Now this felt like a playoff game. While the Cavs still ended up winning by double digits, Monday night was much more tightly contested than Game 1. The Bulls played with a lot of energy and too often the Cavs were caught flat footed. Cleveland built a double digit late in the first quarter but let the Bulls climb back in. Give Chicago credit, they played pretty well (three guys notched 20 points); the Bulls aren’t easily intimidated (not after their series with the Celtics) and outworked and out-hustled the Cavaliers. However, in the end, LeBron was simply too much to handle.
LeBron was absolutely spectacular. The Chosen One did it all, finishing with 40 points, 8 boards, 8 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. To say James was on fire isn’t doing him justice; his jumper was falling and he attacked the rim, going a ridiculous 16-23 from the field (69.5%). Down the stretch James was burying dagger after dagger, but some of his most jaw dropping plays came when he took it to the rim. On back-to-back possessions in the first quarter, James drove to the right side of the hope, only to change directions and spin the ball off the backboard with the ‘wrong’ hand (right hand on the left side) and then followed it up with possibly the most vicious dunk of his career, a right handed tomahawk over James Johnson. In the fouth, he threw in a gliding, left handed scoop layup. James was great. He rebounded, he set up his teammates (he had a nifty bounce pass to a cutting Antawn Jamison) and the dominated the fourth quarter. He’s the closer.
Joakim Noah talked some shit, but he backed it up, no? Sure, the Bulls didn’t win, but it was of no fault of Noah. The ugliest man alive finished with 25 points, 13 boards and 3 assists. Noah simply outworked most of the Cavalier big men. Seven of his fifteen rebounds came at the offensive end and those putbacks were a big reason why he ended up with 25 points. Defensively, he guarded Shaq a bit better, but Shaq played only 15 minutes mostly due to foul trouble (which was self induced, I might add. Shaq throws a lot of elbows ‘unintentionally’).
LeBron didn’t win this game by himself. Sure, he has the stats and the highlight plays, but he wasn’t out there alone. Jamison had 14, Mo William and Jamario Moon both scored 12, Another Parker had 9, Shaq scored 8 and both Anderson Varejao and Delonte West had 7. Multiple guys scored multiple baskets. Until the end when LeBron became dagger-happy, I thought the Cavs really shared the ball well (Williams: 6 assists to 0 turnovers, Delonte: 5 to 1). I absolutely loved seeing the Cavs start off the fourth with back-to-back plays in the post (first Jamison, then West).
I don’t want to alarm you, but the Cavs shot really well from the line. Mo Williams went 8-8 from the stripe (just 2-8 overall, but I liked his aggressiveness), LeBorn shot 6-6 and even Shaq shot an astounding 4-4. As a team, the Cavs finished 22-24 (92%), with only Varejao and Z missing one.
Jamario Moon: Super Sub. Coach Mike gave Moon 20 minutes and Jamario made the most of ’em. Moon played great defense, shot 4-5 from beyond the arc and skyed for three clutch rebounds late in the game. I loved the fact that Moon wasn’t afraid to shoot; whenever the ball rotated to him, he simply pulled the trigger and knocked it down (plus, he didn’t take any poor shots, they were all within the flow of the offense). In fact, Moon was so effective, Brown kept him in for the entire fourth, opting for a lineup for Mo-West-Moon-LeBron-Varejao (I like this a lot).
I’m gonna need more from Z. Big Z has been playing OK, but he’s not finishing plays. He’s normally in the right spot (whether on a defensive rotation, a pick-and-roll or for a rebound) but he just doesn’t convert. Z had missed layup and got outworked on the glass more than once. I was hoping Brown would throw J.J. Hickson out there and try to give the Cavs a spark, but not such luck. Shaq and Z combined for 11 points and 11 rebounds… meh.
Well, that was fun, glad they’ll get to do this again twice in the next six days. After having just one day off between the first two games, the Cavs and Bulls will have two days off before Thursday’s Game 3 in Chicago and then another two days off before Sunday’s Game 4. Lame. LeBron and the Cavs have took care of business and won both games at home. While they didn’t play perfectly, the Cavs had stretches where they dominated Chicago. However, the Bulls will certainly a harder out than last year’s Pistons team (the presence of Rose and Noah guarantees that) and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cavs drop a game on the road (especially if they get sloppy).