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NBA Today: Cavs Better Not Look Past ‘Cats

January 7, 2009 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

Everyone is talking about the big showdown between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics coming up Friday night, and how that will be the biggest test yet to the Cavs’ home court dominance. The only problem is, Cleveland faces Charlotte Wednesday night – the same team that just beat Boston the other night. Talk about a situation ripe for an upset.

Add to this the fact that the Cavs have dropped two of their past three games, including a loss to underwhelming Washington, and you could see how Cleveland looks very vulnerable suddenly, despite its 17-0 record at Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland’s superb record – which has included a whack of blowout wins, has meant that LeBron James’s PT has dropped significantly this season. I mean, you can’t exactly complain about him – he’s still the best fantasy asset there is that’s not named Chris Paul – but it took him until Friday to record his first triple-double of the season. He followed that up with a big game Sunday that included 30 points, 10 assists and two blocks. Unfortunately, he turned it over seven times, one of which proved extremely costly as the Cavs failed to complete a big comeback against the Wizards. What concerns me more about King James is that as the season has progressed, he’s taking more and more shots from beyond the arc, while his FT attempts continue to drop. That tells me he’s been less aggressive as far as driving to the hoop, and in the end, that is costing his owners on the scoreboard, to an extent.

How dominating have the Cavs been? Well, when they went on that 17-1 run between late-November and late-December, the won by an average of 15.7 points. Small wonder LBJ was getting more rest. Do note, though, that as Cleveland has stumbled a bit in the past week or so, James’s PT is on the rise. He’s played at least 41 minutes in three of the last four games. Strange as it sounds, the Cavs coming back to earth is a good thing as far as his fantasy value goes.

Charlotte, by the way, has never won in eight tries in Cleveland, and has lost its last five overall against the Cavs — probably another reason the Cavs could overlook the ‘Cats here.

If Mo Williams was truly the clubhouse cancer he was painted as being when he was in Milwaukee, it sure hasn’t showed up in Cleveland, judging by the Cavs’ lofty standing. He actually had a very solid December, shooting so well that he scored more points despite less touches. That touch has evaded him lately, as Williams is just 8-for-30 in the past three games. Overall, his numbers have slipped dramatically this season – especially in terms of his touches and assists per game. But on the plus side, Mo is enjoying a career year from the line (85-for-89).

Williams must be doing something right as the facilitator of the Cav offense. Cleveland was 24th in the NBA last year with just 96.4 PPG, but this season ranks seventh with 101.2 PPG. The Cavs have done this while also improving defensively (last year, they ranked ninth with 96.7 PPA, but have the NBA’s best defense this season with just 89.4 PPA). Of course, just his mere presence has done wonders, as Cleveland lacked a dependable second scoring option who was capable of occasionally going off for 20-plus points the way Mo can. Really, the only key scorer who is doing better this season is Delonte West, but not enough to explain the surge in the Cav offense.

The loss of Zydrunas Ilgauskas has hurt the Cavs in the rebounding department – especially when it comes to cleaning up the glass under their own bucket. That’s an area Cleveland has struggled with during its current slump.

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