Cavs 105, Grizzlies 89: Nine Straight Wins for the Wine and Gold

lebronmemphisIt’s actually harder to write a recap after a game like this. They Cavs played so well, and the Grizzlies looked so out of it that there is hardly anything to discuss. It would be nit-picking to try and find negatives . Let’s look at a few numbers-

6- As in six wins in a row without Mo and Delonte both in the lineup. This was the game that I thought we might not extend the streak. Coming up the Cavs play the Heat, and even though the Cavs beat Miami just last week without Molonte, the Heat have a quick strike back court. The Cavs should still expect to win, and I’m sure that we’ll see Delonte continue to rest that hand. After the Heat we play the Knicks and Nets. This is a great opportunity for West to get healthy.

15- As in LeBron’s assist total for the night. The Cavs have gone big due to the injuries and with LeBron playing the point we haven’t seen a team that can match. The Grizzlies are perhaps the biggest team in the league, but they were no match tonight.

66- LeBron’s assist total the last six games, eleven per contest. It would be even higher if not for a four-assist night against the Thunder.

19- In the last 20 games Shaq has scored in double figures 19 times. That streak started on Christmas Day against the Lakers by the way. We know that since Molonte went down Shaq has been a more central point in the offense. There is also little doubt that Shaq has been ‘pacing himself’ so to speak this season. I expect that when Mo comes back, and Delonte has been back that we might see Shaq rest a little more on offense getting ready for the playoffs. But what an impact he has made. If we are going to get this Shaq in the postseason night after night, it will be hard to beat this team.

10- Blocked shots tonight for the Cavaliers. A direct reflection of the brand of defense the Cavs have been playing lately. They aren’t playing down to teams. They are coming out focused, especially on the defensive end which is fueling the offense explosions early in these games.

7- As in consecutive games the Cavs have kept their opponents under 100 points. The 89 points the Cavs allowed against Memphis is the average for the last seven games. That’s four points fewer per game than they average for the season.

7.04- The difference between Cleveland’s scoring average vs their average points given up.

5.5- Cleveland’s game lead over Orlando for best record in the East. They are up 6.5 over Boston and Atlanta. It looks like Boston will be without Paul Pierce for at least a small stretch because of a foot injury. The internet is all over the place on the severity of the injury. Of course the experts will continue to say that Boston is the favorite when they are healthy. This cracks me up for a couple of reasons. First, they are never going to be healthy again. Not this bunch. Not this year. KG just might be damaged for the rest of his career, and they are simply not getting any younger. Second- these two haven’t played since the first game of the season. Don’t you have to judge teams against each other? We’ll see. In case the ‘experts’ missed it, the Cavs are missing a few players right now too. Yes, we still have our superstar; he’s also under 30. Not something Boston can say.

43- Rebounds for the Cavs in this one. They out-rebounded one of the toughest rebounding teams in the league. Shaq, Zydrunas, Andy and Hickson were just too much for Memphis.

Coach Brown probably said it best in the post-game. This one was just fun to watch. The defense, the offense- everything. Every phase of the game was clicking against the Grizzlies. Now I’m sure we’re going to hear plenty of how Memphis was tired out by playing the Lakers the previous night. So be it, they didn’t play as well as they could have. But everyone gets this kind of schedule. The Lakers got to play at home virtually all fall. There were certainly nights like this for them as well.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Vare-A-Jay

    Absolute joy to watch last night. I loved how Shaq took over in the third when Lebron went to the bench for a breather. I am so (cautiously) optimistic about the postseason. It can not be said enough how invaluable Lebron is. To say he can play anywhere on the floor is an understatement. I thought Memphis would be a little more ‘up’ for this game, but the Cavs stomped on them early and never looked back. Go Cavs!

  • AMC

    It has been really exciting to see how LeBron, Shaq and the rest of the fellas have stepped up in Molante’s absence. I think this stretch will greatly benefit everyone’s confidence come playoff time.

    We’ll see what happens, but right now this team has a different feeling to me than last year’s team – last year it seemed like that had to play balls to the wall nearly every night to take care of business, and that wasn’t even good enough against the elite teams. This year, it seems like they lie in wait in many games then turn on the afterburners and take care of business. Since Molante has been out, the Cavs have started the afterburners a little earlier and are becoming a very difficult team to beat.

    At the beginning of the season, I think most of us felt like something was “missing.” Well I think that something was finding a rhythm and chemistry with Shaq. This team has it and is dangerous.

    All of that said, I still think they need to add another piece. Pluto had a column in today’s PD about how we should just enjoy this team and not worry about trading scenarios. I like the sentiment, but I think the article misses the essential point that we’ve talked about the last several days on this site that a trade isn’t just about this season, it’s about the next couple of seasons and using Z’s expiring deal to actually add a piece that they will be unable to add in the offseason, a piece that could be a key to ensuring LeBron returns.

  • Tom63

    Love the “when healthy” line. Can we start using similar ones such as “when young, the 95-96 Bulls are one of the best teams of all time”

  • Tron

    A number you forgot, 5 – As in 5 Cavs scored in double figures, and AP and Andy were close with 8 each. This was another great TEAM effort, something I’m sure the national media will glaze over as usual. Watching LBJ play the point forward position is great, he gets everyone involved, and everyone is stepping up to knock down shots and easy layups.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    You know, I’m not so sure that LeBron James will be able to work together with Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq just clogs the lane and wont let LeBron get to the rack – his strong suit. I don’t think the two alpha males will be able to get along. This is a recipe for disaster…

    /where they at now?

    Also – a number you forgot: 6’8″ – the shortest person on the floor when the team ran with LeBron at the point, Moon at the off guard, Jawad, Andy and Z at the forwards. Holy moly.

  • phil m

    Nice write-up, Rick. Would like to comment on this line:

    “There is also little doubt that Shaq has been ‘pacing himself’ so to speak this season.”

    I think the “so to speak” and the single scare quotes around the words “pacing himself” reveal a suspicion you have (which I share) about the explanation for Shaq’s slow first half. The explanation — he was pacing himself, laying back, waiting the right moment, or some such thing — not only does not fully convince, it’s downright odd and irresponsible coming from a player who is pulling in 20 million for the season’s work.

    Part of the explanation for Shaq’s recent impact, no doubt, is that he has been given more minutes to play; but no one would claim that that is the whole story.

    So, it seems that an ugly question has entered the room. Does Shaq or do the Cavs as a whole simply play better without Mo? That’s not to dump on Mo for any particular reason. But the results with Mo out, and the weirdo rationale aired for Shaq’s relatively uneven or at times bad performances when Mo was in — remember, WFNY readers were fuming at Shaq in the early games — at the very least should have the coaching staff thinking, “what is working so well right now? and how does it relate to Mo’s presence/absence on the floor?”

    I don’t have my own answer to the question, but maybe someone has some thoughts on it.

  • JNeids

    The Griz never stood a chance in this one – they spent all their energy beating LA the night before. Let’s hope the Wades do the same thing and we can embarass them on nat’l TV Thursday night. A lot of the anti-Cav (I just hate the word “hater” – I’m a hater hater) people out there will be quick to point out that we are playing these teams on the second night of hard back to backs, and so while this is true and I’m not drawing too many conclusions from this game (except for that Lebron is the best PG in the league), I’m also not complaining. Nobody was saying anything about the ridiculously difficult schedule we started the season with.

    The 2 best highlights from this game – Lebron doing his best Jordan impression at the end of the 1st half, and his alley oop to JJ who threw it down hard with one hand…and didn’t even make Sportscenter this morning. Boo

  • mike

    i can say this enough – DO NOT TRADE hickson unless it is for a PF stud, like Al Jefferson (which is unlikely to happen). the kid is 21 years old. young PF prospects don’t grow on trees. despite what the national media wants to think, Cle has a decent group of fairly young and experienced players to grow around lebron for years to come. maybe Hickson never becomes an all star, but he looks to be a well above-average player. in 3 years, once he really learns the game and grows into his frame, Hickson could very well be a 15 point 8 rebound guy.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    I have a ‘young PF prospect tree’ in my yard. I just planted it though.

    We should be set in 2030. In the mean time, do you guys know if Ryan Mallett can play the 4? He’s tall and leaving college I heard.

  • phil m

    Scott: nice point in recollecting what the naysayers had going about the supposed incompatibility of LeBron and Shaq. We need to find those people, grab them by the scruff of their necks, and sit them down to their keyboards to write their mea culpas. Oh, wait, we don’t need to do that; they work at ESPN.

  • Matt#2

    phil m has the “he’s saying what we’re all thinking” thing. I thought about it for a second last night, then I thought that I mustn’t think such things.
    I won’t even repeat what phil m wrote. I mustn’t.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    @Scott: The question of whether Shaq would clog the lane was certainly a more than fair question to ask. I don’t think too many people were willing to just assume that Shaq would relent this much of his offensive game to stay out of LeBron’s way. But I’m certainly glad he has. But I’m not going to say that I was wrong to ask the question at that time.

  • mike

    the cavs have also lost games because of scheduling this year. for example, that last second loss at utah was during that rough road trip. the schedule evens out.

  • mike

    denny – was that tree planted from the corpse of “tree” Rollins? (thank you, thank you very much)

  • Matt#2

    mike had me checking Wickipedia to see whether Tree Rollins was still alive. (Seems that he is)

  • deebo

    I am in the definite minority, but I like the team as is. There I said it. They have shown they can play and win with a variety of styles, strategies, and line-ups. I think the team made all the right moves in the offseason and would prefer to keep this group together for the whole year. I know it didn’t work out last year but that was with Ben, Wally, and Sasha, this year is a whole different story and whole different team.

  • Mark

    I cannot believe how well Shaq has been playing. Shaq is showing a quickness and energy that I didnt think he had.

  • JK

    Denny you are the devil

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    :[

  • Jack

    Tom is right on. “When they are healthy” means, “When KG, Pierce, and Allen are all 3-4 years younger.”

    They understand that it’s not a video game, right? Like let’s insert LeBron onto this roster–INSTANT CHAMPIONSHIP! If the little health bar fills or the little med cross disappears next to KG he will be healthy of knee; it won’t matter that he’s played 42 minutes in like 20,000 games.

  • Jack

    Still wish Natty the Dog was here to talk some Shaq…

  • Anthony

    Completely agreed with everyone’s comments about the “when they are healthy” qualifier for Boston. It’s not happening – certainly not at 100% health – no matter how much they want it.

    If we’re allowed to live in falsehoods like that, I’m going to start saying that the Cavs are “dynasty-caliber” when Z and Shaq are in the prime of their careers. Dare to deny that, ESPN.

  • Dave

    My take on the whole “Shaq clogs the lanes” arguments: like the national media’s view of the Cavs (LeBron with a bunch of scrubs), their view of Shaq’s game is similarly wrong. They’re thinking of Shaq’s game 10 years ago, when he was playing almost exclusively inside the circle and getting lots and lots of dunks, and not much else.

    Instead, what the Cavs have is a blocking, hard-fouling, and passing Shaq, who can also go off for 20 easy points inside. He also seems to be having some of the most fun of his career. What we have is a far more dynamic and smart Shaq than the four-letter guys expected, and now that he’s comfortable playing with the other Cavs it’s starting to pay real dividends.

  • Vare-A-Jay

    @ Phil M: I don’t honestly think it’s cause for concern that the Cavs are winning without Mo (or D-West for that matter) on the floor. I’m taking it that you would prefer to start Lebron at the 1 and have Mo off the bench as a back up? Also Shaq’s recent production is due to 2 factors in my opinion. A. – The team has gelled together and they know now how to play off eachother. B. – With Molante out, Diesel is picking up some slack on the offensive side of the ball. If this is the Shaq we get in the playoffs, I’m going to be giggling like a school girl.

    @ Denny: Thank you for being you

    @ Mark: Loved your comment from the ‘Preview’ post. I almost wet myself laughing so hard at that this morning.
    (Rudy Gay + Ed Wang + right side of O-Line = Jay’s Euphoria)

  • Oppie

    @ AMC. Completely agree. As great as the Cavs are playing right now, they have to make good use of Z’s expiring contract. We can’t afford to eat his giant contract and not get anything back for it. (See Wally Szczerbiak’s contract last year). His contract will help to set up the Cavs for not just this year, but the coming years. I’m okay with trading JJ for the right price and as long as the deal gets Lebron’s blessing. I’d prefer to use Boobie as the trade piece, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    @ Dave – he most certainly is hard-fouling Shaq. It’s glorious.

  • Eric D

    @Phil M. Was Shaq sandbagging/dogging it at the beginning of the year? Looks like it. But i wouldn’t say it is a result of a mentality shift with Mo being out, and I certainly wouldn’t say they are better without Mo. Shaq was working his way into shape and pacing himself. Sort of like Favre skipping training camp, Shaq can’t make it through a full season at his age, so its better to wait and have something in the tank for the playoffs. I was fully aboard the trade Shaq train even a month ago, but right now i would be alright with it if we kept him, even though I still think he is our best trade chip.

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  • http://www.zfcomics.com dgriff13

    Cavs sure seem to be clicking lately. It was around this time last year that I started imagining what it would be like to win it all, raise the trophy, the parade, Lebron resigning right there and then… etc…

    Back, Optimism, BACK! Back I say! Return from whence you came!
    *shakes head*

  • MP34

    @deebo,

    There’s a lot to like about this team as is. I think the argument for making a move is the expiring contracts we have are the only way this team can improve/get younger for next year. As we all saw, the Pacers asking price for Troy Murphy was ridiculous. However, if Ferry can fleece someone and get Big Z back in a buyout, then you almost have to make a move.

    Unfortunately the Cavs have to compete for a ring this year and try to improve the roster to entice Lebron to stick around.

  • MP34

    Very nice write up Rick. Well said about the Celtics. Their big boys are 32, 33, 34, and 35 years old. I know the Cavs have some old timers but the Celtics depth doesn’t compare to the Cavaliers.

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    LeBron James the two time MVP is probably the smartest professional basketball player on the planet. The guy just gets how to play despite the whiners who complain about him handling the ball to much or jacking up some bad shots. The guy is the Cavaliers it’s no wonder Mike Brown rides him like he does and allows him to do basically whatever he wants on and off the court.

    Btw I saw Pierce and all his theatrics last night after hurting his ankle and I couldn’t help but think: When will that famous wheelchair be wheeled out for The Truth? I hope the Celtics wheels continue to come off!

  • http://shakesthesnowglobe.blogspot.com EZ

    @MP34

    Not to mention of our oldest players Shaq is averaging 23 min/game, Parker 29 and Z 21.

    On the Celtics Pierce is averaging 36 mins/game, Allen 37 and KG 31.

    The grind of the season will be kinder to the Cavs, especially since two of our old players are basically sharing one person’s minutes.

  • historycat

    I was advocating earlier that it might not be a bad idea to trade shaq to get someone younger for a longer term.

    I must say he has been showing alot of spring in his step lately. It’s been great to watch.

    I just hope it lasts through the playoffs. This scares me.

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    @34 that is Ferry’s real dilemma in making a trade does he risk losing Z as a backup to Shaq in order to add another piece? This puts alot of weight on The Diesel’s shoulders especially in the playoffs starting with health but that’s the nature of the game.

  • Karsten

    LOVE SHAQ, BABY LOOOVE SHAQ…

    That is all.

  • mitchum man

    I think were in a position where we won’t deal unless ferrys gonna get back a young stud like al jefferson. No reason to take anything less. Were not desperate. Were right up there with the lakers for the best team in league.

  • Jack

    DAMNIT. We’re not desperate now, but what about next year, mitchum man?

    What is wrong with you people?

  • Oppie

    Agreed Jack. People need to take off the blinders and look past 2009-2010 season. I realize a championship this year would be amazing and could be all the Cavs need to try to keep Lebron, but what happens if the Cavs don’t make a move and bow out early like they did last year? The roster to try to keep Lebron would be iffy at best b/c we have little to zero money next year to use in fa and Z and Shaq could be gone and Delonte could be suspended. If you look at what would be left to lure him back, things don’t look very good, which is why a move needs to be made, instead of wasting the major asset that is Z’s expiring contract.

  • Jack

    We don’t want to become the Heat 2.0

  • deebo

    I understand all the contractual now versus what we can do in the future wrangling, but I for one am tired of Waiting for Next Year (not the blog but the lifestyle). We live in the now, not yesterday, not tomorrow. And if the Cavaliers can win a championship in the now (well, this season, not just like right now) then everything else be dang-ed (per WFNY policy) I say. If this roster as it stands has all the pieces to compete for a championship then I say compete for that championship and win it all this year and go from there. The parade won’t be any less fun if we haven’t traded our expiring contracts. Win now! Win now! Win now!

  • phil m

    @Vare-A-Jay, who wrote, “I’m taking it that you would prefer to start Lebron at the 1 and have Mo off the bench as a back up?” I would only say that that could be one additional configuration they might use against certain teams. I don’t think the recent success demands a total make-over, but it does raise the question I pointed to. Let’s see how the team responds to Mo’s return.

  • http://shakesthesnowglobe.blogspot.com EZ

    @phil m

    I’d really hesitate to extrapolate anything for our record during our single easiest stretch of season in years. We’re on a giant homestand against a whole lot of teams hovering around .500.