Saturday, October 31, 2009

Game 4 Review (2-2)

On Halloween night, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally started to look like themselves.

Delonte West

Delonte West returned to action, and the Cavs (in their home whites for the first time this season) ran away from the Charlotte Bobcats in the second half to even their record at 2-2.

I think I like to preface my reviews with a little bit of negativity, so as to (via some form of telekinetic fandom) encourage the Cavs to keep improving...but in all truth, tonight was a pretty good night for the #1 sports team in North-East Ohio.

Yes, there are kinks to be worked out...but hey, they've already worked out a few.
Yes, the Cavs played the Bobcats...but hey, the Bobcats are better then the Timberwolves.
Yes, the Browns look disastrous...but hey, this is a Cavs blog.

Game Review:
A lot to cover...
Mo Gotti is returning to form
  • The resurgence of Mo Williams continues. Mo scored 24 points on 14 shots, and hit the Bobcats with a barrage of 3's in the 3rd that helped open up the lead. Mo really seems to find a comfort zone with LeBron and Delonte out on the floor. With those two being such gifted creators, Mo is free to play the hybrid guard position at which he thrives. Tonight, we saw a familiar two man game with Mo and LeBron, and perhaps the start of a developing report* with Shaq.
*(Stephen Colbert has deprived me of the ability to properly spell this word off the top of my head)
  • This was the first game where the Cavs seemed to take a net gain from having Shaquille O'Neal on the court. In fact, they did. Shaq was +5 in his nearly 27 minutes, the first time in four games he's achieved a positive +/-. He still wasn't very effective working solo in the post (he finished just 3-7 after a hot start), but both Mo and LeBron were able to take advantage of a Charlotte defense that frequently collapsed on Shaq by rotating the ball for wide open looks. There is significant room for improvement in this area, but let's not discount that tonight itself was a significant improvement. Also notable was Shaq's most effective defensive game yet. Granted, this was the Bobcats, and granted, Shaq still struggled to handle Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin in pick and roll situations, but the Big Fella's presence around the basket altered numerous shots and helped to keep a struggling Charlotte offense completely under wraps.
  • Speaking of abnormally large centers who had significant impacts...Zydrunas Ilgauskas had, by far, his best game of the young season (if not his best game in much longer then that). Z blocked 5 shots, changed many others, and saw his jumper finally start falling for the first time this year.When the Cavalier bigs play like they did on Saturday, Shaq's proclamation that he & Z together comprise "the best center in the NBA" doesn't seem far-fetched. Also of note, Saturday was the first game Mike Brown didn't utilize the Twin Towers lineup (with Shaq and Z playing together for extended minutes). Be it the matchup with the Bobcats, or just a rotation tweak to accommodate Delonte, it seemed a more natural fit. The less sizable Cavs were more able to play with Z or Shaq when they weren't both on the court at the same time. I'm not saying there is no place to employ the Twin Towers, just that there may be few.
Unselfish Superstar
  • It was still a single digit lead in the 3rd quarter when LeBron James started the Cavalier rally by (really for the first and only time all game) attacking offensively. He scored a few straight baskets, and then allowed his teammates to take over. The amount of defensive attention it takes to corral LeBron is so vast, that when the Cavs are willing to move off the ball, a good shot is nearly always available. The cross court looks that LeBron makes...the passes that often result in weak side 3's...are a thing of beauty. There are so few people in the league capable of making that pass, and LeBron makes it look beyond routine.
  • Anthony Parker had his best night as a Cav (which was kind of a theme for the evening), and I think it had to do with two things. One, his continued assimilation into the Cavalier offense. He hit his spots with more authority, and by doing so, seemed to have a few feet of extra space all night long. In a shade over 30 minutes, AP was 5-8 from the floor (3-4 from three), with 2 rebounds and 2 assists. In my opinion, that's what we want to develop into an "Anthony Parker night". And secondarily, I think it helped him to have Delonte back. A vital cog back in the machine = less heavy lifting for our saavy new recruit. Which leads us to...
  • Boy, was it good to see Delonte West out on that court. Actually, you know what...this deserves it's own section.
Welcome Back Delonte West:
Boy, was it good to see Delonte West out on that court.

Mike Brown says it frequently, but the guy certainly seems to have the type of body that never gets out of shape. No sign of rust at all, a very game (and slightly thinner) Delonte stepped back into the Cavalier lineup and provided a remarkably effective 24 minutes. Final line:

13 points (5-7 shooting, 1-2 three), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and some typically hellacious perimeter defense.

Delonte's contributions extend so far beyond his statistics. Even as a fan, seeing D-West back on the court just lifted my spirits. The building was energized, and effect seemed to be mutual.

The Cleveland Cavaliers (with honorary alums TK & Wally)

The team rallied around Delonte (as they have tended to do for one another) and that is a good sign. It's what has the opportunity to make the team more then a sum of its parts (which are nothing to sneeze at), and it's what makes them so fun to root for.

Mo Williams whispered something to Delonte as the buzzer sounded, and while he would not reveal his words, he did reveal his message:
Stay with us.
On Halloween night, he did. And all seems well in Cleveland.

Up Next:
Tuesday night, the Cavs welcome the Washington Wizards to the Q. It's two days before the game, and already DeShawn Stevenson can't feel his face.

Closing Thoughts:

Are we now blaring a "truck horn" at the Q whenever Shaq does something good? And is it okay that I kind of like it?

Also, they say not to look ahead in basketball, but in blogging it can't hurt. Is it unrealistic to expect the Cavs to enter a November 11th game in Orlando at 6-2? I don't think so, and that's what I'm eyeing. It's been 3 months, and I think I can safely speak for Cavalier nation when I say I have not moved on. Good Lord, I hate the Magic.

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