Defense wins statement games

12.30.09 9 years ago 40 Comments
LeBron James (photo. Mannion)

LeBron James (photo. Mannion)

One 15-second sequence before halftime of Cavs/Hawks delivered the kind of excitement promised by a national TV matchup of the two best teams in the East (watch out for the batteries and water bottles being thrown by Boston and Orlando fans), but it was some unexciting basic defense that proved the difference down the stretch … At the end of the first half, Marvin Williams swatted LeBron to prevent Cleveland from taking a six-point lead, but then Mo Williams stole the outlet and banked in a shot. Jamal Crawford marched down and dropped a three like he was shooting Nerf on his bedroom door, and while the ATL crowd was busy going crazy, Jamario Moon hit LeBron (14 pts, 8 rebs, 10 asts, 5 stls) with a bullet inbound pass that LBJ snagged on the run and — with one dribble and two giant steps — threw down a two-hand dunk just before the buzzer. Hate to keep making football references with LeBron for fear of starting another round of “Can LeBron play in the NFL?” nonsense, but he looked like Andre Johnson on that play … The Hawks led by one going into the fourth, but the Cavs buckled down and played some serious D; keeping ATL off the board until 3:12 remained, by which time the Cavs led by 11. (This is a few days after the Cavs kept Sacramento scoreless in overtime.) During that stretch, Delonte West got a steal and hammered on Josh Smith, one of the dunks of the year. Maybe it was because J-Smoove didn’t have his headband on; it must have Samson-like powers. (Calling a tech on Delonte for posing after the dunk was pretty weak. You just dunked over the NBA’s 2nd-leading shot-blocker; you can’t show a little excitement and puff your chest out?) … Once the Hawks ended the drought on a dunk by Smith, they actually put together some offense and made it a ballgame. Crawford (26 pts) dipped around LeBron for a layup to cut the lead to five, but on the most important defensive possession of the night, Big Z got wide open in the corner and stroked a dagger three with 41 seconds left … By the way, the Cavs are the best team in the NBA now — at least according to Dime’s weekly Hit List power ranking. The usual suspects are where you’d expect, while the Grizzlies and Clippers may be higher than you think. We’ll give you a hint as to who’s still holding down last place: It rhymes with Boo-Worthy Nets … Not even the biggest Kobe hater could blame KB for getting a little one-track-mind late against the Warriors. No matter how many times the Lakers delivered a potential knockout blow, they could never put G-State away until the very end. Early in the fourth, Kobe (44 pts, 13-27 FG, 16-16 FT, 11 asts) hit back-to-back threes, dropped a jumper off a slick spin move, then dimed Lamar Odom for an and-one — typically the kind of run that will take a team’s heart — but the Warriors just kept responding with buckets of their own … Finally with about two minutes left, Odom’s offensive rebound and putback put L.A. up by three, then Ronny Turiaf had some untimely bricked free throws and a turnover, and Kobe and Pau Gasol (27 pts, 12 rebs, 3 blks) gave L.A. some cushion at the line … Actual line from Lakers announce Stu Lantz: “You want to see fundamentals? This is the NBA. You want fundaments, go to high school or college.” He might have been being sarcastic, but honestly, we couldn’t tell … On the one day where people were actually talking about him, Devin Brown almost took advantage. With the Hornets playing catch-up to the Rockets, Brown hit a three to cut the lead to two with about a minute left, but on Houston’s next possession, Trevor Ariza blew past Brown and caught a two-hand dunk. After that it was all free throws for Houston as they pulled out the W … And all this despite monster efforts by David West (44 pts, 12 rebs) and Chris Paul (16 pts, 11 rebs, 10 asts). West dropped 22 in the third quarter alone, when nobody — not Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes, Carl Herrera or Otis Thorpe — knew what to do with him. And then for whatever reason, Jeff Bower kept West on the bench for the first four minutes of the fourth, when N.O. lost its lead … Other big stat lines from Tuesday: Kevin Durant dropped 35 points and 11 rebounds as OKC beat the Wizards; David Lee had 30 points and 12 boards as the Knicks knocked off the Pistons; Derrick Rose scored 28 to lead Chicago past the Pacers; and Manu Ginobili had 14 points, 10 assists and three steals to beat the Wolves … We’re out like Herrera …

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