First reactions from Cleveland's 115-106 win Thursday night over Orlando to go into the All Star break at 43-11...
>> The turning point in the 4th quarter came with about 6:45 left. LeBron James, with the ball, slipped by his defender (Pietrus, I believe) and Dwight Howard, with five fouls, came out to defend. Instead of attacking him to try to get to the line and get Howard out of the game, LeBron threw a bad pass which led to a turnover.
After that, the Cavs offense began to click, as LeBron shifted into "eff it, I'm done screwing around" mode. He hit a jumper on the next possession. The following possession was the awful missed layup by Shaq, which led to essentially a shot clock violation for the team (still good offense, Shaq was open, just missed). The Cavs then made baskets on eight of their next nine possessions to turn a tie game (96-96) into a 115-101 advantage.
LeBron took it to the basket twice, making a layup on one and kicking it to Delonte for an open three on the next. He followed with a deep jumper from the top of the key. Then he collapsed the defense and threw a lob to Shaq for an easy bucket. The next possession was the stepback three that rattled in; the next, the crazy, spinning fallaway jumper that Pietrus still has no idea where it is.
By the time Gibson hit the three on the next possession, the game was O-V-E-R.
>> In that sequence, LeBron accounted for 18 points on passes or assists. Officially he was 5-for-6, with the only miss being the heave with the shot clock winding down after Shaq’s missed layup. So in reality, he should have been 5-for-5 with four assists in a five and a half minute stretch.
Anyone who thinks Kobe is the best closer in basketball is ridiculous. His glory comes in the last 15 seconds. LeBron’s comes in the last six minutes.
>> JJ Hickson (20 points, 9-of-14 shooting, blocked Howard’s hook shot) continues to drive me crazy as we draw near the trading deadline. If he could hit a 12 to 15 foot jump shot consistently, this would be a no-brainer to keep him.
As it is, he has his limitations. Also, he came out of the game with eight minutes left, so he remains a three-quarter guy. He’s like a solid starting pitcher who goes five or six innings and then falls apart in the seventh, and you go to the bullpen to close it out. I have no idea what the Cavs should - or will - do with him.
>> Delonte really changed the game in the third quarter. He definitely pushes the tempo and the Cavs played much more aggressively when he was on the floor. Orlando had just taken a 79-72 lead at the 5-minute mark when he entered and the Cavs offense was struggling. LeBron had taken just one shot and his teammates had missed five pretty good looks off his passes.
Delonte pushed the tempo immediately and Cleveland scored 15 points in the last five minutes after tallying just six points in the first seven minutes.
>> LeBron, in the first quarter, scored 15 points. He had five assists, which resulted in 12 additional points (I’m also counting plays where teammates were fouled off his passes and went to the line). That's 27 of the team's 37 points there. Wow.
>> The Magic only made two three-pointers in the second half, one coming from Pietrus with 33 seconds left with the game over. Jameer Nelson is a disaster at point guard and I’m praying they don’t give Jason Williams more minutes or make another Rafar Alston-esque trade like last year.
Also, Vince Carter scares me as much as those puppies on the Jim Beam commercial. One of the best off-season moves for the Cavs wasn’t for Shaq, Parker or Moon…it was the Magic letting Hedo Turkoglu walk.