Saturday, November 13, 2004

Getting an early read

Surprised the way the Cavaliers dismantled the Wizards 105-74 Saturday? So was I. From where I sat, I wasn't exactly impressed with the guts of the victories over Atlanta and Phoenix earlier this week. They had to go all out to beat the hapless Hawks and, while the comeback against the Suns was inspirational, one must remember what happened to get them down by 19 points.

Last Saturday night as I was sitting in Milwaukee watching the Cavs get hammered by the Bucks, I was wondering what I was thinking when I predicted this team would win 45 games this year. This Saturday, seeing the core players all perform at once, I questioned whether my estimate was low. The truth will unfold as we get a deeper look at this team.

Until then, though, I'm watching some things closely. After six games, here's some things I've noticed that are tells as to what you'll probably see from the Cavs on a given night:

-Jeff McInnis' body language. As J-Mac will be the first to admit, he's cocky and he plays his best when he's running his mouth. But that means he's being active, getting the ball up the floor quickly and making smart decisions. When he's getting it, he can see two or three passes into the future. But sometimes when he isn't getting in the flow, he gets frustrated and holds the ball too long. You can see it by the look on his face. His smack talk also can become patronizing, like Wednesday when he got chippy with the Suns' Steven Hunter even as Hunter was embarrassing the Cavs.

-Drew Gooden's defense. Yes, his rebounding and scoring are more visible. But watch how he guards his man. If he's low, fighting for position and denying, it means he's doing the same going after boards. For more depth on Gooden, check out my Sunday column.

-How many times Zydrunas Ilgauskas hits the floor. I'm sure Gordon Gund cringes every time he hears Z's done it. He was down there three times in the first half Saturday after loose balls. It inspires his teammates.

-Reliance on LeBron's scoring. LeBron is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but when defenses concentrate solely on him, like Miami did in the second game of the season, they can frustrate him and force him to settle for jumpers in traffic (his worst offensive trait). One of the best indications the Cavs were playing well Saturday was they were ahead 28-11 after one quarter and James had just three points.

Thanks for visiting the blog. I'll check back in soon. As always, e-mail questions and comments to bwindhorst@thebeaconjournal.com.

Take care all,
Brian