Man. That escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.
With about five minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, Lakers fans had seen enough. Their team was being bullied in every sense of the word, looking nothing like a defending NBA champion. The always-classy fans of L.A., armed with nothing more than promotional foam fingers and a sense of pride, expressed their anger by tossing the gifts onto the court in a display that will leave the Lakers public relations representatives busy for days.
And on Christmas day .
This embarrassment came at the hands of the calmer, stronger and—hell, I'll use a cliche here—hungrier Cleveland Cavaliers. While the game will certainly catapult the Cavs back into elite status, how much should we truly take away from this victory?
Defensively, a lot can be taken. The Lakers posses one of the most talented frontcourt tandems in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol; the two are averaging a combined 33 points and 20 rebounds a game.
Saturday night? The duo combined for 15 points and 12 rebounds. Simply put, the Cavaliers trio of Shaquille O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskus, and Anderson Varejao handled the Lakers vaunted frontcourt as well as anyone could have.
The trio of seven-footers contributes to what has become a "no-score zone" down low, as the Cavs have the stingiest low-post defense in the league. And, as the stats show, Saturday was no different.
In addition to the fantastic defense in the paint, the Cavs' wings were capable of staying in front of their men, making the Lakers force numerous contested jump shots. Kobe Bryant scored 35 points, but Anthony Parker in particular played him superbly. Kobe finished the game 11-32 , a far cry from the .488 he's averaged for the season.
It should be noted that, by making Bryant work so hard for his points, the Cavaliers forced the other Lakers into isolation. Nobody else was able to get into rhythm.
As always, the Cavaliers brought it on D. This was not an aberration. Shaquille O'Neal may not be a 25-point scorer anymore, but he is more than pulling his weight on defense. The fact that they held the Lakers to 87 points did not surprise me; what surprised me was their offensive execution, led by none other than Mo Williams.
Mo Williams has been playing out of his mind as of late, averaging 20 points (on 50 percent shooting, no less) and five assists over the past five games. Despite these impressive numbers, I find it difficult to feel confident with him as the Cavaliers' second best scorer.
He is inconsistent. When he's hitting his shots like he was against the Lakers, he makes the game easier for everyone else on the team, and the Cavs are as good a team as you'll see.
But when he isn't hitting his shots (trust me, he's prone to go cold for games at a time), the Cavaliers are extremely beatable. As much as I loved seeing him play to his full potential Saturday, the performance should be taken with a grain of salt by anybody willing to crown them the best team in the league. Simply put, Mo is not an all-star caliber point guard.
So where does that leave us? The Cavs are clearly a little better than we thought; besides their strong defense, they have incredible depth, and possess a stable of three-point shooters that rank amongst the league's best. And they have LeBron.
But until Mo Williams proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he can consistently handle a part of the offensive load, the Cavaliers will be hard-pressed to separate themselves from the Celts, Magic, and Lakers of the league.
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