Archive for the ‘Recaps’ Category

Recap: Thunder 102 , Cavs 95 (Or, Okay, Fear the Reaper)

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

 

Overview: 

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 Rundown:

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.

Notes:

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.

 

Recap: Heat 100, Cavs 96 (or, who are these Cavs?)

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

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).

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Recap: Los Angeles 102, Cleveland 80. (Or, The City of Angles).

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

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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.

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Recap: Phoenix 101, Cleveland 110. (Or, I Don’t Wanna Be Right; Just One More Night)

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

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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.

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Recap: New York 107, Cleveland 97 (Or, kizzing the floor and the playoffz)

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

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.

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Recap: San Antonio 122, Cleveland 101 (Or, the time Kyrie channeled his inner Sasha)

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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.

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Recap: Grizzlies 110, Cavs 96

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

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.

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Recap: Cavs 99, Jazz 79 (or, the time Kyrie controlled everything)

Friday, February 28th, 2014

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Utah heads to Cleveland, and the Cavs bench keeps looking more and more sparse.  Tonight Anthony Bennett sits with a sore right knee.  There is still no sign of Andy, Dion or Miles.  All three could play Sunday, or may never play again; both things seem like possibilities.

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Recap: Cavs 114, Thunder 104 (Or, amazing happens when you least expect it)

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The Cavs put together their best game of the season, and absolutely dominated the Thunder in the fourth quarter, coming from behind to give OKC its third loss in a row at home, something that hasn’t happened in a very long time.  This was just an incredible game.

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Recap: Cleveland 93, Toronto 99 (or how does Amir Johnson’s bum conform to the “rule of verticality”?)

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Before we start, let me just take my objective blogger hat off for a minute, to say: this was the worst officiated game I’ve watched all year. I spend most of the season giving officials the benefit of the doubt: that they do not play favorites and that they do their best to call things both ways. Then I watch a game like this and it makes me question those notions. It seemed as if, all night, the Raptors were allowed to be physical, body up players, flop, and run through Cavalier players to get loose balls and play defense, while Cavs’ players were consistently being called for touch fouls when the Floptors fell over from stiff breezes. It very much reminded me of the despicable Jazz teams from the Sloan era, or the flopping antics of a young Manu Ginobili. And let’s not even talk of my least favorite NBA officiating blunder: the pump fake where the defender jumps, yet comes down in front of the offensive player, and then offensive player throws his shoulder into the defender while he attempts a flailing jump-shot and then gets a whistle (yes, I’m talking about you, Kyle Lowry).

To compound that, Cavaliers like Anthony Bennett were being nitpicked for travel calls, while Terrence Ross and DeMarr DeRozen were getting away with equal or worse violations. (At one point in the fourth, I’m quite sure DeRozan did not have a pivot foot, but had a pivot shoe — as long as one part of the pivot shoe touched the ground, it was not a travel). The fun culminated in the last minute (click the links for video), when the Cavs were down three, and Kyle Lowry drew a charge from Kyrie Irving. Lowry started inside the charge circle when contact started (1:01), and the officials even reviewed the play, yet ruled for Lowry. Thirty seconds later, DeMar DeRozan ran through Tyler Zeller, hip checked Tyler, and got a steal while Zeller crashed to the floor as the whistle remained silent (0:31).  10 seconds later, with the Cavs down five, Kyrie Irving drove for a layup, got thudded by Amir Johnson’s backside knocking him out of the air during a layup (0:21). That last interpretation of the “rule of verticality” would have made Keith Ballard proud. But putting my blogger hat back on, I’m quite sure that my objectivity as a fan clouds my judgment of the pitched battle between the Raptors and the Cavaliers. The fouls were even, both teams shot 24 free-throws, and the turnovers were close. If I was a more objective watcher, I’m sure I’d have seen that the calls all evened out in the end.

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