Jawad Williams, LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, J.J. Hickson and Anthony Parker. That was the starting lineup for the Cavaliers tonight. Sure, LeBron James is the best player on the planet, but still, as the starting PG it takes a bit from his game. Backing up Williams and LeBron in the backcourt was rookie Danny Green. Not a lineup you would expect from a team that is 40-11, winners of 10 in a row.
That was the reality tonight, however, when Daniel Gibson was a late scratch to be with his pregnant fiance. The Cavaliers were down to their 4th string PG, LeBron James, and a backcourt of guys that were out of the rotation 3 weeks ago. Nothing seems to slow the Cavaliers down, however. With LeBron leading the way, the Cavaliers held the Miami heat at bay, winning all 4 quarters in a workman like victory.
For LeBron, just named the player of the month for the 5th straight time, the game must be getting dull. His 36 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists is becoming the norm. He is also becoming a threat from the free throw line. Knowing his team was shorthanded to start, LeBron attacked early and often. He got to the free throw line 11 times in the first quarter, hitting 9 of them. He finished 17/21 for the game. That's LeBron, whatever the team needs, he provides. Against Memphis, it was 15 assists. Tonight, 21 free throws. The best in the business.
Daniel Gibson, who arrived in the 2nd Quarter and entered the game in the 2nd half, once again scored in double-digits(12 points) and settled down a sloppy, unsettled offense. I continue to be impressed with Gibson's game, and how he kept himself prepared when he fell out of the rotation.
How about Pepto-Man? J.J. Hickson was, well, how he usually is. Fantastic one moment, a knucklehead the next. He posterized Dwyane Wade...twice, once with a dunk, and once with a block. He also threw a pass into the stands and had his obligatory 360-airball layup. I love J.J., but like I said in the comments, you better have the antacid of your choice handy. 12 points and 5 rebounds was a solid night for J.J.
Shaquille O'Neal showed once again where the value of having the big guy will lie come playoff time. There were the numbers - 13 and 8 - but the intangibles as well. Dwyane Wade found out, twice what it feels like to run into a brick wall. Both Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao are not the type of players to send a message on the defensive.end. Last year, the Cavs tried to use and undersized Ben Wallace to be that enforcer. It didn't work. Teams still beat up LeBron, while their superstars attacked the basket at will.
Not any more. Shaq will provide the enforcer the Cavaliers have been looking for. April, May and June are going to be fun!
For Miami, you have to wonder just how much more Dwyane Wade can take. Wade scored 24 points, but like the last time the Cavaliers beat the Heat, Wade was a non-factor in the 2nd half, shut down by the length of the Cavaliers defense. You can see the frustration on his face. The Heat have been open about the fact they are not going to get help without a commitment form Wade. It was a gamble that Pat Riley might lose.
Up next for the Cavaliers, a closeup of the team that many people, in New York at least, hope LeBron is playing for next year - the NewYork Knicks. Let's rock the Q and remind LeBron why Cleveland is where he belongs!