I got a lot of heat from some New Jersey Nets fans for my prediction prior to Sunday's game. I probably put about 45 seconds into my prediction and called that the Cavaliers would win by 11 points. Apparently that was an unacceptable insult to the prestigious Nets organization. I guess I was wrong to disrespect great players such as Mehmet Okur and Damion James. In the end, I will admit that I was indeed wrong. The Cavaliers did not win by 11 points, they won by 16 points. So, I apologize, Nets fans. I was wrong.
Cavs Leaders: Points: Jamison, 23; Rebounds: Varejao, 11; Assists: Sessions, 8
This was a really close game for the first three quarters. It played out much like I thought it would for the majority of the game. The two teams were pretty bad and neither team showed me anything that was really impressive. And then the fourth quarter happened. Pretty much every single player wearing wine and gold caught on fire from downtown and rained down threes until the final buzzer. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 16 of 26 from behind the arc, which is relatively ridiculous. Cleveland's True Shooting % was a similarly absurd 59.2%. I don't care about the other four factors, when a team shoots like that, it's pretty much a done deal.
It was not only the three point shooting that put away the Nets. The Cavaliers played suffocating defense in the second half, allowing only 33 points. When you hold a team to 82 points, more often than not, you're going to win the game. The defense was quite impressive throughout the evening. Much of the credit for that goes to Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Unlike the game against the Pacers, the Cavs were able to keep the Nets off of the offensive glass. NJ managed only 8 offensive boards to the 17 that the Pacers were able to grab. Andy and TT were super active on every single possession and seemed determined to not be out-hustled, ever.
My key matchup in my game preview was looking at rookie MarShon Brooks against Anthony Parker. People had been heralding Brooks as the best rookie so far this year (apparently people aren't watching Kyrie Irving). Brooks backed up this claim by playing 12 minutes and scoring a whopping 0 points on 0-3 shooting - Rookie of the Year!
Let's talk about Kyrie Irving again. It looked like he found his jumpshot on Sunday evening. Like the rest of the Cavs, Irving was unconscious from downtown, hitting 3 of 4. Other than that, it wasn't the best outing for the rookie point guard. We'll give some credit to Deron Williams for playing relatively decent defense. Overall, Irving had 13 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 turnovers. He also shot 5-11 from the field. If you take away the three pointers, that's just 2 of 8 shooting. Obviously, we want to see Irving be more efficient in both scoring and assist to turnover ratio. It was kind of odd to see Irving not shoot a single free throw, but the Cavs only shot 11 of them as a team. In previous games, we've seen Irving penetrate at will and get to the rim. Sunday, he shot just 1 of 4 from around the rim and didn't draw any fouls. That's obviously an area that we hope to see some improvement. I'm not too worried, Irving played fine. He's a rookie and this wasn't a great game, but it wasn't bad either.
Hey look, another rookie in the notable performances. Tristan Thompson had his entire arsenal on display against the Nets. He scored 9 points, all of which game in the paint or at the free throw line. He grabbed 3 offensive rebounds, blocked 3 shots, and altered several other shots by simply being huge and jumping crazy high. Tigger was the one Cavaliers that got to the line with some frequency. Unfortunately, Thompson was unable to cash in on those trips to the charity stripe, shooting only 1 of 6 on FTs. I don't have much advanced analysis on that, he just needs to get better at shooting them. Teams would rather foul him hard and put him at the line than let him dunk. He needs to be able to make them pay for this strategy.
Daniel Gibson has been quietly very good for the Cavs all season. He poured in 19 points in 27 minutes off the bench. In a night when Anthony Parker struggled mightily (2 of 7 shooting, 0-4 from deep), Gibson was a much bigger threat at shooting guard. Boobie shot 5 of 7 from downtown and was instrumental in closing out the Nets. Gibson drained several threes in the fourth quarter to help open up the big lead and cruise to victory. Don't be surprised if Boobie starts to get many more minutes at SG instead of Anthony Parker.
Fear The Sword's Player Of The Game:
It's not secret that I've been critical of Jamison's play so far this season. However, you've got to give credit where credit is due. As much as we complain about Tawn's game on most nights, you'd be hard-pressed to find something wrong about his performance against the Nets. Jamison scored 23 points on 10 of 15 shooting and 3 for 3 on 3-balls. He grabbed 5 rebounds, tossed in 2 assists and even had 3 steals. It's nice to see that even though his game has greatly diminished since his prime, he still has the ability to score efficiently every one and a while.