Maybe this is the new motivation for the Cavaliers this season. Last year, the Cavaliers seemed to be on a mission the entire regular season to get the 1 seed in the East, to win every game they played. The result was 66 wins, 39 of those at The Q. It also ended in a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals.
No need to worry about that this season - at least through 6 games.
In a game that the Cavaliers seemed disinterested in playing for large parts of the final 3 quarters, a late LeBron James energy boost was not enough to beat a young Chicago Bulls team. First of, credit the Bulls. There were several times a young team could have folded - they didn't. Instead it was the Cavs that played poor perimeter defense. It was the Cavs that turned the ball over at key times and it was the Cavs that couldn't hit the big shot when needed.
Even the final play was flawed - especially in design. With 4.3 seconds remaining and the Cavaliers trailing by one, Mo Williams inbounded the ball to LeBron, with Shaq setting the pick to clear him. Nothing wrong there - except for the one guy I would imaging Shaq was supposed to get to - Joakim Noah - was the weakside help that caused LeBron to lose the ball out of bounds, ending any hopes the Cavs had of winning.
Many will say there should have been a foul called - and in truth we have seen less get called at times. Fairly speaking, however, the officials did a good job of swallowing their whistles for both sides late in the game and there was very little contact - just a lot of long arms.
Even if you think there was a foul, the Cavaliers played poorly enough - for long stretches - to hardly deserve the win. The Wine and Gold had plenty of opportunities to take the game over in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters but failed to pt the Bulls away. It was a team effort for Chicago, with 5 players in double figures lead by Luol Deng's 15. Derrick Rose added 14 points and 11 assists.
For the Cavaliers, it was LeBron leading the way with 25-7-6. His play, at times, seemed uninspired, perhaps because of two nasty falls - one when he rolled his ankle running off the court after a foul - the second when he landed hard on a seat diving for a ball out of bounds. Both shots seemed to take LeBron's energy away, at least until the final seconds when LeBron single-handedly nearly pulled it out for the Cavs.
There was more trouble for an offense that looks more and more like it misses John Kuester. Kuester, now the Head Coach in Detroit, ran the Cavaliers offense last season. The offense lacks creativity and movement, either focusing on giving the ball to Shaq, or LeBron.
The Cavaliers shot just 40.7% from the field, and just 12-20 from the FT line. The Cavs committed 12 turnovers as well. Chicago turned the abll over just 7 times, leading to ZERO points for the Cavs. The Bulls were the faster team right from the start.
The struggles for the bench continued as well - Daniel Gibson scored 8 points on 3-4 shooting. Everyone else? A combined 1-18 for Z, Delonte and J.J. Hickson. Z was 0-9 from the field and once again appeared to have no clue on either end of the floor when paired with Shaq.
Meanwhiles, Jamario Moon was a DNP. Wasn't Moon brought to Cleveland to match up with teams like Chicago that are long and athletic? Something has Moon firmly planted on Mike Brown's bench while Ilgauskas and Anthony Parker(4-9, 11 points) waste their minutes on the floor(Z played 21 minutes, Parker played 35).
One bright spot for the Cavaliers was Anderson Varejao. Andy seems to have found his groove playing next to Shaq, putting together back-to-back double-doubles. Tonight's 12 points, 13 rebounds was a solid effort. Varejao also lead the team with a +11. Shaq added 14 points and 10 boards, along with 5 blocks.
All in all it was an ugly loss. Perhaps it was the way the Cavaliers lost the game - sleepwalking - that bothers me the most. we have heard many times this summer that the Cavaliers can't do anything during the season to make up for their playoff loss. I agree, to a point, but Champions play championship basketball all the time - not just in April, May and June.
Up next is my favorite time of year - LeBron's yearly flirtation with the New York media as the Cavs get right back on the florr tomorrow night against the Knicks.