One of my great pet peeves in any sport is when a superior team plays unaware of its own superiority. Last night’s St. John’s-Seton Hall game was a good example: St. John’s tried a full-court press, committed stupid turnovers on low-leverage passes, fouled 80 feet from the hoop, and generally took gambles that made you think they were the unranked minnow taking on the #15 powerhouse, rather than the other way around. Granted, Seton Hall was pouring them in from deep – although they probably hadn’t been so wide open all season – but St. John’s gave them the chance to make plays because even though the Johnnies were better, they refused to dare the Hall to outplay them.
The same goes for the Knicks and Cavaliers. Seeing the Cavs scoring 115 points on the Knicks, you probably thought they shot 55% from the field. In reality? 42%, to go along with 44 free throw attempts and an incomprehensible 19 offensive rebounds. Rather than stand their ground and play solid defense, the Knicks fouled guys who aren’t likely to have made the shot. Rather than get in good position for a rebound, the Knicks tried to block shots that weren’t likely to go in, and left themselves vulnerable on the offensive glass. When you’re up against inferior opposition, your advantage is that you don’t have to take those types of risks; instead, New York acted like playing an inferior team meant those risks no longer carried consequences.
Preachery and philosophizing over. It’s only been a week since these teams last met, so we’ll go light on the info have a little fun with this one – read on, won’t you?
PG – Ramon Sessions: Inexcusably attempted 14 free throws last Friday night, although a few were in garbage time. You just have to let him shoot and hope he misses. To be backed up by Baron Davis, making his Cleveland debut after missing 10 days with a knee injury.
SG – Anthony Parker: 5-6 FG Friday, and made some toughies too.
SF – Alonzo Gee: Great stage name.
PF – Samardo Samuels: Dropped 23 and 10 on the Spurs on Wednesday. I still think he’s a player.
C – Kareem Abdul-Hickson: A feast or famine scorer and rebounder. I get the sense that the Knicks usually fall under “feast.” Hope he doesn’t show up.
Statistician’s Trivia?: Amar’e Stoudemire steps to the line for the second of two free throws. The shot misses, but Ronny Turiaf is called for a lane violation, resulting in a Cleveland throw-in. How do we score this? The answer below.
A Few Good Sentences on: Regarding my intro above, I think Jared Jeffries will be a boon this time around on defense. Few guys are better at playing within themselves defensively – usually meaning, standing straight up with their arms in the air – than J Double. I can’t see the Cavs getting those free throws and offensive boards handed to them with Jeffries on the floor.
Also it just occurred to me that, offensively, “playing within himself” would probably entail sitting quietly in the corner until the possession is over. But that’s why we love Jared! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Jared’s offensive rebound followed by a needless reverse layup that was blocked against Orlando. Imagine how happy he’ll be when he finds out he’s 6’11”.
Chauncey Billups: Did not practice yesterday and is likely out tonight, leaving Toney Douglas to run the ship once again. Toney’s numbers are about the same as last year’s – he’s shooting a little worse, however – but last year you couldn’t trust him to run our offense had Chris Duhon gone down. This year? Baby steps, but by the time he hits free agency in 2013 I wouldn’t be surprised to have a full-blown point guard on our hands.
I Thought The Decision Was Supposed to Take Care of This!: You are probably aware that Cleveland is 2-0 against the Knicks this season. You may not be aware that the Cavs have in fact won 10 games in a row against New York; their most recent loss to our heroes came December 13, 2007.
So, How are Things in Cleveland When They’re Not Beating the Knicks?: Here is the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Cavaliers page. This morning, of the top four stories, two were about LeBron’s loss to Orlando last night, and one was about the Browns. Yeah. Also, here is Mary Schmitt Boyer’s Cavs insider Twitter page – it’s filled with phrases like “wow this is hard to watch,” and “#Cavs seem to have taken afternoon off.”
Cavs Injuries and Rotation: Because nothing can go right for the Cavs, Antawn Jamison will likely miss the remainder of the season after breaking a finger in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia. Jamison averaged 25 and 11 in two games against the Knicks, so we are mutedly pleased to see Antawn out with an injury that presumably gives little pain and will not affect his paycheck or life after basketball. His absence leaves Samuels starting in his place, and the Cavs with only Anthony Parker to space the floor. Semih Erden is out with injury and Luke Harangody is a game-time decision; that means more Ryan Hollins, Christian Eyenga, Manny Harris and Joey Graham.
Seriously, other than these two Knick games, the Cavs might be done winning this year.
Statistician’s Trivia!: Do not credit Stoudemire with a free throw attempt, and credit Turiaf with a turnover. Had this situation occurred on the first of two free throws, nothing would be credited to any player. Wasn’t that fun?
Within this article, Carmelo Anthony tells Newsday, “[Tonight's] a payback game, man…It left a bitter taste in my mouth and the team’s mouth and we remember that. We hold grudges.”
I think that’s all we really need to hear. After a couple of games of suspect defense, Melo has really brought the intensity of late. The fire is burning – now let’s hope they keep it up. Enjoy the game, and I’ll have the recap on the other side.