The battle of one-upsmanship between LeBron and Kobe has just gotten out of hand.
Sunday (morning): LeBron tries to get his teammates involved, and after seeing them generally confused and out of sorts, decides to just take over the game in the fourth quarter. In one stretch, he does it all -- hits a ridiculous through-the-lane floater where he switches hands in midair; throws down a SICK dunk, hits a nice fadeaway 16-footer a la Detroit Game Five, and then sets up Wally in the corner for a dagger three. Final score: 95-86. LeBron: 37 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists.
Sunday (right after): Kobe decides to take it a step further, and after watching his team struggle to beat a newly bad Dallas team (who kept it close only because Kidd didn't have to guard anyone at PG), steps it into overdrive in the fourth quarter and OT. Looks a bit like a kid in the candy store playing with Pau in the first quarter, but then does it all himself from there. Final score: 108-104 (OT). Kobe: 52 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists.
Tonight: LeBron hits the big stage. Just shoots the lights out. He's said he's at an all time comfort level and it really is showing. Not only is he driving with both hands going both ways, but he's making it rain from three point land. He's looking more unstoppable than I've ever seen a player, and he's doing it with a team that isn't doing a lot for him, but is setting him up when necessary. Final score: 119-105. LeBron: 50 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists.
These guys know who's in the running for MVP. And they're putting on shows every night. It's a great time to be a Cavs and Lakers fan.
OK, so more on the Cavs.
I haven't written on this yet, but I saw Larry's comments about wanting to have fun more than winning. To be honest, I'm not surprised, but I am glad that he's gone. I think Larry is a genuinely good person -- he's done a lot of great community work in Cleveland and he was well-liked in the locker room. But to suggest that the Cavs should have run an offense to fit his needs; to ignore the fact that the Cavs won a ton of games with him at the point . . . in favor of getting to take a few more wild bricks? Come on, Larry.
I guess that's my favorite thing about the trade. All of the guys we got want to win. Drew Gooden lost focus too frequently, and Larry clearly didn't care that much. I don't think the move was a huge upgrade talent-wise, but I think it is an upgrade attitude-wise. Joe Smith is a great locker room guy and is on the downside of a career in which he's never lived up to expectations, and so wants a title to cap it all off. Ben Wallace wants to prove that he wasn't just a system guy in Detroit. Delonte had a taste of winning at St. Joe's and I think wants another. And then there's Wally. His face after he hit that three against CHI was just priceless -- he's fired up to be at home, and to be in a perfect situation.
Obviously, there are still some concerns. Ben Wallace looks a touch slow on his rotations, though the Cavs have given him freedom to roam a bit more and he had a nice defensive line tonight -- 7 boards, but 2 steals and 3 blocks. Wally's shot is a bit streaky -- I think he's pressing because for the first time he has someone setting him up in positions where he's so wide open that he can't believe it. But that shot will come around. Joe Smith is proving to be an upgrade over Drew Gooden -- good midrange game, smart player, and good rebounder -- but he's certainly lost a step.. I'd like to see him get more PT -- in fact, I really like the lineup of Smith, Varejao/Wallace, Damon, Wally, and LeBron. And Delonte's learning, but has been streaky. That'll continue, but it's good to have someone who wants to run out with, you know, the best transition player in the game.
Which brings me to my final point. I know Mike Brown wants to preserve his rotations and all that, but it is just baffling to me why we start Andy and Big Ben in games. It's really playing 3 on 5 on offense. Why not start Joe Smith, who can play offense and hit some jump shots to open things up for LeBron, and bring in Varejao for instant energy off the bench? It gets worse when we also start Devin Brown, who I love but who is also an offensive liability. One wonders how we keep letting teams like NY hang around, but then one realizes that we have three guys on offense who just are not that good, a point guard who's learning the offense, and LeBron. We're going to have to rework the rotations when Sasha, Boobie, and Ilgauskas come back. So why not just start Delonte, LeBron, Wally, Joe Smith, and Wallace? That way you can get Wally going early instead of putting pressure on him to find his shot instantly. And you can have some offense from Joe without too much of a defensive loss from Varejao. Plus, you then get Devin Brown and Andy Varejao off the bench for instant energy. That's a much better solution until we get everyone back -- it'll prevent us from getting behind so early (or not getting up by as much as we should). But nobody ever said Mike Brown paid attention to offense.
Still, a couple wins are a couple wins. Good to see the Cavs closing games out -- that's one of the things the old Cavs did well. Hopefully we'll continue to see improvement, esp. starting this Friday against the Bulls. At least we know LeBron will probably put on a good show. And who knows, maybe Kobe will put up 81 again. It's just been that kind of season.