row, J.J. Hickson got his career high. First 18, then 20 and now 21 versus the Warriors. J.J. didn’t have a perfect game but he gave LeBron and co. a big target down low and he made the most of his touches (Hickson was a perfect 9-9 from the floor). J.J. still gets lost on defense every now and then (he was immediately pulled after letting Vlad Radmanovic put back his own missed jumper) but he held his own and finished with 21 points, 9 boards (so close!), a steal and a block.
The Cavs were forced to go small. Darnell Jackson got some playing time and the Cavs had to go small without Shaq and Varejao. We saw some of LeBron at the 4 (me gusta) and a lot of three-guard line-ups (Mo/Boobie/Parker, Delonte/Boobie/Parker). The shooting was excellent; non-LeBron Cavaliers shot 53% from behind the arc (LeBron was 1-5) and the Cavs showed they could run with a team like Golden State.
However, there was some complacency, especially in the second half. Quite frankly, things were getting too easy and the Cavs got bored and started taking bad shots and tried to do too much. Too much dribbling, too much standing, to much jawing with Corey Maggette- they lost their focus and nearly let the Warriors back in the ball game.
Well, they kinda did let Golden State back into it (though you never felt the game was in doubt). Don Nelson’s squad cut the lead to one (107-106) with 3 minutes to go. The Cavs righted the ship eventually with a basket by Mo and a steal that led to a LeBron-to-Hickson alley-oop. Which is all well and good but the Cavs can’t keep letting teams hang around and most of them won’t be as lackadaisical on D as Golden State. This is how they lost to the Bulls; they showed no sense of urgency and nearly blew it. Austin Carr made the point in the fourth that they only had a 10 point lead but it felt like 20. He’s exactly right; yes, the Cavs were comfortably in the lead but it wasn’t so comfortable that they could afford to waste possessions with bad offense.
Z had a nice game. A lot of his buckets were easy layups inside against the smaller Warrior squad, but his jumper is starting to fall. Now, will his jumper be there when Shaq returns from his early season rest…. I mean totally real shoulder injury? I dunno. But I do know that Ilgauskas finished with 14 points on 7-12 shooting in 28 minutes of court time.
Hey look, Derek Zoolander! We had a Wally Szczerbiak sighting at The Q. Wally is coming off knee surgery and he said he was in town to do some rehabbing. That could very well be true but I think he’s around because he was going to be included in that Stephen Jackson deal and the Cavs were seeing how healthy he was. I could be wrong, maybe he just likes coming to Cleveland in November to workout. Makes sense.
This was the first of a 4-in-5. The Cavs are in Washington tomorrow, Indiana on Friday and end with the Sixers at home on Saturday. The Cavs are on a 5 game win streak and pushed their record out to 8-3. Things are good right now but it’s not like Mike Brown doesn’t have stuff to work on. While the Cavs do a fairly good job of closing out quarters they have not put teams away in their two most recent games. They let Utah back in the game on Saturday night and there is reason why this win had to be by single digits. Maybe the new guys are still working themselves in, I dunno, but they aren’t closing teams out.