Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Game 18 Review (13-5)

"Phoenix...come out to plaaaaay."

The 1989-90 Cleveland Cavaliers?

My apologies for the late post...coming 24 hours on the heels of a very entertaining game! On Wednesday night, we got to watch a dual the Cavaliers manhandled the visiting Suns (107-90) while watching Zydrunas Ilgauskas belatedly break the record for games played in a Cavs' uniform. Also, check out John Krolik's latest 'Links To The Present' and watch the very entertaining, throwback-specific, Cavs' intro video. It is absolutely worth the 32 seconds.

Speaking of things that made me are some Amare Stoudemire linguistics that I found on Yahoo's game recap, in which S.T.A.T. gives his current opinions on both the state of the Cavs and Shaq. It's quite possible that my typing this in the middle of the night is making me see humor in strange places, and I think the quote itself is more innocuous then incendiary, but nevertheless...reading the following made me squint. I present an Amare Stoudemire runaway train of thought:
“They don’t look bad at all. A lot of folks talk about how bad they look with Shaq. I disagree. I think they look fairly good. Shaq played decent out there. He created some havoc defensively, got some baskets deep in the paint and rebounded well. Shaq’s not looking horrible, I’ll tell you that. He’s looking pretty good and the Cavs are looking solid as well.”
My take on Amare's thought process in evaluating the Cavs over the course of the evening:

Don't look bad. Certainly not very bad. In fact, fairly good. They might even be well. They're certainly not horrible. Let's just say, pretty good. In conclusion...solid.

So...thanks Amare.

Game Review
  • I'm guessing it had something to do with the three days off, but the Cavs looked spry today. As such, they were often able to do a good job of transitioning a defensive rebound into a really quick outlet pass (or passes). And because they moved the ball into the front court so quickly, it allowed them to not only attack in transition, but to consistently set up their offense with about 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Especially early in the game. That was a huge emphasis last year (early offense), and it was often credited as a big reason for the Cavs offensive turnaround. They've not always been attentive to it this year, but they seem to be rolling into shape. I don't know that the Cavs can replicate a game in which they have 7 players score between 10-14 points...but I do think they can replicate this early offense.
  • All the above said, the only way to make an outlet pass is to get a defensive rebound. Which meant the Cavs were both playing defense and rebounding far better then they had of late. The Cavs out-rebounded the Suns 51-41, all the while holding Phoenix to 40% shooting (well below Mike Brown's target zone of 42% or below). Really, they did even better then that. In the first half, the Cavs held high scoring Phoenix to a mind-bogglingly low 29 points. I think the Suns were showing some understandable wear and tear in the fourth game of a four game road trip (and they missed quite a few close-range shots), but that doesn't take away the fact that the Cavs were giving great effort defensively (the Cavs challenged every one of said close-range shots), something I've been clamoring to see more of for a while.
  • For the second consecutive game, Delonte West was able to play meaningful minutes...and for the second consecutive game, he was able to have a large impact on the game (8 points, 6 assists, +6 overall, in nearly 24 minutes). I found myself watching him closely in the fourth quarter and picked up the following... Delonte's ability to finish at the rim is head and shoulders above Anthony Parker's. Really, head and shoulders above most guys on this team. D-West is just a surprisingly strong finisher for a 6'3" guard. He has long arms, and such a natural feel for using his body in the lane, where he effortlessly walls off much larger defenders, while getting his little lefty lay-up/hook hybrid up to the glass. There was a really simple, non-descript play in the fourth where Delonte makes an off the ball cut into the lane. As he is wont to do, LeBron hits him in stride, and Delonte is able to finish in traffic with exactly the type of shot described above. It looked like an excessively simple finish...except that it really wasn't. Not a whole lot of guys on our team who can finish in the paint consistently, and Delonte is one of them. He plays at a very comfortable pace, even in traffic, and as such he can make the game look really easy. I have a tendency to fawn over Delonte, but in most cases, I think it's right to. When he's focused, the guy is just a really good player.

This is what a size-advantage looks like.
  • I was writing a few nights ago about effective ways to use Shaq. Well, tonight it was quite obvious that Shaq had no one to guard on that Phoenix team. But when that is the case, it's usually also the case that the opposite is true as well. No one on that Phoenix team could guard Shaq, and it was nice to see the Cavs not let Channing Frye (or Amare) off the hook on the defensive end. There was a comical weight differential there, and The Diesel seemed to make a concerted effort to take as many shots as possible from one foot's distance. That's what he needs to do against a team like limited minutes, and when he's out there, just punish those smaller then him. Hard. He only played 20 minutes with a +4 overall, but I thought his aggressive play tonight was a significant boon to the team. He was consistently able to draw a lot of attention, and as such, I thought his aggressiveness helped make life easier on all those in blue. It helped especially to get J.J. get back in the groove.
  • Speaking of which...loved seeing J.J. back and making a contribution. I never really thought that he was playing particularly poorly in the past few games, it's just he wasn't able to contribute a significant positive. I continue to think there's something to be said for that. J.J. is showing patience in waiting for his opportunities, and is exhibiting a new found reluctance to force the action. That type of self-awareness within the scheme was not present last year. He's looking increasingly comfortable on the court, and he's starting to get to work a little harder on the glass. He's still not very authoritative rebounding the ball, but his attentiveness there is starting to improve. And concurrently, so are his rebounding numbers. Check his $tat$.
  • I kept thinking while watching Frye tonight that had he chosen to sign with the Cavs, his particular skill set would have led to him playing A LOT. He looked great (and has looked great), so I don't think I would have been complaining...but had it happened...we also would not be seeing J.J. on the floor right now. Which is an interesting trade-off to imagine. One that, looking beyond this year, I think we'll prove to have come out on the right side of.
  • Lost in the pretty solid play of late is that we're currently witnessing The Chosen One's first extended shooting slump of the season. LBJ's been a little off with the outside stroke for about a week. All things considered, LeBron is masking it pretty well by continuing to be aggressive on the drive, and as always, remaining tremendously effective in setting up teammates. These things happen to any shooter over the course of a season, and what's been most notable to me is how LeBron's game is diversified enough that it has gone almost completely unnoticed. Pretty amazing.
  • Lastly, the Z-DNP-CD blew up way more then I expected it to. So for a variety of reasons, I was glad he A) got it done and hopefully over with tonight, and B) played one of his better games of the season in doing so...rather then putting up the 4 pts in 8 minutes he very well might have in matching up against a small and quick Suns team. More on Z below...
Z, LeBron, and Loyalty

What happens if Z gets traded?

Okay, here's a thought. In a few months, at the February trade deadline, we will witness what could quite possibly come to be the most significant organizational crossroads of the LeBron era. For a long time, I figured Danny Ferry had to make a move. In truth, I still feel that way. There are far too many key players on this team that are 30+, and far too few building blocks in general. This trade deadline, the last one for a while during which the Cavs will wield the golden combination of significant expiring contracts, draft picks, and at least a modicum of young talent, represent the last chance for Danny Ferry to make a significant addition at a hopefully minimal expense.

After all, only so many times in the career of a superstar do stars align in a way that sees half the league faltering financially while said superstar's team is poised to take advantage. That's how Mo Williams came about. That's how Shaquille O'Neal came about. And to lesser degrees, you could argue that's also how Jamario Moon, Delonte West, and Leon Powe came about (I'm stretching Delonte into that category, but I want that list to look impressive). This is the method by which the Cavs were built from perennial 4th seed into legitimate championship contenders. And now they find themselves perhaps one piece away from winning the whole thing this year, and one piece away from sustaining that success in the future.

And while there are certainly numerous permutations that Danny Ferry can come up with to avoid such a scenario (hello Wally Szczerbiak), let's say, for argument's sake, that it is Z's expiring contract that will end up being the trade bait. After all, he's the only such piece we have that we don't need to guard Dwight Howard.

Cut to this week, where LeBron's rather pointed defense of Z has got me thinking of whether I might have underestimated the ramifications of trading not only the newly crowned 'longest tenured Cav', but also LBJ's only remaining 'Day One' teammate. If Z is traded, what message does that send? Equally interestingly...what message does it send if the Cavs stand pat?

If it's a trade for Chris Bosh...obviously all these issues are nullified. But what if the Cavs are faced with a decision to swap Z for Emeka Okafor at the deadline. Do you do that? One week ago, I would have said yes.

But all that is fodder for another day. How about a quick celebration of our largest Lithuanian. There are a bunch of these videos at Cavalier Attitude, but below I linked up a cool Z montage video. I'm speaking comparatively here, but look how mobile Z looks even a few years into the LeBron era. I'd forgotten he was ever significantly faster then is now.

Up Next

The Chicago Bulls return to the Q this Friday at 8:00. In case you don't remember, we owe them one.

One of the Road

LBJ works on Mind-Control, Part 2. (See part one in Game 15 Review, vs. Detroit.)

LeBron exhibits mind-control on Jared Dudley

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