Big win for the Cavs tonight. I'm not even joking -- sure, Miami is having a lot of difficulty (and making our roster look functional, which takes some effort to be sure) but the Cavs tend to think they're a better team than they are, making these games tough. That is to say, the Cavs think they're an elite team, and thus think they can give 50% effort in these games. But, they can't -- they're a team that only has success when all its moving parts are going at 100%. Lately, they've been giving that effort throughout the game (or at least close to it) regardless of the team, and have thus been having good results against teams in the league of SA/Dallas and, on the other side, Miami. Hopefully we can keep this up against a red-hot Washington team.
1.) The Cavs seem to have fixed their third quarter blues from last year (and earlier this season). While they've had some memorable wins in the fourth quarter this year after some epic third-quarter swoons, they're starting to realize that good teams use the third quarter to build a lead and then spend the fourth quarter maintaining it. Nice to see solid defensive intensity and good execution across the board.
2.) Larry Hughes had a another great game tonight (believe it or not). Larry's real strengths are defense (which he plays very well) and transition jumpers. He hit a few of those tonight and it was great to watch -- he gets good lift when he pulls up on the break or off a quick cut (much better than when he tries to spot up and shoot). Doug Collins mentioned tonight that Larry is just not a great halfcourt player, and that's true, but I think Larry is wisely (and maturely) looking for his shots in transition now and serving as more of a facilitator in the halfcourt game, which is great to see. There was one play in particular at the start of the third quarter when Boobie passed to an open Larry, but instead of taking the spot-up J he hit LeBron moving to the rim for a nice layup. That's smart basketball -- playing to your strengths.
3.) Apparently the Cavs used to run an offensive set for Sasha the first time down the floor in all their games last year because he's such a streaky/confidence player. I think they should keep doing that. Tonight, Sasha was tentative until he made a strong drive to the rim in the first quarter, after which he looked like the Sasha of old. We need him to play at that level, so I'd like to see us make a concerted effort to get him involved early.
3.) Z is really doubting his jump shot lately. In the first quarter, LeBron had a nice between the legs pass to Z on the break and he passed up the wide open J in favor of a crazy 360 attempt that did not go well. He passed up another J in the fourth. Needless to say, that can't happen -- the Z pick and pop is a staple of our offense.
4.) The Cavs bench is playing SO well lately. Devin Brown just has amazing energy (sometimes a bit too much, but I'd rather have that problem) and is playing well on both ends of the floor. Damon Jones has become a real asset -- he's not just taking spot-up threes but is also cutting inside every so often (he had a nice pull-up J in the fourth quarter and a good drive and lay-in over Shaq as well). Boobie had an off night, but still found wayas to contribute on the defensive end. And Andy is just playing at a really high level; I think he's the second-best player on the team right now.
5.) I love LeBron and all his fourth-quarter heroics, but he's going for the "dagger" plays way too often. He took a few too many threes at the end of the SA game, and he had a crazy-wild drive for an offensive foul in the fourth quarter today. I think he did a great job mixing up play within the offense and his own "take on the whole defense" approach in the third quarter and would like to see him keep that mix up in the fourth. In particular, I really like him moving off the ball on the baseline -- he's so talented down there. Also, he was abusing Dorell Wright in the post early -- watch for that post game to develop because when it does, Bruce Bowen will be unable to do anything except try to screw up LeBron's landing on jumpers (which he does a lot already).
6.) It wouldn't be a viewing of a Heat game if I didn't mention the ridiculous calls that D-Wade sometimes gets. Now, I love D-Wade; I think he's a great competitor and a great ambassador for the league. But there was one play where he literally shoved Gibson off the ball, dribbled once, took a shot, and got a foul + continuation. That's just nuts. LeBron and Kobe get calls too, but at least they usually get some form of meaningful contact.
7.) Last point -- it is sad to see a day in which Z and Andy routinely look like better athletes than Shaq in the low post. Man.