Time to take these Cavs seriously
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
LeBron James was asked what he knows about the NBA now that he didn't know six months ago.
"I pretty much set myself up for everything that was going to happen," the ultra-confident, 19-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers rookie guard said last night at the Air Canada Centre. "That's why I think I'm being so successful right now. I didn't want any surprises and I haven't had one yet."
Not one surprise?
Actually, it was the Raptors who got surprised by the multi-player attack the Cavs threw at them in a 106-92 Cleveland victory. The Raptors are on the verge of becoming irrelevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race, having fallen two full games behind the surging Cavs.
You know, only one digit separates the terms "We're No. 1" and "We're No. 11," but they really are very different things. While the Raptors' locker room was like a tomb after the game, the Cavs were giddy. They sang and joked as they gathered around a TV to watch Tracy McGrady of the Orlando Magic put the finishing touches on a 62-point performance against Washington.
Considering the recent histories of the Toronto and Cleveland franchises, this is hard to accept, but the Cavs are considerably better than the Raptors right now.
"I'm not the only person who's going to make an impact," James said, explaining what has made the Cavs so dangerous as they've put together a five-game winning streak for the first time since December 2000. "(Carlos) Boozer is a four-man who's basically unguardable. 'Z' (Zydrunas Ilgauskas) is an all-star. And we're all able to play defence."
Indeed, it's Ilgauskas and Boozer, along the the wunderkind James, who are transforming the Cavs from an interesting team with promise into something to worry about. Really, if all those guys are at the top of their games, with absolutely no pressure on them, would you want to be playing Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs?
The Raptors had absolutely no answer for the 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas last night. He had 18 points on 9-for-11 shooting at the half, almost exclusively on layups and dunks that the size-challenged Raptors were helpless to contest. He picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and had to sit for a spell, but he still wound up with 30 points on 13-for-18 shooting and six rebounds.
"It was one of those days when most of the shots were going in," Ilgauskas said. "Each night, it's a different guy."
The two supposed stars of the show, James (14 points) and Toronto's Vince Carter (19 points), were comparatively invisible. But if those two play to a draw, it's a victory for the Cavs because of their huge advantages elsewhere.
James' flair for the spectacular was on display only once, midway through the first quarter, when he caught a baseball-style pass in mid-air and in one motion threw a behind-the-back pass to Boozer for a dunk.
You have to figure James, who was in high school last year, is getting weary at this late stage of his first pro campaign.
"It's the longest season I've ever played," said James, exhibiting a firm grasp of the obvious. "If we were losing and not in a playoff hunt, it would be more tiring. But we've been able to win and that has been keeping my energy up.
"I don't believe in the rookie wall."
The Cavs are busting through walls, while the Raptors just keep hitting them. It seems like a lifetime ago that we looked at Carter and the Raptors the way we look at James and the Cavs now. You see the Cavs, you see hope. We're not sure what we see anymore when we look at the Raptors.
So James didn't have a great game and Ilgauskas spent much of the evening in foul trouble, but the Cavaliers still had more than enough to club the Raptors.
This beat looks like it could go on for awhile, so get used to it. Cleveland rocked, Toronto rolled.