Tonight’s preseason game between the Cavs and Bulls was the first in a series that should lead to an intense rivalry come playoff time. Both teams came into the game looking at it as dress rehearsal for the regular season, especially the Cavs who will probably be resting LeBron James during their final preseason game against Memphis. This game oscillated between stellar ball movement, great individual play, and transition basketball for the entire 48 minutes. Derrick Rose seemed like he’s back, but Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao didn’t let that stop them from having great games as well.
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LeBron James versus the Dallas Mavericks. Some Cavs fans had to remind themselves to cheer against Dirk Nowitzki and the Cuban-ators now that ‘Bron has made his celebrated return home. It’s been more than three years since Rick Carlisle’s genius and Dirk’s brilliance took down the Heatles’ first iteration for the title. The Mavs 2011 championship squad will forever have a slightly confused place in Clevelander’s hearts.
Easing the transition from residual warm feelings to mild disgust was new Maverick and Cavalier nemesis Jameer Nelson(really anyone from that dreaded 2009 Magic squad would do the trick).
In many ways, this was a perfect preseason victory. The starters and rotation guys played into the late third quarter and led 76-59 before fourth quarter scrub time erased that lead. Then the end-of-the-bench Cavs totally redeemed themselves and eked out an ugly victory. One thing I really like about this preseason is how well prepared and well-coached the last guys on the roster have been for the Cavs. David Blatt and his coaching staff are to be commended. Since this game celebrated all of Ohio by taking place at Cincinnati’s Xavier University, let’s hand out some Ohio themed player grades.
LeBron James: If there’s a way to coast to 26 points in 24 minutes, LeBron found a it. The economy in LeBron’s game is amazing right now. He worked himself into the post again and again like a hulkier 90s Michael Jordan. He scored with turnarounds, hooks, baseline spin moves, and yes, a Kareem-esque skyhook. LeBron was 9-12 from the floor 2-3 from three, and 6-7 from the charity stripe, and he made it look easy. After the game LBJ had a fantastic quote on forgiveness in response to a question about how he forgave Dan Gilbert. “There’s fine line between pride and progress. I’m not on the pride side. I’m on the progress side.” Grade: A comic sans lettered coffee mug that says, “the greatest basketball player in the world.”
In a game that saw three of the Cavs’ presumptive starters sitting out — Kyrie Irving (ankle), LeBron James (rest) and Tristan Thompson (shoulder) — the pressure was on its remaining two, Kevin Love and Dion Waiters, to step up and fill the void. The void was filled all right; filled up like the basket on one of Love’s five three pointers in seven tries on an evening where he scored 25 points in just 20 minutes on the court. It was filled up like Waiters on his way to 23 points. It was also filled by having to play a Milwaukee Bucks team that was missing regulars Larry Sanders and Brandon Knight and, well… you know, is the Bucks. Still, it was nip and tuck for most of the way, with the Cavs bench putting it away late to improve their preseason record to 3-0 with a 106-100 win at The Q.
Save for a Cavs mini-run in the first quarter that put the team up by 11, the game remained close throughout. Yes, Love and Waiters were the main story — and we’ll get to them — but here was the lineup David Blatt went with for much of the fourth quarter with the game’s outcome still in doubt: A.J. Price, Joe Harris, Chris Crawford, Shane Edwards and Alex Kirk. The Bucks, meanwhile, rode their regular rotation through the tight fourth — Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, John Henson, rookie Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, starting at point guard for the first time — and still couldn’t quite get over the hump.
The Cavs were in Rio for the last four days: bonding, seeing the sights, avoiding the Heat, and working on becoming awesome. The trip culminated in Saturday evening’s preseason match-up with Miami. The starters and rotation guys did not disappoint, pushing the lead up to 19 in the third quarter. Unfortunately, lackadaisical offense by one starter, and most of the deep bench guys let Miami back in this one, and a fourth quarter that should have been a cakewalk stretched on endlessly until Shabazz Napier and James Ennis led Miami to an improbable overtime which was highlighted by an equally improbable Cavs victory. But a win is a win is a win.
The Cavs are back. And, the Austin Carr who has an infectious smile is also back. When I turned on the stream tonight, he was the first person I noticed, and he looked happier than he has in any of the past four seasons. His exuberance is definitely because LeBron James is back with a new friend, Kevin Love. (more…)
Team USA looked bad during the first half, while Lithuania looked competent. America’s offense looked like a bunch of guys just playing pickup ball, and the defense just didn’t exist much of the game. The score at the end of first half didn’t reflect that though. The talent gap between the two teams was too big for Lithuania to overcome, as they entered the second half of the game down by eight. James Harden blew the game open in the third quarter by scoring 16 points and missing only one shot. Kyrie kept the US lead growing in the fourth quarter scoring 11 points in the period to go with two assists. The US could have ended the game by a larger margin if they had made their free throws instead of going 11-20.
Three Cavs continued their FIBA Basketball World Cup march this weekend. First off, Erik Murphy and Finland failed to make it out of pool play. Of course, since Murphy has the same odds of making the opening day Cavs roster as I do, calling him a “Cav” is generous. Kyrie, Andy, and Delly did, however, make it to the elimination round and one of them failed to advance…
When LeBron James called Kevin Love on July 11, just hours after announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his message to Love was simple: come play with me in Cleveland and let’s win some championships together. Love’s response was simpler still.
“I’m in,” he said.
Actually getting to the point where Love could be photographed next to David Griffin holding up his number zero jersey wasn’t quite so easy as that exchange between the Cavs’ once-and-future star and their brand new one, but the Cavs got there. On Saturday, the trade was made official and, when opening up the floor to questions for Love, Griffin called him a man “who I believe you will be seeing here for a long time.”
Last night, Team USA put on their most dominating performance of the summer so far. The American team led by 22 points after the first half and 35 points after three quarters. They were an unstoppable machine. The Dominican Republic only has one NBA player on their squad, Francisco Garcia (Al Horford is still injured), but that doesn’t explain all of this rout. Team USA is just starting to mesh perfectly, and the effects are awesome. When you check out the highlights from last night, full court passes are being flung behind the Republic’s defense, and alley-oops are prevalent enough you could actually get sick of them. It’ll take a while, but this team may wear out the alley-oop.