Friday, February 5

Six Points: Cavs 102, Heat 86

The Cavs took care of business on Thursday night, beating the Miami Heat 102-86 and pushing their winning streak to a league-best 10 games. Once again, they won in spite of serious attrition at guard, except this time there was a new wrinkle.

Daniel Gibson, who has been filling in for injured guards Mo Williams and Delonte West, was scratched from the starting lineup so he could tend to his fiancee, who was having some minor complications with her pregnancy. Jawad Williams started in Boobie's stead, and LeBron served as the de facto point guard as per usual.

Things didn't go swimmingly in Jawad's first NBA start, as he didn't make a single shot, allowed some careless turnovers, and at one point was unable to catch a fairly rudimentary LeBron James pass. (Well, rudimentary for LeBron, anyway.) Apparently Mike Brown noticed, because Williams only played 15 minutes.

LeBron and Dwyane Wade dueled blow for blow during the first half, and the Cavs led by just four at the half. It looked like we might be in for another dogfight like we saw less than two weeks ago in South Beach. Fortunately for the Clevelanders, the third quarter saw the team defense tighten up and Dwyane Wade's aim suffered. Wade scored 18 points in the first half, and only 6 in the second. The Cavs extended their lead to 8 by the end of the third quarter, and pulled away in the final stanza.

1. Trading places.
Is it just me, or wasn't it just a few years ago when Dwyane Wade had Shaq and a talented supporting cast, and ultimately won the Finals. Except for that last part, I think it's safe to say that the shoe is on the other foot.

After fighting an uphill battle to correct the mistakes of his first free agent class - a battle which lasted years - Danny Ferry has managed to augment his superstar with considerable talent, including the Big Diesel, who appears to have a little more petrol left in the tank than we were led to believe. The Cavs are also deep enough that they can absorb injuries like the those of Mo Williams and Delonte West for a few weeks and still keep their collective heads above water.

2. This Dwyane Wade fellow is pretty good.
Dwyane Wade definitely gets helped out by the officials. It's not as bad as it was during the '05-'06 Finals, but let's just say that younger guys like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose aren't getting the same calls when they drive hard to the rack. By contrast, you can barely sneeze on Wade without getting a foul called. When JJ Hickson posterized Wade with a rim-rocking dunk, 99.9% of the league gets whistled and Hickson has a chance for a 3-point play. The zebras pocket their whistles for Flash when it's convenient.

But grumblings about officiating aside, the guy can flat out play. Consider this: Wade is the only legitimate scoring threat on the Heat. If you hold Dwyane Wade to 20 points or fewer, then basically, you win. Beasley averages 15 a night, but he's not polished enough to beat you on his own. Jermaine O'Neal is starting to look like a horse headed for the glue factory. Rafer Alston can't average 10 PPG as a starter. In spite of all that, Wade averages 27 points a night and shoots nearly 47% from the field. Wow.

It would make perfect sense to clog the lane and dare Wade to either shoot jumpers or trust his teammates to beat you, and I'm sure plenty of teams have tried. D-Wade just keeps pouring in the points. Wade isn't as good as LeBron because right now, well, nobody is. But along with Kobe, 'Melo, and Durant, Wade is definitely in the mix for the title of second best NBA player.

3. JJ came to play.
Last night's game was pretty reflective of JJ Hickson's development up to this point. Hickson looked a little aimless at times, he struggled to play consistent defense, and he committed a couple of boneheaded turnovers. But those problems were contrasted against not one, not two, but three huge dunks, all of which helped the Cavs gain momentum. One of those dunks was right in D-Wade's mug, and Hickson also shockingly de-posterized Wade with a terrific block.

The point is this - JJ Hickson is not a surefire NBA power forward, and he probably won't be a perennial All-Star. Even so, Hickson is the most athletic player on the team aside from LeBron (arguments could also be made for Jamario Moon), and his potential is undeniable. If he can play more consistent defense and develop an average to above average 15-footer, then he's a keeper. There are worse things that could happen to the Cavs than seeing the trade deadline come and go with JJ Hickson still on the roster.

4. Danny boy.
It was nice to see Danny Green log a few solid minutes. Green aired a three-pointer early on, but bounced back and lobbed a perfect alley-oop to LeBron on a fast break. If you can fill out your bench with depth/role players by hitting on second round picks every year or two like the Cavs did with Daniel Gibson (and hopefully with Danny Green), then it makes a general manager's job a whole lot easier.

5. Stick a fork in Reggie, he's done.
Reggie Miller has not improved as a commentator over the last few years, and if anything, he's gotten worse. Reggie comes off as a little condescending and he takes air time away from Mike Fratello, the former Cavs coach who actually contributes something worthwhile to the broadcast from time to time.

It might just be my crazy ears, but when I hear Miller talking about basketball, it sounds like it's coming from a pimpled 15-year old who's really jacked up to talk about Magic: the Gathering. It doesn't help that the guy looks like a Ferengi.

Can the Suns please part ways with Steve Kerr so he can get back into the booth and displace Reggie? I know that Bill Walton has had some serious back problems, but c'mon Bill, America needs you! I'm willing to risk Bill taking a few extra trips to the chiropractor if it gets us some better color analysis. You need to have your priorities.

6. Where's Waldo?
If you watched closely, you might have noticed TCF patriarch Rich Swerbinsky sitting about three rows behind the scorer's table, and clearly visible for a few seconds during the fourth quarter while the officials were fixing a problem with the clock. Looking good, Rich, although next time I'd go with a sandwich board a la Bruce Willis in Die Hard 3 with a big, bold, THECLEVELANDFAN.COM on the front. That's a chance for some free advertising if I ever saw it.

Up next: 2/6, New York Knicks, The Q, 7:30
Our heroes try to make it 11 straight against a Knicks team that they beat back in early November. As I write this the Knicks are 19-29, and it seems like buzz for LeBron heading to NYC or NJ has really died down. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a little worried about King James departing, but I don't think that the Big Apple is a logical destination. At least we won't have to listen to the ESPN broadcast crew break down King James expiring deal for 48 minutes.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)


Andy said...

Wade is an excellent player, but I'm not buying him as a LeBron/Peyton type TV personality.

I don't agree with the J O'Neal comment. He's at 12.7/7.0 for the year in 28 minutes a game on 53.4% shooting. Not too bad. Three years ago he was 13.6/6.7 on 44% shooting - not declining, and hasn't missed game this year. He's only 31 - he'll be around a while longer.

Excellent Star Trek reference! I think Reggie spent more time last night talking about next year's Heat than this game.

What, no h/t on the Swerb spotting?

Nick said...

What, no h/t on the Swerb spotting?

I didn't because I was publishing it on TCF, and meant to make an alteration on FCF, but just forgot because it was very late when I published it.