No matter who came out on top in this one, the difference was going to be from the free throw line. The Cavaliers ended up winning because Mo Williams was able to knock down four crucial freebies to seal the game. (LeBron’s steal didn’t hurt either.) Had the Cavs lost, free throws would have been the reason also because of another dismal performance from the stripe. The Cavs made only 29 of the 45 foul shots they attempted. I emphasize here that they shot 64% without Shaq in uniform.
There was a comment left after the game in the preview about whether the officiating was fair as the Bucks only attempted nine free throws. Truth be told, Milwaukee probably intentionally fouled Cleveland 10 times for 20 of those shots. The Cavs also played a more aggressive attacking game, where as the Bucks took and made a good amount of jump shots. When they did get to the rim it usually wasn’t contested well because of defensive lapses.
The Cavs looked like they were in control towards the end of the third quarter, pushing the lead out to 10 with under a minute left. Two poor defensive plays later the lead was cut to six. The Cavs would then have a monumental scoring drought for them going five minutes in the 4th quarter without a single point. Fortunately the defense kept them in the game
LeBron didn’t have a great shooting night, hitting on 7 of 17 but only 1 of 7 outside the paint. He finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Ho-hum numbers for LeBron but a career night for many.
Despite rumblings from the booth and on twitter that the Cavs weren’t moving the ball enough, I thought the offense was very balanced and attacked the defense hard for the majority of the game. Delonte, Mo and even Parker were pointing the ball on the floor and driving the lane before kicking to open shooters. LeBron attacked the rim (and was mugged when he did) Hickson attacked the rim (when he could catch the ball) and Jamison did a nice job of cleaning the glass and adding put-backs.
Here’s your scoring balance- James 23, Williams 21, Jamison 12, Hickson 14, West 12. Nothing wrong with that. Had the Cavs made a few more free throws nobody would even be upset about this one. Even Mo Williams played decent defense against Jennings, forcing the rookie to the bench for the majority of the game. Jennings played only 19 minutes and scored 5 points. He also had 2 turnovers.
Stackhouse and Salmons found themselves wide open way too often as the Cavs were forced to double Bogut when Hickson was guarding him. Zydrunas held his own against him, which we expected. Give the Cavaliers Varejao and Shaq and this game is completely different. I’d much rather face this Bucks team in the second round than the Hawks. Atlanta may not have much confidence against us, but they have the better players. And I’ll take the weaker team thank you.
The Cavs reduced the magic number over Orlando to two games, and with a loss the Lakers are also just two games away from being in Cleveland’s rear view mirror. Those two are not gimmes however. The schedule the rest of the way isn’t light. We are at home for four of the seven, but only one game is against a team without playoff chances (Indiana). There are two against the Hawks, one against Boston, Orlando, Toronto and Chicago. Orlando has four games out of against teams with eight winning records. The Lakers have quite a difficult schedule.
(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)