All season long, I've seen people raise the question at B/R, what would the Cavs be without LeBron? Well, it was just one game, but tonight we got a look.
Mike Brown made the decision to give LeBron a rest because he's been beat up a lot lately and could just use the rest. It was probably a good decision.
On tonight's telecast, the commentators mentioned that the plan is to continue to rest LeBron against the Spurs Monday night, then take advantage of a rare three-day layoff in the schedule, giving LeBron a six-day rest as the team gears up for the stretch run of the regular season and post-season.
So how did the LeBron-less Cavs look? Pretty bad. They lost by 7 to Milwaukee, basically a mid-level team (though they've been hot lately, winning 9 of their last 10). I guess that doesn't sound too bad on paper, but I watched the game on TV with my NBA league pass, and it was a lot uglier than that.
The Cavs shot just .442, and they only got to the line 16 times, turned the ball over 17 times, and scored just 85 points. They looked discombobulated much of the time, and seemed to go several stretches without getting off a clean shot at the basket.
Antawn Jamison and Delonte West played well, scoring 30 and 27 respectively. Most troubling, though, was the performance of Mo Williams, who in my mind bears the most responsibility for the Cavs' loss to the Magic in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
Mo was a wretched 3-for-17. He did not handle the ball well or cleanly much of the time: in one possession, he dribbled ineffectively for most of the shot clock, repeatedly allowing rookie Brandon Jennings to nick the ball and force him to recover, until finally he launched an ugly fade away 3-pointer with the shot clock buzzer going off.
Another time he again allowed Jennings to knock away his dribble back to half court; he chased it down, dived on it and called time out, only to take the inbounds pass after the break and dribble crazily toward the basket, right into a slide-travel that resulted in another Cavs' turnover.
Another time Jennings blocked his pull up jumper, which turned into an easy layup at the other end for the Bucks. With 1:30 left in the game and Milwaukee in the bonus, he stupidly fouled Jennings by flailing after his dribble, putting him on the line for an easy two points that the Cavs couldn't afford.
Also, Jennings lit Mo up, scoring 25 to Mo's 7. Mo's plus/minus for the game was minus 18 (in a game that his team lost by 7). LeBron, please come back and take the ball away from this guy. And honestly, I've had it with him. You hear, Danny Ferry?
Props to the Bucks, especially Jennings and Andrew Bogut. Bogut got a lot of knocks as the No. 1 pick in the draft who didn't do a lot right away, but he's developed into a pretty effective NBA center.
I'm not sold yet on Jennings' awkward looking jump shot, though he scored efficiently in this game, his percentages for the season are not good. But I was very impressed with his defense. He really bothered Mo Williams all night. Or maybe I should put that on Williams?
It's true that the Cavs' were missing not only LeBron, but also Shaq and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. However, they've shown that they can win with LeBron and without the other two.
Judging from this one game, I'd say the Cavs would not be a .500 team without LeBron. With him, they have the best record in the NBA.