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An offensive set to be thankful for

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, campers. This Thursday, since it’s a holiday, I’ll spare you my weekly 2,000 word screed on what I’d like to see the Cavs doing and just show you a perfect example of the Cavs doing exactly what I’ve been begging them to do all season long.

Hopefully, the above video above (which comes from @DawkinsMTA, who runs the best NBA YouTube channel out there) is set to the appropriate time, but since I have no idea how to do that, skip to the 3:55 mark if it starts from the beginning. This is how a 2014-15 Cavalier offensive set should look.

STEP 1: The play here is a simple 3-1 pick and roll, which was a staple of the Heat offense when LeBron played there and has been an attempted staple of the Cavalier offense this season. It’s a very effective set, since not many teams can have a 250-pound man as the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll. The problem with it so far for the Cavaliers has been that Kyrie has been setting nonchalant screens, so instead of a 3-1 pick-and-roll it’s “Kyrie and LeBron waste 8 seconds of the shot clock while standing near each other.”

On this play, however, Kyrie sets a screen like a guy who was born in Australia, not like a guy who went to Duke. LeBron’s man can’t fight over the screen fast enough, and LeBron has a lane to the basket. Now the Wizards are on the back foot, and good things can happen organically. That’s what a successful offensive set does.

STEP 2: Marcin Gortat makes a nice rotation to keep LeBron from getting an easy finish on the drive, and Kris Humphries rotates down to keep LeBron from having a pass to Thompson for an easy dunk. This leaves Joe Harris open for an above-the-break 3, and LeBron fires the pass to him.

STEP 3: Since Harris is a 3-point threat who has to be respected, Kyrie’s man leaves him to contest what would be a wide-open 3. Harris, without so much as putting the ball on the floor, swings the ball to Kyrie, who’s open at the top of the 3-point arc. This forces Dion Waiters’ man to leave Waiters alone in the corner and close out on Kyrie at full speed.

STEP 4: Kyrie now has two options: Hit Waiters with a pass that would set him up with an open 3, or decimate the ankles of a defender who has to run at him full-speed, and thus has no real chance of staying in front of one of the best ballhandlers in basketball. Kyrie goes with option B, and goes from left to right with a behind-the-back dribble on his man.

STEP 5: Kyrie is now between the top of the key and the free throw line, with options. He can pull up on his man for a mid-range jumper, which isn’t a terrible shot, but isn’t a great one. There’s still enough room between Waiters and his man for a three if Kyrie fires a pass to his right side. But the best option is the one Kyrie goes with — since Kyrie’s crossover forced Humphries to step into the middle of the lane to prevent Kyrie from getting a layup on a potential blow-by, LeBron is now open just under the basket, on the left side. In a flash, Kyrie picks up his dribble and hits LeBron with a bullet pass in one fluid motion. Now LeBron’s got a layup, and he even gets an and-1 out of the deal.

That’s what we’re talking about here — spacing, guys working together, multiple good options created by actions, and LeBron and Kyrie using their respective talents to make life easier on each other. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Live Thread: Wizards vs Cavaliers

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Only five days after getting crushed in our nation’s capitol, the Cleveland Cavaliers have an opportunity to exact revenge on a very balanced Wizards squad. The Cavs were held to 36% shooting in the first meeting. Kevin Love had a game to forget notching a mere eight points while committing four turnovers. The Wizards have a beautiful blend of youth and veteran savvy. Professor Andre Miller and Paul Pierce provide fantastic leadership to the explosive Washington backcourt(we won’t get into superlatives with Dion in earshot).

Washington comes off a tough loss to the Hawks at home. They will again be without the services of their Brazilian bigman, Nene. The Cavaliers pulled themselves out of the miserable four game losing streak by thumping the Orlando Magic. Will the Cavs avenge last weeks’ loss? Fire away.

Live Thread: Cavs vs Nuggets

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Remember me?

 

Denver fans miss George Karl slightly more than Cavalier fans miss Mike Brown. The Nuggets come into The Q with a 2-7 record and a particularly boring brand of basketball. Brian Shaw is already on a slightly warm seat after an early season six game losing streak.

The Cavaliers began their four game run in The Mile High City. Though they will probably not make their first 11 threes of the game, the Cavs should extend their streak to five.

Prediction: 114-98 Cavs

Bonus: Randy Foye will drop 25

Fantasy Notebook: It’s Cavs/Wizards Week!

Monday, November 17th, 2014

ESPN-Hoops

The NBA and your fantasy team are ready to kick off Week Four with a particularly fun fantasy/reality wrinkle for Cavs fans. The 5-3 Cavaliers visit the 7-2 (as of now) Wizards with some early season bragging rights on the line.

For the Wiz: On Saturday, Beal announced that he would begin practicing with the Wizards this week and was eyeing Friday’s game against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers to make his return. Wizards coach Randy Wittman hasn’t confirmed Beal’s return date, but the third year shooting guard is expected to practice on Monday for the first time since suffering a non-displaced fracture to his left (non-shooting) wrist back in October. In Beal’s absence, Wittman has been starting Garrett Temple, who had become a fantasy darling with a torrid stretch of minutes/points/rebounds. Temple has, not surprisingly, come back to earth recently, scoring just over four points a game over his last four. Expect Temple’s reintroduction to gravity to continue as Beal begins to work himself back into the Wizards lineup.

 

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Live Thread: Cavs at Bulls

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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The Cavs look to rebound from their discombobulated opening game.  They face a formidable Chicago team that may prove to be a conference rival for the foreseeable future.  David Blatt thought he did a poor job of utilizing his bench in game 1.  We’ll see how he and the rest of the team responds tonight.  Catch it on ESPN.

Sound off here throughout the game!

Live Thread: Cavs Vs. Knicks (or, The Homecoming Game)

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

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In less than twenty minutes, the Cavs take the court for their first regular season game with LeBron James in uniform since 2010. It’s against the already struggling Knicks and will be a great opportunity for LeBron to start the season off right by giving Cleveland a decisive win. This is The King’s first step towards becoming the hometown hero he longs to be. Post your thoughts about the pre-game festivities, The Humongotron, The Chalk Toss, and, most importantly, LeBron’s homecoming game. This is the start of a magical season. GO CAVS!

Links To The Present: All Hugs Edition

Monday, October 13th, 2014

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LeBron James was feuding with Chris Bosh and the Heat.  The Cavs and Heat were even trying to avoid each other in Brazil; furthermore, Bosh said LeBron is hard to play with, and ultimately, feelings were hurt.  Feelings are miraculously unhurt now.  Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel witnessed a true show of affection between the former Heat player and Chris Bosh.

James squashed the thoughts of their strained relationship with a hug at midcourt before Saturday’s tip-off between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers at HSBC Arena. The players supposedly were feuding once James announced he was leaving the Heat to return to the hometown Cavs. Both denied any rift.

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The Pre-Re: Recap of the Cavaliers 107-80 Preseason Win Over Maccabi Tel Aviv

Monday, October 6th, 2014

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Even after the months of build-up, it was still surreal. There was a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game played at Quicken Loans Arena that featured LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving leading the wine and gold. Once the ball got tipped, NBA basketball followed, if the preseason version of it. But the introductions took on an air of unreality, showing off all the pieces the Cavs accumulated over the summer finally together in the flesh (or, cousin to the flesh, the grainy internet stream) playing against people other than themselves. It was just the first step down a long road, one littered with broken glass, land mines, bear traps, chewed gum and the chance that Derrick Rose could always develop an outside shot, but, at least for now, it was a first step that was all spring. What this team eventually becomes won’t be realized for some time now, but there were glimpses in this 107-80 exhibition win over head coach David Blatt’s former team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, that exciting basketball lies ahead.

First off, the introduction sequence is incredible. Echoing the new hint of Cleveland skyline on the Cavs home court, the video introduction showed each of the team’s players posing with the city skyline projected on them, True Detectice-opening-credits style. Once the ball was tipped, though, Cavs fans got a taste — not a full meal, but a taste — of what this team could look like this season.

As the teams tipped off, it soon became clear that Maccabi was the more practiced team. This was the 2013 Euroleague champion’s ninth game (having gone 6-2 in the previous eight) and it showed. Tel Aviv moved the ball with a crispness that Cavs fans hope to see from their team, as they were essentially running Blatt’s system. Maccabi moved the ball, as Mr. Cavalier, Austin Carr, loves to point out “with the pass, not the dribble” and shot the ball effectively early on.

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Feeling Cavalier in Spain; Opening Weekend

Monday, September 1st, 2014

The inaugural FIBA World Cup is officially underway. Two days of group play has yielded relatively expected results: USA and Spain look dominant, Goran Dragic is hilariously fun to watch, Iran isn’t very good at bringing the ball up and the talented Brazilian frontline will challenge Spain’s for bigman bragging rights. That is all very good. But, as stated in the preview, this series is dedicated to the Cavaliers.

Kyrie Irving PG, USA, Group C

Being a shadow of one’s former self can be a good thing.

Kyrie got the start and played solid ball against Finland. The Finnish guards are so weak that Irving didn’t really have to break out his Team USA defensive stance. To be honest, he looked “regular season Cavs” in this one, but it’s hard to blame him. Kyrie was a totally different player against Turkey. For large stretches of this heavily contested game, Kyrie controlled pace, (perhaps to fault; he still loves walking that ball up) and played hard-nosed all around ball.

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Feeling Cavalier in Spain; FIBA World Cup

Friday, August 29th, 2014

As Spain is rather famous for swashbuckling and suave cavaliers, it seems only fitting that the Cleveland Cavaliers will play important roles for their respective international teams in the Inaugural FIBA World Cup. Let’s hope the young Cavs (let’s just pretend Andy is young) will focus more on crisp ball swings and active defense than seducing a Zerlina or taking out a troublesome commendatore. (Cavs: The Blog: your random source of operatic entertainment.)

In this series of FIBA coverage, I will focus predominantly on the performance of the Cavaliers participating in the Cup. You don’t need me to remind you that Spain’s front court is ridiculously stacked with the Gasols and Ibaka dwarfing the USA bigmen, or that Greece’s backcourt will be ridiculously entertaining with the Greek Freak and Nick Calathes handling the ball. (For more on that, read Grantland’s preview). Instead, this space will be devoted to Cleveland Cavalier performance.

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