Not the best way to start the road trip, especially since the Mavs were without Dirk. The Cavalier defense wasn’t awful but they couldn’t get any stops when it counted. They gave up some back breaking treys down the stretch, including a bomb by Jason Terry where Mo Williams was inexplicably giving him room (the shot didn’t come off good ball rotation or anything, Mo was just playing off). The Cavs gave up double digit nights to three of the Dallas bench players (six in total) and allowed reserve Tim Thomas to pour in 22 in place of Nowitzki.
The offense had their usual rough patches. The Cavs scored just 3 points over the first 5 minutes in the third (allowing a 52-50 halftime deficit to balloon to 63-53) and while it wasn’t Le-Iso, it wasn’t pretty. The Cavs decided to feed Shaquille and the big fella did not respond; Shaq was 0-4 to star the second half and finished just 1-7 for the game. The offense also died during a crucial stretch of the fourth. With about seven minutes to go, the Cavs got within 84-83 and then didn’t get a field goal for four solid minutes. They went 0-4 (three treys and a Varejao 15 footer) and Mavs went on a 9-2 run to seal the game.
LeBron was average (for him anyways). James finished with 25 points (9-23 FG, 2-6 3pt), 3 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 block… you know, average. James didn’t play poorly but he let the refs affect his game (too much complaining, though he should’ve shot more than just 7 freebies) and he scored just 2 points in the final period (just 7 in the entire second half). There wasn’t a lot of the Le-Iso, but it reared it’s head at time (like a falling-out-of-bounds, 19 foot, fade-away from the corner? Um, not a good shot Bron-Bron). LeBron could’ve simply been tired down the stretch, since he played the entire second half (he played 43 minutes, great way to start the West Coast trip).
Things I know: when your starting point guard out boards your starting fowards, there is a problem. Mo Williams (6) and Delonte West (7) shouldn’t combine to outrebound Shaq (8), LeBron (3) and Hickson (1). Hickson has lost what little confidence he had and played just 16 minutes. He’s got to give the Cavs more energy; they need his athleticism on both ends and they’re not going to win on the road with him giving ’em 4 points and a board. The Mavs killed the Cavs in the pick-and-roll (unless you’re counting LeBron, the Cavs only have one big, Varejao, who can defend in pick-and-roll situations). Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea continually set up easy looks for Shawn Marion, Thomas and Terry through simple pick-and-rolls.
I had some issues with Brown (besides playing LeBron the entire second half). For instance, I have no idea why Shaq came back in during the fourth quarter. The Cavs were making a run in by going small (West-Gibson-Parker-LBJ-Z) and with the score 84-81, Brown decides to sub in Shaq (who was 1-7 and looking every bit of his 37 years). The Cavs made one basket over the next 3 minutes with Shaq failing to notch a point or a board (Eric Dampier defended Shaq well back when O’Neal was young and good, why keep forcing it?).
If it wasn’t for Delonte West, the game could’ve been ugly. With James chucking 9-23, Shaq going 1-7 and Mo missing all three of his treys (and both free throw attemps), the Cavs needed every one of Delonte’s 18 points (6-11 FG). West had a great game, scoring 10 of his 18 in the fouth while finishing with 7 boards and 4 assists. I think the reason I like West so much is the fact that Delonte is be the only Cavalier who seemingly isn’t afraid to wave off LeBron and make a play himself. Everyone else (players and coaches) look overly apprehensive and defermental to LBJ. West was getting whatever he wanted against Kidd and Terry and routinely attacked the rim (it’s not like Dallas has a lot of punishing bigs in Tim Thomas, Eric Dampier and Drew Gooden).
Varejao continued his strong play. Andy was the only Cavalier with a positive +/-, finishing with a robust +1 in 34 minutes of court time. He scored 13 points and grabbed 8 boards (4 offensive). While I didn’t care for his late 15 foot jumper, Andy didn’t hesitate when LeBron passed him the ball around the foul line (he was open), so I guess that counts for something.
Oh goodie, Phoenix. The Cavs get to face the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back (after LeBron went 43 minutes in the first night). The Dallas game may have been their best chance at a win on this entire trip (especially with the Mavs missing Dirk). The Suns haven’t lost at home all year (10-0), the Kings are tough in their building (10-3) and the Lakers are the Lakers. They needed this Dallas game (which is probably why LeBron played those 43 minutes).