Tue Dec 22 12:10pm EST
The Cavaliers held the Phoenix Suns to about 97 points per 100 possessions, and that's quite the accomplishment.
The Suns (who average, after this loss, about 113 and a half points per 100) have tossed out numbers like that before during 2009-10, but rare is the night where they're forced into playing like this on the offensive end. And, save for a few bad decisions made on the fly, they were forced into this. Cleveland's D made them eat. Like this.
On the other end, the Cavs watched their turnovers (12 to Phoenix's 18), Cleveland made nearly 53 percent of its shots from the floor, five three-pointers in 12 chances, 22 out of 26 free throws, and generally kept the Suns at bay
Honestly, the league has no bigger x-factor. Delonte absolutely changes games. Just turns them on their ear. And I'm chuffed nearly beyond recognition when he changes them in a positive way. 12 points, six assists and three steals in almost 28 minutes for Delonte, alongside stifling defense.
All I want for Christmas is more of this.
And for Jeff Bzdelik to return to the NBA to coach a team I'm fond of.
And an Audi R8. Simple things.
Also, Eddie Johnson called a fantastic game on the Suns' broadcast.
That is to say, I don't think he shot the ball with the hand he writes cheques with, a single time. Because his "weak" hand might be the strong one.
All lefty, all the time, for my supposed doppelganger. And all business, all the time; unless it comes down to making free throws. I don't think we're ever going to see him make free throws at the clip that his stroke deserves.
On nights like this, though? Hardly matters.
31 points and 18 rebounds, three blocks, three assists. He took a charge, he turned it over just three times despite having to take a litany of passes around his lower thighs (readers? Stop snifflin'; you're gunna make some plastic surgeon a rich man), and changed a ton of shots around the rim. He was like a Carlos Boozer(notes) that played dominating defense; and, really, played nothing like Carlos Boozer.
T.J. Ford(notes) was terrible for the Pacers in the way that even a modern box score can't pick up. Roy Hibbert(notes) turned in some fantastic moves around the rim and finished with 16 points and seven boards in 29 minutes, but that was it. Mike Dunleavy Jr. couldn't shoot (2-17 from the field) and Troy Murphy(notes) couldn't hang onto the ball (seven boards). Thanks to Milwaukee's 9-20 line from the field, though, the Pacers stayed in it.
It was a competitive back and forth, for the most part, but not a pretty game by any stretch.
Magic fans may have a better example for me - a contest on a Wednesday, with 11 other games playing, or a Saturday night Orlando win that saw me away from the TV and in a loud room attempting to purchase something amber with water and ice all over it - but this is the best I've seen Dwight play, all year, on the defensive end. And you're just going to have to believe me when I tell you that his (fantastic) five blocks have little to do with that observation.
He just changed things, obsessively. Just hung around the paint in the right way, changing people's minds, changing people's arcs and follow-throughs and the way they went about their job. And that's what you're after, really. A guy that doesn't let his opponents make the donuts in their preferred manner.
A team-leading 21 points for Dwight, too, with nine boards. J.J. Redick(notes) also tossed in 20 points, on only nine shots (including one nearly impossible look to beat a shot clock buzzer), just in time to remind us for the trillionth time that Stan Van Gundy's main (only?) failing as a coach is the way he mis-used this man for years.
Utah was alright. Deron Williams(notes) had 18 points and 12 assists, Andrei Kirilenko(notes) had three three-pointers off the bench, and Paul Millsap(notes) had 20 points off the same pine, but it hardly mattered when the Magic earned (EARNED) 41 free throw trips. You're not going to beat a good team when they hit the stripe 41 times.
The corner three-pointer, short of the lay-in or dunk, is the pro game's most efficient shot. It's been a Spurs staple for years. It's been a chortling color guy's staple ("you know how those Spurs love their corner threes!") for years, as if it was some gimmick exclusive to San Antonio (the Spurs and Clippers broadcasters, mind you, are not to whom I'm referring to).
And yet, there the Clips went. Letting the Spurs have their way from either side.
Almost 123 points per 100 possessions for San Antonio, who only hit five of those three-pointers, but it was enough. Great spacing, good passing, fine finishing. Eight points and six rebounds in just 16 minutes for DeJuan Blair(notes) as a starter, and the Spurs need to build on this.