Things going great until Reggie Evans checked in. The Cavs came out hot, building a quick 12 point lead (27-15) and they assisted on 12 of their first 13 field goals. But then Reggie Evans came in and things went to hell. Evans scored 7 points over the last four minutes of the first quarter and the Cavs lead was just 33-30 going into the second period. Antawn Jamison led everyone with 11 points in the first quarter.
The Bosh-less Raptors stuck around and made it a game. The Cavs defense was spotty at best; the Raptors shot 48% and a couple of guys went off at different moments. With Shaq and Z both out, the Cavs were forced to go small with Varejao starting at center. Varejao got himself into foul trouble and the Cavs got some good minutes from Leon Powe (I love this team’s depth). Both Toronto and Cleveland had six players score in double figures and the Raptors had nice contributions from a lot of guys (I liked what I saw from Andrea Bargnani, 24-4-3, that dude is skilled).
LeBron was “average great”. The guy averages greatness. I mean, if you watched this game, I don’t think you’d say LeBron played particularly spectacular. There weren’t many ‘wow’ plays (like chase downs or crazy dunks) and there were some ugly possessions (I think they’re too focused on hitting those dagger jumpers) but here are his numbers: 36 points (10-17 FG, 15-16 FT), 6 boards, 9 assists and 2 steals. Those numbers are great. Late in the game, LeBron was attacking the rim and it got the Cavs either wide open jumpers (that they knocked down) or easy layups for James. What’s so frustrating about LeBron and his isolation jumpers is that it seems like he can get to the rim whenever he wants (to be fair, it’s not like Toronto is equipped to deter him).
Mo Williams was one of the guys knocking down those wide open jumpers. Man, the Cavs sure look good when Williams plays well. Mo had 22 points and 6 assists and shot a blistering 6-11 from behind the arc. Williams had the first six points of overtime (two quick treys) and the Cavs quickly took control in the extra period. Of course, there were the usual defensive issues, like when Jose Calderon scored three straight baskets during a stretch in the fourth (and Jarrett Jack finished with 24), but overall, Mo was really good.
Antawn Jamison looks like he’ll fit in just fine. Jamison scored 22 points to go along with 11 boards and 3 assists. He moves really well without the ball and LeBron found him a couple times for easy layups (whenever Jamison got the ball, he seemed surprised at how wide open he was). Those two could be deadly once they get comfortable with each other. I will say, I worry that the Cavs will turn him into another spot up shooter (he’s too good to just stand around and watch LeBron).
Once again, I’d like to thank Orlando for letting Hedo Turkoglu walk. Man, I hate that guy and I wake up everyday thankful that he’s not still on the Magic. I was having Conference Finals flashbacks as Turkoglu scored 7 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including a game tying and go ahead buckets in the final minutes. He’s just too tall for the Cleveland guards to deal with (he can just simply shoot over Delonte and Mo).
I love Delonte West, especially on the block. Brotha Red finished with 15 points, 4 boards and 2 assists in 30 minutes. West has a very polished low post game and he three or four buckets off low block. The Cavs’ offense is much harder to defend when they can throw different looks at the opposition. With Shaq out, they’ll have to call some post ups for other Cavaliers (like LeBron? Where’d that go?). Another thing I like about Delonte is that he’s not afraid to waive LeBron off down the stretch (when LBJ likes to initiate the offense); it’s OK to have LeBron play off the ball in crunch time every now and then.
The refs weren’t great and it very nearly cost Cleveland. Anderson Varejao started at center, quickly picked up two fouls and ended up fouling out after just 23 minutes. To his credit, Andy put up 10-8-3 in those 23 minutes but he fouled out on a really cheap call. The Cavs got a bit chippy with the refs at times, but they can’t complain too much (I mean, James did shoot 16 freebies).
I’m still not sold on Anthony Parker. Parker took the potential game winner to end regular and I’m not sure I agree with the call. Yes, he was open (since, um, Toronto wasn’t guarding him) but I would’ve much rather had anyone (West, Jamison, Mo or LBJ) take that last shot with a second to go. Parker finished with 10 points (all five Cavs starters finished in double figures) and he hit a couple jumpers early in OT to help put the game out of reach. AP finished with 10 points, 2 boards and 6 assists.
Now that the ship righted, let’s build a win streak. After beginning the post All-Star break with three straight losses, the Cavs have now won two in a row and their next three opponents are the Knicks (20-37), the Nets (5-52) and the Pistons (21-36)… all at home. Yes, having Shaq miss some time isn’t what you want, but it’s not the worst thing in the world for him to get some rest in the middle of February. The injury is to his thumb, it’s not like he’s missing time due to his legs and plus, now Mike Brown has additional minutes to keep J.J. Hickson focused and for Leon Powe to get his sea legs (seriously, the Cavs are deep).
Cross-posted at LeBrownsTown.com