Homing in on the decisive stretch is easy.  At 3:42 in the third quarter, the game is tied 64-64.  From there, Cleveland goes on a 15-5 run, scoring on seven of eight possessions, a stretch of unparalleled defensive incompetence that running the math gives you a headache.  15 points in under four minutes is like...well...close to 50 points/quarter...about 194 points/48 minutes. What were the Los Angeles Clippers doing on offense on their corresponding possessions:

Three Tim Thomas turnovers.  Two Tim Thomas misses, along with a made three.  Throw in a couple of Elton Brand misses and one by Corey [along with a successful trip to the line], and that's how quickly an NBA team can lose a basketball game.  A three minutes and forty-two second perfect storm of abject defense and Tim Thomas is all it takes. 

  • At the outset of the game when I saw that Dunleavy had given the James assignment to Cat Mobley, I was livid.  But you know what?  Cat played James well last night; he really did, even on those impossible isolations.  James finished with 28 points on 10-23 shooting [43%].  The rest of the Cavs?  53%.  But after Corey converts the 3pp on the other end, James comes down and holds the ball on the wing against Mobley. 

    He palms the ball with his right and contorts himself like a Samurai, trying to find the precise stance that will lend him the biggest advantage over his much smaller defender.  He deliberately swings his arms, holding the ball overhead, looping his body again, faking his first step about three times.  He's plotting and it's truly fascinating to watch.  Mobley doesn't give him much.  So finally, James steps back and launches a fade-away jumper from about 18 feet. 

  • On the other end, Shaun brings it up and gets an immediate high screen from Elton, but the spacing on the floor is so horrible that it's TT's man, Drew Gooden, who shows and steps out initially on Elton.  I have the Tivo frozen right here and here's what the Clippers' offense looks like:  Corey Maggette and Tim Thomas running into each other --- literally colliding --- on the weak side perimeter wing; Mobley alone at the other garden spot, and Elton and Shaun at the top of the circle dealing with their useless S/R.  Since there's nothing, Shaun backs it out.  He swings it over to Cat, who gets a high screen from EB.  Mobley finds EB for the open 16-footer.  No good.

    It's harder to win games when EB is misfiring, but good teams overcome 6-14 performances from their guy all the time. 

  • LeBron James open court in transition.  Nobody reacts.  Cat can't stay in front of him.  Mike Smith points out that Livingston couldn't really help because Damon Jones sets up in the far corner.  Corey Maggette is the last guy downcourt and trails the play the entire way.  Elton actually seems small as LeBron drives past him.  And Tim Thomas isn't contractually obligated to ever play defense, apparently. 

  • The Clips reset and inbound after EB has the ball tipped away underneath.  The ball goes into Thomas in the corner off the EB screen.  The shot isn't close.   Elton rebounds, fires it back out to TT, who misses even worse.   In transition, Maggette commits a stupid, open-court foul that sends Sasha Pavlovic to the line, where he sinks one of two. 

  • Sam checks back in.  He dishes it to Thomas out on the perimeter.  TT drives inside then, when he meets a set Varejao, dishes it off to nobody.  The ball bounces out of bounds. 

    This is your basketball team.

    This is your basketball team when Tim Thomas is its offensive focal point. 

  • Another iso for James out on the left wing.  Thomas comes to double, but James manages to squirt away and the Cavs reset.  Another isolation for James up top against Mobley.  James dribbles right, gets doubled, passes it behind him on the left wing to a wide open Drew Gooden.  Gooden has honed that face-up, EB-ish 15-footer, and this one hits. 

    A 7-0 run for Cleveland. 

  • An inverted two-man game with Sam Cassell and Tim Thomas - where Sam moves into the post and Thomas stands outside.  Thomas nails from beyond to close the deficit to four momentarily. 

  • The offense is running exclusively though James now.  Another isolation out on the left wing. He step backs and hits from just inside the arc. 

  • Sam rushes it up, dribbles into traffic, backs it out and dishes it off to Thomas on the perimeter.  The Clips are doing nothing off the ball.  Zilch.   Thomas fakes the three, drives, and loses it in the lane. 

  • On the break, Damon Jones launches a PUJIT from beyond.  If I were a Cleveland fan, I'd probably hate this guy.  He's one of the ten worst defensive players in basketball and takes three-pointers on the break even though he's alongside this other guy who's a pretty decent open-court player. 

  • In transition, Cassell drills a nice bounce pass into the lane for a trailing EB.  Elton gets fouled.  There's a weak argument for continuation, as EB sinks the shot after the whistle, but the Clips don't get the call -- and probably shouldn't - so they'll take it out of bounds. 

    It's funny how your team is never in the penalty when they've spent the quarter launching shitty outside jumpers.

    Off the inbounds, it goes into Corey in the post, where it should go more often.  Corey is a brute and, once contact is initiated, gets the whistle.  He sinks both free throws.  If Corey would trade half of his jump shots for post-ups, he'd average another two trips a line and three points per night. 

  • Eric Snow, offensive maven, is back at point.  He drops it into Drew Gooden on the left block one-on-one against Thomas.  Gooden, facing the basket now, goes up, drawing  contact and hitting the shot. 

  • An isolation play for Maggette on the other end.  He schools Pavlovic, but can't finish the layup. 

  • Final shot for Cleveland.  It works its way over to Damon Jones in the far corner.   He launches a horrible-looking shot with 1.7 left, but Quinton Ross falls into him after the shot goes up. 

    Ross is so intent on being Dunleavy's defensive specialist, that he's starting to press.  He's trying so hard to fulfill his role that he ends up committing absolutely idiotic fouls like this one.  It's not helping and, somehow, Ross picks up four fouls in four minutes --- none worse than this one, as Jones hits all three.

The Clips come out desperate in the fourth quarter.  Sam tries to save them; everyone wants to hit the big three that gets the Clips back in the game; nobody does. If no one played poorly in Minnesota, then no one played well tonight.  Somehow, Eric Snow buried Shaun Livingston all night.  Kaman had a monster first half offensively, but pretty much neutralized it with a useless defensive effort against Ilgauskas.  The two Cleveland big men went a combined 12-16 from the floor, and the Cavs owned the inside game, 50-28.