Domination, pure domination. Normally, whooping the Grizzlies at home isn’t all that impressive, but this Memphis team is pretty good; they beat the Lakers on Monday and they’re 25-14 after their 1-8 start. But the Cavs just dominated. Cleveland’s defense was fantastic (Memphis shot 38% from the floor) and their offense was equally impressive (the Cavs shot 49% and had 27 assists). I think that this extended home stand (and the extra practices that go with it) is really going to help the Cavs, especially offensively. Guys were moving without the ball, the offense didn’t stagnate and the Cavs seemed to get whatever they wanted. Yes, Memphis was on their fourth game in five nights, but they’re a good team and this game was never close.
LeBron looks like he’s toying with people. James led the Cavaliers with 22 points and he easily could’ve had much more. James ran the offense to perfection; he set up his teammates for easy hoops, collecting 15 assists in the process, and picked his spots to score the ball. There were no instances of Le-Iso that I can remember and the game felt like one giant highlight reel. LeBron finished with 22 points, 6 boards, 15 assists, a steal and a ridiculous chase down block on O.J. Mayo. His layup at the end of the half is gonna be what people talk about (he switched hands mid-air, like Mike) but my favorite plays were his two hook shots off the low block. That’s right, LeBron had two running hooks and they were beautiful. I’m telling you, this extended mid-season home stand could be the worst thing to happen to the rest of the league. The offense is clicking and Bron-Bron is showing off hook shots. Awesome.
Shaq seems to be rounding into shape. The big fella finished with 13 points and 13 boards in just 21 minutes. He shot 6-10 from the floor and he even dominated the game for a stretch in the second quarter, scoring 7 straight points and setting up LeBron for an easy dunk. He seems to have found his touch from the floor, he’s not missing those bunnies like he did early on. Defensively, Shaq was great. O’Neal had 4 blocks and he was a big reason why Zach Randolph shot just 3-14 to finish with 8 points.
Another solid game by Boobie. I have to say, I had some concerns with Gibson taking over the point guard duties for a few weeks, but things have gone pretty well (if ‘they haven’t lost since Mo got hurt’ counts as ‘pretty well). Gibson has scored in double figures every night since his insertion into the starting lineup and his 16 points Tuesday night was a season high. Boobie finished with 16 points (6-11 FG, 2-6 3pt), 1 board, 3 assists and a steal. However, as good as his scoring has been, over these six starts, Gibson has a total of 14 assists (or one less than LeBron had on Tuesday). Of course, since Mo has been out, LeBron has been conducting the offense (Tuesday was a perfect example) and has averaged 10 assists over those seven games, allowing Gibson to focus on what he does best- shoot.
Solid night from the big men. J.J. Hickson had a nice game, going for 15 and 8 with an assist and two steals. He played good defense early on (leading to some points) and his spacing at the offensive end looks really good. Varejao continued his strong play, netting 8 and 6 in 25 minutes off the bench and I’m continually amazed at how well he finishes while moving (reverses, bank shots, etc). Finally, Z shot 6-10 from the floor and finished with 14 and 5 in 21 minutes. The Cavs got 27 and 18 out of their center spot, with neither guy playing more than 21 minutes. Me gusta.
I thought Mike Brown had a good night. First of all, he’s got to get a little credit for all the passing and cutting, no? I really think that we’ll see the offense improve throughout this home stand. It was nice seeing the Cavs not give away their 18 point halftime lead (Cleveland’s highest scoring quarter was the third) and the Cavs never let up. Brown also led the arena in a standing ovation for Shaq after the big fella protected the rim with one of his four blocks. I really liked some of the lineups Brown used, particularly the five of LeBron-Jawad-Moon-Varejao-Shaq/Z. That’s a big effing group right there. You could take that group, move Varejao to center, add Delonte and go ‘small’ and run while still playing great defense. This team is versatile and I love it.
Rough night for Memphis. I feel for any team that is playing its fourth game in five nights but playing the Lakers and Cavs back-to-back… ugh. Randolph was 3-14, O.J. Mayo went 4-15, Mike Conley (who hit the game winning shot earlier this year in Memphis) finished just 1-6 and while Rudy Gay shot a respectable 7-14, he never seemed comfortable out there (at one point shoving Varejao into a shooting Jawad Williams, which ended up in a four-point play). The Cavs had the extra rest and they used their energy to harass the Grizzlies shooters at every opportunity. The Cavs never took their foot off the gas and the Grizzlies just wilted (there wasn’t even a token ‘get the lead down to 10’ third quarter run).
Sweet, we get to watch LeBron vs Wade again. The Cavs face the Heat this Thursday night on TNT and lord knows what to expect. I love watching Wade and Bron-Bron go against each other I’m sure a nationally televised game won’t hurt matters (though it could if they go into Hero Mode too early). The Cavs follow Miami with the Knicks on Saturday, the Nets on Tuesday and head into the All-Star break after facing the Magic in Cleveland next Thursday.