The Cavs started off by making a lot of jumpers. In theory, this is a good thing; the made jumpers should force the defense to respect the shot, move closer and allow better lanes to the hoop. In theory. In real life, the Cavs drilled their first three treys and five of their first seven, only to go on chucking ’em and finish just 10-31. LeBron made his first two bombs (no Cavalier fan should’ve been surprised when he hoisted a heat check soon thereafter) but ended up just 3-10 from behind the arc. This was quite frustrating in the fourth, where 11 of their 17 field goal attempts came from downtown.
All that being said, I never once thought this game was in doubt. Maybe I’ve seen this movie too many times, but I always felt the Cavs were in control of the game. The Cavs trailed 85-80 (they had just missed three consecutive threes) with roughly nine minutes to play but they went on an 8-0 run (shooting three treys in the process) and never looked back. I’m not gonna lie, the dependence on threes is a little concerning but, to be fair, the Cavs were without Shaq, Antawn Jamison and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Except for a few notable plays (Delonte West and LeBron both had some nice dunks) the Cavs rarely went inside and were happy to settle for jumpers.
LeBron was great, if a bit rusty. James started off smokin’ hot, scoring 12 (4-6 FG), of his team high 23, in the first period. James finished 7-18 from the floor (not great, but not awful), 3-10 from behind the arc (not great, kinda awful) and 6-12 from the line (flat out awful). So LeBron, in a ‘shake off the rust’ game, finished with 23 points, 6 boards, 10 assists, a steal and 3 blocks. It’s really insane how good this guy is. The week long rest did LeBron some good (even though you couldn’t tell at the offensive end. Really, 10 of his 18 shots were threes?); James was extremely active defensively, especially off the ball. LeBron was all over the place, playing passing lanes, challenging shots and then fighting for the rebound off that same shot. It really was impressive to watch. The dude seemed like he was everywhere.
The Sixers got good performance from their vets, that’s about it. Andre Iguodala finished with 30-7-5 and Elton Brand put up 24 and 9 in 44 minutes apiece. Not gonna lie, Iguodala made a couple plays that had me lamenting that Danny Ferry couldn’t pry him lose from Philly (however, Iggy finished 1-7 from downtown, so maybe it’s for the best). The only other Sixer to score in double figures was Thadeous Young and, while he had a couple of nice moves, he ended up needing 14 shots to get 15 points. The Sixers can run (57 points in the first half) but even with Brand (who didn’t shoot a single free throw), they have trouble scoring when the game slows down (just 16 points in the fourth).
It’s amazing how good the Cavs look when Mo Williams plays well. Williams scored 21 points on 8-13 shooting (4-8 from three). After a nice all around game on Monday (where he notched 8 boards and 8 assists), Williams put up just 1 board and 2 assists (but the Cavs had him playing off the ball for stretches). When fully healthy, the Cavs don’t need Mo to score 20 a night to win games, but with Jamsion out, the Cavs needed a big night from Mo and he delivered. True, he wasn’t as active as the other night (where he was coming off, in his own words, a shitty performance) but his shooting gave the Cavs that second option they needed.
Delonte West continues to impress. Brotha Red scored 17 points (on 7-12 shooting) to go with a board and 4 assists. West attacked the rim with his usual flair, skying for slam over Samuel Dalembert (who was wearing just one tube sock. This seriously bugged me the whole night). In the fourth quarter, it seemed like Coach Mike played Delonte at the point and let Mo play the 2 and get himself open for threes. I like this a lot; West isn’t nearly as good off the ball (he’s not a good spot up shooter, I don’t like him standing around) and I like Mo with a scoring mindset (and again, I that Delonte will wave LeBron away from time-to-time, making LBJ play off the ball rather than holding it… and holding it… and holding it…).
The Cavs face the Celtics on Sunday. Finally, the Cavs get to test themselves against the Best Team in the NBA* (*when healthy). I expect the Cavs will get a good game from Boston, seeing as the Celtics have been going through a rough patch of late (losing to New Jersey, nearly losing to Washington and getting blown out by Memphis… all at home). A nationally televised game against LeBron the Cavs should get their juices flowing. As much as I don’t fear them come playoffs, Boston is a good road team (they’re tied with the Cavs for best road record, at 22-11) and the Cavs will have their work cut out for them. Antawn Jamison is expected to play and I’m very interested to see how his knee responds.