Photo: Scott Shaw/The Plain Dealer
One of the most touching moments in my Cavalier fanhood came Sunday afternoon when the Quicken Loans Arena crowd welcomed their franchise center home from a six week absence with a Z-themed spectacle. The hoopla for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, including an intro tacked on the end of the starting lineup, Z posters, a tribute video, and Z-themed intros for his teammates (Zebron James and J.J. Zickson for exzample), was well-deserved if a little bit over the top. Nearly lost in all this was a basketball game, one where the Cavaliers battled a short-handed Sacramento lottery team that was missing its best player in rookie Tyreke Evans and several key contributors. Missing their bench sparkplug, it was up to Cleveland's top two scorers to bring home the proverbial bacon. The win lowers the magic number for homecourt throughout the postseason to just five with eight games remaining.
With fifty losses already this year, the Kings were in even worse shape with only seven healthy bodies by the end of the game. Evans, Francisco Garcia, Jonathon Brockman, Sean May, and Spencer Hawes were already out when Dominic McGuire left due to injury after just five minutes. Luckily for the 'Mentos, the players they did have performed above their regular levels. Exhibit A is Beno Udrih, who registered a triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists in playing all 48 minutes, one of two players to do so (Jason Thompson). Andres Nocioni, a classic pest in countless matchups against Cleveland when he was a Bull, had 21 bench points as well. The other noteworthy performances for Sac-town were a double-double for Jason Thompson (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Carl Landry (17 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists). What the Kings did have was an excess of athletic players, especially big guys like Thompson and Landry, and it allowed them to beat the Cavaliers in transition on multiple occasions in the second and third quarters. The obvious issue was the lack of a closer, which the Cavaliers definitely had.