Well, I'm glad the Cavs finally remembered that game at halftime. After a sloppy and unfocused first half, the Cavs showed some really promising signs in running away with this one in the second half and defeating the Bulls 101-87. And while I almost decided to gloss over the Cavs' whooping of a team they were supposed to beat, I've decided not to for several reasons.
The way they did it that was encouraging. That good, old fashioned Cavalier defense. The Cavs held the Bulls to a 42.3 FG% (hitting their magic number), and out-rebounded the Bulls 44-42 (at this point, let's just celebrate any positive rebounding margin our boys stumble in to). They were supposed to be able to accomplish both of those feats against a Bulls team that is a touch smaller on the interior then the Cavs, but "supposed to" hasn't always translated into occurrence for the Cavs this season.
- That 21-4 run in the 3rd quarter was huge in changing the tone of the game. Really, in changing how the Bulls-Cavs match-up had been thus far shaping itself this season. I could listen to Hubie Brown talk all day, every day, and he hit the nail on the head with this one. Right at the top of the third, and directly contributing to that run...the Cavaliers just flat out stopped turning the ball over. It also helped that their defense and general sense of urgency turned up several notches, but you get to lock in defensively when you get a team like Chicago to operate in the half-court. It was a timely run for me to watch personally, because after having seen 6 consecutive quarters of the Bulls playing the Cavs to a standstill, I spent much of halftime wondering if Chicago was actually a better match-up for the Cavs then I was giving them credit for. It was nice to see that they weren't. The Bulls do have weapons to give the Cavs some issues (Deng vs. LeBron, D-Rose to attack Mo, and Joakim Noah had always prior seemed to play well against us), but they're a clear notch below in both talent and experience. This is a team the Cavs should beat at least 3 times a year.
If LeBron ever does 'Dancing With The Stars,' I think it's a safe bet that Joakim Noah won't be watching.
- LeBron continues not to look particularly fluid shooting his jumper. He looks like he's still forcing the motion throughout the games. No matter...he's just making everything happen through effort and physicality. I'm nitpicking this "slump" to an eccentric degree, as again LBJ put up a solid percentage from the field (8-17)...but as Hubie Brown would probably say had he been broached about this subject...LeBron is shooting the ball right now. A little more mechanical then instinctual. And again, still tremendously effective, and again, the stats are still there (23, 6 and 11). I think the reasons I keep bringing this up are A) He's completely unique in the extent to which this is affecting him. In that it barely is. And... B) Look out when the feeling in his jumper returns. You'll know when it does...it will look like something along the lines of 38, 8, 8. I'm betting he's stroking them again way before this...but how about getting the touch back by Christmas Day in LA? It will help to have the outside shot working against a team that employs three mobile 7 footers (counting Odom), and one of the few SF's in the league capable of contesting LeBron's strength. Plus, of all the games of the season...I just hope the Cavs come out firing on all cylinders and drill the champs. I'm looking for an Orlando, part 1 redux.
- The Cavs aren't consciously going away from J.J. Hickson...but they're certainly not consciously involving him of late either. I continue to think that J.J. isn't playing poorly, and slowly but surely he seems to making better contributing on the glass. He was pretty porous in his individual defense, in that he let Taj Gibson shoot quite a few mid-range jumpers with only a minimal contest. J.J. played only 7 minutes in the first half, and this was the first time I thought I'd like to see him be able to play through some hallow minutes for the time being. He's not Andy, but his defensive rotation are getting progressively solid, and I have to believe it's just from the responsibility of playing significant minutes. He played through them tonight and all of a sudden broke through near the end of the third.
- I probably shouldn't even make light of it at all...but I'm also hoping days like today will blow over quickly for Delonte West. According to Brian Windhorst, it was apparent that is was going to be a down day for Delonte from the moment he entered the arena, subsequently refusing to join his teammates in donning pink, breast cancer awareness Nikes (BW's phrase "with venom" unnerved me a bit). Mike Brown recognized that (both in Delonte's demeaner and his lackadaisical play during a 5 minute stint on the court), and the team really didn't seem to miss too much of a beat tonight. Perhaps because Daniel Gibson had 15 points on 7-9 shooting.
There is no way I should be re-instituting this column. It has provided nothing but bad luck in the past, and it is based on what is always a bad idea for a sports team: looking ahead.
That said...sue me. I get excited easily. Why did this game set me off on a journey through the future? Because it was a sound handling of a lesser team, and with the potential exemption of Portland (but hey, that's in Cleveland), check out the Cavs next 8 games:
@ Oklahoma City
vs. New Jersey
All teams in the talent ballpark of Chicago. I'm laying down a challenge (or, because no Cav is likely to stumble across said challenge...a prognostication). If the Cavs just play to their general capabilities, they're walking into Dallas on December 20th at 22-5. Right back in the vicinity of last years team record-wise...who would have had 4 losses at the same point.
The Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. I'm very curious to see Brandon Jennings for the first time this season.