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Cold Front

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

November 28 -- In last week’s “Mike Brown Show” – aired last Wednesday on WTAM and on-line – the Cavaliers rookie head coach said one of the greatest lessons he learned from Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was to not get too high after a win and not to get too low after a loss.

The Cavaliers went into the holiday weekend awfully high – winners of eight straight and undefeated at The Q – and come back on Monday a little low – dropping a Thanksgiving matchup with the Pacers and Saturday’s home loss to the Wolves.

Simply put, it’s a long season and the Wine and Gold is still 9-4. And it’s tough to see many more two game stretches like Larry Hughes (6-for-24 from the floor), Donyell Marshall (3-19), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (4-13) just had. It’s like a baseball lineup that suddenly goes cold. It’s contagious.

“There will be nights like this,” said LeBron James following Saturday’s loss. “We gave ourselves an opportunity to win at the end, but when you shoot 31 percent against a good caliber team like that, most nights you are not going to win.”

James was immune to whatever’s going around on Saturday night. He hasn’t had to carry the load by himself many times this season, but that was unfortunately the case this weekend. The Eastern Conference’s reigning Player of the Week – and the star of two sweet new SportsCenter commercials – went off for a season-high 38 points on Saturday. The highlight of the 38 was a massive Julius Erving-esque one-armed dunk over Minnesota’s Eddie Griffin.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, not much got past Eddie Griffin as the young forward blocked five Cavalier shots.

Griffin’s defense was stellar on Saturday, but for a lesson in Defense 101, look no further than Indy’s Ron Artest, who blanketed LeBron for 96 feet and 48 minutes on Thanksgiving. While his mates, Jermaine O’Neal and Scot Pollard were in foul trouble halfway through the first quarter, Artest guarded the game’s most explosive player and got his offense going at the same time.

“I keep telling our guys that there are going to be nights were we are going to get open looks and they are not going to go down,” said Mike Brown on Saturday. “When that happens we have to get stops, and tonight we didn’t get stops.”

The Cavaliers came back down to earth over the weekend, but they have plenty of time and a golden opportunity for redemption this Wednesday when they welcome the red-hot Clippers (yes, I said red-hot Clippers) to The Q on Wednesday night.

Wednesday’s game is big for three reasons. One, it lets the Cavaliers take another crack at a team that’s playing well. Two, it will allow them to get back on track on the home floor, where they’ve been so tough this season. And three, the Wine and Gold leave for three on the West Coast – including a weekend back-to-back with the Sonics and Clippers – right after the contest.

It’s a long season and a couple of losses are no reason to panic. But the Cavaliers need to find the mojo that helped them win eight straight. And they’ll need to transport it cross country by the end of the week.

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | Friday, December 2 | Go West Young Men



Go West Young Men

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 2 -- For many Eastern Conference clubs, a west coast trip is where the NBA separates the men from the boys. The Pistons triumphed out West to start the season and the Bulls, who had been nothing short of futile (1-41) since Jordan’s retirement, turned their entire season around on the left coast.

Although the Cavaliers dropped a pair of games previous to last Wednesday’s win over the Clippers, things are definitely going their way. They finished the month with the best record in November in almost 20 years and yesterday, LeBron James was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month.

It’s LBJ’s seventh such honor, tipping off what could be an MVP season for the young King. James averaged 28.4 points on .489 shooting, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.64 steals for the month. But he’s been even hotter than that of late. Over his last five, LeBron is averaging 31.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.6 steals per game. He also knows the importance of the West Coast swing.

“We were able to get the win (against L.A.) and we knew we needed to win before we went out west,” said James after yesterday’s final practice in Cleveland, but conceded, “It’s tough out there no matter who you play.”

The Cavaliers have yet to face the Kings this year, but they’ve already topped the Sonics and Clippers at The Q. The Wine and Gold manhandled Seattle for the win; Los Angeles, not so much. Against the Sonics, the Cavs set a team record for domination on the boards, out-rebounding Seattle, 56-21. (In Seattle’s defense, All-Star forward Rashard Lewis went down with a shoulder injury less than two minutes into the game.)

Cleveland beat the Sonics, 112-85. It’s highly unlikely the Cavaliers will boast that victory margin tonight in the Emerald City.

Another area where Cleveland excelled in that November 9 battle was at the stripe, hitting their first 28 tosses and going 31-for-33 overall from the line. There hasn’t been that big of a fall-off. Mike Brown’s men are the top free throw shooting club in the NBA – a robust .812 shooting percentage.

This stat, more than any other, portends well for the Cavaliers in the hostile environs they’ll be facing in Seattle, L.A. and Sacramento. And it’s what propelled them to victory on Wednesday night. Neither Larry Hughe (5-for-15) nor LeBron (7-for-20) had brilliant shooting nights from the field. But both made their bones from the stripe, going 12-for-14 and 14-for-17 respectively. (The Cavs’ leading scorer that night, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, went 11-for-11.) Hughes two tosses near the end of regulation gave Cleveland the extra stanza that gave them the crucial home win.

Hughes and James are great at penetrating the defense and hitting free throws is vital.

“We want to attack early and try to get in the bonus early,” claimed James. “Sometimes when we are not shooting well, we try to drive and get to the free throw line. Those are easy buckets. They are called free throws for a reason. We want to take advantage of that.”

“(Free throw shooting) is really important. To me, that’s playoff basketball, getting to the free throw line,” added Head Coach Mike Brown. “I go back to (Wednesday) night’s game. With Donyell Marshall, most people probably remember the two three’s he hit in overtime. But his biggest points of the night came when we were kind of stagnant late in the second half and he drove the basketball, got fouled, and made his free throws.”

The Cavaliers will need all the points they can get tonight – at the stripe and elsewhere. Odds are against Cleveland out-rebounding Seattle by 35 boards tonight and the Sonics’ crowd will give their squad a big lift. For the Cavaliers to remain hot, they’ll have to dig deep during this three-game sojourn on the West Coast.

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | December 5, 2005 | Snake Eyes



Snake Eyes

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 5 -- What happened to the Cavaliers this past weekend was certainly nothing unusual.

Only San Antonio has been a tougher place than Seattle to play for the Wine and Gold. And a vastly-improved Clipper team took advantage of a Cleveland team that was still adjusting to a back-to-back. They showed them just how vast the improvement was in the first quarter, out-scoring the Cavs, 31-18. For the final three quarters, Cleveland held a one-point advantage.

“Everybody plays back-to-back so I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” said Head Coach Mike Brown following the loss in L.A. “We got into Seattle at 5 o’clock the night before and that didn’t help us. We gave up 50 percent shooting and 100-plus points.”

The Clippers were rested and ready, too. Cleveland went toe-to-toe with Seattle on Friday night and it obviously took them a quarter to get started on Saturday. The last time the Clippers played before meeting Cleveland on was a meeting with Cleveland the previous Wednesday night, an overtime loss.

In that overtime game, Zydrunas Ilgauskas got the best of Clippers center, Chris Kaman. But it was the other way around in the City of Angels. The former MAC Player of the Year – who looks like a really huge Tom Petty – went off for a game-high 19 boards, along with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Elton Brand went off for another 30-plus point game, his second against Cleveland in four days.
Kaman, Brand and the Clippers are definitely for real. They are at the top of the Pacific Division. The Lakers are a half-game from the bottom.

“Between Kaman and Brand, they had 42 points down low,” complained Brown. “They were 18 for 32 shooting and almost had 30 rebounds between the two of them. Our team defense allowed them to shoot 52 percent. We can be a good team if we understand that our defense needs to fuel our offense and not the other way around.”

Brown has to be disappointed with the Cavaliers defense this past weekend. Cleveland knuckled down in the final three quarters in L.A. But it took them the first five periods of the road trip to get there.

“I think (Brown) is more concerned with us getting defensive stops so we can get out and run,” said LeBron James on Saturday. “When we don’t get defensive stops we end up taking long shots then we are out of our comfort zone.”

Another tough matchup the mini-series between Cleveland and the ClipShow provided was the one between Corey Maggette and James. Two basketball players with football player bodies, Maggette and James did epic battle on Saturday night. LeBron netted 30 points, but again didn’t have his best night from the field, going 8-for-25.

The Cavaliers have one game left to salvage the early season West Coast trip and that comes on Tuesday night in California’s capital. The Kings were just jumped by Minnesota, but they’ll get up for the Cavaliers. For Cleveland, they’d like to bring some momentum back to the North Coast, where they’ll play five of the next six at The Q.

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | December 7, 2005 | Wrapping Up the Roadie in Style



Wrapping Up the Roadie in Style

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 7 -- On Tuesday night in Sacramento, the Cavaliers did not let a big opportunity get away from them. And LeBron James gave the Arco Arena crowd a somewhat painful progress report two years after his professional debut.

The Kings are a shadow of the run-and-gun club that pushed Phil Jackson’s Lakers to the edge a few years ago. Injuries, age and the salary cap have taken a toll on Rick Adelman’s squad. Cleveland had lost nine straight in the California capital, but they were obviously the stronger team last night. And after two quarters it was the Wine and Gold’s game to lose.

LeBron deflated the Kings’ hopes at several stages during Tuesday night’s 102-97 win. There are so many ways for LBJ to beat a club and at Arco, he broke out just about every one. Two years ago, James made the greatest debut ever for a prep-to-pros player with 25 points, nine assists and six boards. On Tuesday, James tallied 30 points – the 10th time this year he’s gone over the 30-point plateau – to go with six boards, six assists and two steals. LeBron led both teams with three blocked shots.

The Cavaliers needed to get one win before heading home, mostly for psychological reasons. This past Friday, the Cavaliers came roaring back on a hot-shooting Seattle squad only to see their brief lead slip away late. On Saturday night, they got off to a slow start – down 13 after one quarter – and never quite got back into it, playing L.A. even for the final three periods. They also made Chris Kaman look like Dennis Rodman, which, if you’ve seen either of them, is no easy task.

But on Tuesday, Cleveland seized the opportunity of taking down a team that is not playing their best basketball. Despite the Kings shooting 46 percent and every starter netting double-figures, the Cavaliers looked tougher and deeper than the former Western Conference heavyweights.

Larry Hughes was huge on Tuesday. For the first time since that memorable night in October two seasons ago, LeBron has a partner who can break down defenses off the dribble (nearly) as well as he can. Hughes mirrored James’ versatile efforts, getting to the hole and getting to the line. Hughes had 24 points, six dimes, four rebounds and a steal. Hughes beat the shot clock with a sensational one-handed runner in traffic with just over two minutes to go in regulation to put the Wine and Gold up eight.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden notched 14 points and seven boards apiece. Gooden’s solid board work at the beginning of the game kept the Kings at arm’s length and six of Big Z’s boards were on the offensive end.

The Cavaliers now return home with some confidence and will play with that confidence at The Q for five of the next six ballgames beginning with Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets on Friday.

The Nets were the team that edged Cleveland for the postseason in 2004-05, so the Cavaliers know how big every Eastern Conference game is. Mike Brown’s club will be ready.

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | December 8, 2005 | Behind the Scenes



Behind the Scenes

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com



December 8 -- The Cavaliers took the red-eye back to Cleveland following Tuesday night’s win over the Kings in Sacramento. They obviously took yesterday off and will get back to work today in preparation for Friday night’s key Eastern Conference matchup with New Jersey.

So this morning, while we wait for the Cavaliers to get back into action, I’ve decided to do something a little bit different.

To start, let me reiterate that I have, what I feel, the best job in the city. I’ve been a Cavaliers fan for as long as I can remember and if you’re out there reading, you must be, too. When I meet someone and tell them that I’m the website’s beat writer, the second question people always ask me is: “What’s it like being around the Cavaliers?” (The first question is nearly always: “Can I get tickets?”)

So today, as we prepare for a nice homestand – five of the next six games at The Q – here’s what it’s like, for example, after a Cavaliers game for the media.

Directly after the game, the media gathers outside the Cavaliers’ locker room to wait for LeBron James and Mike Brown to come out and answer questions. The video of both that you see nightly on the cavs.com homepage is shot down in that area, also known as “The Vom.” LeBron answers questions, usually while reading that night’s box score. Mike Brown begins with an opening statement, then takes questions. He also has a box score, but it’s filled with red marks.

In the past two seasons, reporters would go into the locker room to talk to LeBron, but the swarm of media around his locker was just too huge and cumbersome. Other players whose lockers are next to LBJ’s – Eric Snow and, last year, Luke Jackson – couldn’t even get dressed. As many as 25 people with tape recorders, mikes and cameras used to huddle around the Chosen One’s stall, which is in the same space as it’s been for the past three years – in the far corner, next to the trainer’s room.

Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes’ lockers are next to each other, which is nice for reporters since both are two of the friendliest and most accessible players. Hughes talks after he gets dressed and pops in his huge earring. Gooden usually talks before he showers.

Donyell Marshall’s locker is against the back wall, about five stalls down from LeBron. He’s another guy who reporters gravitate to. Marshall is always willing to talk.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas ices up his feet immediately after the game and is rarely in the locker room right after. The training room, as you might imagine, is very busy during postgame.

Every player has their own flat screen TV. Most of them have that night’s pro or college basketball game on. (Unless there’s a big football game.) On the big board under the big TV, in big letters is listed tomorrow’s practice time and/or what time the team flight leaves.

The mood of the locker room can range from exuberant to dour. I’m sure you can imagine which circumstance dictates which.

That’s a quick look at the Cavaliers postgame. The media and I will be in there, as mentioned, for five of the next six games. Let’s hope the mood is exuberant.

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | December 9, 2005 | Good as Newble (almost)





Good as Newble (Almost)

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 9 -- Even casual Cavalier fans know that rookie head coach Mike Brown is all about three things: defense, defense and more defense.

Seventeen games into the 2005-06 season, the Cavaliers’ D hasn’t been quite as tenacious as Brown would prefer – the players are still learning his system and he is still without his best knuckle-down defender, Ira Newble. But both are right on the horizon.

The Cavaliers can score. With more weapons than they’ve had during the LeBron James Era, Cleveland is second in the NBA in scoring – trailing only the high-octane Suns. Between James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones, the Wine and Gold can fill it up from everywhere on the floor.

Hughes is a member of the league’s All-Defensive First Team and LeBron finished third in steals last season. Drew Gooden is a monster on the glass. But none of these players can make an opponent completely miserable for 96 feet like Newble, the six-year veteran from U. of Miami (Ohio).

Newble, who started 138 games for the Cavaliers over the past two seasons, isn’t about statistics. Last year’s starting shooting guard has averaged just under six points and just over three boards per game over that span. But neither category reflects his value to the club. The NBA doesn’t have a category for what Newble does on the hardwood.

This year, Newble hasn’t suited up for a single game, suffering from the ill-effects of right foot plantar fasciitis – or, in layman’s terms, a heel spur. Newble had no idea how serious the injury was when he first noticed that something wasn’t right.

“It was sore, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a slow bruise and then it got worse after the second day of training camp,” said Newble. “I never really gave it the rest it needed.”

On Thursday afternoon, Newble worked out with his teammates and could be ready to rejoin them during the Cavaliers’ pseudo-homestand over the next couple of weeks. He didn’t go through full scrimmages, but did run through some shooting and defensive drills.

“Any time you bring a guy that has that (defensive) mindset and with (Newble)’s athleticism and strength, it can only benefit you on that end of the floor,” said Coach Brown.

Many readers who have not seen the former CBA cager might wonder how a player who has averaged six points and three boards per game could have an impact on a talent-laden team like Cleveland. But if those same readers have watched a single game this year, they’d know that Newble brings an intangible that – despite the 11-6 mark – has been missing.

For the next few days, Newble will undergo a painful process in Pittsburgh through the Cleveland Clinic called high wave shock therapy. It’s something that he’s had done before. It was a medical procedure originally designed for dissipating kidney stones.

“I feel better, but I just want to get some practices in before I’m ready to go full-court,” Newble said after practice on Thursday.

By this time next week, Newble could be back in action off Mike Brown’s bench, ready to doggedly defend an opposing two or three. Newble gets in his adversary’s jersey from jump street. Hughes may be All-Defensive, but he’s more of a disrupter. Newble disrupts opponents by knocking them on their backsides. (Again, there’s no statistical category for planting point guards who get a little too daring around the rim.)

The Cavaliers defense (hopefully) isn’t what it will be come crunch time. Cleveland currently ranks 20th in the NBA in opponents’ scoring. That’s a number that Mike Brown, who cut his teeth with Greg Popovich and Rick Carlisle, finds unacceptable. But with Newble’s dogged on-ball defense and Anderson Varejao’s intrinsic rebounding about to enter the equation, look for that stat to improve exponentially.

Neither Sasha Pavlovic nor Luke Jackson brings the type of defense and toughness off the bench that Newble will bring when he returns to the Cavaliers lineup. With the Eastern Conference’s best rolling into The Q this month, both of those elements will be at a premium for the Wine and Gold.

“I’m going to come out and do what I do first and that’s play tough defense until I get comfortable and get the system right,” said Newble. “And as long as I go hard, any mistakes I make won’t matter as much.”

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | December 12, 2005 | Fifty-Two (No) Pickup





Fifty-Two (No) Pickup

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 12 -- For the second time in his already-illustrious pro career, LeBron James has topped the 50-point plateau. And for the second time, the Cavaliers lost the game in which he performed that feat.

Who knows whether they’re related or not. Drew Gooden only took five shots and Larry Hughes, only eight. But it’s awfully tough to pin a loss on a guy who just scored 52 points and led the team in assists on the same night.

Both 50-point games were played while the Wine and Gold was mired in a funk. When LBJ dropped 56 on Toronto, the Cavaliers loss was their ninth in 12 games, and Paul Silas was let go the very next morning. LeBron’s 52-pointer on Saturday comes as Cleveland has lost six of their last eight.

The Cavaliers’ problem has not been on the offensive end. They have just been unable to get stops down the stretch.

On Saturday, the outcome may have been in question, but the gameplan – at least on Milwaukee’s side – never was. The Bucks came into the matchup as the top three-point shooting team in the league and the Cavaliers were the worst in the NBA defending it. Milwaukee guard T.J. Ford sliced and diced the Cavaliers from behind the arc, going 5-for-5 from home run range. Overall, the Bucks shots 45 percent from three-point land. The Cavaliers hit six three-pointers; five by LeBron.

“T.J. Ford had a good night,” said Larry Hughes. “He knocked down some shots. We contested those shots and then just couldn’t get the rebounds when we needed them.”

The Bucks long-distance shooting was predictable. The fact that Milwaukee beat Cleveland up on the boards, 41 to 28, was not. The Cavaliers only grabbed five offensive rebounds and were led by – guess who – LeBron James, who tied Donyell Marshall off the glass with seven boards.

“We had a hard time rebounding,” lamented Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had his hands full with top draft pick, Andrew Bogut. “It’s hard if you play defense for twenty-two seconds and they miss a shot but get the rebound. It’s just back to the drawing board basically.”

The Cavaliers will need to get back to the drawing board this week. They have the next four at The Q beginning with an Atlanta Hawks team that shocked the World Champion Spurs in Dixie on Saturday night. After that Mike Brown’s men will really need to turn up the defense as Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets roll into town on Thursday, followed by the Diesel on Saturday night.

The Central Division is the toughest in the NBA and, although it’s early, the Wine and Gold can’t afford to lose too much more ground. The remainder of December will be critical.

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | December 13, 2005 | The Ubiquitous Mr. James





The Ubiquitous Mr. James

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 13 -- And you thought all the kid could do is play basketball.

LeBron James – and three other versions of LeBron James – are the stars of the new Nike television ad campaign titled, appropriately enough, “The LeBrons.” (You can check out three of the four video as well as a “Making Of” video on cavs.com; just click here.)

Everyone knows LeBron James is versatile, equally proficient in scoring, rebounding and dishing the rock. But now, the 20-year-old from Akron shows the versatile side of his personality – in the embodiment of the characters: “Wise,” “Kid,” “Business” and “Athlete.”

“I wanted to bring more of my personality out and they came up with a great concept, so I was like let’s do it,” said James, following the practice that followed his 52-point outburst. “At first there was a little doubt in their minds. They didn’t know I could do all that stuff, but we came up with some great concepts and I love it.”

The characters are all parts of LeBron, who said he channeled various family members for the roles. “Wise” is the all-knowing graybeard. “Kid” is the playful, mischievous youngster. “Athlete” is LeBron James himself – in these ads, a quiet observer. The straw that stirs the drink among the “LeBrons” is obviously “Business” – a silky smooth, but soft-spoken, middle-aged version of the foursome.

Which personality reminds LeBron most of himself?

“All of them. That’s why I’m playing all four of them.”

Filming took as much as 12-13 hours per day out in Hollywood. LeBron was proud to say there were no stand-ins and that he choreographed all the dance moves by himself. (“Yeah, I don’t need no help.”) He was also quick to point out that he did not learn those dance moves at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s.

After aggravating the Chinese with his martial arts Nike TV ads last season, this time LeBron is just having fun. He shot them during the off-season and in total, production lasted about a week.

“I just let it flow,” said a smiling James. “That’s just the way I am. And we came up with great footage and we were able to piece together me doing a lot of things.”

The young thespian can score, rebound and dish the rock and he obviously has a true screen presence.

LBJ was all smiles after practice on Monday. His new commercials are a hit, he’s the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month and he just hung 52 points on the Bucks. Now, his teammates need to follow suit and get back to their winning ways after dropping six of their last eight.

To quote the character, Business, from the Nike ad entitled “Glory Days”: I don’t know if I can take this no more.

-- Joe Gabriele
cavs.com


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Cavaliers Daily | December 14, 2005 | The Funk





The Funk

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 14 -- “We’re in a funk,” LeBron James began, following Tuesday night’s painful loss to the Hawks. “Every team in the league gets in a funk. We just have to tighten up the screws and get back to being ourselves. I don’t want to say I’m happy it’s happening now. But it’s better at the beginning of the season.”

James is just over two weeks away from his 21st birthday, but he is – and has been – the unquestioned leader of the Cavaliers. And after two straight seasons of watching the playoff picture dissipate before his very eyes late in March, the man knows from funks.

Yes, the Cavaliers bottomed out last night, dropping a ballgame against a scrappy Hawks club that came in with three wins out of their first 19 games. But LeBron sees the whole court, and he knows it’s better to get yourself straight in December than it is in April.

That’s not to say the Wine and Gold’s “screws” don’t need tightening. They do.

Cleveland is having major difficulty defending the opposing point guard and for a club that once out-rebounded the Sonics by 35 boards, the Cavaliers are suddenly coming up on the short end of that statistic. Last night, despite LeBron’s standard brilliance, Coach Mike Brown saw those problems – and more – come to the fore.

The Cavaliers turned it over 19 times and that led to 28 Hawks’ points. They shot just 63 percent from the line and took 14 less free throws to do it. The Cavs were beaten on the offensive glass and a journeyman point guard nearly outscored their entire bench.

Brown was slightly less upbeat than the Chosen One following last night’s loss – the Cavaliers’ third straight and seventh in their last nine.

“From our effort standpoint, it is an embarrassing loss for us,” lamented the rookie head coach. “I don’t care if we won or lost, just effort wise, our effort was horrible. I’m part of it. My effort was horrible too. I’m part of that team in there, and I’m taking responsibility for this also.”

Earlier in the season, the Cavaliers rattled off eight straight, so they know that it’s in them. But there is trouble in paradise and the players are hearing the wake up call loud and clear.

“This was just an odd night for us,” said Donyell Marshall. “This is letting us know that we can’t just come out and turn it on when we feel like turning it on. We have to play hard from the beginning. Early on we caught teams by surprise, but now they know us.”

The Cavaliers have their work cut out for them for the remainder of the month. They welcome the Nuggets to town on Thursday and Shaq Diesel is back from an ankle injury and will be in the house on Saturday. Cleveland welcomes Utah to The Q next week and before the New Year strikes, the Cavaliers will face Chicago (twice), Indy, New Jersey on the road and the powerhouse Pistons.

It will be difficult. But they’ll have to figure it out. Of course, when a team is in a funk, they look to their leader and he isn’t quite ready to hang his head.

“I can’t feel down,” said an almost defiant James last night. “I don’t want to feel down. It’s too early in the season for me to get down. Especially, with me being the leader of this team. I can’t get down because it will rub off on everyone else. I’m high in spirit right now.”

Be sure to tune in during every Cleveland Cavaliers' game for Joe Gabriele's IN-GAME LIVE quarterly updates.

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Cavaliers Daily | December 16, 2005 | What the Wine and Gold Needed



What the Wine and Gold Needed

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 16 - That was just what the doctor ordered.

The Cavaliers got well on Thursday night, and breathed some life into a month that saw the Wine and Gold fall to fourth place in the toughest division in basketball. LeBron James led a balanced attack in Cleveland’s 94-85 win.

Mike Brown got big contributions from his two aces off the bench – Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall. Last night was what Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry envisioned when he inked the bombers during this past off-season. Jones scored 17 points – 15 of them on three-pointers – and Donyell Marshall drilled a pair of treys in the final four minutes that put the Nuggets on ice.

“I thought that was my best inside-out game of the year,” said Marshall, following the win. “When you hit the outside shot, they have to come out on you and when you’re able to work inside, it opens up the three-pointer.”

Of course, LeBron did most of the damage. The Eastern Conference’s leading vote-getter in this year’s All-Star balloting was just too strong and quick for Denver on several occasions. His steal and dunk to end the third quarter completely changed the momentum of the ballgame.

With under 30 seconds to go in the period and Denver leading by four, Damon Jones proceeded to hit a three-pointer from the right corner as the clock wound down. The Nuggets in-bounded the ball but James swooped in to take it from Earl Watson and throw down a massive dunk. That seemed to awaken the sleeping giant.

LeBron also led the Cavaliers in assists with nine, as the Nuggets double-teamed the young King to try to get the ball out of his hands.

“(LeBron) is going to keep attracting double teams,” said Mike Brown, following the win. “When he does and he shares the basketball, he is going to get 9 or 10 assists on a daily basis.”

Larry Hughes looked as comfortable last night as he has in a couple weeks. When he is on, Hughes does every little thing – drive, dish, shoot, steal – and that’s what he did last night. The Cavaliers two-guard finished with 12 points, six assists, four boards and a pair of steals.

Big Z returned from a sprained knee that kept him out of the painful Tuesday night loss to Atlanta to contribute a 16-point effort. Of course, it helped that the league’s leading rebounder, Marcus Camby, missed last night’s game with a hand injury. Earl Boykins, former Cavalier and the pride of Cleveland Central Catholic, also was inactive for last night’s affair.

The Cavaliers got a win when they needed one. Pat Riley and his Diesel-led Heat roll into town on Saturday night in what should be a good barometer of where the Cavaliers stand early in the 2005-06 season.

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Cavaliers Daily | December 20, 2005 | Moving Fourward





Moving Fourward

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 20 -- The Cavaliers went through a rough patch to start the month of December, but thanks to LeBron James’ all-around basketball brilliance and the resurgence of Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones, it looks like the Wine and Gold are rediscovering their identity with just over one quarter of the season played.

With games against Chicago (twice), Indiana, New Jersey and the top-ranked Pistons on the horizon, tonight’s matchup against the Jazz doesn’t seem like that much of a grudge match. Eighteen months ago you wouldn’t have believed me.

I guess the topic of Carlos Boozer will always come up when the Jazz roll into town. Eighteen months ago, Boozer bolted from Cleveland under controversial circumstances. That seems like a long time ago and the boiling blood has cooled considerably. The way Boozer bolted was controversial; the fact that he did is merely a fact of life in the NBA – free agents leave teams for more money and a better opportunity. It’s that simple.

Boozer will not be with the Jazz for the second straight season as they come to The Q tonight due to an injured hamstring. The former Blue Devil hasn’t played an NBA game since last February. He missed last year’s March 15 matchup at, what was then, the Gund – a game the Cavaliers won easily, 92-73.

“I think that the first time he decides to come here and play, he’ll get a nice, good ‘booooz,’ maybe without the ‘z,’” joked LeBron after practice on Monday. “He’ll just get the ‘boo.’”

But this is not about Boozer. It’s about what the Cavaliers, and specifically the power forward position, have become since he left. After Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry further beefed-up the four spot with Donyell Marshall this off-season, it is now easily the Wine and Gold’s deepest position.

Drew Gooden is more durable than his predecessor, and has been solid offensively and on the boards. Donyell Marshall is doing exactly what he was brought here to do – can the perimeter jumper and do the dirty work around the rim. And Anderson Varejao – who’s currently injured – who was once considered a ‘throw-in’ on the Drew Gooden-Tony Battie deal with the Magic, is one of the Cavaliers toughest rebounders and a huge crowd and team favorite.

Boozer will not be with the Jazz on Tuesday night at The Q and the matchup with Utah – although an important game, as they all are – will be just an early-season interconference contest. Both teams have moved in their respective directions. Cavalier fans and boo-birds alike will have to wait another year to clear their pipes.

But Cleveland’s power forward position is just fine in the meantime.

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Cavaliers Daily | December 21, 2005| Gift-Wrapped Win





Gift-Wrapped Win

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 21 -- Yesterday’s one-sided 110-85 victory over the short-handed Utah Jazz is as easy as things are going to be until the end of the calendar year. In fact, the last day of the year will bring the toughest team in the NBA to The Q. Last night was a good warm-up for things to come.
LeBron James, last year’s minutes-played leader, got some rest. He said he doesn’t need it.

“Doesn’t matter to me; I don’t wear down,” said James after last night’s victory. “I feel great. I’ll play 45 mintues, I’ll play 35 minutes. I’m going to give the same effort no matter how long I play.”

When someone asked if it’ll matter at the end of the season, LBJ quipped: “It hasn’t in the last two years.”

Whether his teammates need the rest of not is a different story. Drew Gooden, who tweaked an ankle on Saturday night, only had to log 19 minutes on Tuesday. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was a game-time decision after suffering a mild concussion against the Heat, only played 22 minutes.

Not only did the blowout over Utah allow Mike Brown to rest his starters, it gave him the chance to get his reserves some valuable minutes of floor time. Every Cavalier scored last night, including Luke Jackson, who netted a career-high 14 points in just 15 minutes of action. It was technically “garbage time,” but it was also vital to Jackson’s confidence. He needs to feel what it’s like to score again.

It was also a good opportunity to ease Ira Newble back into the rotation. Newble had missed the first quarter of the season with plantar faciitis and his presence on the defensive end of the floor has been sorely missed. The near-sellout crowd at The Q gave Newble a huge hand when he made his debut. Cavalier fans know their basketball. And they know Cleveland has more than enough offense.

“It felt good to get out there and play, and try to contribute any way that I can,” said Newble. “I was just trying to get out there and run and get my timing back. It was especially nice that we had a big lead so I could stay out there for extended minutes and really get my conditioning.”

The Cavaliers got loose and limber against a Jazz team that was without Andrei Kirilenko and, of course, Carlos Boozer – who hasn’t played since Feb. 14 of last year. His mug was shown on the jumbotron to a chorus of boos, but it wasn’t the same as the real thing. Fans will have to wait another year to vent on the former Blue Devil.

Now, the Wine and Gold have to get down to business. They have a tough back-to-back to close out the week against the Bulls in Chicago and the Pacers at The Q. Both are nationally-televised affairs.

The Cavaliers got their rest, got to work out the kinks and got to play their reserves against an injured Utah team. The road will get much tougher between last night’s game and the time the calendar turns to 2006.

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Cavaliers Daily | December 23, 2005 | Bombing the Bulls





Bombing the Bulls

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 23 -- At one point during the Cavaliers fourth-quarter surge against the Bulls, did you catch yourself asking: “What just happened?”
Cleveland blew past the Bulls in an absolute blur last night. Chicago had a 10-point lead with less than a minute to go in the third and was down eight five minutes later. After an awful third quarter in which the Cavaliers hit only three of 15 shots, the Wine and Gold caught fire and the Bulls never recovered.

LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas got the Cavaliers to within striking distance. But it was Damon Jones who pushed them past the Bulls for Cleveland’s fourth straight win and a huge Central Division victory. Jones dropped three three-pointers on the Bulls in just 70 seconds and has been red-hot for a week.

“Those were huge shots for us,” said Ilgauskas, following the win. “We got the stops in the fourth quarter and then shared the ball well. Damon hit those big threes. I've seen him do it in practice that fast and it really helped to open up the floor for us all.”

When the Cavaliers are clicking like they were in the fourth, they are a tough team to beat. Jones and Donyell Marshall are murder from the outside, Z and Drew Gooden are a load on the inside, and LeBron James, well, he’s practically un-guardable from every spot on the floor.

One huge disparity in last night’s game was at the free throw stripe. The Bulls took a grand total of 10 free throws on the night. The Cavaliers took 41. LeBron (13) and Z (11) took more free throws individually than Chicago took as a team.

"This is my 19th or 20th year in the league and I don't think I've ever seen a stat sheet where two players shot and made more free throws than our entire team,” lamented Bulls coach Scott Skiles after his team dropped below .500 with the loss.

“We're an outside-inside team that can get to the line a lot,” offered LeBron. “We do that to almost all of our opponents and lead them in getting to the line for that reason.”

The Cavaliers will need to repeat their performance from the line and from the field on Friday night as the heavyweight Pacers roll into town. The Wine and Gold got a big Central Division win on Thursday; it would make for a nice Christmas if they could go back-to-back.

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Cavaliers Daily | December 26, 2005 | Rivalry Week





Rivalry Week

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 26 -- What a difference a year makes.

Last year, if LeBron James had shot 25 percent from the floor against the Indiana Pacers, the Cavaliers fate would probably have been similar to that of the Browns this past Saturday against the Steelers. And that ain’t good.

Fortunately for the Cavaliers, the Chosen One now has a supporting cast that can pick him up, which is exactly what they did in Friday night’s 94-89 win over Indy at The Q. Drew Gooden was massive, doubling up for the eighth time this year with 21 points and 12 boards.

Of course, like all the great ones, LBJ can figure out a way to beat a team even if the shots aren’t falling.

“You know (James) goes 4-for-16, I bet you there is nobody in this building that would think we would win if he does that against the Pacers,” said Cavaliers coach Mike Brown. “But the things that he did do: nine assists, eight boards. They were running two guys at him all night and he found people.”

Brown had to be satisfied, getting a win against his former squad to take into the holiday weekend, especially after the rough treatment his club got on the last holiday at the hands of the Pacers. Indiana drubbed the Cavaliers, 98-76, on national TV this past Thanksgiving.

“They kicked our behinds,” Brown quipped, referring to the turkey day loss that snapped an eight-game win streak and sent Cleveland reeling for two weeks. “They handed us our lunch.”

“Any time they beat us, we want to try and beat them back,” said James. “There are two more games left against them – one at our place, and one at their place. This should make for a good Eastern Conference rivalry.”

Another rivalry is brewing and will continue tonight at The Q when the Bulls try to exact some revenge from last Thursday night’s loss at the hands of the Cavaliers in Chicago. Cleveland turned a ten-point deficit around in short order last week with a 16-2 run to start the fourth that denied the Baby Bulls a home win over the Cavs.

Cleveland exploited the Bulls weaknesses in last Thursday’s nationally-televised affair in the Windy City. Chicago is lacking an interior presence and, although they reached the playoffs last year, they are still a very inexperienced team. Still, the Bulls have given the Cavaliers fits over the last couple years.

Odds are against LeBron James turning in two straight 25 percent shooting games, so the Bulls should be concerned. But the odds are also against a huge late run against a Scott Skiles-coached Bulls club. So it could very well be another white-knuckler on the corner of Huron and Ontario on Monday night.

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Cavaliers Daily | December 28, 2005 | Don't Look Back





Don't Look Back

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 28 -- All good things must come to an end and last night in Jersey, the Nets put an end to the Cavaliers six-game run. To Cleveland’s credit, they didn’t let it go easily.
The Cavaliers dug themselves a hole starting midway through the first period and worked to climb out of it for the rest of the game. The Wine and Gold made three big runs – one to start the third and two to close the fourth. But it wasn’t enough to stave off the three-headed monster of Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter, and Jason Kidd.

It was Cleveland’s eighth straight loss at Continental Airlines Arena and the second this season to the Nets – the team that edged the Cavaliers for the final playoff spot by a final game last year. There are teams that – for one reason or another – are bad matchups for another team. New Jersey is a bad matchup for the Cavaliers.

"It’s going to be tough to beat anybody that is a division leader whether its in the east or west when you allow them to shoot 59 percent in the first half and score 56 points," lamented Head Coach Mike Brown, following the loss.

If there Cavaliers were going to lose one, dropping the second-game of a back-to-back on the road after winning six straight is probably the best case scenario for accepting a loss. Especially the way the Cavaliers fought down the stretch – knocking an 18-point deficit down to four points in the final seven minutes of regulation.

"I'm happy with the way we stayed with it and tried to come back in the second half," added Brown. "We did some nice things on both ends of the floor. Again you are playing on the road in a good teams building, it’s going to be tough to come back from any deficit, let alone a 17 point deficit or whatever we were down."

There’s certainly no time to look back on Tuesday night’s loss. Not with the Eastern Conference Champions rolling into town this weekend.

The Cavaliers have three days to prepare for the Pistons and they’ll need all three. The Cavaliers are the second-best team in the East, But 17-10 is a distant second to 23-3. Detroit has been nearly unstoppable this year and they’re on pace to win 65 games. Saturday’s game will be a true measuring stick for how far along this team really is.

The Cavaliers played Detroit tough last year – knocking the Pistons off twice at home: Once, the night before Thanksgiving when LeBron James scored 43 points and the second time in interim head coach, Brendan Malone’s debut. The Cavaliers gave them a great run at the Palace on the final Sunday of the season while fighting for their playoff lives.

So Mike Brown’s men have the rest of the week to rest, regroup and maybe put in a few new wrinkles for the powerhouse Pistons. Detroit has a big game with Miami in-between now and its meeting with Cleveland, but they’ll be ready to prove their point again when Chauncey Billups and Co. end the 2005 calendar year at The Q.

Will the Cavaliers be up for the challenge?

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Cavaliers Daily | December 29, 2005 | The Life of LeBron





The Life of LeBron

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

December 29 -- Most kids who are about to turn 21 haven’t even begun to live their lives – and certainly not in the professional world. But LeBron James is not like most kids. In fact, for the most part he’s not like any kid. And there’s no telling when the world will see another of his ilk.

There is one way he might be like other kids who turn 21, and that might be this morning. Last night, James had his 21st birthday party at the House of Blues. It should be a wild one and LBJ might have the headache one would expect after the day one turns “legal.”

He acknowledged after practice on Wednesday that he’ll think about the heavyweight Pistons after the party.

“I’m turning 21 on Friday, but we’re going to do the party tonight,” smiled James. “I don’t think it would be too good to do it on Friday, playing the Pistons on Saturday. So, we’re going to do it tonight and have a good time.”

Early reports aren’t in, but LBJ’s party was likely a celebrity-studded affair, led of course by Damon Jones, who in typical fashion announced Wednesday: “I am the party. I’m not the entertainment, but when the flyers went out, it said that celebrities will be present and I’m the biggest celebrity there is. (Other than the birthday boy.)”

LeBron has a lot to celebrate. He’s arguably the most recognizable athlete in the world. He’s a legitimate MVP candidate. His team is the second-best club in the East. His Nike commercials are wildly popular and critically-acclaimed. He’s surrounded by his childhood friends. And, to top it off, he’s loaded.

As far as what he’s accomplished in his 21 years – speaking strictly of basketball, LBJ is the youngest player to record a triple-double and the youngest to reach 3,500 points, 1,000 boards and 1,000 assists,

He already has the two highest-scoring games in franchise history and holds the single-season scoring mark in points and average. James is the first Cavalier ever named Rookie of the Year. He’s the only Cavalier to be named Player of the Month, and he’s already done that three times in his young career. He’s only the second Cavalier ever voted on the All-Star squad (Shawn Kemp, 1998) and he’s leading the East in voting this year.

LeBron is one of only five players in NBA history to average 27 points, 7.0 boards and 7.0 assists in a season. He won a Bronze medal in the Olympics. And his name is being mentioned with some of the all-time NBA greats.

Overall, James has lived a lifetime in just 21 years. He has good reason to blow it out. Where can the young King go from here?

To quote Mike Brown: “Up.”

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Cavaliers Daily | January 3, 2006 | Match Game





Match Game

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

January 3 -- It wasn’t supposed to be that easy.

Last Saturday’s convincing 97-84 win over the Pistons proved once again that the Cavaliers match up well with Detroit, regardless of status or standings. The Cavaliers have split their meetings with the Motor City heavyweights over the last two years.

“Anytime you play the best team in the league and get a win it feels good,” said the pragmatic Mike Brown, following Saturday’s victory. “But I look at it is we got to win our next ballgame just like this ballgame. I said coming in, yes it is the Pistons, yes they are the best team in the league, but we need a win.”

It’s not wise to put too much into the weekend win. But the Pistons are playing by far the best ball in the league. And with the Cavaliers constantly trying to establish themselves as an upper-echelon team in the East, wins against quality opponents – at any time during the season – are huge.

“We wanted to be the aggressor,” said Larry Hughes, who finished with 16 points, five boards, three dimes and a pair of steals. “That’s a good team coming into our building, but really we feel that we’re supposed to win.”

Hughes did exactly what he was paid to do when he came to Cleveland – take some of the scoring load off LeBron James, while simultaneously handling the opposition’s toughest defensive assignment. Rip Hamilton got his 21 points, but he had to work his tail off for every one of them.

And as usual under Mike Brown’s system, everything started on the defensive end. LeBron and Hughes teamed up to hold Tayshaun Prince to 2-of-12 shooting and Eric Snow was mainly responsible for containing MVP candidate, Chauncey Billups, in check on 2-for-11 shooting.

The fact that the Cavaliers held Detroit to 36 percent from the floor also translated directly to the 20-6 advantage on the fast break.

“To come back and get a victory like this is big, but not even just today, but Miami, Indiana, the other two Chicago games,” beamed Donyell Marshall. “To be able to come back and play the way we have speaks volumes for us. It is a great way to close out the year.”

Marshall had another solid game off Mike Brown’s bench. The league’s top rebounding sixth man finished with 13 points and six boards. The combination of Marshall and Drew Gooden, who tallied his third double-double in his last four games, finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds. (All this at the four, and Anderson Varejao is inching towards his return in a couple weeks.)

The Cavaliers have a long way to go. Things looked rosy at this stage last year. Veterans of the past two seasons in Cleveland like LeBron, Ira Newble and Zydrunas Ilgauskas know this. The Wine and Gold will have to continue grinding it out. And a quality road win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night would go a long way. But it’s still nice to knock off the top team in the NBA at home.

“Defensively we just tuned in,” said James, who finished with a game-high 30 points. “And we just executed.”

If it comes down to it – either down the stretch or in the Playoffs – Cleveland does know that it matches up very well with the two-time Eastern Conference champs.

The New Jersey Nets are another story. But the Cavaliers can cross that bridge when they get to it again on February 1.

For now, a win over the Pistons is an awfully good way to close out the 2005 portion of the regular season schedule.

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Cavaliers Daily | January 5, 2006 | Losing Hughes, Winning Ballgames





Losing Hughes, Winning Ballgames

by Joe Gabriele

January 5-- One of the harsh realities of the long NBA season hit the Cavaliers camp on Wednesday afternoon: they’d be going through the next two months – give or take – without the crown jewel of their off-season acquisitions, Larry Hughes.
Hughes traveled to Baltimore with Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry yesterday and together the decision was made for Hughes to have surgery on his fractured right long finger. If the situation is taken care of now, the Wine and Gold will have Hughes back for the stretch run; if not, they might have had to do it without him.

The bad news about Hughes comes amidst two pieces of good news. One piece of news takes place on the injury front, where high-energy forward Anderson Varejao could be back in action as early as this weekend, but definitely by the club’s West Coast swing that begins next week.

The other, in the victory column, where LeBron James took over in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers marched to their eighth win in their last nine games with a convincing 91-84 win over the Bucks on Wednesday night in Milwaukee, where Cleveland hadn’t won in their previous seven trips.

Damon Jones got the starting nod at two-guard and was silent for nearly three entire quarters. But his three-pointer to stave off a Bucks run late in the third somehow ignited the Cavaliers in the fourth, when they went on an explosive 19-0 run to ice the win over Michael Redd and Co.

LeBron James triple-doubled for the second time this season and the sixth time in his brilliant pro career.

“LeBron continues to amaze me,” praised Head Coach Mike Brown. “He got a triple-double tonight, which was awesome. But he’s one guy who can get those often. It’s easy to take him for granted when he does because it just seems so natural for him.”

LeBron scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. He added 11 points, 11 boards and five steals – the first player to accomplish that feat since Derrick Coleman did it in 1993. No Cavalier has ever had five or more steals complementing a triple-double.

James did all this after scoring 52 points against the Bucks in their first game, a 111-106 loss on December 10.

Drew Gooden kept the Cavaliers in last night’s game with an intense effort in the first three-quarters of the game and his sub, Donyell Marshall, helped bring the win home with 17 points off the bench.

Marshall outscored the Bucks’ bench, but so did Mike Wilks who notched two points. Milwaukee’s reserves didn’t score a single point on Wednesday.

The Cavaliers got a huge Division win on Wednesday, but lost one of their most important components in Larry Hughes. Cleveland is one of the top rebounding clubs in the NBA. How will they rebound from their first major piece of adversity?

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Cavaliers Daily | January 6, 2006 | Bridging the Gap





Bridging the Gap

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

January 6 -- If you’ve read this column you’ve read these words a million times: It’s a long season.

That’s not an excuse for the ugliness at The Q last night. Neither is the fact that the Cavaliers were coming off a back-to-back. (Cleveland is now 2-5 on the second half of a two-nighter.) It’s not an excuse and the Cavaliers wouldn’t allow it to be.

“I don’t want to make any excuses,” said LeBron James following last night’s 90-81 loss to the Rockets. “Some of the guys were banged up from (Wednesday) night. We don’t want to make any excuses. We are not the only team that has to play back-to-back.”

The Cavaliers have now dropped five straight to Houston and Tracy McGrady, who averaged 32 points per game in the previous four losses, one-upped himself to 34 points in last night’s victory for the short-handed Rockets.

LeBron James was incredible once again and in his last five games, he’s had at least 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists in each contest.

But as we’ve discovered over the past two years, LeBron can’t do it alone. And last night, especially against T-Mac, the Cavaliers got a look at what life will be like without Larry Hughes for the next couple of months.

“It definitely changes things,” said Ira Newble, who did a nice job on McGrady in the second half. “Larry is a good player. He adds a lot to our team with his scoring and defense. He’s a complete player and when you lose a player like that it’s going to affect your team. But we have enough talent on this team to make up for it.”

Someone has to pick up the slack for Hughes, though. LeBron took care of that on Wednesday – doing what Hughes normally does in a game in the fourth quarter alone (17 pts., six ast, four reb.) – but he can’t do it every night. Damon Jones is a potent weapon off the bench. But he’s yet to prove that he’s a solid starter for the Cavaliers, or that he can handle the two-guard spot. Jones is 2-for-14 from the floor in his first two starts.

“Larry is a big part of what we do,” said Coach Mike Brown, after last night’s loss. “It’s tough. We got to lace it up and figure it out like we did (in Milwaukee).”

The Wine and Gold don’t have a lot of time to figure it out. They take the court against Milwaukee for the third time this season – this time at The Q – on Saturday and play the last game in Cleveland until late January, when they welcome the struggling Knicks to town.

After that, it’s a long trip through some treacherous Western Conference terrain. This is where Cavaliers fans will see what Mike Brown and his men – and maybe GM Danny Ferry – are made of.

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Cavaliers Daily | January 9, 2006 | Bucks Stopped Here





Buck Stopped Here

by Joe Gabriele
cavs.com

January 9 -- Saturday night’s big Divisional win over the Bucks was the perfect medicine for a Cavaliers club that looked somewhat disheveled in last Thursday night’s loss to the Rockets at The Q.

It was Cleveland’s third game since losing shooting guard Larry Hughes to finger surgery that could sideline him up to eight weeks. They’re 2-1, and things don’t look as bleak as some pundits thought it might. Of course, the Wine and Gold won’t be playing the Milwaukee Bucks every night for the next two months. And a Western Conference swing is looming.

And just when you thought you’d seen every jaw-dropping highlight in LeBron James’ arsenal, he pulls out one that defies the laws of logic and gravity.

With 5:21 remaining in the third period, James came roaring in from the weak side for a man-sized swat of Milwaukee’s Mo Williams. If you didn’t see it live, you’ve seen it on countless highlight shows over the weekend.

"I've done that before; coming over from the weak side to block a shot, and I know Maurice Williams didn't see me coming," smiled James, following the 86-88 win over the Bucks. "I could have kept the ball in-bounds, I just didn't want to."

The play juiced up the Cavaliers and they put the Bucks away early in the fourth quarter for the second time in four nights. LBJ finished with a game-high 35 points to go with seven boards and six assists. Drew Gooden also came up huge, doubling-up with 14 points and 17 boards. His backup, Donyell Marshall, rebounded from a poor outing last Thursday to pour in 14 points off the bench.

It was a good night for a pair of players who had been relegated to limited duty off Mike Brown’s bench – Luke Jackson and Mike Wilks. Jackson will be getting more minutes with the absence of Larry Hughes and Wilks was asked to log a season-high 26 minutes to spell an ineffective Damon Jones, who went 1-for-6 from the floor – all three-pointers – and is a combined 3-for-20 since being pressed into the Cavaliers starting lineup.

“Those guys are in this league for a reason,” said Marshall, speaking of Jackson and Wilks. “People haven’t seen them play a lot, but we’ve seen them in practice and we know what those guys can do.”

Jackson, along with James, had seven points in the pivotal second quarter. “If (Jackson) plays hard and earns his minutes, he’ll get time on the floor,” said Coach Brown, following the win.

Damon Jones was given the Bronx cheer a few times during the night on Saturday. He didn’t help matters by covering his ears when he finally did can a three. One thing is for sure, if Jones is coming out of his slump, he’ll shoot his way out. “I’ve known over the course of my career that things like this happen, and usually you come out on the other side smelling like roses,” he quipped.

The Cavaliers smelled a lot better after Saturday night’s ballgame then they did on Thursday. Cleveland has one more matchup at The Q before heading west for two weeks. Getting win No. 21 before they pack their bags will be big.

Be sure to tune in during every Cleveland Cavaliers' game for Joe Gabriele's IN-GAME LIVE quarterly updates.

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