A night after a lazy effort against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Cavs looked focused and unstoppable last night against the Dallas Mavericks at home. Coming into the game, the Cavs were only 6-4 in games played with Shaquille O’Neal and actually 5-1 without him, but this should what this team is capable of this season. LeBron led the way early with 11 points and eight assists in the first quarter, while his sidekick Mo Williams and the rest of the bench kept up the offensive production for the rest of the contest.
The Cavs jumped off to a hot start, posting one of their finest 24 minutes of the season in taking a 68-55 lead at the intermission. The team as a whole shot 68% and totaled 23 assists, incredible production against a team that came into the game tied for the second best record in the association. Delonte’s spark off the bench was crucial to the Cavs maintaining that double-digit advantage, as he recorded two assists at the end of the first and stayed hot. Mo finished with 17 points on 5-5 from three point land in the first half and the Cavaliers never let up late.
This is how the team was supposed to be playing when we acquired Shaquille O’Neal and Jamario Moon in the offseason. Sure, Anthony Parker was pretty much a non-factor but the Diesel had nine points and six rebounds while controlling the pace of the game and Moon finished with 13 points and nine boards. The best six last night for Mike Brown were clearly Mo, Delonte, Jamario, LeBron, Andy and Shaq as all had pretty significant impacts on the game. Hickson and Parker combined for only 12 points in 35 minutes, but this is the depth and versatility required for a title contender.
Let me set the record straight, the team did not play acceptable defense throughout the game yesterday. Dirk Nowitzki finished with 27-9 as nobody on the entire roster could match up with him when he was in the zone. Jason Terry also hit four 3′s en route to 25 points himself, as Delonte had trouble keeping up with him on every single possession. The offense was just enough tonight however and the lead never got below six in the second half, but some nights won’t be as easy as this one was last night at the Q.
If you were following my live tweets at the game (@UdJrosen) then you saw my various reactions to some of the more interesting components of last night’s game. Here are some of my takes on what unfolded:
- When Delonte West is playing at this kind of level (10 points, 10 assists in 28 minutes), the Cavaliers will always be one of the top teams in the NBA. The back court of Mo and Delonte, although small and not very physical, are match-up nightmares for opposing defenses because of their various modes of offensive production. Hopefully this is the beginning of a hot stretch for the St. Joseph’s grad, and Brian Windhorst was proud to report that he was all smiles in the locker room following the game.
- It is kind of surprising to me when Jamario Moon and Anderson Varejao contribute offensively when they are on the court at the same time. Both are better known and regarded for their defensive skills, but both finished in double figures in scoring last night. Delonte was a big help in this regard, and LeBron also recorded 12 assists, showing how the entire team is rotating and moving around more effectively.
- Finally, the big story of the night was the DNP-CD for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The big man from Lithuania was all set to break the Cavaliers franchise record with his 724th career game played in front of the home town crowd last night. In the end however, he received no playing time in Mike Brown’s new rotation of Moon/Hickson/Varejao/Shaq in the front court. It was disappointing for the fans, but there will be plenty more opportunities for Z to smash the record at home as the Cavs host Phoenix Wednesday and Chicago on Friday.
(The picture above is via Tony Dejak/AP Photo)