The Cavs played dead for a half and waited until the Knicks had amassed a 15 point half-time lead before putting on a shooting clinic in the 2nd half, converting 23 of 30 shots (!!) and putting a hurting on the Knicks playoff hopes. Jarrett Jack sliced and diced his way over, under, around, and through the Knicks en route to 31 points and 10 assists on 13 of 19 shooting, including the dagger in the final 30 seconds.
Archive for the ‘Recaps’ Category
Overview: In a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate, the Houston Rockets blitzed the Cavaliers behind James Harden’s performance. Harden had 37 points and 11 assists in just 29 minutes of playing time, and shot 9-15 from the field and 14-14 from the free throw line. Dion Waiters led the Cavs with 26 points on 11-20 shooting, Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 23 points, and Matthew Dellavedova had his second consecutive 10-assist game.
The bottom line on this one was that the Rockets absolutely played the game they wanted to play, and the Cavaliers got caught up in it. I thought the switch from Byron Scott to Mike Brown would bring in some change defensively, but that simply hasn’t been the case this season. The Cavs are tied for 18th in defensive efficiency this season, and they haven’t really been able to make their opponents feel their presence on defense at any point. The Rockets were running, gunning, and getting to the line, and the Cavs couldn’t do much to stop it.
The Rockets pushed at every opportunity, launched a 3 whenever they got a chance, and wore the Cavs down with a parade to the free throw line. The Rockets put up 118 points, and only 10 of them came on mid-range jumpers — the rest came in the paint, on 3s, or at the line. James Harden, of course, was the biggest issue for the Cavs. He really is something to watch when he has it going. He was pulling up for 3, he was slicing into the lane with that slinky dribble at will, he set up his teammates, and he found contact and didn’t miss when he went to the line. Of his 37 points, only 2 came on a mid-range jumper. He set the tone early, and the Cavs never really got back into the game after the Rockets opened things up with a 17-4 run.
The Cavs had a lot of players end up with nice box score lines because of the speed of the game and the fact that, for the second straight game, they were able to turn garbage time into really-dirty-thing time with a late run when the game was all but completely out of hand, but they really did get beat up by the Rockets. Still, the furious pace of the game did allow us to see some good stuff from a few Cavs.
As I mentioned, Tyler Zeller had a career-high 23, and I like how he’s been playing lately. He’s not settling, he’s looking surprisingly authoritative around the basket, and he’s showing that energy we’ve been waiting for. Hopefully he can build on this, and maybe develop that jumper a bit more, because I don’t think Hawes is much of a long-term answer at the pivot spot.
Waiters is proving that he is most certainly an above-average NBA rotation player — when he wants to get 20 or more, he gets it. It might take him a few more shots than would be ideal to get there, but there aren’t a ton of guards in the league who can do that, especially ones that usually come off of the bench. I feel like I’ve more or less said my piece on Waiters — I’d like to see him improve on a few things, namely his ability to finish at the basket, but the main problem is that he doesn’t have enough guys setting him up for open 3s, spacing the floor for him to go to the basket, or protecting him on defense. If the Cavs can get those things in place, he’ll be truly dangerous instead of a guy who can do a passable impression of a #1 option on offense — call it the Monta Ellis theory.
Seth Curry is here! Only 9 minutes, and his only contribution was hitting a 3, which is something we all knew that he can do. It’ll be interesting to see if he shows anything during his 10 days.
Dellavedova’s 3-point shooting and passing continue to look good, although his defense didn’t have much of an impact on Saturday.
That’s about all I have for this one. The Cavs got run out of their building, and the playoffs are all but a mathematical impossibility at this point; before this game, Hollinger’s Playoff Odds gave them a 0.6% chance of making it in, which is basically the odds of any team still left in the NCAA Tournament winning the whole thing. Not great. Until next time.
After a hard-fought first quarter, the Cavs ultimately folded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who outscored the Cavs over the final three quarters of the game. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists on 12-21 shooting from the field, and Dion Waiters led the Cavaliers with 30 points on 11-25 shooting from the field.
The first quarter went about as well as one could possibly hope for the Cavaliers. It was no secret coming into this game that the Cavs weren’t going to be able to beat the Thunder based on talent, but they started off the game doing exactly what they needed to do — frustrating the Thunder offensively and outworking them on the glass. Hawes is a legitimate liability as a rim protector, but his ability to step out and stretch the defense gives the Cavaliers a dimension they desperately needed offensively, even if he couldn’t get his three-point shots to fall early in Thursday’s game.
Kevin Durant got Gee into early foul trouble, which was a blessing in disguise, because Lord Dellavedova was in full effect in the first quarter. He managed to frustrate Kevin Durant — Kevin Durant — when KD tried to isolate him 18 feet away from the basket, forcing Durant to settle for some tough jumpers that he couldn’t get to fall. Offensively, Dellavedova took advantage of the open 3 opportunities that come from offensive rebounds, showing a clean stroke and a lightning-quick trigger, and made the Thunder pay for sagging off of him. Thanks to hustle on the glass, Dellavedova, and some nice plays from Waiters, the Cavs actually held a 25-21 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Kevin Durant got the Thunder into the flow of the game, and they started playing some of the most beautiful basketball I’ve seen from any team this season. Durant, who’s going to go down as one of the five best jump-shooters of all time when he retires, made all of one jumper before the first-half buzzer sounded, and he was punishing the Cavs offensively anyways.
I don’t get to watch Durant as much as I should as a basketball fan, but he seems to get so much better every time I see him play. He was getting himself into the game in so many more ways than he used to be able to — he was getting put-backs off of offensive rebounds, making gorgeous back-cuts for dunks, throwing down alley-oops, and immediately firing off a pass to an open teammate when he didn’t have the angle, even if that pass led to a hockey assist instead of a wide-open shot. Apparently this wasn’t typical, even for the Thunder — I always watch the opposing team’s broadcast feed to get as many points of view as I can, and they were raving about how the ball was moving better for the Thunder in the second quarter than it has all season. Oh, and then Durant finished the quarter with a filthy, filthy crossover to pull-up jumper to beat the buzzer. This dude is on another level right now.
Meanwhile, the Thunder were bearing down on the glass, the Cavs were getting stagnant offensively, and their energy advantage had evaporated. When the Thunder are playing like a well-oiled machine of death, having your energy advantage evaporate is not a good thing, and the Cavs went into the break down by 10.
At the start of the 3rd quarter, Durant decided to announce that he had found his jumper by calmly draining a 31-foot pull-up jumper. Until there were 6 minutes left to play in the 4th quarter, it was pretty much all downhill from there for the Cavs. They couldn’t get an offensive rebound to save their lives, Durant was either hitting jumpers or setting Ibaka up with easy 18-footers when the Cavs came to trap him, and Derek Fisher, who is 63 years old, was draining every three he looked at. Dion was making some nice plays to keep the Cavaliers in the game, but things were clearly getting out of hand, and the Cavs were down by 24 with 6 minutes to play.
That’s when a ray of hope came, in the form of (who else?) Matthew Dellavedova. He started initiating the offense, and brought the Cavs to within striking distance by dishing out four consecutive assists and draining a jumper. After a Waiters layup and free throws, as well as a free throw from TT, the Cavs somehow found themselves within five with 1:12 to play.
However, tonight’s miracles were reserved for the college set, and the Thunder got their bearings after a timeout, got a key offensive rebound, and rode a parade of Durant free throws to a relatively easy finish. Good fight, but the Cavaliers were hopelessly outmatched, especially without Deng and Irving.
I counted four 3-second violations for Serge Ibaka on Thursday — two on the offensive end, and two on D. That’s a personal high for one player in a game I’ve watched.
Waiters had to work for his 30, but 30 points in the NBA is 30 points in the NBA, and he again showed strong flashes — he can score from anywhere on the court, and something good always happens when he uses that devastating first step going left. I think he can be a foundational piece for an NBA team. I just hope the right pieces come into place around him so it’s this NBA team.
Speaking of, who’s on everybody’s draft wish list, now that we’re in tournament time? Maybe this is a “Once bitten, twice shy” thing with Karasev (is he alive?), but even though McDermott is a tweener in the worst way, I can’t see a scenario in which I’d rather have Dario Saric or pay Deng 5x as much on knees with 200,000 more miles on them.
(Caveat: I am fairly terrible at draft predictions, to the point where this was the first article I ever wrote that got major attention. I probably wouldn’t have ended up getting this blog without it. The moral, as always: Fail Upwards.)
Jack’s been playing well lately, but boy was he awful on Thursday. So, so, many short-armed pull-ups in transition.
Yes, I’m in love with Matthew Dellavedova. Double-Double! Give him a Danny Ferry contract. 10 years guaranteed. Needless to say, the Tarence Kinsey Award Race is over for this season.
Forgettable game for Tristan Thompson, who did not seem to remember that Serge Ibaka is quite good at blocking shots.
Tonight the Cavs lost their 10th straight game to the Heat. The Cavs were without Irving or Miles, the Heat without Wade. LeBron scored 25 points in the 1st quarter and yet that seemed like the most characteristic stat of the evening (although impossible by definition since it was a career high).
I’m wary of “killer stats,” the kind where a broadcaster will glance at a stat sheet from an assistant, look at the score, do two seconds of math and say something like: “Well the Cavaliers have 13 less second chance points than the Kings and that’s the difference in the game, otherwise it’d be a dead heat.” These quick equivalencies fail to take into account the many coeval facets that go into winning and losing a basketball game. That all being said, the Clippers assist/turnover ratio was 6.4, compared with the Cavs’ 1.1. The Cavs couldn’t hold onto the ball, and their offense was sludgy tonight, while the Clippers were efficient and generous, which the A/T ratio disparity captures succinctly. A 3-0 west coast trip against playoff teams was probably a bridge too far anyway.
Tonight, the Cavs looked like what we thought they would before the season. They spread the ball around to all their talented young players and they shot and executed their way to a solid win. During the preseason, it looked like the Cavs were going to be built around the inside out play of Kyrie Irving and the seemingly deep frontcourt, a formation conducive to spacing opportunities. Kyrie led the team, but instead it was Spencer Hawes playing interior fulcrum and Luol Deng who took advantage of their passing to put up an efficient line. The season hasn’t been what Cavs fans expected, but the team is 3.5 games back of a fading Atlanta team, and it’s reassuring to see them still fight for their playoff lives and play productive offensive basketball for a night. The ‘13-’14 Cavaliers may or may not be doomed, but two months ago we wouldn’t have been assured of this resilience.
This game was a “must win” for both teams coming into tonight, if either wanted to stay competitive in the playoff race. Unfortunately, the Cavs dropped this one with a combination of bad pick-and-roll defense, a lack of rebounding, and lackluster shooting. Zydrunas Ilgauskus’ jersey was retired at halftime. A vast array of former teammates and coaches were on hand to help honor him (yes, including LeBron).
“Danny Ferry came to me and said, ‘You know, you’re the only person that bring this group together in one room. Nobody else could…”
Also on the bench were former general managers Ferry, Jim Paxson and Chris Grant, former coach Mike Fratello, former assistant coaches Hank Egan and Melvin Hunt and former players Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker, Delonte West and Ira Newble. (Knicks coach Mike Woodson, a former Cavs assistant to Randy Wittman, obviously, did not take part in the ceremony.) The current Cavs players, including Anderson Varejao, also came out of the locker room to watch the ceremony, and Varejao and Ilgauskas embraced as it ended.
Fittingly, the humble giant gave the best speech of the evening. After the speech, Z’s father kissed the floor, crossed himself, and waved to the crowd. It was the highlight of the night in a game that was utterly forgettable.
Dion Waiters returned tonight, and Cleveland played a solid defensive first quarter. Then, the Spurs scored 109 points over the next 36 minutes, to slice and dice the Cavs into julienne silvers. When you play the Spurs, openings lead to reactions. The Spurs use those reactions against you and seem to instantly know the best way to exploit the tiniest mistake or overplay, and it doesn’t matter how many passes, cuts, or screens it takes to exploit that mistake. When you compound the precision of the SAS brand basketball-omatic with poor defensive discipline, weak rebounding, and ungenerous officials, victory can seem like an impossible task. It’s even harder when your franchise player plays looks clueless on defense.
A tale of two halves again. Tonight, the Cavs put together an offensive masterpiece in the 1st half. In the second, they only managed 31 points. The Grizzlies pounded the Cavs inside – they finished with 50 points in the paint. The Cavs had a chance late, but Zach Randolph was too much to handle. He was kinda like Darth Vader tonight – where you expect the brute strength but forget that he can use the force to do all sorts of clever moves. I guess that makes Mike Brown the Admiral Ackbar of this game, as I imagine he worried that the Cavs’ offensive outburst had them feeling a little too good about their chances. His half-time speech was about as effective as Ackbar’s too-late proclamation, as the Cavs continued to defend poorly in the third quarter, when the game swung out of their favor.