Miami Heat (11-8) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (7-10)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Thursday, December 2, 2010
8:00 PM EST
Tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers welcome the Miami Heat into the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena for what should be yet another memorable matchup among many between these two franchises. After signing his extension with the Cavaliers this summer, LeBron James has led the Cavaliers to yet another blazing hot start to the season, and now we get to live out another epic duel between LeBron and Dwyane Wade as these two great players square off head to head. Time and time again these two players have staged true ‘can’t miss’ games with each player trading highlight plays back and forth in an attempt to will their teams to victory. Tonight should be no exception.
Well, when I close my eyes at night and dream, this is the way this game plays out, anyway. The real nightmare plays out when I’m awake and staring at reality. Alas, the Cavaliers are not exactly going to be “welcoming” the Miami Heat anywhere tonight and the confines of The Q are going to be anything but friendly. The NBA was robbed of this premiere head to head battle when LeBron and Wade decided it would be easier to team up than try to beat each other. Fans in Cleveland, the very same fans who have made The Q one of the greatest sporting environments in the world over the last 7 years, were robbed of watching elite basketball night in and night out and that honor was passed on instead to fans in Miami who, quite frankly, don’t give a crap about basketball, the Miami Heat, or LeBron James.
Someone once told me they were glad LeBron went to Miami instead of New York…that if he wasn’t going to stay in Cleveland, they wanted him to be “anywhere but New York”. I remember at the time kind of agreeing with that sentiment, but really, at least in New York he would be playing in front of a packed house every night with fans who would actually appreciate watching the greatest basketball player of this generation. Instead, it’s not just Cleveland fans who were robbed by this unholy arranged marriage in Miami, but NBA fans across the country should feel robbed by this sterile, joyless, circus freak show that is playing out in Miami in front of mostly apathetic fans who view the ability to watch LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as more of a right of status than as the privilege that it truly is.
Shame on LeBron. Was it really so awful in Cleveland? Is it really so much better in Miami? Is it really fun trying to push out a coach just one month into the season? Is this really what you wanted, to struggle after 19 games to find a way for you and Wade to work together on the court? Was any of this necessary, and is any of this worth it? There’s still some raw anger inside me somewhere, but as the hour comes ever closer I find myself filled more with abject sadness at the senselessness of it all. This isn’t how this story was supposed to play out when I rejoiced with the most euphoric feelings of ecstasy as the Cavaliers won the Draft Lottery. If only someone could have told me then the only lottery the Cavs won that night was misery, disappointment, failure, and ultimately, betrayal. Welcome back, LeBron. Welcome “home”.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Carlos Arroyo (6.9 ppg, 2.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 11.65 PER)
-G Dwyane Wade (21.3 ppg, 4.0 apg, .250 3P%, 20.82 PER)
-F LeBron James (23.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 7.5 apg, 23.14 PER)
-F Chris Bosh (17.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 20.66 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (6.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 15.92 PER)
Key Reserves: James Jones, Eddie House, Joel Anthony, Juwan Howard, Mario Chalmers, Erick Dampier
Injuries: Fam Udonis Haslem (out), Mike Miller (out)
-G Mo Williams (15.9 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 18.48 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (8.1 ppg, 2.6 apg, .488 3P%, 10.01 PER)
-F Joey Graham (7.5 ppg, 0.5 apg, .333 3P%, 8.44 PER)
-F JJ Hickson (11.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.4 bpg, 12.86 PER)
-C Anderson Varejao (8.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 14.52 PER)
Key Reserves: Daniel Gibson, Antawn Jamison, Ramon Sessions, Jamario Moon, Ryan Hollins, Jawad Williams
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (100.4 ppg, .464 FG%, 41.2 rpg, 19.7 apg, 12.9 TOpg, Eff-107.5, Rank-6)
-Def (93.3 ppg, .438 FG%, 41.1 rpg, Eff-98.8, Rank-4)
-Off (94.6 ppg, .437 FG%, 41.1 rpg, 20.3 apg, 13.4 TOpg, Eff-99.0, Rank-28)
-Def (99.9 ppg, .464 FG%, 42.2 rpg, Eff-105.1, Rank-18)
- Wed, Dec 15 at Miami
- Mon, Jan 31 at Miami
- Tue, Mar 29 at Cleveland
Ok, lets take a brief moment to escape all the talk about fans and what will or will not happen tonight. Lets focus on the game itself for just a minute. For all the talk about how emotional this game will be for the Cavaliers and how this will be the ultimate rallying point for the team, the same could be said for the Miami Heat and I feel that is an overlooked aspect of this game.
If ever the Heat are going to become galvanized into a unified team that embraces the Us vs World mentality, this is the game for that to happen. The entire world is against them tonight, and they know it. So don’t be surprised if this team tries to use the anger to come together and really take it to an inferior team in the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As for the Xs and Os, well, we know this team and we know this offense. We watched it for the last 4 years, only with Dwyane Wade occasionally playing the part of LeBron James. LeBron still doesn’t know how to play off the ball and whenever someone else is initiating the offense, LeBron just stands on the wing until the shot clock gets down to about 5 and then he tries to get involved. Otherwise, when the ball is in his or Wade’s hands, the offense is a straight forward drive and kick offense with some high pick and roll principles with Ilgauskas that, again, look awfully familiar to Cavs fans.
Much like the Cavaliers prior to last year, this year’s Miami team is a team that beats the bad teams they’re supposed to beat but struggles mightily against the good teams. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers are not a good team. I’ve heard some suggest the Cavs have been better than expected, but I actually think they’ve been worse than expected. I knew the defense was going to be bad, but the offense has been a million times worse than I ever imagined. Outside of Mo, Boobie, and Jamison, there’s not a true consistent offensive threat and with JJ Hickson’s continued offensive regression, the team’s offensive efficiency continues to slide deeper and deeper into a hole.
The Heat’s weaknesses are the strengths of the Cavaliers. The Heat have precious little bench production beyond just standing around and shooting 3s, while the Cavaliers have arguably the best bench in the NBA. The Heat are dead last in scoring in the paint, while the Cavs, prior to the Boston game, have excelled at defending the paint. The problem with this is that it means the Cavs strengths are playing to something the Heat struggle with anyway. The Cavs weaknesses, on the other hand, primarily generating points and easy baskets along with defending quick, athletic wing players, plays right into the strengths of the Heat. I feel it’s generally easier for the Heat to mask their weaknesses with strengths than it is for the Cavaliers.
So yeah, on paper and in the darkest parts of my soul I believe the Cavaliers are in for a rough night. But there’s simply no way to measure emotion and heart, and if this world is a just place, and if the Cavaliers fans represent themselves with pride and make The Q louder and more intense than its ever been, then maybe, just maybe, the Cavaliers can deliver us all with a victory that is deserved by players, ownership, fans, and citizens across Ohio alike.
From The Outside Looking In
Birds Of A Feather
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Saturday, December 4, 2010
8:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves