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Game 40 Preview: Cavaliers vs. Blazers

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A Look at the Cavaliers

LeBron and the Bronettes are coming to town.  I imagine this should be close to a sellout despite it being a weekend weekday game.  If not, what's wrong with everybody?  You'll want to tell your grandkids you saw him play at least once.

The presence of the Chosen One makes you instinctively think that Cleveland is all about the offense.  That's just not so.  In fact they're a pretty mediocre offensive team.  They don't score much.  They don't shoot a high percentage.  In fact if it weren't for Lebron's 27 points per game they'd hardly have offense at all.  They're good at three pointers but the rest of the offense is from the "shoot a lot and hope something goes in" school.

So how have they compiled that nice 23-14 record?  They defend like a mug-mug, that's how.  They're fifth in the league in field goal percentage allowed (and the four teams ahead of them are darn good) and basically tied for first in three point percentage allowed.  Their guard defense is superb.  They're also fifth in the league in points allowed at 92.6, which means the 95 and change they score is plenty enough to get them wins most nights.  On top of that they're one of the best rebounding teams in the league (defensive rebounds anyway...offensive rebounds they're not so hot, mostly because they like to clear the lane for LeBron to work).  Plus they don't make any unforced errors.  They will occasionally cough up the ball for a steal but that's about it.  They're fast, but steady.

Besides Lebron, Dwight DREW Gooden, Larry Hughes, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are their big names.  Gooden is a decent rebounder with some offensive skills.  He was on a tear early in the month, notching 20 and 30 point games, but he's come back to earth.  He's one of those guys who only plays as well as he scores most nights.  Larry Hughes was also on a run early in the month but quad problems have slowed him down somewhat.  Ilgauskas is on a strong streak too and he's actually still going.  He can be a scoring machine but the rest of his game is getting a little more suspect as he grows older.  Eric Snow is a barely serviceable point guard but he does what he needs to do on this team, which is defend smartly and get the ball to the superstar.  He hasn't been a threat in a while.  Young Damon Jones will probably take his place when he learns to pass as well as he shoots.  Anderson Varejao is the main guy you'll notice off the bench.  He's a wild-haired Brazilian with a whole lot of guts and the willingness to put his body on the line.

Basically Cleveland is a solid, professional team with one of the best superstars in the biz to lead them onward.  They've won 9 of their last 12 despite losing to Seattle last night.  There's no reason to think they won't bring it tonight against one of the worst offenses (and defenses, for that matter) in the league.  This is going to be a tough matchup.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  There's been one fairly reliable constant to the Cavaliers' season.  If you score a lot on them, they lose.  If you don't score, they win.  Portland is not going to stop LeBron, and the attention they'll have to pay LeBron will prevent them from stopping anyone else either.  Therefore the only real recourse is to outscore them.  They'll let you take a lot of shots and tonight I think we have to try and match them.  Seattle won by running the ball and we'd better do the same when we get the chance.  Our backcourt needs to have busy hands.  We need to push the tempo and try to reach 100.  This is in addition to all the usual scoring, mind you.  They're not going to give us the game, we have to take it.
  2.  We better stay close on the boards.  The fact that they're not good offensive rebounders means we may be able to run out a little.
  3.  The one thing Cleveland can't do is hit foul shots.  Only Gooden and Ilgauskas are any good at it.  If their guards drive our guys have got to use up their fouls instead of letting them score.
  4.  We won't beat their perimeter defense unless we're ahead of them on the break.  That means it needs to be Zach's night in the halfcourt.  We need, like, 40 from him.  Everybody else needs to chill out on the perimeter shooting unless their name is Martell or Juan.  It's pretty simple:  we miss deep, we're done.
  5.  As always, hustle will be a major factor if we're to have any chance.
The way we've been playing lately I don't see any reason to hope for a good outcome.  Maybe it's not too much to hope for a good game at least?  Or maybe even just a good quarter, like we had the other night?

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)