On Tap: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Kurt —  January 12, 2006

Record: 20-12 (Pythagorean 21-11), 4th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 7-3
Offensive Rating: 111.9 (2nd in league)
Defensive Rating: 105.8 (13th in league)

The Lakers coming in: I’d love to provide some brilliant, subtle insight into last night’s loss in Portland, but what went wrong was painfully obvious — even Joel Meyers figured it out and didn’t blame it on the refs. How do you let a team that shoots 46.5% (eFG%) for the season shoot 55.5%?

In the big picture, this is what you get with a young team, a lack of focus from game to game, sometimes from quarter to quarter. For whatever reason, this Laker team showed no intensity on defense last night, it manifested itself in slow rotations and guys getting beat one-on-one. And the Lakers get crushed by a bad team.

Phil needs to walk into the team shower, call them all a bunch of lollygaggers, and scare the kids a little. It will work for a while, they’ll bounce back with energy for a few games, then out of the blue there will be another unfocused game. I don’t expect mature play from this team.

One thing I have to get to:
Bill Simmons took a riding crop to Secretariat in his latest ESPN the magazine piece.

And what disappoints me is that I like Simmons and he usually gets it, but here he misses the big point — Kobe couldn’t win. Exit that Mav’s game with 62 points and don’t play the fourth quarter and Simmons, along with other media members, jump on him for not going for 80. Play the fourth, go for some records and he gets ripped up and down on talk radio and in the papers for being selfish.

We could get into more detail about the article— like why comparing the classic Jordan teams to this Laker team as he wants to do is idiotic because of the talent level of the surrounding cast, a better comparison is the early Jordan years, when everyone called Jordan selfish — but instead, I’m going to say he had a bad column and just let it go. Everyone’s entitled to a mulligan.

About the Cavaliers: We’re going to talk about LeBron, but the big news in Cavs land is that Larry Hughes is out with a broken finger. He was an athletic player to put out on the perimeter with LeBron, and gave them 17.3 points and 4.1 assists per 40 minutes, while shooting 44.6% (eFG%). Without Hughes, it appears to be the LeBron show with little else (sound familiar?).

The other night against the Knicks, LeBron had 36 points, 7 boards and 7 assists — with just one turnover. In just his third year in the league, LeBron is in the middle of the MVP mix, he has the highest PER in the league, 29.2. He leads the team as a +12.3. LeBron James has an incredible true shooting percentage of 59.2%, scoring 29.3 points, grabbing 6.5 rebounds and dishing out 5.6 assists per 40 minutes. He leads the league in the number of “and one” attempts and conversions — he’s so strong that the fouls don’t seem to affect his shot. LeBron James lost his virginity before his father did. LeBron James does not sleep — he waits. LeBron James’ tears cure cancer — too bad he has never cried.

Another guy to watch for on the Cavs — although he is no LeBron James — is Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He has a true shooting percentage of 56.5% and is pulling down 15.1% of the available rebounds while on the floor, leding to a +7.3. Donyell Marshall has fallen in love with the three ball, but if the Lakers don’t get out in his face he’ll hit a lot of them. Marshall is also +7.3.

Key’s to a Laker win: Defensive effort. They didn’t expend a lot of energy last night so they should have plenty left. That said, the Cavs have LeBron James so do the Lakers really stand a chance? (In all seriousness, the Cavs are damn good; the Lakers are going to need one of their best efforts.)