How strange was it to see the Cavs actually playing a game last night? All of those nights off made it seem like the Cavs had a first round bye. (Insert Pistons joke here.) Anyway, here’s my five observations good and bad from last night’s game.
Five good things-
1. LeBron. (I could probably just type that name alone, but I won’t.) With all the hype, all the pomp of his MVP award, the shoes, the trip to Akron yesterday it would have been easy for him to struggle with focus early on. To say he didn’t would be a gross understatement. LeBron demonstrated MVP leadership with his intense focus from the opening tip. He was defending, hustling for every loose ball, and that dunk to start the game didn’t hurt either. He was amazing. And we’ve come to expect the amazing. By the way, I thought LeBron’s most impressive play may have been drawing a charge on the 2-on-1 breakaway. Brilliant.
2. Ben Wallace. That time off may have helped Big Ben more than any of the Cavs. Ben looked much more mobile and ready to play in his 15 minutes. He had his legs back, and what a difference he could be healthy and focused for 15-20 minutes off the bench. (Did you see him finish off a dunk? When was the last time that happened?)
3. The backcourt. I love when our guards are driving the ball inside. It absolutely destroys defensive integrity. Delonte and Mo weren’t just driving and dishing last night, they were finishing plays inside. If the Hawks are planning to do that all series we may have another long rest following game 4.
4. The bench. With the exception of Joe Smith, the bench was very productive. LeBron’s rest times saw the lead increase in both the second and fourth quarters. Wally got into position for a charge (!) and everyone got into the rebounding act. I have to image with all the scrimmaging between series the bench is actually pretty sharp as compared to the end of the regular season when the Cavs didn’t do much more than shoot-a-rounds and walk-throughs.
5. Ball control. There were a few sloppy turnovers early on, which you would expect from a team that hadn’t played in a while, but for the most part the Cavs took care of the ball. They finished the game with seven TOs, and didn’t commit one after the 7:00 mark of the third quarter. Well played.
And now five things I didn’t like- (Yes, I am nit-picking.)
1. Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Normally, Big Z plays well after getting rest. I was surprised that his shots weren’t falling, and he certainly will struggle this series against the quicker bigs of Atlanta. I liked that the Cavs tried to get Z going though. He will still be an important part of this series, and hopefully he bounces back with a better performance in game 2.
2. Joe Smith. After having a fantastic series against Detroit, Joe hung a donut on the scoreboard. He was active on the defensive end, but got caught in bad positions a few times too many and ended up fouling more times than not.
3. Defending Josh Smith. Using fouls against Josh would be a wise move. He is an atrocious free throw shooter for a scorer. I was surprised we didn’t see more of LeBron on Smith. He is just a little too quick for Andy to guard, and I think Delonte can handle Joe Johnson.
4. TNT’s coverage. Ok, I really don’t have much negative to say about their coverage, but I really don’t have any more concerns about the Cavs either.
5. When is game 2 again?