April 17, 2014

LeBron James’ 44 Points Propels Cavs over Thunder

90041349LM004_CAVS_THUNDEROn the cover, this could have been another one of “those” games.  On the road against an up-and-coming Oklahoma City team full of young, talented scorers that have been playing very well as of late.  In fact, up until midway through the fourth quarter, it was just that.  But thankfully, the Cavaliers got the job done in the second half, finishing the contest with a 13-point win, 102-89.

On paper, much of the success will be pinned on the shoulder of LeBron James who finished with 44 points (a season high), seven rebounds, and six assists.  James sank five of eight three-point attempts, tacked on four steals, and added yet another chasedown block – the most recent victim, Thabo Sefolosha. 

But James was not alone in this win as Mo Williams was electric yet again, finishing with 22 points and four assists to go with what may have been the biggest shot of the night.  Sinking four total three-point shots, the biggest was of the half-court variety in through the fourth quarter.  With the Cavaliers only up four points, a pass was deflected beyond the halfcourt line as the shot clock ticked towards zero.  With no other options, Williams set his feet and launched what looks to have been about a 50-foot shot and touched nothing but net. 

This shot from Williams put the Cavaliers up by a more-comfortable seven points and would ultimately be the dagger in the Thunder’s chances.  Oklahoma city would fail to score again for what seemed like an eternity as the Cavaliers applied a Mortal Kombat-esque FINISH HIM, allowing only 13 points for the entire fourth quarter.

The Cavs finished with more threes, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.  However, the Thunder managed to get to the free throw line nearly twice as many times (29 to 15), converting over 86 percent of their chances.  Per usual, this was once again due to a lot of converted jump shots by the Cavaliers that seemed necessary due to foul trouble in the post – Shaquille O’Neal was limited to 18 minutes, scoring five points.  Thankfully, LeBron James seemingly couldn’t miss for stretches of the contest, draining several of his leg-kick, visually off-balance three-pointers.  You know, those shots that you get livid about until they go in? Yeah, those…

On the more positive front, after 19 turnovers in the previous four games, James only turned the ball over once last night.  This was only the third time this season where James had fewer than two turnovers.

From the bench, Anderson Varejao pulled down 10 rebounds as Jamario Moon had nine points, four rebounds, a three, a block and a steal. 

The Thunder were paced by Kevin Durant (29 points, four steals, seven turnovers) and Jeff Green (26 points, four rebounds). 

The Cavaliers will kick off the rest of their brutal December schedule tomorrow as they host the New Jersey Nets.  It’s Shaq bobblehead night, kids! 

(Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Jack

    Remember when the league allowed this to happen and made it impossible for us to win a championship without miraculously trading for Chris Bosh?:

    We had a fun exchange with Gregg Popovich tonight at Staples ahead of San Antonio’s tussle with the Clippers (yes, we do attend LAC games from time to time), when the subject of the Pau Gasol trade came up. “You mean the one where I fainted?” he asked with a smile. Pop, no surprise, still sees that deal as a watershed. “Pau Gasol changed the landscape of basketball in the NBA, as far as the west is concerned, and championship caliber basketball. He’s a great player, perhaps the most versatile big man in the league right now, and it makes them really, really good.” Los Angeles Times

    Andy then asked him if the development of Pau’s lil’ bro in Memphis makes the deal perhaps a little less lopsided. Marc has, after all, become a very good NBA player down in Memphis, and is still very early in his career. Maybe, just maybe, it was a more equitable swap than he originally thought? “Please,” he said with a sarcastic eye roll. “Please.” Los Angeles Times

  • CJG

    I love that LeBron ate a kids french fries after slamming one in. Where West with his hot sauce in a bag?

  • Jack

    Things I saw:
    1) (Above)

    2) Jamario Moon is playing solid and is very valuable in late game situations given his ability to get up for rebounds as they careen over our lumbering bigs’ heads.

    3) It should be remembered that the Mo heave came off a deflected pass that Lebron tossed to him like a hot potato after dribbling the bal for ten seconds. With 4 seconds left he was like, “umm, you take it!”

    4) We aren’t that good and Lebron looks like he isn’t going to be interested in playing team basketball anymore until one of the following things happens: a) Shaq starts playing better b) he plays less with Shaq c) we trade for somebody good d) he leaves.

    5) I’ve never felt more afraid that LBJ was going to exit, stage right, i.e. east.

    6) Hickson needs more minutes.

    7) Praying Powe can play with power upon return so that Z can see the DNP-CD.

    8) Andy is playing up to his contract.

    9) Something always happens to Cleveland that prevents us from winning championships, even when seemingly poised to do so. The Indians had the best offense in baseball for half a decade only to squander it because of idiocy. The Browns have thrown away so many AFC playoff games in unparalleled fashion; including one of the game’s great QBs having an all-career performance against them. Price, Brad, & Co. ran into Jordan. And now, now, the Cavs run into the illegitimacy of the Lakers, who are nigh unbeatable. And could lose a superstar because their market is unlikely to be able to draw two megastars.

    10) I will always hate the god-forsaken basketball project in Memphis.

    11) I feel sick.

  • Jack

    Yeah, ours goes up to 11. And I h8 that emoticon.

  • Jay

    CJG – I saw that too and wasn’t sure if it was fries, nachos, or popcorn. Either way it was hysterical and I’m shocked the internets aren’t calling for his immediate suspension.

    Jack – What in the world does that have to do with anything in this thread? Just wondering…

  • Jay

    I was talking about your first post.

  • Jack

    Jay, watching the game last night was rough. The team is really off their game, if they even have one to return to. Lebron looked completely disinterested in playing team basketball. He didn’t celebrate any of his teammates, only himself (and, yes, his celebration came complete with french fries that he claimed ‘had their own seat’). He has been weirdly arrogant in a very self-aggrandizing way. Jordan would never have done something like this. Kobe wouldn’t either. As long as they knew that had a job to do. It’s almost as if Bron knows his job isn’t this year, but this off-season and the next.

    Fact is, watching Lebron’s mood and body language deteriorate make me afraid he is going to leave. And really the only reason this is everyone’s mindset is the Gasol trade. Otherwise, Kobe would still be in the same position LB is. Just sharing my sentiments following last night’s game.

    People don’t realize how far-reaching the effect of that trade was on this league. Changed everything.

  • Jack

    That is to say, that trade was the impetus for an arms race unlike any other in NBA history. And Cleveland will ALWAYS lose out on that because it’s not a big market, doesn’t have a great tradition, and is north of the Mason-Dixon line. That trade has helped construct a mindset (and a reality) in which winning is an impossibility unless another megastar suits up next to you. Think about it: we are the only contender without this…the ONLY ONE! And this is what seems to be wearing on Lebron. And, honestly, it’s wearing on me as a fan as well. Because, unless a miracle trade happens, we are inevitably going to be on the short-end of that stick. WE will be the ones losing out for the situational factors enumerated above; whether LB stays or not.

  • http://twitter.com/nullster nullster

    Jack… step off the ledge … it’s not even February yet

  • steve

    stop comparing him to jordan and kobe. he’s not jordan or kobe so why do you want him to act like someone he’s not?

  • steve

    talk about an overreaction. jesus christ he was having fun with some kid in the stands and all of a sudden he’s leaving the team and/or not a championship caliber player?

    what a horrible analysis of a pretty funny and innocent moment.

  • steve

    and not celebrating his teammates? really?

    the guy who has been raked over the coals for dancing on the sidelines as his teammates do well?

  • Oppie00

    If anyone is still interested in the Cavs Hardwood Classic Blue Mark Price jerseys, the Cavs Shop just added some today and you can get it on their site. If you’re interested, I’d jump on it ASAP. Got myself one, can’t even wait for it to show up.

    [Team Shop]

    (WFNY Edit: Guys, please use HTML for links. Long URL’s jack up the sidebars. Thanks)

  • Tron

    Man this is a lot of negativity, even for a Monday. Cavs game has looked off because I think Shaq is off. I think this experiment might be over with at the trade deadline. There’s just nothing he really brings to the way the Cavs play ball. They look a hell of a lot better with Andy at the 5. Anyone start paying attention yet to teams that might be willing to salary dump $20 mil?

  • Jack

    steve, I agree. Bron is fun. I enjoy him as a player AND an entertainer. I didn’t mind the incident. My assessment was combining two points, and I didn’t do it effectively. I agree, no need to compare him to players he does not have anything in common with personality-wise. But here is what I’m saying, last year he used to do those kinds of things to celebrate teammates as well; now, it’s just himself. And if you are going to pout and get pissy like Kobe and Jordan during the rest of the games, if you are going to be visibly and obtusely frustrated with their performance for the other 47 minutes, then you better damn well be focused yourself when you’re out there. And it’s been troubling watching LBJ get beat on defense constantly, or make terrible passes to guys he knows can’t catch them (e.g. Z) and then turn and run back like “well, whatever, pass was there, I’m not gonna say anything, but I’m saying something with my body language), making bad turnovers, not getting back on defense so he can go “HAOYYYYYYY!!!!!” and throw his arms up like he was Touchdown Jesus every time he drives to the basket, constantly letting games get out of control by not shutting guys down and holding the ball forever on offense in first halves and then constantly whining and showing his frustration with having to save the day later in games.

    Yes there is Shaq, but HE is the reason the offense stalls. Players are moving. They are the same motion sets as earlier in the season. But every time he catches it, he stops, like he’s about to put on a damn show. Make a quick decision. Catch the ball in the post and instantly make a move. Make a pass and cut yourself once in a while.

    Either don’t make french fry jokes, or do them for the team to raise the chem, like last year. His self-aggrandizing is hurting this team and is really unwarranted, despite his crazy stats.

  • mendy

    i know that this is simply stating the obvious, but dayum is mr. james a good player of the basketball…

    i love quotes like “mo williams was electric with 22 points” in the same paragraph as “lebron had 44.” mo WAS electric… and still had half the points of lebron, who, while he had a great night, did nothing out of the ordinary (for him at least)

  • Jack

    And Tron, that’s the other thing that is provoking such negativity from me this morning. Everyday I check ESPNo.com, and these young teams are playing better. Who is looking to dump decent players for salary?

    Memphis? They are playing really well and are still getting those players at bargain prices. They are under the cap, and have a payroll exactly 50% of ours.

    Milwaukee? The only player they’d consider moving is Redd.

    Who is out there? Jamison? Camby? The same two guys we tried to get last year and failed? Camby is in the last year of his contract, so I don’t know what we could offer that would interest the Clips and be worth it for us. I know it’s early Nullster, but looking ahead a month and a half, because really, that’s all it is, I’m wondering who the hell is going to be available.

  • Jack

    steve, main point: Team Bron has been MIA lately. We need him back.

  • mike

    regardless of whether or not the team is better with shaq, they are not beating orlando without someone like shaq. frankly, about the only tradeable asset is Z. id LOVE antwan jamison on this team. plays hard. he gets it. can score. can rebound. hes a leader. hed play within the system and doesnt seem to have an ego. he can play PF or SF. if washington goes into salary dump mode, he’d HAVE to be priority #1.

  • Harv 21

    Maybe I was watching a different LeBron (body language indicating he’s leaving … what?).

    I see the same great entertainer/baller, the moth batting against the porch light, who can’t but help notice the other team’s great player and has to try to make sure he outshines him. That’s the LeBron who stops the offense by looking for his own shot first, or looking for the highlight chasedown if he turns the ball over. He just loves these type of matchups. He thinks he can both get his against Durant and win the game. The french fry munch was because he just feels the light on him, and loves it. You have to accept it as a fan. He has to amuse himself over a long season, and that same love of attention makes him maybe the best clutch player Cleveland has ever seen, in any sport.

  • ben

    @Jack: You have a very rose-colored view of players like Jordan and ESPECIALLY Kobe.

    Also, and this isn’t directed towards you specifically, I couldn’t give two sh*ts about LeBron’s body language, attitude, etc. If we win. We win. It’s the magic cure-all.

    Right now we win. So I don’t care.

  • lstavole13

    @Jack- Do you have a job? You’ve written about 5 novel length posts hah.

  • Jay

    HAHA Nullster. When I read your comment I thought of Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”. When the dude’s about to jump and he runs up to his room, grabs a guitar and starts singing:

    I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend,
    You could cut ties with all the lies, that you’ve been living in,
    And if you do not want to see me again, I would understand.
    I would understand.

    I think Jack may be Isis on Prozac.

  • ben

    I am Jack’s bleeding Cleveland inferiority complex.

  • Natty The Dog

    Jack,

    I like your #4 in your top post. SHAQ SHAQ SHAQ. He didn’t need to play last night.

    We all need to remember, last night, the Cavs were ahead by 4 with 5 minutes left. Thanks to hot 3 point shooting and the Thunder being “off” it ended up looking like we controlled them all game.

    We only won the last 5 minutes of that game.

  • Titus Pullo

    I’m going to turn this around and ask, of the people who say the Cavs are struggling or “not that good,” where did you expect the Cavs to be at this stage of the season? Undefeated? For all their “struggles” they are 1/2 game out of the second spot in the East and 2.5 out of the first spot. They are 7-2 vs. teams with winning records. And all of that has come about while adjusting to new players, injuries, Delonte’s off-court issues, and some stuff I’m probably forgetting.

    Sure, they’re not winning by 30 points a night like last year, but the point is that they are winning. Sure, it’d be nice if they were 22-2 instead of what they are (17-7), but let’s not turn them into the Browns.

  • JM

    Is Jack the new Isis? Just kidding! Relax dude the team is 17-7. Last week sucked big time but they are getting there. When you can get that production out of someone not wearing #23 you gotta be happy.

  • JM

    Just to compare Jordan and LeBron, Jordan is still throwing it in everyone’s face now even when he is retired! LeBron knows what to say to te media. He is very careful with his words.

  • http://shakesthesnowglobe.blogspot.com EZ

    @Titus

    I think there’s definitely an argument to being nervous at the way the Cavs are losing and that sometimes, like last night, they sort of back in to wins by only playing hard defense in the fourth quarter.

    It’s the sort of basketball that will take you through the regular season but will get you a quick trip home in the playoffs. Effort (which was lacking in the Grizzlies loss) and composure (which was absent in the Rockets loss) are two things that are must-haves in post-season play against the NBA elite. The Cavs are a team with good players and are currently winning on talent, but that’s not enough for a championship.

  • Titus Pullo

    I know what you’re saying EZ, things just feel … different … this year. It seems like they are not playing well, but the standings don’t reflect that. And if they are only winning on talent, that is good, right, since they are beating teams with winning records.

    In regards to last night’s game, isn’t being able to pull out a win on the road when you’re not playing your best a sign of a good team?

    It is frustrating though, since if they can beat Orlando, Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, etc., it makes it that much more frustrating when they lose to Charlotte or Memphis.

    I’ll trade a loss here and there in the regular season to a bad team for a win in the playoffs against Orlando or Boston.

  • Jack

    Istavole – Grad school. This writing is more engaging than the kind I’m supposed to be doing.

    Everyone – How do you know I’m not Isis?

    Everyone – I’m not. Just a concerned citizen procrastinating by way of pessimism.

    ben – It’s not so much as an inferiority complex as a reality. It’s going to be nearly impossible to get another superstar to come here. And without another superstar you are going to need every bounce possible to go our way in order to even make it to ‘ship, let alone win the thing.

    God – Please give me Jamison; please.

  • Jack

    and @JM – I can dig that. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to be happy when I big time production out of someone not wearing #23. I want that to be routine. Not bonus. I was watching last night on NBALP Broadband so I got the OKC broadcast. They kept saying how the Cavs were holding on because of this heroic effort from Bron. At first it was annoying exaggeration as they kept saying, “I’ll take 5 guys who play together as a team over one superstar any day.” It was getting silly. But eventually, in the back of my mind, I felt that they were right. That regardless of how this roster has been upgraded over the last couple seasons, everyone else that is in contention got way better than we did. Especially the Magic and Celts. We are not in the same league at this juncture, regardless of what it says in the standings.

    We need another starter. Bad. Gay. Jamison. Camby. Somebody. And I’m looking around the league and wondering if anybody is going to be available that could help us. Because, if not, I really think Bron leaves.

  • AZam

    Still the cavs look very very streaky. The only good sign for this season 7-2 against teams above and .500.

  • S-Dub

    It’s funny because this same Thunder team took the Lakers to OT and the Lakers only won by a few points because of a Durant missed J at the buzzer. BUT, when the Cavs are getting called for EVERY foul and the Thunder barely get called for anything, putting our bigs on the bench and they stick with us during the game, all of the sudden LeBron is leaving because a Western Conference team stuck with us?

    The logic with Cavs fans this season is unbelievable to me. The Shaq experiment isn’t working…Really? It’s not? Funny when he came back our rebounding went +9 over the other team while it was below the opponents while he was out. We are 1st in defensive field goal% in the paint, still a top 5 defense in the league, and now have a big that can actually defend a real big like Dwight/Pau/Perkins/Garnett.

    My buddy is sitting next to me last night and with every missed shot says “We’re terrible, We’re not doing anything this season”. I just had to sit there instead of wanting to look to my left and punch him in the mouth. This is a great team, one of the best in the NBA. Come playoff time I’d be hard pressed to find another team that is deeper than us. Boobie is right this year, Delonte has to stay on track, Jamario plays VALUABLE minutes for us, Andy is a top 3 defensive PF/C in the league (don’t think so? Name me guys that are better) and Z is still playing good minutes off the bench.

    Shaq has to get his shot back on track but he isn’t and doesn’t have to be a focal point. Mo getting his 20 and 5/night, LBJ doing his thing, and Anthony Parker chipping in 8-10 pts plus good D is what we need to continue to happen come playoff time. Right now A LOT of the defensive lapses are coming when JJ is in the game. It’s because he’s learning. We’re going to get Powe back and JJ will continue to get better. It’ll only make us 5 deep at PF/C, not counting LBJ. 2 good SF’s with LBJ/Moone. A guard combo of West, Boobie, Parker, and Mo is very legit, especially when Boobie is doing what he’s doing.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    Bask-it-bawwww!

  • JM

    I agree with that Jack I would love some consistency.