Let's pretend you were able to watch the 1st Quarter of tonight's Cavaliers - Hornets game. If that was the case, you watched the Cavaliers play inspired on both ends of the court and look to be on their way to a dominating win. Up 28-16, the Cavaliers shot 56% while holding the Hornets to 37%.
Let's say you got home after the game ended and wanted to check out the final score. 105-95? Cavaliers must have coasted to the win, right? Wrong. Very wrong.
The Cavaliers did end up winning by 10, but the path from a 12-point lead after 12 minutes and a 10 point lead after 4 minutes was a long, winding roller coaster. The Coaster, driven by a pair of Hornets rookies saw the Cavs fall behind by as many as 6 points, regain a 6 point advantage heading into the 4th quarter and find themselves tied at 89 with 5 minutes to go. Only then - behind back-to-back 3s from Mo Williams and Delonte West gave the Cavaliers a 6-point advantage - did the Cavaliers lead feel safe.
Yes it was a win - the 44th of the season for the Cavaliers. Yes, the Cavs still have the best record in the NBA - 44-14. The Cavaliers are still struggling, especially on defense, and allowing teams to score to easily. Need proof? How about the rookie backcourt of the Hornets - Darren Collison(22 points, 10 assists) and Marcus Thornton(37 points on 15-22 shooting). Yea, I said it, Marcus Thornton.
Thornton exploded in the 2nd Quarter for the Hornets - dared by the Cavaliers to hit open jumpers(he did). The Hornets scored 40 points in the 2nd quarter with Thornton scoring 23. Lofty numbers usually reserved for a Cavalier at The Q. For some reason, the Cavaliers guards did not feel like defending Thornton, and Collison was able to penetrate on Mo Williams at will.
There will be time to talk about the Cavaliers deficiencies later, but let's just start with another game in which the Cavaliers allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50%. Remember, the Hornets are without Chris Paul.
Daniel Gibson - while not being a lock-down defender - played admirably for Mo Williams while he was injured. His reward? Zero minutes. Gibson's play has earned, and he deserves more minutes. As it was, the Cavaliers were forced to play LeBron James over 44 minutes to get the win.
The Cavs did have 6 players in double figures - lead by LeBron and Shaq with 20 points each. James, who scored 6 points in the final couple of minutes, dished out 13 assists as well. At times it appeared LeBron was going to force his team to shoot out of the slump they were in. Tough love, in a way. Until the end, when the final nail was needed, LeBron was set on dishing and distributing.
Antawn Jamison, in his first game at The Q, was in the starting lineup and scored 18 points. Pencil in Jamison for 18-20 points, 6-8 rebounds a night.
It was a lethargic effort for the Cavaliers, but one that ended in a W. That's all that matters. The Cavs will, of course, need a better effort when they travel to Boston Thursday night for yet another National TV game on TNT.