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Sunday, January 08, 2006

LeBron James Cancels Milwaukee's Redd Alert

The Cleveland Cavaliers rallied after a sluggish first quarter to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 96-88 at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night. LeBron James finished with 35 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Michael Redd had 32 points in defeat. Redd helped Milwaukee get off to a quick start with 10 first quarter points and the Bucks led 23-16; James had 10 of the Cavs' points and shot 4-7 from the field, while his teammates misfired at an anemic 3-18 clip.

In the second quarter, Cleveland fan favorite Luke Jackson sparked a Cavs rally with his seven points and two assists, including a sweet bounce pass to James for a two-handed dunk. Milwaukee led 44-40 at the half and the James-Redd shootout was tied at 17 points each; no other player had more than eight points.

James brought the crowd to its feet with two sensational third quarter plays--a soaring spike of Maurice Williams' layup attempt that preserved a slim 54-51 Cavs' lead at the 5:31 mark and a reverse dunk that put the Cavs ahead 64-63 with less than 40 seconds remaining. That play whipped the arena into a frenzy but at the 18.3 second mark you could hear a pin drop as James lay motionless on the court after landing awkwardly on the left side of his body when Bobby Simmons fouled him. James was uninjured, although he did miss both free throws.

Cleveland outscored Milwaukee 32-23 in the final stanza, with James scoring 11 points and adding two assists, accounting for six of the Cavs' 10 field goals. Donyell Marshall supported James with nine points and four rebounds in the period, finishing with 14 and eight.

Drew Gooden had a double-double, 14 points and 17 rebounds, while the Bucks' Andrew Bogut, the number one overall pick in the 2005 draft, had a quiet 10 points and seven rebounds.

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Notes From Courtside:

Damon Jones and his off target shooting--connecting on just 4 of his 26 previous attempts prior to Saturday--was the main topic du jour before the game. Jones has moved into the starting lineup in place of the injured Larry Hughes, who was dressed in civilian clothes and wearing a large cast to protect his surgically repaired broken finger. Coach Mike Brown supported Jones very strongly and even praised his defense, which has received a lot of negative attention. In his pregame standup, Brown declared, "Technically, he is probably one of our better off the ball defenders." He also said that he has no problem with Jones continuing to shoot three pointers, as long as they are open shots. I asked Coach Brown if he has seen any change in Jones' shot from a mechanical standpoint that would explain why he is missing so many shots and Brown replied, "I didn't ask him. I don't dwell on it because he's a veteran. A guy like that, you just hope that he continues to step up and take shots when he's open. We'll continue to work with him and try to get him extra shots. In terms of what could be wrong with his shot, I don't get into that." I followed up by asking if there is a fine line between trying to help Jones find his touch but not placing so much attention on the issue that it makes Jones self conscious about his form and Brown answered, "That's my thought about it."

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Jones showed no signs of emerging from his shooting woes, making only 1 of 6 shots versus the Bucks. The fans at the Q have taken to booing him lustily after each miss, so when Jones finally made a shot and the crowd cheered, Jones put both hands over his ears. Asked after the game if the booing bothers him, Jones answered simply, "I'm human." He added that he feels that the fans should support the team and the players win or lose, good or bad, and that since they've been booing his misses he'd prefer that they don't cheer his makes. That comment is unlikely to endear him to the Cavaliers' faithful, but put yourself in his shoes. If you were trying your best to do a good job, but just having a non-productive day/week, would being booed help you to perform better? The fans pay for their tickets and have every right to boo, but I've always thought that it is counterproductive for home fans to boo players who are putting forth good effort. If a guy is obviously not trying hard or is making stupid plays, fans should by all means express their displeasure. But Jones' role on the Cavs is to shoot open three pointers. His coach puts him on the court specifically to do that and, as Coach Brown noted repeatedly, Jones is a veteran player who has shot a good percentage on three pointers during his career. For whatever reason, Jones is struggling right now, but booing him is unlikely to achieve the desired result. Again, the fans have every right to boo Jones--but if the ultimate goal is to inspire the team to do well, is booing him really going to help? A good deal of the home court advantage stems from the energy and encouragement that the fans provide to the players; right now home games are like road games--or worse--for Jones and that cannot be good for him or the team.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:39 AM

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