It doesn’t look like anyone is recapping last night’s game. Apparently, we at Cavs:the Blog are the ones tanking. Kyrie scored 31 points with 6 assists, but did take 27 field goal attempts. Tristan finished with 15 & 11 on 6 of 7 from the field, but had ten combined missed free throws and turnovers. Other than flashes from those two, it was a relatively uninspiring performance. Dion Waiters didn’t play again. Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points alongside 14 rebounds and JR Smith was unconscious, scoring 31 points in 29 minutes on 13 of 16.
This one was painful to watch. The Cavs and Pistons battled within a few points of each other for much of the game, and then with 5 minutes left, a free-throw contest broke out. Let’s get to it.
1st Quarter: The Cavs came out looking to get Tristan Thompson involved early in the post, which wasn’t a bad plan. TT scored and got to the line. He also finished some nice dimes from Livingston and Irving to finish the quarter with 11 points. Though it was effective, TT is sometimes ponderously slow at coming to a decision when he is surveying the offense in the post, and often, the offense stops. Making decisions more quickly should be a priority in the off season.
Ellington got going early, with 7 points in 8 minutes, by running for layups in transition and Kyrie got to the line.
Defensively, the Pistons put the Cavs in a lot of pick and roll and got a lot of point blank shots for Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. This was repeated throughout the game. Dribble penetration both in isolation and in the P/R led to bigs over-helping and easy layups after one or two passes for the Piston bigs. Drummond and Monroe have developed some really nice chemistry. They’re going to be a force for a long time, and Stuckey, Singler, and lousy Cavs defense did a nice job of setting ‘Dre and Greg up. I don’t know if Byron Scott is going to coach the Cavs next year, but he or whoever is coaching them has got to come up with a scheme to stop the pick and roll from eviscerating Cleveland. 24-28, Detroit.
2nd Quarter: Free Casspi! Omri executed a nice up and under from the mid post to score the first points of the quarter at 10:22. Will Bynum made a layup, and then the Dion Waiters show started. Playing his first game in three weeks, Dion came in to start the second, and swished a 19 footer out of a left elbow post-up. He followed that up with a face-up drive from the top of the key, which he used to feed Livingston under the basket. Then Waiters drove from the right wing to the left block for a sweet little reverse. After a Piston timeout, Dion drove from the left post for a 3 point play after Drummond made a very dumb goal tend. It was nice to have Frion back.
Cleveland pushed it out to a 9 point lead as Herculoids 2.0 (Dion, Shaun, Omri, KJ, and Marreese) dominated. Casspi was rebounding and running the floor well. Waiters was attacking and getting Kobe assists. Kevin Jones was all over the boards, and Speights Eurostepped into a layup, making Charlie Villueva look as mobile as Gheorghe Muresan.
Stuckey drained a 3, and after a timeout, Kyrie got back in and the Pistons promptly resumed scoring. First they lost Stuckey in transition for 3, then Bynum waltzed by Dion and set up Drummond for a dunk to cap an 8-0 run.
Cavs fans collectively let out an “ugh,” as Zeller pump faked and then traveled on the drive for the 3000th time this year for the year. Drummond punished him after the whistle with a swipe at the basketball, which hit ZPA in the jimmies, felling him.
After an anticlimactic end of the quarter, which characteristically had the Cavs outscored in the final thirty seconds, TT had 13 points and 8 boards and the Pistons were shooting 55%. 49-53, Detroit
3rd Quarter: Zeller gave up a Drummond putback dunk, Tyler Zeller canned a 20 footer, Monroe scored easily on TT, Zeller canned another 20 footer, and then allowed Drummond to flush another putback dunk. That was like watching tennis.
Kyrie bailed on a Brandon Knight a back door cut like he was playing a pickup game at the Y, which led to another putback. There is no one on the Cavs who could keep Drummond off the offensive boards. Adding someone with real size and weight in the offseason is going to be a priority for nights like this. I hear Marcin Gortat might be available.
Ellington was playing better defense earlier this season. He’s been routinely abused off the dribble over the last two games. This quarter it was by Stuckey. To make him feel not so bad, Kyrie decided to play equally bad defense on Brandon Knight.
Late in the quarter, Irving started to get aggressive: getting to the line, converting +1s . Then he posted up Knight and pork chopped him right in the collar bone, drawing an offensive foul. That wasn’t smart.
With 24 seconds left, Gee retook the lead. He pump faked at the wing drove and pulled up at the elbow for a bucket. This is the play that will keep Gee in the league. If he can pass up the wing 3, which he’s pretty bad at, and start hitting the 20 footer consistently, he will be better served. 75-74, Cleveland.
4th Quarter: Herculoids 2.0 started the quarter, and the Pistons countered with Monroe, Bynum, Singler, Jerebko, and Middleton. I don’t think there was a minute of this game that the Pistons didn’t have Monroe or Drummond in the game.
Cavs had a hard time getting into their offense, and didn’t score for the first two minutes. They finally forced the ball into Livingston against Bynum in the post and got to the line. After trading buckets, Casspi cast off the chains that had been holding him to the bench and rose up for 3! Waiters attacked, and finger rolled for 2! I love the new Herculoids. Then, St. Weirdo killed the buzz with a 26 foot heat chuck with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Dick Bavetta really put the kibosh on the festivities when one of his liver spots covered his eyes and he called Waiters for a travel when his right foot was nailed to the floor. Waiters was lucky he didn’t get a tech from Great Grandpa B.
Livingston continued the game trend of terrible perimeter defense as he allowed Bynum who is 7 inches shorter and 3 years younger than him to shoot over him for an easy two. Then he let Bynum do it to him from 26 feet. To make him feel better, Kyrie subbed in and allowed Bynum to do it to him, too with some putrid pick and roll defense (see pic to the right). Timeout. Cavs, down 4.
The most boring Crunch Time ever: Waiters: nastily attacked the rack with a left handed finish off the square. I missed you, Dion. And then Hack-a-Dre started. Drummond split the first pair and Ohmygod, Kyrie followed it up with a ridiculous weaving dribble drive through four Pistons to score with a spinning finish.
After another Drummond split, TT scored with a right hand hook on the left block to tie the game!
And that was as exciting as it got for the next 2 minutes as the Cavs kept fouling Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t keep from fouling Kyrie. And Kyrie couldn’t stop turning it over. Aside from a nifty Canadian Dynamite layup, it was an aesthetic nightmare. The funniest part of the stretch was when Bynum drained a three before the Cavs could foul Drummond, in yet another brain fart by the Cavs perimeter defense.
With 28 seconds, the game was tied, and then Monroe scored on a lefty hook that touched every part of the rim before it fell in. Kyrie missed an iso-three, coming about 2 inches short, and it still had a chance to rattle in. Then Tristan Thompson fouled Drummond without the ball. So the Pistons got two technical free throws and the ball. Well, that wasn’t smart. After four freethrows, the Pistons were up 4 with 17 left. And the Pistons fouled Kyrie!? Ugh. The game would not end. Kyrie split. The Cavs down 3. Another foul. Cavs down five. Kyrie turned it over to seal the game. Oy.
Conclusions: Tristan Thompson’s dribble -> jump stop -> pivot footwork has gotten really good. He creates space with it incredibly well: jump stopping into or by his defender, then clearing space with his lower body and/or shoulders, then reverse pivoting into a hook shot. He and the Cavs development staff really ought to be commended. His 19 and 8 were efficient and much needed. Conversely his defense was stymied by the Cavs difficulties guarding the pick and roll. The bigs seem to have no idea what the guards are doing and the whole thing breaks down consistently.
Herculoids 2.0 were great. They went teen deep, and until the Will Bynum fourth quarter explosion, they killed the Pistons bench. They gathered 37 points and 26 boards. Jones, Speights, Casspi, Livingston, and Waiters were a pleasure to watch.
Irving was good on offense, though sloppy with the ball. The 5 turnovers hurt, especially the late ones. But 27, 9 dimes, and 12-13 at the line is a line maybe 5 people in the league can post. Unfortunately the -14 and -16 he and Ellington posted in +/- was a fully accurate representation of how badly they defended.
The decision to go hack-a-Dre smacked of desperation, and ultimately backfired when TT got so in the habit of doing it, he fouled off the ball in the final two minutes: a big no-no. Tough to know whether to blame Byron or Thompson there.
Andre Drummond is a beast. At 6’10″, 270 pounds, and an enormous 7’6″ wing span, suffice it to say, at least 5 teams whiffed by not drafting him. He dunked everything tonight, and the rotations and over-helping by the Cavs big men helped he and Monroe immensely. What is really impressive about Drummond is how well he moves without the ball, and how good his hands are. He cuts, seals, and runs the floor incredibly well for his size and wingspan. And he catches everything that comes at him. There was a time about three years ago when he and Shabazz Muhammed were in high school and considered the most cant miss prospects of the 2013 draft. In the summer of 2011, the CtB comment board was abuzz with visions of Drummond playing along side Andy and Tristan. Drummond changed his eligibility to enter college a year earlier, and his struggles at UConn were well documented, and because of that and his awful free throw shooting (which has improved immensely), his stock fell significantly. I wasn’t a believer till tonight, but I’ve not seen a young big man with a chance to be this dominant since Andrew Bynum started putting it together. In light of that, I’m reconsidering my stance on Shabazz Muhammad. He might just be as good as everyone thought he was in high school, and like Drummond was trapped in a crappy college situation. Will teams pass on him the way they did on Drummond, and regret it later? I like Dion Waiters an awful lot, but it’s tough not to feel some buyer’s remorse after this one. I hope the Cavs got it right, and get it right this summer.
Paul George hit a few huge threes down the stretch.
IND 99 > CLE 94
Well, this was rather disappointing. The Cavaliers played three quarters of solid defense and opportunistic offense, gaining a twenty point lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. And then it unraveled as it always does, the lead picked apart by George Hill fastbreak after George Hill fastbreak, topped off by a pair of Paul George three-pointers. People will complain about the calls agains the Cavs (the offensive foul call was a close one), but this one came down to a defensive collapse that doomed us against a suddenly effective Pacers transition offense.
First Quarter: For what the first time in what seems like forever, the young Mr. Irving started out this game on fire, knocking down jumpers and feeding Tyler Zeller for easy buckets. But the Pacers did what the Pacers do, playing ugly and effective basketball to hold off the Cavs. Tyler Hansborough in particular has perhaps the least aesthetically pleasing game in the NBA. He sort of flails around everywhere, throwing elbows with reckless abandon. And in perhaps the upset of the day, Omri Casspi played in the first quarter– and played well. He defended Paul George as best he could, and even scored. IND 29, CLE 26
Second Quarter: Kevin Jones did his best to usurp Luke Walton’s job as the second-string power forward, showcasing an offensive versatility reminiscent of Bernard King in his prime (joking, calm down). Shaun Livingston hit another midrange jumper. He’s money from 10-15 feet. Lance Stephenson got to the line a few times, and David West scored a few. Kyrie dished some nice passes at the end of the first, and the Cavaliers were up five at the half. CLE 53, IND 48
Third Quarter: The third frame started out with two straight Lance Stephenson offensive boards, followed by an easy putback. That’s gotta be a failure on the part of the Cavs frontline. Tyler Zeller continued to ball out, hitting his jumper with ease. However, his rhythm from midrange pulled him out of the paint, leading to only three rebounds for the game. Tristan Thompson looked good out there, but he was only 4-12 from the field. I honestly thought he played much better than that, but you can’t fight the boxscore. The Cavs controlled the quarter on both sides of the floor, opening up a huge lead by the fourth. CLE 84, IND 64
Fourth Quarter: Ugh. The Cavaliers were flat on offense, lazy on defense and seemingly okay with losing the game. The Pacers chipped away, and when Kyrie re-entered the game with six minutes left, Indiana had whittled the deficit to 15. Kyrie started scoring, but he gave it right back on the other end. George Hill was getting easy buckets in transition, and he’s not exactly Penny Hardaway– the issue was that no one felt like getting in front of him. The intensity disparity between offense and defense for Kyrie is truly remarkable. He has to be one of the worst defensive players in the NBA. Paul George hit a three to give the Pacers a two-point lead, and then Kyrie got whistled on a very, very, very close offensive foul call. As close as it gets. But after review, the call went against Cleveland. Pendergraph then hit one of two at the line, and Ellington back-rimmed a three pointer to end the game. IND 99, CLE 94
I don’t have any specific complaints about Byron Scott tonight. For the first three quarters, he had the Cavaliers scoring well, defending better and running the Pacers out of the gym. But once again, it all fell apart in the fourth. The players quit this game, and that has to come back to the coaching. NBA teams should not give up 20 point leads in nine minutes; that’s for March Madness. Kyrie Irving, in particular, needs to start trying on defense if he wants to earn that top-12 player status that ESPN assigned him in #NBArank. For all the talk about Scott’s ability as a point guards coach, he apparently has no idea how to convice Kyrie to defend. That was a crucial factor in this loss, as George Hill dived to the rim without resistance again and again. Disappointing loss tonight.
P.S. This was not tanking. The Cavs didn’t try to lose this game.
As the season winds down, there are two Cavaliers that I am particularly interested in: Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. Tonight, that duo faced-off with the Orlando Magic’s 22 / 23-year old, second year / rookie starting-lineup front-court. In the previous two games versus Nicola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson, the young Cavaliers emerged victorious, however on February 8th, the Magic-pair combined for 46 points and 21 rebounds, routinely abusing their counterparts. Over the next ten years, Tristan and Tyler will need to leave Nicola and Andrew in the dust; let’s see how that progressed tonight.
Tristan made plays when it counted and Cleveland notched win #24.
The affair started poorly; after the game’s first possession when Tyler helped Tristan to block a Nicholson shot, the first quarter performance declined. As the Magic sprinted to an early lead, Tristan missed three shots and was called for a traveling violation. While Tyler nailed a jumper and a running bank-shot, he also allowed Vucevic to push-him-around and grab an offensive board, and Nicholson canned two hook shots over him. Worse than that though, following a pinpoint laser from Kyrie that provided an uncontested dunk for Tyler, he instead floated up a lefty layup, missing, and ending the possession. TZ headed to the bench with the Cavs trailing 10 to 16. Orlando had three offensive rebounds, as Vucevic and Nicholson combined for ten of their early points. Over the rest of the quarter, Cleveland’s defense tightened, they held Orlando to one opportunity per possession, CJ Miles stroked some threes, and the deficit dissipated to 22 to 24 at the quarter.
When the Cavs’ young front-court checked-in for the second, the team trailed by one. The duo looked revived, with Zeller forcing a Vucevic air-ball. Tristan finished a fast-break on a sweet between-the-legs pass from Kyrie, then on the ensuing possession, Tyler obstructed an Orlando shot at the rim, proceeding Tristan swishing a right-handed hook; Cavs lead 43 to 41. Unfortunately, the closing minutes unravelled for Zeller: a dunk attempt was blocked; he missed a ready-made tip-in; and a third foul was assessed as he mismanaged some pick & roll defense. He routinely provided minimal resistance to the ball-handler in the pick and roll, precipitating a Beno Udrih and-one that took Orlando into the half, leading 48 to 44. Austin Carr ranted for at least a minute about throwing people in the basket, dunking with authority, and how players will take advantage of you if you’re not physical in this league…exhibiting poor body-language through this stretch, Tyler also seemed upset with his play.
In the third, Tristan’s shooting continued to struggle, but his impact came in other ways. Contesting shots at the rim, he forced a couple of Magic misses, and also blocked an Andrew Nicholson shot, leading to a travel. And he just kept rebounding, snagging four on the quarter, to improve to twelve for the night. Tyler unfortunately continued providing ineffective pick & roll hedges, and was routinely abused by Vucevic on the offensive glass; the second-year Orlando big was en-route to piling up 21 points and 21 rebounds (8 offensive). Cleveland trailed 62 to 66, as the game entered the finale.
And Tristan Thompson had enough of losing. Constantly active, in addition to three offensive boards, Cleveland re-gained possession three other times due to TT batting the ball & keeping it alive. Thompson scored off a tough pick & roll with Kyrie, a sweeping right-handed drive into his hook-shot, made two free throws, and tossed a nice high-low pass to Zeller, netting Tyler a trip to the line. Over the last 5:13 after a Cavalier time-out, largely defended by TT, Vucevic was limited to 2 points and 2 rebounds, and Cleveland cruised to the 91 to 85 victory. Tristan finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He struggled with his shot (43% TS), but made several plays down-the-stretch, including putting-a-lid on Orlando’s primary big man; Vucevic and Nicholson combined for 29 points on 44% true shooting.
I really wanted this to be an all-around feel-good story: Tristan dominates like on Friday, Tyler scores efficiently…but instead Zeller struggled towards 5 points and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes, looking over-matched by the sizable and physical Vucevic. Keep your head up, Tyler, and come back strong next year. The Cavaliers got the win though, beating another of the Eastern Conference’s youngest teams.
I will be at Tuesday’s game against Indiana. Looking forward to that, so go Cavs!!
I’ve developed a strong aversion to how losing teams finish out seasons in the NBA. Sometimes, it stinks like my socks after a pickup game. This week, the stink in Cleveland got so high that it reached a tipping point. Sports radio, fans around the water cooler, the blogosphere, and the media finally got fed up. People felt embarrassed after the lack of effort in the Brooklyn game, and the Boston game was probably a referendum on Byron Scott and the team’s future. That referendum wasn’t fair. The mob hadn’t been paying attention for the previous nine games. Their problem with the Brooklyn loss? It wasn’t entertaining enough. It was embarrassing. But how can fans and the media expect effort when it seems to some that this team is being sabotaged to prevent winning? And for what? …draft positioning in a mediocre draft. So with that in mind the Cavaliers had a lot to play for tonight (for once).
1st Quarter: The Cavs went to Tristan early and often, both in the post and in pick and roll, to good effect. The team seemed focus early. Unfortunately, Zeller got foul trouble again early. He doesn’t seem to know how to stop a penetrating player other than to foul. He’s going to have to work on that. Tristan had a couple shots blocked early by Chris Wilcox, mainly because he wasn’t warding off Wilcox with the off-ball shoulder, and because he doesn’t dunk one handed. He’s going to have to work on that. But TT mixed in some nice one handed push shots in traffic and two handed slams off feeds from Kyrie and Luke Walton to finish with a 9 point quarter. The Cavs were up 24-16 with about 3:30 left, but with characteristic bad shots, bad fouls, sluggish offense, missed rebounds, and plentiful turnovers they gave up a 14-0 run until Mo Speights got to the line to break the lid on the basket. The quarter ended with Boston up 28-26, with Boston shooting 62%.
2nd Quarter: Shavlik Randolph who was recently out of the league for almost 2 years, and has only played in 53 games since 2006, outrebounded three Cavs and then scored on them to open the quarter. He drew the third foul on Zeller on the next play, leading to Randolph’s 10th point in 6 minutes. Luke Walton turned his ankle, and since Boobie was out, we saw a lot of Kevin Jones after that, not that I noticed him much. Randolph continued to score at will, getting to his career high in points, 13, with 9:30 to go in the second quarter. Thompson continued to be a go-to scoring option in the pick and roll, transition, the post, and off the offensive boards. He had a beast of a first half with 21 points (a career high for a half), and 10 rebounds on 9-12 shooting. But he was routinely abused by Brandon Bass and his 16 foot jumpers (and ahem, Shavlik Randolph). Gee followed up two horrible shots with three straight buckets to finish the first half with 10 points and 6 boards. Kyrie was passive, but his 5 assists and 2 steals and general orchestrating of the offense was adequate, and enough to match the Celtics as the half ended with the score 52-52.
3rd Quarter: Jeff Green scored the first five for the C’s who dominated at the outset. The only points the Cavs scored in a 10-3 Boston start were from a 25 foot Ellington parabola as the shot clock expired. But after a coach Scott timeout, the Cavs notched 11 straight – 6 off of Kyrie threes — to counter as the quarter started to get ragged. Go-to Celtic Jeff Green was relegated the bench after picking up his fourth foul, and the Cavs played scrappier during this stretch as Kyrie asserted himself. But in words that have never been uttered in the NBA before, Fred McCleod quipped that the Cavs needed “to score before Shavlik Randolph comes back in the game.” Randolph, fortunately reverted back to his old ways: fouling and flailing. Gee, on the other hand, really looked sharp this quarter: playing from the corners with shots and dribble drives, and of course high percentage finishes in transition. TT kept getting to the line and kept converting. Furthermore, with Green on the bench, the Cavs defense was solid: holding Boston to 6 points over the final 7:50. Cavaliers finish the quarter up 74-68.
4th Quarter: Livingston played ok without his Herculoid running mate, Luke “Tundro” Walton who never came back after his injury. Shaun fed Zeller with a funky bullet pass at his face, and ZPA’s quick hands saved himself from another broken schnozz as he converted around the basket. Jason Terry made an inexplicably stupid play taking out Darius CJ Miles with a midcourt forearm shiver — an obvious flagrant foul. Miles made the freethrows to put the Cavs up 10. After a Zeller 22 footer, and a Miles runout, the Cavs were up 14. Of course Terry canned a three and Boston sicked Avery Bradley and his full court pressure on Livingston who coughed it up for 5 quick Boston points. After a Bradley three, Livingston scored a layup, which was countered with a Shavlik layup… UGH. Miles really attacked the basket and thankfully (WTF?) fouled Randolph out.
TT and Kyrie came back in with 6:40, and after a Boston miss, TT leveled Avery Bradley under his own basket with a unexpected but legal crack back screen that will make Bradley reconsider full court defense for the rest of the season. But Terry answered on the next possession with a corner three to cut the lead to 4 because of an inexcusably lazy closeout by Kyrie Irving. This led to a much needed Byron Scott timeout, 87-83, Cavs.
Crunch Time: Out of the timeout, TT thumped a putback after throwing his body around for two offensive rebounds. Canadian Dyamite! was absolutely Varejaoian: extending possessions, tipping balls off other players, fighting for each possession… Then, off a TT extended possession, Gee drove — out of control — and jumped with no where to go and as he hovered a foot above out of bounds and at the last second spotted a cutting Ellington who swished a mid post pull-up.
Avery Bradley is one of the premiere perimeter defenders in the NBA, and he caused havoc in this quarter, constantly hounding the ball. But what he gives Boston on defense, he takes away on defense. He had a crucial turnover by stepping out of bounds, and a couple big missed shots, and Doc Rivers was eventually forced to substitute Terrence Williams in to try to pick up the offense.
Free of Bradley, Kyrie kept shooting in isolation and kept missing. This was ill conceived considering how well all the other Cavs were playing on offense. But with two minutes left and a six point buffer, the lead held and so did the defense. The Cavs beat the constant press and Kyrie hit a pull-up from the free throw line to stretch the lead to 8. Out of a Boston timeout, Jeff Green flushed one to finish a drive from the right wing. Alonzo Gee yelled Olé! after the score. A subsequent Cleveland shot clock violation, a Boston miss and loose ball foul on Tristan closed this one out as TT swished his ninth consecutive freethrow to stretch the lead to 8 with 40 seconds left. Final score, 97-91 Cleveland.
Conclusions: It’s tough to know what to make of this one. After the first quarter, the Cavs held Boston to 34% shooting, but this was a Boston team missing its three best players from the beginning of the season. The Cavs won despite a fairly terrible Kyrie Irving shooting game of 4-20. Kyrie did have a few defensive highlights with a couple blocks and a couple steals, but he had some big lapses with rotations and that noticeably lazy closeout on Terry. He finished with 11 points, 8 assists, and 4 turnovers. Zeller was OK. He had a couple very timely buckets on his way to 9 points and 6 boards of 4 of 9 shooting. Ellington’s 12 points, 6 boards, 5-8 shooting from the floor, and decent defense were key contributions. CJ Miles’ 5-6 from the freethrow line were also key. Though his jumper wasn’t falling, he attacked the basket and got to the line, finishing with 9 points in 15 minutes. His defense wasn’t great, giving up 3 fouls in that time, and I counted more than a couple blown assignments.
Alonzo Gee played one of his best offenseive games of the season, shooting 8-15 on non threes (0-2 on those). He converted a lot of tough drives, finished well in transition, grabbed offensive rebounds, and converted some critical buckets to keep the pressure on the Celtics. He finished with16 points and 7 offensive boards and a game high +13. But on defense, he gave up 23 points and 4 dimes to Jeff Green on 8-13 shooting. He had more than a couple poor closeouts and gave up layups and dunks that he really shouldn’t have. The only thing that stopped Green tonight was his teammates’ turnovers and his own foul trouble.Kevin Jones got Mo Speights’ and Luke Walton’s minutes tonight on his way to 1-6 shooting and 8 boards in 22 minutes, but +10 for the game. I didn’t notice him much. The other guy getting Speights’ minutes: Tristan “Canadian Dynamite” Thompson. In his best game of his career, Tristan showed how good he can be. Finishing with 29 points and 17 rebounds, TT scored every way post player should score: post-ups, roll finishes, put backs, and plays in transition. His push shot was pure, and his footwork was the best I’ve seen all season: he used his strength to clear space, his quickness and footwork to claim that space, and his athleticism to finish. He was also a rebounding demon: going after every ball when he was on the floor. He should have had more plays run for him with as well as he was playing. He could have easily finished with 35. It was a glimpse of his potential when he plays with focus and will. He won this one for his coach: telling the press earlier Friday that the speculation on Scott was “bogus.” TT backed that speech up with his play.
This game was a Rorschach test for Cavs fans. Fans who think the Cleveland has been mostly tanking during this 10 game streak can say, “yep, when they needed to win to quell fan unrest, and they did.” Fans who think that Byron Scott is a bad coach and that this Cavs team isn’t very good can look at this game and say, “Woo hoo. The Cavs beat a team that is firmly implanted in the 7th seed in the East, and is sitting their two best players.” They have a point. The Celtics shot awfully. Some of that was by design, as the Cavs packed it in the paint and dared the Celtics to beat them from outside. The Celtics didn’t do it, but the Cavs gave up a lot of wide open corner threes, and the Celtics couldn’t convert, going 6-22 from the 3 point line. The Cavs also gave up 16 points and 7 rebounds in 13 minutes to Shavlik freaking Randolph. The Cavs interior defense mostly stunk. If the Celtics had anyone who could score in there, they probably would have won.
I don’t know what to think. For what it’s worth, Tristan Thompson won the completely unfair referendum tonight for coach Scott and the team’s future — next referendum Sunday.
The Cavaliers were decimated by the Nets Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers are not a very good basketball team. The Cavs lack in star talent and depth at nearly every position other than point guard, and the remarkable Herculoids have faded down the stretch. However, no NBA team should lose games as badly as the Cavs did last night. The final deficit was only 18, but anyone who watched the game would tell you that the game was much worse than that number would indicate. The Nets led by around 30 for much of the “contest,” and the action consisted mostly of wide-open jumpers, the monotony occasionally broken by free throw attempts for Brooklyn. I’ll keep the game action recap brief.
The Nets outscore the Cavaliers by eight in the first quarter. Marshon Brooks makes it clear that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for Andre Toney’s jumper. Deron Williams also plays well. As the second quarter starts, the slaughter begins. Seven minutes into the quarter the deficit is 17, soulless Marshon continues to dominate, and Jerry Stackhouse dunks all over the Cavaliers. By the way, he’s 38. Deron Williams scores 11 in the last three minutes of the second, and the Cavs trail by 30 at the half. BKN 66, CLE 36.
The third quarter starts out a little bit better, thank God(s?). Kyrie dishes a few assists, devilish Brooks finally misses a few shots, and with 7:50 left in the quarter the Cavaliers have battled back to within 27. Brooklyn hurriedly calls a timeout, as the panicked Nets snipe at each other about defensive rotations and missed shots. The young Cavs snarl, smelling blood. The chase is on. Unfortunately, at the end of the third the lead remains 27. The fourth quarter is the definition of bad basketball. Tornike Shengelia (That’s a real person, I promise), Mirza Teletovic (Didn’t the Cavs look into signing this guy?), Chris “Funny Ears” Quinn, and Omri “Am I Even On This Team Anymore?” Casspi all make appearances. Final Score: BKN 113, CLE 95.
The pervading storyline from this game will be Byron Scott’s future, or lack thereof, with the Cavaliers. Losses are expected, accepted and perhaps beneficial this late in the season. However, no one wants to see the Cavs get run out of their own gym, and home losses this bad usually come back to the coach. After the game, Scott said “The energy, the effort wasn’t there — for whatever reason.” I agree with him– Cleveland looked flat and uninspired all night. But whose fault is that, if not the coach’s? Byron Scott may be on the way out of Cleveland. As he said regarding his job, “Whatever happens, happens.” If that’s how Scott feels, than he should by all means allow the Cavs to keep losing like they did tonight. But if he has any interest in coaching Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson in the playoffs next year, he’d better make some adjustments.
You got the green light tonight, Mo. Awwwww yeeeeah.
No C.J. Miles and no Kyrie tonight, apparently. The Cavs gameplan is to sit him on the second night of back to backs. That seems like a good idea to me. And of course Dion Waiters is still out. We’ll see how the Cavs generate offense in this game.
Sloppy start for both teams. Lots of running up and down and wild shots. Tristan showed off some foot speed blowing by Horford for a foul but he missed both free throws. He also committed 3 turnovers and was blocked for a non-box-score turnover and was forced to switch onto Devin Harris who promptly plowed right into him to draw a foul. (Rough start for Tristan) Luke Walton had a sweet give and go to Shaun Livingston for the lefty flush. Kyle Korver got 5 wide open 3 point attempts. Fortunately, he only canned 2 of them. Devin Harris attacked the Cavs defense at every opportunity and went to the line over and over. In a rather embarrassing defensive breakdown, both Tyler Zeller and Wayne Ellington decided to close out hard on Harris spotted up in the corner for 3. Harris pump faked and drew the foul because Ellington couldn’t get out of the way with Zeller right next to him.
At this juncture I checked the Cavs’ shot chart and they had taken 6 of their 13 shots in the “long-2” region. Thankfully, the Hawks obliged by repeatedly missing wide open corner 3s. It is nice to see Horizon League legend Shelvin Mack making it in the league. He canned a J. The Cavs seemed to be playing a zone. I hesitate to call it a “lazy zone” but that’s what it looked like. It worked – as the Hawks just refused to make wide open outside shots. Watching Syracuse grind out a victory this weekend was like getting a root canal – didn’t know I was getting back in the chair tonight. Luke Walton found Tyler Zeller sneaking behind the Hawks transition defenders for an alley-oop and the Cavs weathered the storm of their own making (lazy defense and horrible shot selection). 25-19 Hawks after 1.
Omri Casspi started the second quarter. (FREE CASSPI!) Luke Walton finished the 1st quarter with an airballed floater, and he started off the second with an airballed long-2. Then something weird happened. Boobie Gibson missed a 3 wide right and collapsed like he was fouled. After a play stoppage, the camera focused in on Boobie – who had a look on his face like: “I’m not totally sure, but I think in most leagues that might have qualified as a shooting foul. Huh.” He was about as calm as you could possibly imagine an NBA player being after thinking he was screwed out of free throws. And the next thing I know – he got ejected. Wait, what? He didn’t even bark at the ref as he walked off the court – just sort of walked away with a look on his face like: “Really, I just got ejected? Huh.” Byron Scott had a look on his face like: “Why are you walking this way?” It was all very surreal without sound so I assumed I missed something. Then the replay showed Boobie kinda looking in the direction of NBA Champion DeShawn Stevenson. Apparently, Boobie got T-ed up for arguing the call with the nearest ref, and that caused the original stoppage in play. Then, he and Stevenson had words – in the way that Victorian heiresses have words over tea – but it was enough to warrant a double technical and it sent Boobie to the locker room for the night. Apparently, the refs saw all the uncontested corner 3s from the Hawks and all the uncontested airballed long-2s from the Cavs and decided the game was spiraling out of control. They wanted to assert some order before the game really got violent.
I dare say, Catherine, whether or not you are betrothed to Sir Marmaduke, you simply must get that career PER above 10 lest you beget shame on your good father's name.
Alonzo Gee came to play in the second quarter. He was pretty active on D and made a bunch of his patented 15-foot turnarounds. On the one he missed, Dwayne Jones was there with good position for the put back. Then, Wayne Ellington and Jeff Teague traded 3 pointers. (offensive explosion!) After a Shaun Livingston baseline J off a Luke Walton feed (where neither player was even considered by the Hawks D), Jeff Teague ran really fast up the court, and then pulled a Pete Mitchell special. Only instead of flying right by, Walton rammed right into him, which may have been the point of the maneuver actually…
Teague made 1 of 2 – and after an empty Cavs possession he followed it up by taking an out-of-rhythm contested 3 from 4 feet behind the line which, of course, he drained. In one of the least entertaining halves of basketball I’ve watched this season, the Cavs trailed 52-44 at the half. Zeller, Speights, and Livingston kept the Cavs afloat in the 1st half, and Luke Walton filled the stat sheet the way only Luke Walton knows how.
The Cavs came out with more composure to start the third. Shaun Livingston patiently backed down a smaller defender and drained a 12 foot turnaround. Tyler Zeller got called for a weak call away from the ball (his 4th foul) and then Alonzo Gee drained a mid-range J and then a triple jab step corner 3 – which has to be his lowest percentage shot-type, bringing the Cavs within 2. Atlanta called timeout. And then they proceeded to go on a 14-4 run in 3 minutes, forcing the Cavs to call their own timeout. After trading baskets and playing like the game was already in garbage time, the Cavs were saved by…OMRI CASSPI? Three straight transition opportunities – two buckets, and a shooting foul. Casspi air-balled the first free throw (entertainment!) and professionally missed the second one. And then Luke Walton drew a technical foul. I was waiting for these refs to whistle Austin Carr for a technical foul for being too jovial. The Hawks led 79-68 at the end of the third.
Apparently Tristan Thompson got poked in the face and required stitches around his eye – thus the limited minutes tonight. The Hawks started the 4th by scoring the first 4 points and Byron Scott called a quick timeout to galvanize the troops. He must have Care Bear-stared Omri Casspi because he turned into a positively breathtaking spectacle of feel-good basketball. (He cared a lot.) He got out in transition again for a bucket, then found Luke Walton for a driving layup before canning a triple and bringing the deficit back down to 8. It forced the Hawks to call timeout. Out of the timeout Casspi drove and collapsed the D and found an open Mo Speights for an 18 foot baseline J.
Josh Smith stopped the bleeding the only way Josh Smith knows how – with an out-of-rhythm 21 footer. Luke Walton jumped a passing lane and comically lost the handle on a high dribble in transition. But he recovered and passed behind him to Casspi who crashed full speed into Devin Harris. Even though Harris was still moving and Casspi came at it with a bit of an angle, it was a collision that’s judged ‘a charge’ 99% of the time, but not tonight. (The Power of Caring) Without Zaza Pachulia or angry Boobie Gibson, the two teams leveraged their referee exasperation to the tune of more long-2s – one from Josh Smith (the “prize” of the offseason) and one from Mo Speights. After two more quick buckets from the Hawks, Byron took another timeout with the Cavs trailing 10 and running out of time. Out of the timeout the Hawks got a wide open 3 for Jeff Teague, and then after a Cavalier turnover, Teague found Devin Harris hiding out under the hoop after he set a screen for a baseline cutter and both Cavaliers followed the cutter. Speights answered with an 18 footer that didn’t really touch the rim or the net – the quietest 18 footer you’ll ever see. After a Hawks miss, Speights had the decency to russle the net on his next made 18 footer. Al Horford answered with an 18 footer of his own, and Speights showed everyone in Atlanta that no one can out-long-2 him, swishing yet another 18 footer. After some stout defense by the Cavs, the Hawks finally decided to get physical with Speights. I won’t say he didn’t earn the heat check, but it wasn’t a great shot and he missed.
Tristan bullied his way into the paint and banged one in off the glass to bring the Cavs within 8, and they got a crucial stop, but with under a minute to play. Wayne Ellington popped in his own miss to bring the Cavs within two possessions, and the Hawks called a 20 second timeout. The Cavs sent Josh Smith to the line – not a bad move as he’d only made 2 of 6 from the line up to that point. But he channeled his inner Shaq and “made them when they counted” only he actually did make both. After a Livingston miss, ‘Crazy’ Ivan Johnson made 1 of 2 freebies before Ellington airballed a desperation 3. The Cavs stole the ball back, but Casspi missed a contested corner 3. Speights got the rebound and was fouled – making only 1 of 2. Down 8 with under 15 seconds, the Cavs put pressure in the backcourt but did not foul, and the game ended 102-94.
-Shaun Livingston had a decent game – taking advantage of the smaller Hawks guards. He finished with 14 points on 10 shots, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal, and only 2 turnovers.
-Tyler Zeller had a nice first half but foul trouble kept him on the bench most of the night.
-Marresse Speights finished 11 of 15 from the field and 10 of those shots were deep 2s. That is crazy impressive. He also had 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block for good measure. Twenty-three points in 24 minutes for Speights in a losing effort.
-Omri Casspi finished 4-6 for 9 points and added 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and an admirable effort. He missed 2 free throws and 2 field goals. Of those 4 misses, 3 were airballs.
-If Luke Walton could just play the game with his mind, he would be an MVP-level player and his nickname would assuredly be Jedi Knight Luke. Unfortunately, until he becomes a successful coach, he must use his body to play the game. It’s sometimes surreal to watch Walton play. How can a guy anticipate passing lanes so well that he can rack up 4 steals in 25 minutes, but he’s so unathletic that he looks like me running a fast break? (I’ve lost the ball over my head before on the break – it’s embarrassing.) How can a guy pump fake a defender out of his Jordans, drive into the lane, and then airball an uncontested 8 foot floater? A guy with enough touch to dish out 6 assists… Anyway, it has been a pleasure watching Luke Walton this year. A friend of mine was talking about how his buddy won a Luke Walton autograph in a charity event where the Cavs donated memorabilia. His reaction was: “When did Luke Walton go to the Cavs?” Then my friend commented that it was pretty cheap of the Cavs to give out such a crappy autograph. Let me just say I would TREASURE a Luke Walton autograph, especially if it was personalized on the picture below. In all seriousness I think Luke Walton has been a huge positive for this young Cavs team.
Think any player has ever signed a meme poster?
-Wayne Ellington had a rough shooting night. He finished 1-5 from three.
-Alonzo Gee had his moments, but finished 5-14 from the field. Most of the shots were bad shots (for him), but there were some pretty desolate offensive possessions at times and someone has to shoot.
-It’s a one game sample, but the Hawks sure seem to have lost their edge, even with DeShawn Stevenson. I think losing Zaza Pachulia for the season is going to thwart whatever playoff hopes they may have had.
-Tristan Thompson was ineffective. The cut above his eye limited his minutes, but he didn’t do much in the time he did have on the court. I, along with many others, have called for Tristan to get more plays called for him, try to score more, etc. He still struggles sometimes when he does get/take these opportunities. Tonight was a good example. I imagine he is exhausted at this point in the season. An offseason of rest and work on his touch will do him some good.
-I’m wondering if the way I view Josh Smith is the way other people view Andre Iguodala. I say this because I thought Josh Smith almost sabotaged his team’s victory tonight and his final stat line is really good. Eighteen points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists, a steal, a block (seemed like 3 or 4) and a +9. I think he plays into my biases against him (settling for all the flat-footed long-2s) and I end up exaggerating their consequences when I watch.
That was one of the softest games I’ve seen in a long time. The Hawks jacked up 30 threes against the Cavs sagging zone defense. Honestly, almost all of them were open, and the Hawks just kept missing. They finished 9-30 from beyond the arc. They also shot the heck out of long twos. Everyone other than Jeff Teague scored easily in the paint, but the Hawks just weren’t interested in pounding the Cavs inside. So credit Byron Scott for going to the zone. It worked if the goal was to bait the Hawks (led by Captain Gets-Baited, himself – Josh Smith) into long jumpers. It didn’t work in the sense that the defense was still a step slow, and Devin Harris just ran into out-of-position Cavaliers all night to draw free throws. The final stats were very similar if you remove Harris’ 8-8 from the stripe.
The Cavs fought pretty hard considering how decimated they were with injuries and that TT (cut above eye) and TZ (foul trouble) weren’t available for much of the night. There were a couple times when the ship seemed ready to capsize, and the Cavs would scrap back into single digits. It would have been a heroic victory, but it’s just as well – more ping pong balls.
Sometime in mid-December I almost wrote a very strongly opinionated piece on player development. At the time, the Cavs were struggling, and I couldn’t see the wisdom in trotting aging veterans (Walton) and fringe NBA players (Sloan, Pargo) over someone like Omri Casspi, a 24 year old pup. At some point, the Cavs FO decided that Tristan Thompson and Omri Casspi were more valuable going forward than J.J Hickson and the #4 draft pick that they netted with a historically bad season. It seemed that this season was a good one to discern whether Casspi had any future with the Cavaliers. I never finished that piece, and by the time I thought about re-writing it, the Cavs were showing significant improvements. The Herculoids were in full force, and C.J. Miles and Luke Walton were playing so effectively it seemed silly in hindsight to be so concerned with the lack of player development with Casspi. “Can’t get ‘em all right,” I thought. Tonight was a reminder of those cold December feelings.
I don’t know what goes on in practice, but I’ve watched enough of Casspi to know he’s a better version of Sasha Pavlovic – a guy that can look lost at times but can also make an impact when his confidence is waxing. He’s big, he’s long, he’s mobile, he can shoot the three, and he seems to work hard if slightly out of control. He’s only played about 200 minutes of non-garbage time basketball this season. (No chance for him to play with confidence) He’s been terrible, posting a career low 38% true shooting percentage and an offensive rating of 95 to go along with a defensive rating of 106.
Just kidding. That was Luke Walton until mid-January. But truthfully, he’s been terrible, posting a career low 43% true-shooting percentage with an abysmal offensive rating of 88 and a poor defensive rating of 104.
Kidding again, shame on you. That was C.J. Miles’ first 240 minutes this season. [Ok, April Fools is over now.] On the season Omri Casspi’s posted a career low 45% True-shooting percentage and an offensive rating of 93 and a defensive rating of 108. Unlike Walton (gone next season), and Miles (a veteran with a fairly static value), Casspi is only 24. And unlike Walton and Miles, who both played under Hall of Fame coaches in distinguished organizations, Casspi has played in Sacramento and post-Decision Cleveland. Finally, Luke Walton and C.J. Miles got the opportunity to play themselves out of some historically awful basketball but not Casspi. It’s a lost season for him (maybe a lost career), and I’ll never understand why the Cavs went out of their way to sit him during a season when there was really never any doubt about the Cavs’ post-season chances. They traded for a young guy and then never played him. He’ll be gone next season, and maybe his value is so diminished that he won’t even play in the NBA any longer. Maybe he was never any good in the first place, and the 1st round pick was a mistake and his promising rookie season was a mirage. I really hope that is the case, and I’m not watching Omri Casspi play meaningful minutes for a good team next season. When your team is going to be built around youth, player development is essential. Maybe like Danny Green and J.J. Hickson before him, Omri just needs a change of scenery…
I was out-of-town this weekend and arrived home later than expected, plus I have a cold, so not much of a recap tonight. Not that this game deserves an opus. Cleveland, riding a seven-game losing streak towards the third-most lottery chances, faced one of their closest “competitors”. Kyrie Irving returned from injury to face 2012 first-pick Anthony Davis.
Very glad to have you back, Kyrie! Now, watch the tape of the first half. Play like that all of the time. Burn the tape of the third quarter.
Starting sloppily, the teams combined for six turnovers in the first three minutes, until Kyrie started his Mr. Amazing routine: a between the legs pass to Tristan for a dunk, a pick-and-roll dime to Tyler, followed by another drive & dish that netted Thompson a slam. 12 to 8 Cleveland. Limiting his minutes, Kyrie headed to the bench early, and Ryan Anderson and Brian Roberts started scorching the Cavs; the duo combined for thirteen points in five minutes, pacing New Orleans to a 21 to 23 first-quarter lead. One Cleveland highlight featured a nasty backdoor pass from Walton to Livingston, allowing Shaun to ridiculously posterize a poor-Hornet with a filthy left-handed slam; the play deserved each of those adjectives.
Anderson scored another seven early in the second, building his fifteen first-half points with back-downs against Livingston and Speights. The Hornets lead 23 to 34 when Kyrie checked-in around the 8:30 mark. Irving proceeded to dominate: a tough and-one in the lane; a scintillating ball-handling display that ended with Lou Amundson on the ground and Kyrie at the hoop; two drive & kicks for easy teammate-jumpers; three drained hoists of his own; and two free throws. The deficit ceased to exist, as Cleveland went to the locker-room ahead 49 to 48. Recently, I read Jamal Crawford talking about Chris Paul’s complete control of the game; twenty-five year old Kyrie Irving can (needs to?) own that same mastery. In the first half, Kyrie’s plus-12, behind 14 points on 69% true shooting, with 5 assists and zero turnovers, ranks amongst Irving’s best offensive play to date. He found open teammates, complimenting it with his other-worldly scoring ability (or vice-versa). It was definitely great to see him on the court again.
Then, everything went to hell; shocking that a third quarter would start like that. New Orleans forged a 17-to-2 run: errant passes, offensive fouls, missed jumpers…the offense turned to garbage. And from that, resulted New Orleans alley-oops. Several of them; Cleveland routinely butchered transition defense, and Anthony Davis thanked them. Many of his thirteen third-quarter points arrived via soaring throw-downs as the Cavs whimpered helplessly. Kyrie’s second-quarter magic shifted down a few gears, including a horrible three-on-two break, where instead of hitting Ellington flying down the wing, he dribbled behind-the-back away from him, allowing the defense to catch up, before botching a bounce-pass to a trailing Tristan. Cleveland trailed 57 to 70 when Irving headed to the bench. The Herculoids offered highlights; Walton found Livingston and Speights for dunks, but every time the Cavs mounted a run, New Orleans found an open three or lay-up. Cleveland trails 73 to 84, as we’re off to the fourth.
Tonight, the back-ups could not package their special brew of lightning-in-a-bottle. Livingston and Walton provided turnovers, and the Cavs did not score for nearly five minutes. New Orleans stretched the lead to twenty…and that is how the game ended. Of his twelve points in five minutes of garbage time, Kyrie made one of the most absurdly awesome lay-ups ever…EVER!! Underhanded, with his arm fully-outstretched flying under the basket, switching hands after drawing contact, he spun the ball high off the glass, for a jaw-dropping and-one. Phenomenal, but unfortunately occurring while embroiled in a double-digit runaway loss.
Cleveland’s defense was generally horrible. New Orleans hit 54% of their field goals and 57% from deep. After forking-over twelve turnovers in the first half, the Hornets only lost-the-ball twice in the second, scoring 64 points and running the Cavs out of the gym. If you get a chance, check out their third & fourth quarter shot charts; only four of those 64 were not in the paint, from three, or at the free throw line. The entire second half, New Orleans got whatever shot they wanted. It was hideous.
With 22 wins and 50 losses, Cleveland continues to firmly entrench themselves into the third-best lottery chances.
A few bullets:
Kyrie Irving…31 points and 6 assists in 29 minutes. Very glad to have him back. But his first half featured 5 assists and 0 turnovers, compared to one versus three in the second. Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon abused him a few times on defense also, both in isolation or the pick & roll.
Tristan finished with 12 & 10 on 6 of 9 shooting. He finished a few rim-rattling dunks off of Kyrie dishes, but also finished put-backs and his running hook. On a couple of his early misses, I thought fouls may have been in order…but I am biased; Cleveland shot only 12 free throws, compared to New Orleans with 29.
Walton and Livingston combined for 3 assists and 4 turnovers, a major contrast from their Herculoidian hey-day. Miles finished one of nine from the field, as only Speights played particularly well, draining several jumpers and finishing contested shots at the rim. Despite his 12 points & 4 rebounds on 67% true shooting, the second-unit allowed runs early in the second and fourth quarters.
Daniel Gibson and Omri Casspi shot 0 for 5 and finished minus-26 in twenty-six combined minutes. I want to remember the good times (even though for Omri that may only mean the pre-season game against Orlando when he scored six in overtime).
The Hornet point guards (Vasquez and Roberts) finished with 40 points, 12 assists, 4 turnovers, 5 steals and 83% True Shooting. Congratulations to Toledo-an Brian Roberts on a stellar “rookie” season, after graduating from Dayton in 2008. Whether open threes or lightly-contested forays to the hoop, Gee, Irving, Gibson, etc offered little resistance on the perimeter, while the bigs impeded little at the hoop.
Outrebounded 45 to 31, Cleveland grabbed only 3 of 39 available offensive boards. As far as giving an inspiring effort, making hustle plays, etc, the Cavs offered very little tonight.
Whew. Close one here. Some of the Cavs were playing really well tonight, and the team was in severe danger of screwing up the third worst record in the league with a win. With four games separating 28th and 18th place, this was a win the Cavs could ill afford. Fortunately, Byron Scott is a master of coaching just poorly enough to lose.
The Cavs played three and a half quarters of fairly solid basketball, in a game that was at times very ragged. This game saw extended minutes by Cavalier Chris Quinn and Celtics Shavlik Randolf and Terrence Williams, all on 10 day contracts. In 35 combined minutes they scored 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 4 turnovers. To say both teams were scraping the bottom of the barrel in this one would be an understatement. Still, some of the Cavs had their moments.
The Rook: Tyler Zeller Looked really sharp in this one. According to Austin Carr, the key to his success is playing with his knees bent, and it certainly seemed to be help ZPA tonight. His jumper was pure, and he had a very nice pump fake and go for a soaring one handed Jam. Furthermore, his individual defense was very solid. In one stretch in the first quarter, he stopped a Jeff Green drive on a switch and then he stopped two straight possessions, first cutting off Bass who tried to bully him on the right baseline, and then giving Chris Wilcox no quarter on the left. He finished 5-6 for 11 points and 9 boards in 24 minutes. In a masterful move Scott left him on the bench for much of the fourth quarter, knowing that his play might turn the game in the Cavs’ favor late.
The Bishops: C.J. Miles was really influencing the game, and it wasn’t with his shooting. He had a regular season career high 6 assists tonight off some pretty nice passing. He hit Walton on a 3-on-2 with a nifty behind the back pass that Luke bounced in off the square. Then, early in the fourth he hit a cutting Speights two plays in a row for easy buckets. Though he finished 4-13, he helped the offense flow, and chipped in four rebounds. He also had two big free throws with 39 seconds left to stretch the lead to 3. It was really nice to see him contributing despite his jumper not falling. He really had some clutch plays in helping the Cavs lose tank down the stretch too. With 2:23 left and 7 seconds left on the shot clock, Miles launched a 26-footer that led to a nice Boston possession, where he fouled Pierce and gave him two free throws, and then after a Livingston turnover, Miles helped Jeff Green score an “and 1.” This kind of awesome collapse doesn’t happen without players taking dumb shots and dumb fouls at key moments.
Shaun Livingston had his usually solid floor game with 12 points, 3 boards, 5 dimes, a steal, and a block. But he missed some key jumpers on his way to 5-13 shooting, including a late post-up over Jason Terry that hit the back iron like a rubber missile. Gee also had a nice game with 12, 5, and 3 and a couple enormous steals, but his inability to stop Pierce from scoring with 32 seconds left was one of the real keys to losing this game.
The Knights: Tristan Thompson had a strange game. The Cavs went to him a lot early and he responded with a lot of bricks. He seemed to be playing slightly too fast, but mainly his shots weren’t falling and the Cavs didn’t want to go back to him. In the third he reverted to 2012 Tristan with a tentative play around the basket which was promptly blocked from behind. Still, he had 9 boards and some mostly decent defense, except for a wide open Bass dunk in the third where TT helped and never recovered on the pick and roll. His defense was good enough that Byron had to pull him in two crucial possessions late, lest he keep Boston from scoring.
Wayne Ellington was simply the best player on the floor for three and a half quarters. He led the Cavs with 16 points on 7-16 shooting, with 3 boards, 2 dimes, and 3 steals and only 1 turnover. He scored off drives, pullups in transition, and a sweet baseline reverse on Jeff Green for the hoop and the harm. Green was key in the 13-4 run the Cavs had to start the 3rd, scoring or assisting on 9 points. His handle was tight, his decisions were solid, and though his jumper was just ok, he was completely in control on offense and defense. Until Pierce started doing his thing late, Wayne was better than anyone in the gym.
The Pawns: Mo Speights had a solid night with 13 and 6 in 17 minutes. But his 4 fouls in that time helped Boston get into the bonus in the 4th and really propelled their run. Daniel Gibson had a couple moments reminiscent of 2007 when he hit a stepback three from straight away against Jason Terry at the end of the 3rd, and then came back and did it again from the right wing to start the 4th. Though that was the extent of his scoring, he also pitched 6 assists, but had some brutally bad turnovers and some horrific missed layups that were more in keeping with the narrative of 2013 Daniel Gibson.
The Queen: Luke Walton (with the help of Byron Scott) was really the MVP of fail tonight. His -14 +/- tells you how bad he was on defense, and he really had the fail of the game towards the end. When we’re all watching Oladipo or Porter dunking next year, we’ll be able to look at tonight and remember how Luke Walton really laid it on the line for that draft pick.
So just how did the Cavs manage to save this game from the win column, leading 86-72 with eight minutes left? Things were looking dicey for the Cavs. Fortunately Brandon Bass, Pierce, and Avery Bradley checked back in for Boston. Wisely, Byron Scott did nothing to counter and stayed with Gibson, Walton, and Quinn. King’s gambit accepted, Doc Rivers. Daniel Gibson obliged by taking two ill advised pullups with plenty of time on the shot clock — one from a Luke Walton bounce pass between his own legs, which Boobie promptly airballed from the the left baseline. Livingston got back in for Quinn at 6:28. and TT and Gee return for Speights and Walton at 5:07. Livingston turned it over on a lob to Miles off of a pick and roll, proving yet again that Livingston is awful in the pick and roll. Gee took a terrible isolation pullup from the left baseline with 9 seconds left on the clock and then Livingston airballed a shot on a post-up with 11 seconds left. In the meantime, Ellington finally came back in for Gibson with 4:20 left in the game after sitting since 2:04 in the third. Pawn sacrifice… Well played, coach Scott. Well played. Not only did you sit your top scorer for 20+ minutes of real time, and let the Celtics get back within striking distance, but you subbed him out for ten straight minutes for a guy shooting .160 from the floor and .063 from three in the last 5 games.
After a particularly ugly 2 minutes where the Celtics and the Cavs played hot potato with the ball, Livingston made a driving layup and Pierce countered on a ridiculously easy layup where he walked to the basket after a terrible Gee closeout. Alonzo was perpendicular to Pierce, who simply took the right lane and scored. After a wasted Cavs possession, Pierce drew a foul, the Cavs called a timeout with a 6 point lead and 2:15 left. Pierce made both, and then Livingston threw it away on a bad post-up attempt by Thompson. The defensive match-ups for the Cavs were bad, but Byron made sure that the Cavs got the worst of them. TT guarded Bass, Gee guarded Pierce, Miles guarded Green, Ellington guarded Crawford, and Livingston guarded Bradley. Because why wouldn’t you put your worst defender on the floor on a guy who hung 43 on Miami the other night? Of course, as we mentioned earlier, Green posted up Miles and got an and-1. 90-89, Cleveland, 1:43 left.
After a Livingston miss, The Cavs did manage a nice defensive stand and fast break that turned into two made freebies for Miles. And then with 39 seconds left and the Cavs up three, Byron’s white queen entered the fray: Luke Walton in for TT to guard Jeff Green. After an easy post-up by Pierce over Gee for two (cause it’s not like having some shot-blocking there might help…), Livingston bricked, and then Boston called a timeout with 9.2 seconds left. On the ensuing play, Boston ran the ball down to Pierce for an isolation on the right wing, but Gee poked the ball away with 2.1 seconds left.
Just don’t give up a layup. That’s the defensive mantra there (if you’re not tanking). A foul, a contested jumper… they’re acceptable. The only thing Cleveland needed to avoid was a layup — I mean if they wanted to win. Boston got a free timeout, which they didn’t have, because of the official review of the out of bounds. (The NBA really ought not allow teams to meet with the coach on these types of scenarios). Byron Scott made sure that he didn’t make the mistake of having no timeouts at the end of the game. He had three, because they can be be used to buy 1up mushrooms at the general store, right? Anyway, Boston ran a beautiful play. Green set a screen at the left elbow with Terry coming from the left wing, diving down the lane, but Terry stopped, screened Walton who was guarding Green (was he? was he really?). Green caught the inbound at the top of the key. Walton tried to push Terry into Jeff Green, which allowed Green to run right by Luke at what appeared to be the speed of light, but only appeared that way because Luke Walton is so incredibly slow that he slows down the perception of time. Green: down the right lane, finger rolled it high off the glass over Livingston and Ellington as Gee and Miles watched him and no one thought of, you know, fouling. The ball slowly fell through the net as time expired. Crisis averted. Draft pick saved. Check and mate, NBA standings.
Kevin Hetrick is an associate editor at Cavs: the Blog. He is a civil engineer who grew up in Northeast Ohio as a fan of the Cavs, Indians, and Browns. He now lives in Indianapolis. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and he's on Twitter at @hetrick46.
Tom Pestak is a staff writer at Cavs: the Blog. He's from the west side of Cleveland and lives and (mostly) dies by the success and (mostly) failures of his beloved teams. You can watch his fanaticism during Cavs games @tompestak.
Nate Smith is a staff writer at C:TB who grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and moved to NE Ohio in 2000. He adopted the Cavs in 2003 and graduated from Kent State in 2009 with a BA in English. He can be contacted at email@example.com or @oldseaminer on Twitter.
Robert Attenweiler is a staff writer at Cavs: The Blog. Originally from OH, he's long made his home in NYC where he writes plays and screenplays (www.disgracedproductions.com) some of which end up being about Ohio, basketball or both. He has also written for The Classical and the blog Raising the Cadavalier. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @cadavalier.
Patrick Redford is a staff writer who lives in Berkeley, CA where he studies space, rides his bike and eats lots of tacos. He contributes to The Classical, Passion of the Weiss and other outlets. Find him on twitter @patrickredford or gmail at email@example.com.
Mallory Factor is the voice of Cavs: The Podcast. By day Mallory works in fundraising and by night he runs a music business company. To see his music endeavors check out www.fivetracks.com. Hit him up at Malloryfactorii@gmail.com or @Malfii.
John Krolik is the editor emeritus of Cavs: The Blog. At present, he is pursuing a law degree at Tulane University. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @johnkrolik.
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