Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through it. Why watch the first 3 quarters of Cavs basketball when I need only watch the final 12 minutes to find oout what is going to happen. That can be said for most NBA games. I guess I enjoy self-mutilation too much.
For 36 minutes the Cavaliers seemed disinterested in their Super Bowl Sunday match-up with the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons, you see, keep forgetting that they traded the heart and sould of their team for a career, me-first, player that won nothing of consequence. They forget that they are a shell of the 'team' that has reached 5 straight Eastern Conference Finals. For 36 minutes they actually resembeld that team, the team that would flex its muscle in the 4th quarter of close games becuase they were simply better, on offense and defense, when the game mattered.
It's the Cavaliers that are now that team, in the Central Division at least.
In a game that the Cavaliers had chance after chance to take control of, a lack-luster effort to end the 3rd quarter saw Cleveland fall behind by 8 points heading into the final 12. It had the feel of the Cavaliers circa 2007 or earlier -- LeBron gets the ball 35 feet from the basket, dribbles around, fakes a drive into the basket where 5 defenders are waiting for him, then either passes to a teammate for a low-percentage perimter shot or he takes one himself. That gameplan is great when the shots are falling. When they aren't, the result is 58 points through 3 quarters.
The difference with the Cavs now, as opposed to then, is trust. Mike Brown sits LeBron to start every 4th quarter for 3-4 minutes. Despite the Cavaliers being down 8, on National TV, in a game that the Cavs needed to win, Brown didn't change. He trusted the 5 guys on the floor that have started most 4th quarters all season.
His consistentcy paid off -- the Cavs opened the 4th quarter on a 15-2 run, turning that 8 point deficit into a 5 point lead by the time LeBron came into the game. Now, fully rested, the greatest closer in the game - LeBron James - enters to finish the job.
This game was huge on so many levels. First, I was ready to write off Daniel Gibson. His level of play seemed to degrade every minute he was on the floor. I am still not convinced he will ever be anything more than a 20-25 minute per game, spark off the bench player, but yesterday he was huge when it mattered scoring the first 7 points for the Cavs in the 4th quarter.
Next, just beating Detroit, on their home floor, was nice to see with how the Cavaliers have played on the road, against playoff quality opponents. The Lakers, then Magic, were road games that the Cavs seemed to lose focus and come unglued in the 4th quarters. Yesterday had that same feel until the Cavs finally got going. With another 3 weeks or so until D-West returns, this was a huge confidence builder. The Cavaliers need to keep the Celtics in view, and wins like this are necessary.
Overall, a win is a win. On to the next one.