We're all familiar with the concept of the 'heat check'. A player who makes a couple of long jump shots in succession comes down and hoists one from even further out to check just how hot he is. The vast majority of heat checks are missed. There's a reason coaches don't want players settling for long jump shots - they're not high percentage shots.
In the first quarter in Cleveland today, the entire Cleveland roster was on fire. And they came down the court time after time and threw up a heat check - and it always went it. The Cavs made seven consecutive threes on seven possessions, and then after missing a couple, they made four more in a row. In all, they made 11, tying an NBA record for three pointers in a quarter.
No one in the building was hotter than LeBron James. He was so hot, he decided to do a heat check on his first jumper of the game. When Marcus Camby fell and lost a rebound, James retrieved the ball in the corner and with 22 seconds on the shot clock turned and fired a three. It was a bad shot - a silly shot - and it was a swish. His five first quarter threes consisted of that first one from the corner, a fast break pull up, a step back with Rasual Butler in his grill, a catch and shoot from at least five feet beind the line, and the coup de grace, a jumper from at least 10 feet behind the line as the final seconds of the first quarter ticked off. Not one of the threes he made was what anyone would describe as a good shot. In fact, the book on LeBron is that if you can turn him into a jump shooter, you've done your job on defense. Not today. When the dust had settled at the end of one quarter, the Cavs led 46-20 and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.
Had it come against any other team, the display might have been fun to watch. Coming as it did against the Clippers, already a bit shell-shocked from consecutive losses to the Nets and Timberwolves, it seemed a bit cruel. Playing without Chris Kaman, the Clippers probably didn't have enough horses to beat the Cavs today regardless. But the way the Cavs played in the first quarter, the Barcelona Dream Team wouldn't have stood a chance.
To their credit, the Clippers didn't roll over and play dead. They were down by up as many as 31, and trailed by 28 at the half. But they came out strong in the second half and trimmed the lead to 16. They got as close as 11 in the fourth quarter, but could get no closer. The Cavs pulled way down the stretch to account for the final margin.
Baron Davis had his second consecutive strong offensive game, scoring a season high 30 and making 12 of 21 shots and 4 threes. But the rest of the starters were unable to support him. (In fact, he finished with 7 assists, and would certainly have reached double digits in assists had his teammates been able to make shots.) Starting for Kaman, DeAndre Jordan was 4 for 6 around the basket, but the other three starters (Eric Gordon, Rasual Butler and Marcus Camby) combined to make just 8 of 29 shots.
With the loss, the Clippers dropped seven games below .500 for the first time this season. They've lost 4 straight with two tough game remaining on the road trip. And things don't get a lot easier when they return home, with Utah and San Antonio two of the teams that traditionally dominate them coming to town. When they left for this trip, the Clippers goal was to get to .500 by the All Star break. That's now a mathematical impossiblity. Maybe they should set a new goal of winning another game.