Each time the new Cavaliers take the floor it is going to be a learning experience. The players are learning how to play with each other, the coaches are learning what combinations work and which ones don’t, and Cleveland fans are learning what the new players are capable of. First the recap-
The Bucks officially won 103-100 on a buzzer beater by Michael Redd, but they won this one at the free throw stripe, where they hit 32 of 37! The Cavs were whistled for 24 fouls, many deserved and some certainly not. And a few of them were really stupid fouls by the Cavs. One that jumps to mind is Damon Jones fouling on a three point shot as a quarter was about to expire.
Mo Williams caught fire in the second half and finished with 37 points. Jones who played extended minutes in the second half because of his offense was no match for Williams at the other end. Redd finished with 25.
For the Cavaliers LeBron James had 35 points, and the bench outscored the rest of the starters 37-30. Zydrunas Ilgauskas didn’t play due to a respiratory infection, and was replaced in the starting line-up by Andy Varejao, playing his first game in nearly four weeks. The Cavs edged Milwaukee in rebounding 44-42, shot nearly 50%, and had 27 assists. The defense simply wasn’t up to par tonight, and there were still too many turnovers and ‘familiarity’ mistakes to overcome in this one.
Now what did we learn?
Andy deserves some slack tonight, he obviously isn’t 100%, and he was playing the Ilgauskas role tonight. Speaking of that, why in world did so much of the offense run through Varejao tonight? I’ll tell you why, because lesson #1 is you can’t have Andy and Wallace on the floor at the same time. At the time of the trade I feared the Wallace/Varejao combination. That fear is legit. Offensively you have nothing between those two aside from putbacks and the occasional pick and roll. If Andy and Ben are on the floor, one of them will have to touch the ball in the half court set. Given the situation tonight Joe Smith should have started in place of Andy.
Lesson #2, Delonte West is not a finisher. Now that may be common knowledge in Seattle and Boston, but after a two game sample it is becoming a conclusion here as well. When West drives the lane he is doing so in order to collapse the defense and make the pass. Now there is nothing wrong with trying to create something for your teammates, but it would be much more effective if West was a danger around the hoop.
There was a stretch in the second half when Joe Smith and Wally Szczerbiak were going to work on the blocks. There was even a beautiful post-up by LeBron. Lesson #3 is the Cavs can be a dynamite post-up team. Because of the length of guys like Wally, Joe and LeBron when Zydrunas is in the game they should be able to create mismatches all over the league.
The Cavs head to Boston for a showdown with the Eastern Conference leading Celtics tomorrow night. Here’s hoping Zydrunas is well enough to go, and the learning curve is accelerated.