That was quite a show LeBron James put on in the first half. He had 18 points and 10 assists, but the numbers themselves don’t really do it justice. James was dominant in all phases. He commanded New Jersey’s defense to collapse on him with drives to the rack, and then found open teammates with amazing passes. His bounce pass to Andy Varejao in the lane was beautiful.
This one one of those games that Craig talked about a while back. It was one of those games to sit back and enjoy the fact that the greatest basketball player on the planet is wearing Cleveland across his chest.
So you forgive the slight dip in focus in the second half. It’s a long season. Yeah, they let the lead slip from 20 to 9 in the fourth, forcing LeBron to play 40 minutes in a game that he should have played 33.
We were all interested to see how well J.J. Hickson would do against Brook Lopez, who is one of the better centers in the East. If you look at the numbers, it would appear that Hickson held his own with Lopez. JJ finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Lopez ended with 21 and 14, but certainly that production didn’t come solely against Hickson. Lopez played a full 10 minutes more than JJ.
Hickson actually knocked Brook off his game early on. Lopez wasn’t sure what to do with JJ’s activity. It caused him to rush shots and take funny shooting angles that he really didn’t have to take. He figured that out by the end of the game and became much more effective in the second half. Now, it didn’t help the Cavs shorter front court that the refs were letting the guys play a physical game. I kept waiting for an over the back call on either Yi or Lopez, because several times Hickson, Varejao and Jamison had the proper position but found themselves bent over and unable to get the rebound. There were only 33 fouls called between the two teams all game. Many nights Cleveland’s opponent alone has that many, especially when the Cavs were attacking the basket.
One other thing about this game- the Cavs really pushed the tempo again, and it paid off big time. I like that they are making an effort to get early offense. It will pay off in the playoffs when you have to score anyway possible. I have felt like the Cavs pass up too many opportunities to get good shots off early in the clock, and they seem to be correcting that. Even when LeBron was running the offense with Mo on the bench, the team didn’t stop moving and LeBron didn’t settle for the pull up jumper. He found the right man with a pass. Good signs.
The bottom line is a very workman like win for the Cavs. Another night of getting used to playing with Jamison and trying some early offense. The plan was executed well. Next up- Detroit on Friday night.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)