Charlotte 91, Cleveland 88

Not their best effort, to say the least. I was ‘lucky’ enough to attend this game (with my dad and bro) and to say the game was boring was an understatement. It was a 6pm start time (a little off their normal routines) and the Cavs more or less slept walked through the evening. The Cavs were routinely down by 3-5 points for much of the second half and we kept waiting for a run… and waiting… and waiting… and by the time the Cavs did make a little push (with about 4 minutes to go). The crowd was kinda loud near the end but for the most part we seemed just as tired as the Cavs (in our defense, it’s hard to get excited watching guys stand around and shoot jumpers).

The Cavs really shouldn’t lose a game where LeBron and Mo combine for 56 points. James led everyone with 29 points and Mo pitched in 27. The maddening thing was that both guys shot the ball extremely well (13-21 for LBJ, 10-17 for Mo) and the Cavs still lost. But that’s the thing, they shot the ball extremely well… but that was it. Mo and LeBron combined to hoist 15 threes between them while only shooting two free throws each. LeBron’s freebies didn’t come til the last two minutes of the game and could’ve given the Cavs a lead but James split and they had to settle for the tie (the next play, Flip Murray hit a trey to give the Bobcats the lead and pretty much the game).

I really don’t want to put this loss on LeBron but… James had a pretty good game stat-wise, going for 29-7-6 with steal and a block. Though again, he shot his first free throws with 1:15 left to go in the game. That’s inexcusable. He needed to put pressure on the opposition’s defense and instead was content to hoist jumpers all night (sure, some went in, but I’m pretty sure Larry Brown was thrilled he kept taking them). As a team, the Cavs made 9 threes and 9 free throws… while attempting 21 treys to just 13 freebies. Guys like Delonte West (9 points) were regulated to the corner as a spot up shooter for much of the fourth quarter. For what it’s worth, we did see LeBron play the four next to Shaq, which was the first time this season (at least that I know of) that LeBron played power forward next to anyone but Varejao.

You want some excuses? I got ’em! The Cavs looked visibly tired and in their defense, this was the second night of a back-to-back (both with abnormal start times) and they traveled the night before (so this felt like an away game rather than a normal home game). Also, the Cavs have played more games (by a whopping four) than anyone else in the league. It would make sense that they were tired. To the Bobcats credit, they slowed the pace down and the Cavs clearly weren’t prepared for their press and their pressure on the passing lanes (lack of practice time?). The Cavs take a while to get into their offense anyways and the Charlotte defense only compounded the problem (the length of Wallace, Jackson and even Diop didn’t help).

Not a good night from the bench. The bench gave the Cavs a total of 12 points. If you take out Delonte (who was 3-6), the bench shot a dismal 1-17 (Z and Moon were 0-4 and 0-5 respectively while Andy went 1-8). I’m not sure what the problem was but none of these guys looked in any sort of rhythm. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s bench got 10 points (and the backbreaking trey) from Flip Murry, 6 points from D.J. Augustin and somehow let DeSagana Diop score 8. Maybe Boobie (DNP-CD) could’ve provided a spark but who’s he guarding out there? Gerald Wallace? Stephen Jackson?

Nothing inside. In general, the Cavs offense was perimeter-based; the only picks were on the ball (no back picks), there was very little posting up (some by Delonte, nearly none by LeBron) and the Cavs seemed content to keep shooting jumpers all night (and they made enough of ’em that apparently Mike Brown was cool with it too). What was maddening was the fact that when the Cavs did drive or post inside, they always kicked it back out for another jumper. Which is fine every now and then but what’s the point in beating your guy, getting to the hole and passing it for a 23 footer? Sometimes the kickout is the right play but not always. It seemed like the Cavs were looking for it because they’d kick it out without even drawing in Charlotte’s defense (meaning that shooter didn’t always have a clean look).

The execution down the stretch wasn’t good. The Cavs are down three (89-86) with 12 seconds and two timeouts left and they call timeout and go for a quick two (I’m OK with this). They run a play, LeBron gets a lay and the Cavs trail by one (89-88) with 9 seconds to go. Charlotte inbounds the ball to Flip Murry (63% FT) and the Cavs…. pressure him? There’s 9 seconds left! You aren’t seriously trying for a 8 second violation, are you? Are you going for a steal? Somehow Murry gets rid of the ball (despite having two guys pressuring him, one being Shaq) and the Cavs end up fouling Stephen Jackson (80% FT) with just 2 seconds left. Great. The Cavs wasted a solid 6 seconds for no reason and were left with a quick shot to end the game. In a surprise to no one, James got the ball and hoisted a three (from the corner?) and that was all she wrote. Now, LeBron was having a good shooting night and was 2-5 from three at that moment… but Mo Williams was 5-9 seemed like he couldn’t miss.

and finally…

While it was a frustrating game (especially since I was at the arena), it’s not the end of the world. This isn’t a loss that exploits any major weakness of the Cavaliers (unless you count slowing the pace down). The Bobcats played better, the Cavs didn’t execute their offense (21 3FGA to 13 FTA) or defense (‘Cats shot 49%) and they simply didn’t have the energy. Now, if you want to argue that they should bring it every night and all that jazz, I’ll listen to that. But the Cavs had won 7 in a row, have been traveling all over and still nearly pulled this out at the end. A loss at home isn’t the end of the world (last year’s 39-2 record was nice but once Orlando won Game 1 everyone lost their mind) and hopefully this game can help fix some bad habits before yet another (their last!) West Coast trip (they face the Nuggets, Blazers, Warriors, Jazz and Clippers).

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