After the 0-2 start I can’t say that I entered panic mode, but I was getting a little worried. Maybe a bit more worried than I should have. The Cavs got into the win column last night beating the Timberwolves on the road 104-87. A game they should have won to be sure, but they still won it. And with the Bobcats up next – a team better than Minnesota but not as good as Boston or Toronto – the Cavaliers have a good chance to get to 2-2, drive another hour on that 18-hour car ride they were talking about, and allow the city of Cleveland to exhale.
A look back…Cavaliers 104 Timberwolves 87:
Playing Through Shaq:
The best thing I saw last night was when the ball went into Shaquille O’Neal, who drew a double team, and then found a wide-open LeBron James cutting to the basket for an electric finish above the rim. I don’t know if its just because we haven’t seen it since last season, but I swear LeBron (24-9-6) looks quicker, and his finishes look stronger than they did a year ago. Is that possible? Anyways, the fact the ball went into Shaq as many times as it did last night was encouraging. Why? Because he’s not drawing a double team unless he has the basketball. And when he does, everything opens up, and the Cavaliers took advantage of that last night. Sure Shaq’s line only read 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists, but if the NBAtracked hockey assists, hed have had a few more of those…like the time he found a cutting LBJ, who then found a cutting Varejao for an easy dunk.
Another good sign last night was Mo Williams. Sure Jonny Flynn got his, but Jonny Flynn’s gonna get his every night. Watch out for this kid, he’s going to be a star in this league for 10 years. But offensively, was assertive, and he looked like an All Star, veteran PG last night for the first time this season (20-2-6). And if he plays like he did Friday, on a consistent basis this season, he will be a legit second scoring option to LBJ, just like he was during the regular season last year.
Benchwise, Boobie came in and shot it well. He still shouldn’t have a Superman emblem in his head, but if he comes off the bench going 4 of 8 for 14 points, it won’t really bother me as much. As for Ilgauskas, maybe calls to retire after two games were a bit premature. He went for 15-5, and if the Cavaliers bench can consistently produce (29) points from their 6th and 7th man, look out.
A look forward….Cavaliers vs. Bobcats…Tonight at 7:30:
If the Bobcatsmade the playoffs this season occupying the 8th, 7th, or even 6th spot, I wouldn’t be all that surprised. I don’t expect them to be a team to advance in the playoffs, but Larry Brown’s club will get there. They beat the Knicks last night 102-100, and are 1-1 on this young season. Expect Raja Bell and Flip Murray to be inactive again tonight, but even with those two guys - who figure to be key pieces for this club - in street clothes, the Bobcats will roll out a top-seven certainly capable of giving Cleveland a game. I don’t expect them to beat the Cavaliers, and the Cavs should get to 2-2 tonight, but it will be a good test.
The starting line-up should look like this for the bad guys:
1. PG – Raymond Felton
2. SG – Stephen Graham
3. SF – Gerald Wallace
4. PF – Boris Diaw
5. C - Tyson Chandler
Key Reserves: D.J. Augustin, Vladimir Radmonovic
Score Prediction: Cavaliers by (9)…91-82