Feels good, doesn’t it? Can’t get much better than seeing the Cavs beat Boston the night after Boston handled LeBron and Heat. It wasn’t simply that the Cavs won, it’s that they won with six guys scoring in double figures and playing good defense down the stretch (they outscored the Celtics 27-14 in the fourth). I know this is already cliché, but the Cavs looked like a t-e-a-m; everyone who played, scored and everyone played a role. Cavs fans really couldn’t have asked to a better start the season. Thanks, basketball gods.
Something is different about the offense… Movement! Holy god, they’re moving! The Cavs moved the ball from side to side during half court sets and made a concentrated effort to push the ball on the break. This led to mismatches and easy baskets. Weird. The Cavs definitely had some moments where they pounded the ball (note: don’t give J.J. the ball 18 feet from the rim with less than 6 seconds on the shot clock) but the offense looked like… an offense. There was cutting and ball movement and all kinds of stuff (and when the ball did stop, Coach Scott got pissed and set ‘em straight).
Watching the game, I couldn’t help but think about last year’s playoffs. J.J. Hickson led everyone with 21 points (14 in the first half) and finished with 6 boards (I’d like to see him closer to double digits) in 30 minutes. It’s almost as if Hickson (and his quickness) is a bad matchup for Boston. Meanwhile, Antawn Jamison didn’t score a basket until the 8 minute mark in the fourth quarter. I know the Cavs were pumped up and I know Boston was coming off a back-to-back, but man, they won with Mo in street clothes and getting just 4 points from Jamison (and no LeBron, of course). This team isn’t terrible. Don’t be surprised that the Cavs didn’t fold in crunch time; a lot of these guys have played in big games over these last few years, they should be able to keep their nerves at the end of games.
Ramon Sessions is going to drive me nuts. He’s fast as hell and it seems like he can get into the paint whenever he feels like it. This is good. But often times, when he gets to the paint, he has no idea what he wants to do (a fade-away, turn-around jump hook? Really??). This is bad. I love his aggressiveness and I like the idea of him backing up Mo and running the second unit, but I also fear we’re gonna get at least one terrible pun from Fred McLeod per game (Class is in Sessions! Hey-o!).
The defense wasn’t great, but they made some big stops down the stretch. The Cavs gave up some easy buckets (especially in the first half) but they cooled down as the game went on (Boston shot roughly 112% in the first quarter, 53% for the half and ended up at 47% for the game). While Cleveland won’t be a lockdown defensive team, they’re scrappy and they made Boston uncomfortable late in the game. Anderson Varejao looked healthy and his defense and rebounding played a big role in the fourth (he got a steal and led a fastbreak which ended with a Hickson layup, putting Cleveland up for good). Varejao finished with 8 points, 10 boards, 4 assists, a steal and a block (don’t think about the playoffs don’t think about the playoffs).
Boobie didn’t shoot well, but he’s a big reason the Cavs won. Cleveland trailed by 66-55 with 4 minutes to go in the third and no one would’ve been surprised had the LeBron-less Cavs folded against the big, bad Celtics but Gibson kept ‘em in it. Boobie closed out the third period with 5 points and 3 assists to bring the Cavs within 73-68 at the end of three. Gibson proceeded to start the fourth with trey (which turned into a 4-point play thanks to Ryan Hollins free throw) and suddenly the Cavs were back in business. Gibson finished with 16 points (4-14 FG, 2-8 3pt, 6-6 FT), 8 assists and 4 boards.
Things I didn’t like: Anthony Parker. I don’t want to harp on AP too much, because he had some nice moments (especially his trey with 2:30 to go that pushed the Cavs lead to 89-84). But man, if I have to have to spend the whole year watching him shoot off the dribble, I’m gonna lose my mind. If he’s spotting up or moving without the ball, great. Totally acceptable. But I cannot stand watching him try to break his guy down and hoisting running bank shots. Please, no more.
So the Celtics beat the Heat and the Cavs beat the Celtics, meaning, by the transitive property of basketball, the Cavs are better than the Heat, no? I sincerely hope you or anyone you know isn’t seriously making that argument. Don’t get me wrong, this was a great win for these players, the franchise and the entire city of Cleveland. There’s really not a better way to start the year; you want the players buying into Coach Scott early wins against title contenders is a great way to do it. They’ll be better than the pundits think (note: if you want live a happier life, ignore literally everything ESPN says about the Cavs) but I don’t think they’ll be fighting for home court in the playoffs.