Cavs 104, Blazers 99: The Wild Thing Takes Care of the Flu and Portland

Anderson Varejao Blazers Well that was moderately encouraging. Following two straight Western Conference losses against Memphis and Houston, the Cavaliers actually had a pulse last night against the visiting Portland Trailblazers. Led by a flu-ridden Anderson Varejao who finished with the most points in a double-double in his entire career (22 pts, 10 rebs), the Cavs held on to beat the ailing Blazers 104-99. It was not a pretty first half yet again, but just like in the past LeBron and company find a gutsy way to pull it off down the stretch.

The first quarter was back-and-forth with the Cavaliers holding on against only the nine players that represented Portland last night. A handful of long jumpers including six points by Mo Williams gave the home crowd an early lead but you could sense the momentum slipping away by the end of the quarter. Up by just three, things were starting to fall apart just like they had been all week for Cleveland.

Juwan Howard flipped a switch back to 2005 2000 1993 with 11 straight points to start the second frame. The mighty duo of former Cav Andre Miller and Howard eventually provided for 25 of the Blazers 31 points in the quarter, as the Blazers took a much more intimidating nine point advantage going into intermission.

That is when things finally started to get interesting for the home team. Supposedly, according to Brian Windhorst with the Plain Dealer, Mike Brown tore into his team for their uninspired first half last night. Here are the actual quotes from the story:

From what some of the players were saying, LeBron got into the team in the first few minutes of the half before Mike Brown came into the room. Then Brown followed with an attack because he felt the defense was weak among other things. Watching Juwan Howard get uncontested baskets in 2009 will do that to a coach.

Interesting developments from the Q and in the second half, LeBron (33-7-7) and his sidekick Mo (14-10), who was also suffering from the stomach flu, mercilessly pounded the basketball into the painted area for cutting teammates. Anderson Varejao was at his absolute finest tonight, finishing 10-17 from the floor in 36 minutes off the bench. Yes, the big story with our forwards was the Shaq getting poked in the eye, but when Anderson can produce like he did last night offensively, the Cavaliers won’t need the plodding Shaqtus come crunch time in big games.

The three-ball was definitely not falling for the Basketball Cavaliers last night, hitting just 3-12 for the game with Mo missing all five of his takes. That did not matter in the end however, as the Cavs were able to simply out-hustle and muscle the depleted Blazers in the second half. With the score tied at 76 heading into the fourth, the Cavs had all the momentum in the world for a comeback attack to take the lead and that is exactly what they did.

It sure was not pretty. Heck, Portland (14-10) is on a major down swing so it was not a very big win either. The major thing for the home team last night was that they find a way to win with LeBron controlling the basketball at the end of a game. Against Memphis, the offense looked out of sync constantly and the defense was absolutely putrid against the pick-and-roll. When playing the Blazers, you have to do a better job of defending LaMarcus Aldridge but you can live with their lead man Brandon Roy shooting just 9-25 from the field.

Take a look at how the distribution of minutes played out last night for Mike Brown’s forwards:

Shaquille O’Neal – 23 minutes, 14 points, 11 rebounds (starter)
J.J. Hickson – 10 minutes, 2 points, 0 rebounds (starter)
Anderson Varejao – 36 minutes, 22 points, 10 rebounds (bench)
Zydrunas Ilgauskas – 17 minutes, 6 points, 2 rebounds (bench)

There are a combined 86 minutes in there, leaving just 12 for LeBron to play the power forward last night. That number should probably be going up later this season with the inconsistency of Hickson and Ilgauskas, but the positives are the two double-doubles and the 24-point victory in terms of points in the paint last night. Shaquille O’Neal will always do that for a team, but it seems like even Anderson is picking up the fact that this team is best when they are pounding it inside while opening up the long shots.

Final notes, according to Cavs: The Blog, LeBron provided 15 points on his 16 jumpers last night. When a guy like him does that from the outside, along with controlling the offensive flow late AND providing that monster block in the last Portland possesion, it is just unreal. Only four turnovers were a positive sign for him last night and hopefully the entire team can carry the momentum to another solid performance Sunday against Oklahoma City.

Picture is Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images).

  • Jack

    Can we please lay off Shaq now? Natty the Dog is becoming bothersome. We do, however need to trade Z.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    I would love to know what James said to his teammates at the half. He was furious that Bayless was fouled to end the second quarter, and seemed to scowl a bit in the fourth as well after the Blazer rattled off five points in five seconds.

    It was great to see Mo finally looking like a point guard last night. Andy has been solid – I noticed that no one is talking about how “awful” his contract is any longer.

  • LaundroMat

    Could someone please explain the origin of “Basketball Cavaliers”? I think I’ve seen “Football Browns” on here, too. I must have missed something…

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Not sure there is much of an origin beyond WFNY, LM. Denny’s all about the “Football Browns,” and we’ve just kind of kept it going with the other teams.

    Perhaps the closest origin is the use of “Football Giants” for New York… Denny, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Jack
  • mike

    magic is an idiot. this whole notion that you HAVE to go to new york to become a billionaire is just ridiculous.

  • Natty The Dog

    Jack.

    When was the last time you watched Shaq? Back when he was drafted with the Magic?

    I can name 10 players that would provide more fire power to this team than Shaq.

    If you are going to comment on sports blogs, you should get educated in sports first.

    Shaq and Z….I agree with half your post.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    ‘You should get educated first’ – but everybody is correct on internet.

    @ LaundroMat – Scott’s got it. I find ESPN’s constant barrage of the word ‘football’ to be absurd, especially Jaworski. The ‘New York Football Giants’ led me to start with ‘Cleveland Football Browns’, and then ‘Cleveland Basketball Cavaliers’, ‘Cleveland Baseball Indians’, etc. It really was my being silly, but it’s fun, no?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jacob

    Haha yes, I thought that is where Denny got that from. All I remember is that one weekend I saw him do an article with “Football Browns” followed by the “Basketball Cavaliers.” Ever since then, I have been hooked on trying to do the same.

  • Jack

    @Natty the Dog – I assure you that I am more educated than you. Really. I promise. Sports. Generally speaking. You name it.

    I could name 25-50 players who would add more firepower to this team than Shaq. Now come those chilling caveats that spring up when we consider sports teams in the context of reality–both as a competitive enterprise and as a business:

    1) We cannot beat Orlando without Shaq. We can’t. Not over 7 games. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise. Unless we were to acquire Andrew Bynum, Kendrick Perkins, or Brook Lopez. Orlando will not lose a 7 game series to someone with a strong center capable of slowing down Howard in a 1-on-1 capacity.

    2) Teams are not trying to throw away quality bigs with size. You keep saying on every single Cavs open thread (much to my annoyance) that we need to trade Shaq. What are you looking for in return? Do you have ANY thoughts? Any suggestions? Anything actually worth mentioning? How do you think this team fairs against Orlando without a physical presence in the paint? Answer any of these questions legitimately and perhaps we can begin to respect each other’s fandom again. Otherwise, stop throwing out stupid comments on the open threads like “trade fatty.” You might as well just write, “Ferry, turn nothin’ into somethin’ real quick like, ok? Just go trade Shaq to the everyone-wants-to-help-the-Cavs-get-better fairy! Go get some really good, really young, really talented ‘for the future’ guys, K?”

  • Jack

    without* a strong center

  • Natty The Dog

    Jack you are funny.

    You are “that guy” you know him, the guy who still lives in the “We can’t hold down Howard days”.

    Howard wasn’t the problem. Poor shooting, another viable scoring option, the size difference between Delonte and Lewis. The versatility of Hedo (not sure if you realized they actually traded him, I can provide a link so you can catch up.) Orlando is not the team to beat buddy. Boston and LA are. Both teams are athletic, and can move the ball at will. Shaq already proved he can’t do all the things we got him for. Z has more versatility as a center, he can move better, shoot the ball, and hit free throws.

    While I do agree with you to a certain extent that someone needs to bang with Howard, but in order to realize the bigger goal, we need a more athletic team with a second REALISTIC scoring option.

    Secondly. This is not about right now as much as it is next year and beyond. Explain to me this. If you ARE so smart like you say you are. Being about a mil to 3 mil under the cap, how are the Cavs supposed to replace a quality center, an All Star running mate, a solid 6th man? Do you need a calculator? If you are using a PC you can find one under start menu, accessories….on a MAC its in your dashboard….just incase you didn’t know.

    This is for the future my man. I understand how unrealistic it is for other teams to want to help the Cavs when they all feel like they have a shot at Lebron in the summer. But in Danny Ferry’s position he has the leverage of expiring contracts and Dan Gilbert’s money at hand. If we don’t make this trade, and I am saying Shaq and Z (with Z back on a buyout), next year we will be back to the days of Eric Snow, Damon Jones, and all the other scrubs who fill rosters.

    Just sayin…..

  • Natty The Dog

    And Jack you asked who I liked.

    Well I like Kevin Martin. He is a hell of a scorer on a crap team. I like Rudy Gay, I like Marc Gasol, I still like Stephen Jackson, but not as much due to his age.

    I would like a push for Tayshaun Prince, he would be excellent on this team off the bench.

  • Jack

    Natty,

    1) They didn’t trade Hedo. He left via free agency. Thanks for the heads up though.

    2) I like some of the those guys too. We can get them all without giving up Shaq.

    3) Mark it down; this website will still be here. We can rendezvous and discuss. Orlando will prove to be > than Boston by season’s end.

    4) You need someone to at least “bang” with Howard as you put it. Without Shaq, we have Z (whom you suggest we trade), Andy, and Powe/Hickson. None of them can come close to neutralizing Howard. This compels the use of double teams. This creates wide open looks for Lewis, Nelson, Williams, Anderson, Carter, JJ, Barnes, and Pietrus…ALL OF WHOM CAN SHOOT THE 3.

    5) Marc Gasol will not be traded by a team that is finally coming together (Gay might be expendable).

    6) You say LA is the team to beat, well, assuming we make it there without Shaq (which we wouldn’t), who matches up with Bynum? Or does he terrorize us like he is the rest of the league?

    7) Who is a viable option for slowing down Howard/Bynum that we can get?

    8) Tayshaun Prince? How does he help any of our problems? He hasn’t even played. We aren’t looking for bench players. We don’t need the rich man’s Anthony Parker with arms 6 inches longer off the bench.

    9) Thanks for the calculator tip. In the meantime, use that calculator to determine the statistical disparity between Orlando with and without Hedo. Shocking! They are a better team this year! No really. Check.

    10) While you’re at it, can you send me that link about the Hedo trade?

    Thanks,
    ‘That Guy’

    PS – Who is the quality center that we are ‘replacing?’ Or did you mean simply obtain? Either way, these are your answers: trade Z, trade Delonte, trade Hickson + Wally sign & trade. If you need to, use Boobie’s family-friendly contract. AND, keep your paint clogging diesel machine to eliminate Bynum from consideration and slow down the man whom you spent the entire ECF double-teaming to the detriment of your team.

  • Brick

    Jack, you just forgot one thing…

    /pwned

  • mike

    im with jack on this one. we – nor anyone else – will beat orlando without a strong presence in the middle. the reason we lost to orlando last year was a lack of a strong inside guy. that forced the double team and opened up orlando’s perimeter. yes the size difference on the perimeter, our own poor shooting and hedo’s versatility all contributed, but everything for them starts with dwight howard. trade shaq? ok – for who? if for some miracle memphis wants to move gasol and gay for shaq – then yes do it. that trade isnt happening. therein lies the problem. we cant just sit shaq all year and then trot him out in the playoffs, IF we play orlando. we have to play him now to work out the kinks. are the cavs better with shaq? i tend to say “no.” but are we better against a particular team, like orlando? i say ‘yes.”

    i do agree with Natty that this team needs a legit second scoring option. i love mo but we need that legit #2 option from the SG/SF position. ariza would have been a really nice signing by the way. but again – we can yell at ferry all we want. teams arent lining up to just give away young legit scoring options to help the cavs. i agree that a move or two via trade has to happen but ferry is doing the right thing taking his time. he didnt force into the s. jax trade which was the right thing. other better options will heopefully present themselves as teams lose money, fall out of contention, etc. at the same time, we cant just trade z/shaq for the sake of making the trade.

  • mike

    i also agree with jack that orlando will pass up boston by the seasons end. boston hasnt had a real tough schedule yet (cleveland has been alot tougher so far). plus i think boston’s age is going to catch up to them soon. as for the lakers, as strong as they look right now, lets not forget they’ve played just 4 or 5 road games so far. lets wait at least until their schedule evens out with their road games.

  • mike

    “Some more basketball statistics to help you cope with the poor start for the Cavs: “First off, we’ve played 8 back-to-backs already, going 5-3. Meanwhile, the Elder C’s and Orlando have only had 5 to contend with in the opening months. Second, we’ve played well vs. the other good teams in the NBA. We are currently 6-2 vs. teams with winning records, while Boston is 4-3 and Orlando is just 3-4.” http://www.stepienrules.com/2009-articles/november/examining-the-race-for-home-court.html

  • Jack

    mike, hopefully those are telling stats. You can always cut down on mental lapses and a lack of focus against teams like Charlotte and Memphis (albeit a troubling thing to have to do). But beating the teams who are playing relatively well this year (ORL, PHX, DAL, etc) is an important step…given our inability to do that last year.

    And thanks for the reinforcements. Brick too.

  • Natty The Dog

    We all know that Shaq does not make this team better. I will admit he does help with Howard, but you can’t create your team to beat a particular opponent. Sounds familiar to last year. We were geared to beat Boston and lost to Orlando. Shaq helps against one team, and hurts us against the others.

    How does that make sense?

    Yah…My bad on the Hedo Trade…..I knew he was a free agent, in the heat of the moment we just type away.

    Atleast Mike realizes we need some “starters” on this team other than LBJ.

  • Natty The Dog

    Jack you still happy about Shaq tonight? He has put up crap for numbers, made the team consistently worse, and is yet to face a solid center in the last few weeks.

  • Pingback: Cavaliers Preview #39: Cavs at Blazers | WaitingForNextYear