Cavs 97, Spurs 102 – LeBron Uncharacteristically Outplayed in Fourth

The Cavs played the second game of their short road trip last night in San Antonio against a Spurs team coming off a loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night. After a convincing win in New Orleans on Wednesday, the Cavs visited the Spurs before returning home.

The Spurs, still without point guard Tony Parker, brought an aggressive defensive game plan against LeBron James. The Spurs trapped James in isolation sets, forcing him to give up the ball. Early in the game this strategy seemingly was not working for the Spurs, as James found open teammates (most notably Antawn Jamison) for points.

The Cavs were simply outplayed down the stretch, with Manu Ginobili playing the role of game-clincher. While LeBron ended the game with 27 points, Ginobili had 30 points (shooting 4-of-7 in the fourth).

The Cavs were without forward/center Anderson Varejao in the second half, who sat out with a hamstring injury. One would think, then, that reserve PF/C Leon Powe would get minutes – but Powe finished the game with 4 minutes logged.

With Varejao out in the second half, the Cavs’ big man minutes were logged by Antawn Jamison (who finished the game with 24 points, 9 boards in 37 minutes played), JJ Hickson (20 points and 8 rebs in 30 minutes), and Z, who played nearly 20 minutes.

However, down the stretch the Cavs saw no real minutes from Daniel Gibson or Jamario Moon (Moon was a DNP-CD; Gibson finished the game with a trillion). Jawad Williams played 4 minutes total.

The Cavs also got little offensive production from their guards, with Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, and Delonte West scoring 6, 5, and 7 points, respectively. Each of the players had 4 or 5 assists, but did not contribute much to the game.

The Basketball Cavaliers also shot 15-23 from the free throw line, continuing their poor shooting from the charity stripe.

I know these are a lot of negative-sounding talking points, and all the while the Cavs lost just their 15th 16th game of the season. However, it’s easy to focus on the negatives, and this game had plenty of those. It’s good to see that Antawn Jamison is clicking with the offense, and that Z is contributing to the team.

The truth of the matter, however, is that the team has yet to hammer out its rotation issues, and there isn’t a lot of time left before the playoffs. Shaq will be returning at some point in the playoffs, meaning that the Cavs will have even more of a traffic jam in the front court, and all the while JJ Hickson is producing more and more consistently on the offensive end. Maybe we’ll get to see more of the ‘big’ lineup going forward, with Hickson, Andy, Jamison, Lebron, and [guard].

A tough loss, yes – but a loss that occurred on the road to a playoff opponent that knows how to change up defensive looks.

(Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Jack

    I’m worried here. Not because of the loss, but because Mike Brown’s shortened playoff rotation seems to be excluding altogether the Jamario/Jawad tandem.

    I guess this was to be expected. But one of them is going to have to play, or Anthony Parker, down the stretch against these bigger teams. Mo Williams was again a complete liability.

    I also hate Mike Brown’s help schemes. They kill us against Orlando. Let guys drive baseline. NO one on that team can finish around the rim with any degree of consistency (perimeter people). Same sort of thing happened last night. Bunch of help and slides and 3 pointers.

  • Charlie

    In Windhorst’s final blog entry for the game last night he brought up the fact that Mike Brown isn’t too good at in-game adjustments. This has been a knock on Brown for a while and – you could argue – rightfully so. Windhorst brings up the fact that the Spurs sending multiple guys at LeBron and trapping him on the perimeter threw the offensive scheme off and Brown had a hard time adjusting to it. I find it odd/scary/”what the!” that this scenario caused us such fits. A team chose to aggressively defend the best player in the NBA by trapping him on the perimeter and we’re not prepared for that? It’s not like they were playing some weird zone Popovich made up yesterday, they simply did the logical thing. How do we not have a contingency plan for such an obvious situation?

  • Denny

    Charlie – Windhorst also said that it’s a scheme that the Cavs have seen before and dealt with, but not at all recently – so it should be something that can be adjusted to.

  • Scott

    Its guys like Gregg P, George Karl, Jerry Sloan… that seem to always get the better of Brown. He has a lot to do with the Cavs wins over the last two seasons, but there are games like this when you feel that the team should have still won despite some shortcomings.

    The big question will now be how he addresses Andy’s injury – questionable tomorrow – with the rotations. The Kings are dreadful on the road, and The Q will be jumping with Z’s return, so I hope that this isn’t an issue.

  • MattC

    Brown will undo this team if anything does, short of a catastrophic injury to LeBron.

    I’m not worried about last night at all in general, as Manu went nuts at home and we just had a little lapse. It’s mainly Brown and Mo that are headscratchers. Brown is due to the obvious rotation issues (I’d normally cut him some slack, but given his past history of not getting over this hump, the slack isn’t as forthcoming). And as for Mo:

    Mo is just horrendous. Until he shows up in a big playoff game, he’s useless to me. Sorry, dropping 22 on a sub-.500 team when the team’s already in the lead does not a great guard make. Unfortunately, the guy’s just a total fraud. Oh well, hopefully he’s not a huge liability come playoff time.

  • Charlie

    @ Denny: “should be”

  • Jack

    Delonte, Parker, James, Tawn, Shaq

    Delonte, Bron, Tawn, Andy, Shaq

    These need to be the crunch time lineups. Without a doubt.

  • JNeids

    16th loss of the season, but who’s counting?

  • Denny

    Bron/Tawn is the new wonton.

    @ Neids – clearly, I’m not :/

  • phil m

    It was the 16th loss of the season, not the 15th.

    I’m not sure why all those guys sat for almost the entire game, especially Powe. Not having Andy was devastating, and we see again how important he is to the team. It was also confounding to think that Gibson was sitting when we sorely needed him to hit a three in the closing minutes.

    The good news? The Lakers’ whooping at the hands of the Thunder put the Cavs’ magic number for overall home court advantage at 6. At least the Cavs don’t lose games that badly.

  • Jack

    They might fry the opposition like one…


  • Cavsanity

    I’ve tried to temper my hopes for a Cavs’ title this year with the reality that Mike Brown is still the head coach, & losses like last night where his lineups just look lost out there serve as a reminder to, what I feel, is their biggest hurdle to winning it all.

    I do think Brown’s shown growth this season as far as experimenting w/lineups & working with a roster suffering numerous injuries & trades BUT his inability to deal in realtime with what the opponent is doing is still very troubling. I was glad Windhorst pointed this out in his blog last night.

    Does anyone really think that Brown’s up to the challenge of matching rotational wits w/Phil Jackson in the finals or even Van Gundy again to get there?

  • Kensha

    Is it the playoffs yet? Let’s just call it a season and move on to the fun part.

  • tsm

    If Mo is not sharp, Gibson should be in his place. He is a better pure shooter. Can’t understand why Moon isn’t on the floor more. With his length, I think he could have given Manu more problems than Parker. Also, with the double team coming in the playoffs, we need to work LeBron off the ball more. Barkley is correct when he constantly points this out. All in all, a good wake up call for the coaching staff. Let’s hope they are prepared fro this the next time.

  • boogeyman

    Been saying Mike Brown can’t in-game coach for awhile I know he certainly isn’t the coach of the year when he faces teams with their own good coaches. That being said the Cavaliers were still there which is more then I can say for another MIA performance by Mo Williams. 6 points on 2-8 and 0-4 from the field? Parker was just as bad with just 5 points and even Delonte had only 7 points. Once again Ginobli by himself outplayed the Cavaliers backcourt. Come playoffs the Cavaliers guards better figure it out.

  • Pingback: Heels in the League (NBA) 03/26/10 | The 5th Corner()

  • JNeids

    Taking a look at the current standings in the East, I would love it if this is the order of the teams at the end of the regular season. Toronto in round 1, and the winner or Atlanta/Milwaukee in rd 2. Orlando would probably get by Charlotte, but Charlotte would definitely make a series of it. Boston and Miami would also be a nice matchup. Then Orlando and Boston can scrap it out in the second round and hopefully the winner will be a little banged up when they come to Cleveland for the ECF. I realize this would be similar to what happened last season, but obviously we matchup better this year.

  • dr. cleveland


  • dr. cleveland

    Btw, was anyone stuck watching the Spurs broadcast and hearing their announcer dumbfounded by the fact that LBJ wasn’t guarding Manu last night?

    I thought the guy was going to have a heart ache. Just kept saying it over and over, can’t believe MB hasn’t put LBJ on Manu… :/

  • dr. cleveland

    er I meant heart attack.