The Cavs turned in one of the best performances of the year to defeat a rather tired-looking Atlanta Hawks team. Let us recap:
–Your stat of the night: six Cavaliers recorded at least three assists, which is evidence that the ball was moving much better than it has during the majority of the Cavs’ games this season. Because the Cavs don’t have many players who can create their own shots, they have to work hard to manufacture decent looks and that means quick passes and movement off the ball.The Cleveland broadcast highlighted one such instance in the third quarter where the ball started with Irving on the right wing and moved from the corner, to the baseline, to the opposite corner, to the left wing, and all the way back to Kyrie on the right in a span of a few seconds. It didn’t create a great look, but Irving caught the ball with the defender half a step off him, which is all he really needs to have a solid chance at converting a three-pointer, which he buried. At C:TB, we’ve been bemoaning the lack of ball movement on offense, and tonight demonstrated that the Cavs can be pretty effective on offense with a little extra effort and some luck.
–Of course, Kyrie Irving going all super saiyan helps, too. He took over the game in the third quarter, scoring 18 points, including a contested three from about 24 feet out at the end of the period, just to remind everyone watching that he’s really, really good at basketball. Irving finished the game with 33 points on 11-for-15 shooting, four assists, and a pair of turnovers. His offensive performance negated what was a not-great defensive job on Jeff Teague, who had 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting and eight assists. Just another night for one of the league’s best young guards: great offense, mediocre defense. Rinse, repeat.
–Tristan Thompson had a phenomenal first half. Full stop. No quibbles. He was a terror on the offensive boards, as he always is, but after corralling a miss, instead of resetting the offense by kicking the ball out to a guard, he finished around the basket with some nifty moves and even a powerful two-handed dunk at the end of the second quarter. TT was less phenomenal in the second half, when he sort of disappeared, but that’s going to happen with a player that relies on garbage buckets. I thought he passed the ball out of the post pretty well. A couple of times, he came across the lane, and instead of taking a running hook (which he’s hitting with greater frequency lately, but it’s still not money in the bank by any stretch), he faked the hook and threw a jump-pass out to the perimeter. It’s not like he’s conjuring memories of Chris Webber, but I was happy he tried to draw the defense and find the open man rather than taking a tough shot.
–Tyler Zeller grabbed 12 boards but got pushed around a lot in the post. He’s not strong enough to tussle with dudes like Pachulia and Horford and Smith. You know this. Moving on.
–Alonzo Gee had one of his better games, mostly due to a phenomenal first quarter in which he drained four three-pointers. In general, he just looked more confident when the ball came to him on offense. He was decisive, and we didn’t see too many of those awkward moments where he tries to create off the dribble and fails miserably. (Though it still happened a couple of times. Baby steps, AG.)
–Dan Gilbert visited with Fred MacLeod and Austin Carr during the second quarter. I’m not Gilbert’s biggest fan because of the whining and apish bluster he sometimes exhibits when things don’t go his way, but I was pleased with what he said in the interview. He admitted that the Cavs’ record and their fourth quarter performances have been “embarrassing,” but not in a “George Steinbrenner showing up his players in the media” kind of way. Rather, he admitted that the team is young and not very competitive yet. He stressed that fans have to be patient and allow a bunch of players who are in their early 20s to find their way in the best basketball league in the world. He understands that the rebuild is a Project (with a capital “p”). None of this is profound stuff, but I think it’s easy for a man as rich and successful as Gilbert to insulate himself from reality as far as the quality and future of his basketball team (which is kind of a rich person plaything for a lot of NBA owners), and when your favorite team has one of those owners that lives in a fantasyland, it can spell disaster for your team. Gilbert seems to live in something approaching reality and has faith in the people to whom he has delegated very important tasks. He also said that when the time comes to splurge and outfit the team with additional help, money will be no object. All of this is very good news. High-five, Dan Gilbert.
The Cavs travel to Denver on Friday to take on the Nuggets. Until tomorrow, friends.
Tonight was a bad night for TV. The Bachelor is back, much to the horror of husbands nationwide – Notre Dame reinforced the nauseating SEC domination narrative, and the Cavs got blown off the court by the Bulls minus Derrick Rose. And knowing this Cavs team, if Rose had played it probably would have been a close game until the Cavs blew the last 2 to 6 minutes. The recap’s going to be a little different tonight. Feel free to love or hate the format as it probably won’t continue in this matter either way. Colin, Dani, and I were live-emailing each other during the game posting our thoughts. They are posted with whatever context is needed for the game. To give the voices an identity I’ll put D, C, T. Necessary context will be in italics.
<- 1st Quarter ->
D – The warm feelings are coming on early for me tonight. Kyrie seems to be playing more methodically, perhaps looking to repent for his turnover-fest last night. Tristan had an ugly turnover, but he also had a powerful drive to get an easy layup against Boozer, and Tyler Zeller had one HELL of a block! We’ve got a 13-9 lead, and I couldn’t be happier. Actually, I could- a win and Kyrie’s third-straight 30-point game would do it. Kyrie Irving finished the 1st quarter with a healthy 9 points and 4 assists. The Cavs led by 8 after a very solid all around effort from the starters. The 3s were falling early too (a season-long trend).
T – CJ Miles continues his strong 1st quarters. 2 of 4 from 3. Nice balanced scoring from the Cavs. Keeping with the laws of KyrieISOball the Cavs wind down the clock and despite a double team they get no open look for anyone as Kyrie forces as airball. This play was more egregious hero ball than most because the Bulls actually doubled Kyrie on the drive, not just once he got in the paint. He still didn’t look for a teammate. Fortunately, the Cavs intercepted the outlet pass off the airball and CJ Miles almost canned a 30 foot three at the 1st quarter buzzer.
C – C.J. Miles makes no sense. It’s a wonder he holds together at a molecular level. He should open a dry-cleaning joint where half the time they return your clothes brighter and cleaner than ever and the other times they just draw dinosaurs all over them with permanent markers. I think I hate him.
Colin - this is in the mail. Hope it fits.
<- 2nd Quarter ->
C – Tristan Thompson has decided, against maybe the best defensive post pairing in the league (Noah and Gibson), to grab every offensive rebound he can get his hands on and finish it with finesse. Am I happy right now? Is this what joy feels like? Thompson had a nice first half. He finished with 12 points including 100% of his free throws and as Colin alluded to, he had 7 rebounds in the first half including 4 offensive boards. Unfortunately all the Cavs success dried up quickly in the 2nd half. TT finished with a productive 14 and 8 in 32 minutes on 50% shooting.
D – Tristan with another fantastic move! Get that Wild Thing bum outta here! [Edited due to logical fallacy]
T – Bulls are methodically scoring now. Cavs need to get some stops to keep this one from slipping away. Chicago took it to the Cavs early in the 2nd against the Cleveland 2nd unit before the Cavs seemed to stop the bleeding on offense. But they never really stopped the Bulls from scoring, especially inside. The Bulls picked the Cavs apart with passing and when the Cavs collapsed the Bulls always swung it to an open 3 point shooter. They finished the game 10-14 (!) from 3 and 5 of those came in the 2nd quarter onslaught. Tristan Thompson scored 8 of the Cavs 20 second quarter points and the Wine and Gold went into the half down only 3.
<- 3rd Quarter ->
The 3rd quarter started out a back and forth affair between the research triangle (Boozer 6, Irving 3, Zeller 2). At 7:05 left in the 3rd, Nomadic Nate Robinson came in and began an aggravating night. He dished out 2 dimes keeping the Bulls assist-train rolling. (They finished the night with 34 assists on 44 baskets!) The only lifeline was some inspired play by Dion Waiters – he scored 8 straight points to try and stem the Bulls offensive exploitation of Cleveland’s interior D.
T – Really a terrible possession by Kyrie there. Irving received a screen from Thompson at the top of the key in which Tristan switched sides at the last second. It was a very effective screen and it gave Kyrie a healthy amount of free space. He could have easily pulled up from 15 (he was wide open) but choose to keep pounding it until the help came. Normally this wouldn’t be so bad but there was only a few seconds left on the clock when TT set the screen. Kyrie’s clock awareness was not there and he picked up his dribble with no one open to pass to as his pass attempt was tipped out of bounds by Chicago with the clock about to expire. Rather incredibly, with 0 seconds showing on the shot clock, the Cavs inbounded the ball to a leaping Zeller who tipped it in off the glass to save the possession.
D – Tom, you’ve been hating on Kyrie a lot recently. I agree he goes to isolation too quickly and too frequently, but when C.J. Miles and Tristan aren’t moving, and his other options are a Dion Waiters brick or a Tyler Zeller turnover….This is a great point, and turnovers have plagued the Cavs. More analysis on this comment in the closing remarks.
D – If Dion wasn’t heating up right now the game would be a lost cause. I hate Carlos Boozer.
Why would we be 'over it'?
C – Waiters really is improving at the rim, which will hopefully encourage him to rely on drives as his primary weapon on offense. Waiters was 6/6 from the line and was attacking often.
T – Yeah he has looked more comfortable finishing which is much needed.
C - It’s strange to watch the Bulls without Derrick Rose because they’re a slightly less effective team that’s in some ways more fun to watch. Their bigs move the ball really well and it gets them easy buckets near the rim. (Get well soon, D-Rose; I love to watch you play, etc., of course.) Watching the difference between the Bulls and the Cavs offensive sets is jarring. The Bulls waste no energy, make crisp, effective passes, and swing the ball from side to side. It goes without saying they have more talent and experience as the Cavs as well.
D – OMRI CASSPI SIGHTING. DION WAITERS AIRBALL. WOOHOO. Casspi checked in with 3:05 left in the 3rd.
C – “Obligatory Dion Waiters Airball” is a troubling meme.
T – I call it “another Dion Waiters Airball” – Obligatory implies a quota of 1.
D – Despite the huge deficit, Byron Scott will leave Kyrie out of the game until there’s 6:00 left in the fourth and we’re too far back to win anyways. Horrific third quarter; stagnant offense, stagnant defense. Sixteen points down. Gentlemen, take your bets: what’s your call for the final score? Cavs 101 Bulls 98 At the end of 3 the Cavs trailed 88 – 72, meaning Dani needed a 19 point 4th Quarter differential for his prediction to hold true, harking back to the Mike Brown Era.
C – Cavs: Silent Eternity, Bulls: Quiet Decimation, Colin: Beer
<- 4th Quarter ->
C – What is this lineup, by the way? Kevin Jones, C.J. Miles, Omri Casspi, Shaun Livingston, and Tyler Zeller? Who scores? (Rhetorical question, obvs. No one does.)
T – I like this lineup. Plus FREECASSPI!
C – Tom’s going to every Cavs game this year to sit in the upper deck and yell, “WHY WON’T YOU PLAY ONE OF THE CHOSEN PEOPLE?” at Byron Scott the whole time. On Cue, Omri had a nice pumpfake, 1 dribble, that led to a sweet mid-range J. He followed it up with a strong drive and a pretty feed to a cutting Shaun Livingston, cutting a once hopeless 22 point deficit to 16 before the Bulls called timeout.
D – If Omri Casspi gets us back in this game I’ll move to Israel.
T – I love this lineup. DISCERNIBLE OFFENSIVE SETS. Players receiving and passing out of the paint. Casspi pump faking people into shots, dribble drive n kicks, and no one dribbling repeatedly. I took this opportunity to reflect on what an actual offense with passing and cutting looks like – this brief few minutes was it. Unfortunately, running what looks aesthetically like a real offense is mutually exclusive with getting stops. And the Bulls quickly destroyed all hope out of the timeout.
T – Good ol Nate Robinson and his Sam Cassel Cheshire Cat Smile.
D – There might be nothing more depressing than watching Nate Robinson shoot your team out of a game. Nomadic Nate came out of the Bulls timeout and promptly drained 2 threes right in Dion’s eye all while taunting him. Robinson and Marco Belinelli had eerily similar (and dominant) stat lines tonight. Both were 5-8 from the field including 3-4 from distance, and both were +24 in 24 minutes. Bulls bench >>> Cavs bench.
T – Wait does the ref not realize that the unnatural leg kick is just part of Dion’s shot?! Dion looks to get an AND-1 on a 3 and although my sound was muted at that point, he was called for an offensive foul. Maybe it was for a previous push off that I didn’t see. If it was because he kicked his leg out, then this applies.
D – When Lebron or Kevin Durant beats you, at least it doesn’t seem shocking and demeaning all the way through- you know it’s coming. When Nate Robinson wins games, it’s like a baby beating the hell out of you with a toothpick.
And that about wrapped it up. The Bulls (this is not a typo) went 12-14 in the 4th quarter, and the 12 included 3 And-1s (in other words, fouling didn’t stop them), 3 triples, and 2 other long 2s. Total domination against Casspi, Leuer, and company.
T – Anyone think B Scott put Casspi and Leuer out there tonight to fail just to give CtB the finger? I do. I don’t.
And that concludes this live-email recap. I have one concluding remark. The Cavaliers do not trust their offense. Quite often, they will run a set, an entry pass will get tipped or a role player will fumble the ball away. And that’s that. They go away from it and revert to isolation hero-ball (for lack of a more creative term). They need to trust the system and make the necessary adjustments. There is nothing gained by giving up on trying to execute more complex plays and sticking to isolation and a two-man game on a team that is lottery bound.
Nate and Dani offered their post-game thoughts as well.
-Fantastic first quarter from Kyrie. He came out firing and passing, and it was beautiful. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. Ugly final three quarters from Kyrie. I’d be more disappointed with him, but the Bulls defense will do that to you- they have a tendency to turn every NBA offense into an iso-happy-mid-range-miss-fest
-Dion really turned it on in the third to keep us in the game when the Bulls started scoring, but he didn’t do much else. The ugly step-back jumpers continue, and they continue to suck. When he drove to the basket, good things tended to happen. Nice passing, though- he had a few inside feeds that took your breath away.
-Zeller was terrible. He kept on throwing the ball right to Luol Deng. Who knows why. Maybe he owed him several favors?
-Tristan was the beast we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few weeks. In the first half. After that, the Bulls interior D clamped down, and he responded meekly.
-Everyone else, well….whatever. Alonzo was a mixed bag as usual, although his defense was pretty awful tonight. Kevin Jones looked solid, although he continues to be very small for an NBA power forward. Omri Casspi sighting! He played well in garbage time. Maybe Byron will let him play next game? Over Luke Walton? That’d be nice. Coach Scott’s rotations continue to be unfathomable.
-So there’s nothing like jumping up 10 points on a team in the 1st and still losing by 26.
-Nate Robinson: +24 in 24 minutes — or, there’s a reason Shaun Livingston was on the waiver wire.
- Cavs need a guy not afraid to put an elbow in Boozer’s grill. Preferably he’d have the last name Gund.
- Tyler Zeller is softer than the Stay Puff (sic) Marshmallow man.
-Will Cleveland lose by more or less than the Irish? I’m betting less. (Good bet. The Cavs lost by 26, the Irish by 28. What an AWFUL night for TV)
-Do the Cavs have to pay individual postage for mailing this game in, or can they just mail in the entire season in bulk?
-Tristan’s developing post game: a nice development, but the Bulls have already snuffed him out. He needs a counter off the hook shot — even if he is ambidextrous.
-Who’s the next Tom Thibodeau (sic – as in he might be feeling sick right now), and how do we find him?
-So the Starting Five for the all time Cavs hate team has to be Rasheed, Boozer, LeBron, DeShawn Stevenson, and Jordan, right? Throwing this one right to the commentariat. Who’s the Cavs all-time hate team?
There’s a lot of strange similarities between the CAVS and the CATS. They are both from cities that being with C. They are both from cities whose basketball teams have been utterly desecrated by Michael Jordan. They both sport a TT (Tristan Thompson, Tyrus Thomas) and I believe both teams TT’s worked out with David Thorpe at one time or another. They both drafted a scoring point guard last season as well as a big, defensive-minded project. This year they both picked in the top 5 and selected an athletic wing. Desagana Diop has played for both franchises. Ramon Sessions spent the better part of the last 2 seasons on the CAVS, he will spend the better part of the next 2 on the CATS. And now, both teams have 8 wins and have lost at home to a putrid team in the last 72 hours. The Cavs to the Kings, and the CATS to the CAVS. It will be interesting to see how these two franchises look in a year or two. They both seem to be on the right track in terms of personnel, the Cavs having the advantage of a potential franchise cornerstone in Kyrie Irving.
The first half was possibly the Cavs’ best of the season. They dropped 62 points and everything seemed to be working. They were up 14 and honestly it would have been much more if not for Gerald Henderson channeling his inner Ray Allen, draining all 3 of this triple tries. CJ Miles’ is TAKING ADVANTAGE of his starting role. He came out launching yet again – his first 5 shots being 3s (he made 3 of them). This has gone largely unnoticed since the Cavs only have 8 wins and there are so many other more compelling story lines at play, but if you filter just 7 utterly miserable games from CJ Miles this season he is easily having the best season of his career. 3J has been brilliant lately and I’ve noticed some themes with his play. The guy is a PURE SHOOTER. I imagine someone has a cell video of Miles draining 60 straight 3s while he’s wearing headphones alone in a gym. He’s 2nd in the NBA in FT% and he’s attempting a career high number of 3s and connecting on a VERY healthy (and also career high) 40%. And seriously, if you just remove a few atrocities against mankind his numbers would be 6th-man-of-the-year worthy. Anyway, Miles has been excelling on 3 pointers from the wings which is generally less efficient than the corners or from straight-away. He’s absolutely deadly on quick pull-ups when he is in rhythm. Sometimes these come free of dribbling, other times he receives a pass, takes one dribble, and raises up quite high in the air, piercing the sky before leaving the net soaking wet. He has a high jump, high release, and a high arc – so he really doesn’t have trouble getting shots off. The problem is when he tries to create space with the dribble. That usually doesn’t end well and he’s not very good at finding open teammates either. He’s a vacuum, but he’s quite an effective one when put in the right spots. As these games invariably slow to a screeching halt in the 2nd half, Miles becomes somewhat invisible. The Cavs don’t run any consistent offense to give him good looks off screens and quick pulls up become less permissive in the 4th quarter of a tight game as opposed to say 10-7 with 8 minutes to go in the 1st. You would think a player with his stroke could play a Ray Allen-like role and find himself open for 3 after some ball-handling stud gets into the teeth forcing a collapse before kicking out and swinging the ball around the perimeter. Unfortunately, the Cavs are the worst passing team in the NBA and almost all passes that lead to outside shots originate from the top of the key to the wing, or into the loving arms of Alonzo Gee. CJ is only 27, will be dirt cheap next year if the Cavs are so inclined, and might be worth keeping around for a while if he continues to provide such efficient and prolific offense. My hope is that the Cavs could run some actual plays where he comes off screens and pulls up quickly while the screener rolls to the hoop. With such a quick release it might causes defenses to hedge and retreat leaving the roller an open lane. And Miles is definitely good enough to warrant respect. Right now his offense mostly comes from draining wing-3s after a boring pass from the perimeter.
The Cavs built the lead to 18 before the usual 2nd half meltdown ensued. Is it conditioning? The rotations? Other teams making adjustments? Tightening up? I suspect, it is NONE of the those. It is the offense. In the first half, everyone is getting involved. Remember how quaint it was when LeBron would get Z or Gooden or Ben Wallace, or Shaq involved in the first 6 possessions of the 1st quarter? Yeah, the Cavs have a version of that. It’s called – “Let’s actually pass to multiple members of the same squad. In addition, we’ll set more than 1 pick and have people on the weak side moving.” Maybe most importantly, the flow of the game is looser. Long rebounds lead to run outs, while heat checks and early looks are deemed appropriate (CJ MILES TIME, BABY). All of this changes in the second half. The Cavs run two offenses. One features the subs, which is plagued by turnovers and poor shot clock management, and the other with Kyrie Irving – which looks an awful lot like tonight’s 4th quarter. You can win games with the Kyrie Irving offense – but not against great teams. The Bobcats (bless their hearts) refused to double team Irving despite his prolific display. My only guess is that they didn’t want to give the Cavs any hints at how to stop Ramon Sessions (the Cavaliers former backup point guard of the future), who had 12 points in the 4th quarter. If not for the relatively simple pull-up 15 footer from Magnum KI, this game might have a much different feel. But he made it, because the Bobcats were content to leave rookie Jeff Taylor on an island and Kyrie is one of the most devastating one-on-one players this league has ever seen. There’s a lot of bravado in the post-game media sessions about that shot and the NBA in general has a fetish with “game-winners”. They’re exciting, and I’m not knocking the shot or the play call or anything. But Kyrie and Byron seem to think Kyrie’s MO is Mr. 4th Quarter. I’d just like them to know that the Cavs are getting exposed in 4th quarters. Repeatedly. Even tonight. It’s great that he can bail the team out. He did it against the Wizards’ D-League team and he did it against the Bobcats. An actual offense with moving parts putting players in position for easy shots and even some offensive rebounds would be nice. It should be happening with him at the helm. Instead, he’s on an island, and in my opinion, it is mostly by choice. Gotta love the world we live in where you can drop 33 points on 21 shots, make 10 free throws without hitting the rim, round out the stat sheet with 5 boards, 6 dimes, 4 steals and 3 blocks and get criticized. That should paint a pretty good picture of Kyrie Irving’s potential.
Not to be outdone by the CJ Miles’ 1st half of excellence (keeping with the narrative above Miles only scored 3 more the rest of the game) or the Uncle Drew Bucket Explosion – Tristan Thompson is rapidly winning over fans as well as his teammates and coaches (more on that later). Thompson had one of the best games of his career. It’s remarkable how quickly TT’s ceiling has gone from “God no….” to “could be a plus defender” to “could be a very good defender and a garbage man around the hoop”. Tonight, his touch was 800-thread-count, lotion-soft. He made strong, decisive moves – sometimes facing up, sometimes back to the basket – and he was dropping in little one-handed floaters from everywhere. He even (gasp) had multiple plays where he fought for and controlled a loose ball with 2-4 bodies surrounding him near the basket and (faint) FINISHED in TRAFFIC. The most remarkable thing about this game was that when the Cavs offense began to stagnate in the 2nd half, there were multiple possessions where the offense actually ran through Tristan. It’s not optimal going forward, but it’s a long way from being such a liability that the Cavs ball-handlers refuse to feed him when he’s open off a pick and roll. Even more remarkably, Byron Scott must have hacked our wordpress site and read the piece that I have in the works on player development as he FINALLY had Tristan on the floor in an crunch time situation. With 0:38 left in the SACking of the Q on Wednesday, Tristan was benched with the Cavs down 2 and without the ball. (Waiters was subbed in for his defense?) This was all the motivation Chris Rock Brooks needed to blow by Kyrie Irving and seal the game as no help defenders rotated. Even if they had, none of them were going to be Anderson Varejao or (puzzlingly) Tristan Thompson. This has been a theme, and it’s understandable. Teams like to go small for end of game situations, Tristan isn’t a “floor spacer”, and his FT shooting has oft been considered a liability. I argued in the most recent podcast that the first 2 reasons don’t apply to this Cavs team as being a “floor spacer” only matters when your team runs an offense other than [Kyrie Irving dribbles for 20 seconds 33 feet from the hoop, goes through legs 9 times, crosses over at 18 feet, spins, spins back, shoots 18 foot jumper]. Any warm body can be a “floor spacer” in that situation. So why sacrifice Thompson’s defense? I thought that hurt them on the Aaron Brooks layup and tonight was Scott”s chance to try something different. Thankfully he did. TT checked back in with a little over 3 minutes to go. He gobbled up 3 rebounds in that time frame, 2 of them being crucial and in traffic. With 36 seconds left and the game tied he speared a rebound and was fouled by his alliterative counterpart. I tweeted the following. I was fearful that Tristan would miss at least 1 and the CATS would score again leaving fans to question the decision to have a poor foul shooter on the court in crunch time of a tied game. But honestly, that’s stupid. TT was the Cavs most valuable player tonight and you want him on the court patrolling the paint, and winning possessions. TT rewarded me by knocking down both free throws. Most people will remember this game as the night Kyrie Irving “single-handedly” blah blah blah “buckets” etc. I will remember it as the night TT calmly drained 2 free throws with 36 seconds left in a game the Cavs won by 2 points. Even more so, I will remember this as the one where Tristan Thompson made it impossible to ignore his potential. He finished the game with a punishing 19 and 13 on only 10 shots. This from the guy whose offense we usually cringe at or ignore while touting his post defense. Keep at it Tristan – you are a giving fans another reason to tune into the project.
All this and silky free throws, baby
So somehow, Pestak conned me into helping him recap. He drew Kyrie, TT, and Miles, and I got everything else. I think I got jobbed.
Gee had a very solid game on offense though he started out inexplicably overplaying MKG on the wrong side, but soon got it corrected. His 7 boards and 8 assists with only 1 turnover were good, though that 1 turnover helped fuel a Charlotte run that never should have happened. That run happened because Gee and most every Cav were part of some awful transition defense that allowed wide open three pointers all night for the likes of Gerald Henderson.
Shaun Livingston was solid in his Cavaliers debut, including a great stretch where he had a jump shot, then stole the inbound and dunked like it was 2004. He was chirpy on defense, talking about how to play the P/R and was playing small forward for a while with the interesting Kyrie, Waiters, Livingston lineup. His focus and leadership were light years ahead of Jeremy Where’d he go. But 26 minutes while Waiters got 18? Livingston isn’t nearly the offensive player Dion is, and Scott’s decision to play a waiver wire player more minutes than a #4 draft pick is a little baffling.
Waiters, to his credit had some nice moments, including a monster and1 dunk in the 2nd. But he also had 3 turnovers and seems to be feeling his way into his bench role, especially on defense. The Bobcats are a weird team because their bench is possibly as good or better than their starters. Still, Sessions and Gordon combined for 47 points off the bench, much of it do to the horrific defense played by the Cavs guards, Saint Weirdo included.
Zeller continues to grow, and his 3 blocks helped lead the way to a season high 10 for the Cavs. They actually outblocked their opponent for possibly the first game all season, topping Charlotte 10-3 in that department. ZPA needed to be better on the boards, but the Cavs general lack of rebounding prowess had one major culprit.
Luke “Oh my god, why is he playing?” Walton was comically ineffective. In my favorite stretch of the game, he badly airballed 3 point jump shots twice in the same possession. I was laughing so hard I had an asthma attack. I’ve never seen two airballs in 13 seconds from the same player in an NBA game. In the late third he had my second favorite play of the game when he went up for a rebound, and instead of grabbing it, he tip passed it directly to Brendan Haywood who was so surprised by the incompetence he stood there dumbfounded for two seconds. Luke Walton’s inability to box out, jump, or keep anyone else from getting a rebound, combined with the fact that he’s a terrible shooter directly led to the run in the late 3rd, early 4th that got Charlotte back into this game.. Furthermore, now that Livingston is around to bring a little more passing and ball movement to the 2nd unit, he’s no longer needed as a shrink 4 (my pet term for a stretch 4 who can’t shoot). Please for the love of all that is holy and good, bury Luke Walton, Byron Scott. Trade him to a Yugoslavian team for a bowl of borscht to be named later.
The Bobcats bench was orders of magnitude better than the Cavs bench, outscoring the Cavs’ bench 59 to 19. Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon are very tough bench guards, and Kyrie ought to watch the way Ramon is always pushing and always attacking. The entire Cavs team was way too content to foul him, giving him 12 freethrows of which he missed zero. As recently as November I commented, “Why didn’t we draft Bismack Biyambo, who has more upside than Tristan Thompson.” Well, I think we know that Canadian Dynamite made me eat my words this game, as he was the best player on the floor, and Biyambo seemed fairly hapless.
Tom: How does Miles absolutely light it up in the first half, and then barely touch the ball in the 2nd? (And if you say because KI is a ball hog, I’m not gonna argue). Were you secretly rooting for the Bobcats to hit the final 3, because the Cavs didn’t deserve to win this game: pissing away a huge lead with stretches of stupid offensive decisions and lack of defensive effort? If there’s such a thing as an awful win, this game was it.
After TT hit those free throws I thought he deserved a W – so I was glad when Kyrie’s shot fell (and Henderson’s didn’t). But I didn’t get up out of my chair. It was more of a “hah – of course he made it. They didn’t even double him and Taylor sagged a bit to keep Kyrie from getting past him. You NEVER EVER EVER sag off Kyrie Irving. Not even a little, he will bury you.” I get troubled watching the Kyrie Irving bailout attempts. They aren’t going to work as often as a well-oiled offensive machine and I don’t want Waiters, Thompson, Zeller, and Miles being incapable and unwilling to get involved on offense at critical junctures.
Final Thoughts: It’s amazing the difference a letter makes. It can be the difference between the CAVS and the CATS or the difference between “Kyrie is a stud, Tristan is a beast, CJ Miles is on NBA Fire” and “Byron Scott should be fired”. Two points out of 210 total generates an entirely different script. I’m not sure how the owner and front office are responding to the season so far, but for the fans, nights like tonight really help create some excitement that is necessary. Really, we could be excited about Kyrie and Tristan even if Gerald Henderson’s prayer was answered and they lost by 1. But it’s just harder to stay positive after crushing losses, despite the growth.
I tried writing the beginning of this recap a hundred times before I had any idea what to write. I still don’t, really. The Cavs keeping piling up losses, but it’s not the W-L column that hurts. It’s the individual defeats. I know that every team in the NBA loses, and the close ones are supposed to hurt. But man, was this one tough.
First Quarter: Brook Lopez, master purveyor of the flat-footed hook shot, dominated Tyler Zeller, he of the weak chest and propensity to be pushed around. Dominated to the tune of 19 points. Kyrie was out of sync early, and this one looked real ugly until C.J. Miles started raining threes. BKN 34, CLE 24
Second Quarter: Kyrie Irving remained mediocre. C.J. Miles, thankfully, remained supernova. His jumper has looked decidedly silky as of late, hasn’t it? The defensive effort by the Cavs in these 12 minutes was nothing short of horrendous. Jerry Stackhouse was hitting open jumpers, Marshon Brooks was getting gifted all sorts of open looks–hell, even Andray Blatche hit a three. BKN 61, CLE 53.
Third Quarter: Ew. The third quarter basically consisted of the Cavs and the Nets both missing a ton of shots, until the Cavs missed a few less shots near the end and somehow ended the period only down by five. But hey! Kyrie Irving hit two free throws, just in case, you know, you forgot he did anything other than miss contested jumpers over Deron Williams. Also, Gerald Wallace is a lot of fun to watch play basketball. He just kind of runs around and bangs into everyone, all the time. Also, Luke Walton is Bizzaro Gerald Wallace in every sense. The two of them exist to be polar opposites Neither can live while the other survives. BKN 79, CLE 74.
Fourth Quarter: Tristan Thompson and C.J. Miles were heroic, picking up the slack we sorely needed while Kyrie uncharacteristically continued to suck. They combined for 19 in the fourth, and seemed like the only Cavs interested in winning the game. Tristan, especially, showed fantastic effort on both sides of the floor, all the while rebounding like a maniac. His tip-dunk with a minute left cut the lead to three was unbelievable, and would have been Andy-esque, if Andy could jump that high. At the very end, Kyrie hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to one. Joe Johnson hit a pair, and Kyrie’s last heave rimmed out. BKN 103, CLE 100. Ballgame.
Player of the Game: Tristan Thompson had 17 and 15, with a pair of blocks and only one missed free throw. He was fantastic, and the big games have been coming often enough recently to convince me that he’s a really valuable piece for the future. He’s not nearly as good as J.J. Hickson, though…JOKE.
Highlights: Alonzo Gee continuing to get one breakaway steal-to-dunk a game, Tristan Thompson being a total beast, C.J. Miles unleashing high-volume efficiency on the Nets, Tyler Zeller on offense, did I mention Tristan Thompson?
Lowlights: Tyler Zeller on defense, Kyrie Irving on defense, Kyrie Irving on offense, Reggie Evans suddenly becoming an effective offensive weapon, Byron Scott’s rotations.
General Notes: In case you hadn’t noticed, Byron Scott lives to confound Cavs fans with his unfathomable, ridiculous Kyrie Irving Playing Time methodology. As much as Kyrie sucked this game, there was no reason for Scott to hold him out for the first five minutes of the fourth. Our offense is stagnant without Kyrie in there, and the non-Kyrie effect is larger by several orders of magnitude in the final frame, when defense buckles down. Now, should our 20 year-old star be playing 40 minutes a game? No, but there are ways to stagger minutes, and I’d much rather have Kyrie miss a few minutes earlier in the game, if it meant he could play more of the fourth. We would have been down by a lot more when he came in if it weren’t for a few unlikely Jeremy Pargo plays. C’mon, Byron.
Also: Luke Walton was one of only three players to post a positive +/- for the night, but he didn’t pass the eye test. Everyone raves about his passing, but Walton tries a little too hard to thread the needle, and often passes up good looks to further his Steve Nash-without-foot speed impersonation. 30 minutes? C’mon, Byron.
As one might expect between these two teams, the game got pretty sloppy toward the end, but the Cavs pulled out a rare victory over what might be the worst team in the league. Let us recap:
–The Cavs got pounded inside tonight by Nene and Emeka Okafor, who combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds, which is to be expected when Tyler Zeller is forced to play 36 minutes in Andy Varejao’s stead, but Tristan Thompson was the Cavaliers’ port in the storm with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting and 12 rebounds, including an and-one quasi-dunk with under a minute to play that ostensibly iced the game. (That is, before a missed Kyrie Irving free throws and a strange foul by Alonzo Gee put the game in doubt for a few moments.) He also hit all of five of his free throws, so I’m sure Byron Scott will reward him with a sugar cube or something. For the month of December, TT’s averaging nearly 50% from the field, which is way up from his dreadful 44% mark in November. He now has a four-game run of double-doubles. Thompson’s still an ugly player to watch—though he did convert a nice running hook in the first quarter—but perhaps he’s turning a corner.
–Kyrie Irving didn’t have quite as spectacular a game as his statline—26 points, eight assists, and six rebounds—might suggest. He was pretty inefficient tonight, shooting just 8-for-23, but then he’s the primary offensive option and everyone has a bad shooting night from time-to-time. What Irving did do was keep the Cavs in the game during a first half in which the Wizards were as dominant as the Wizards get (which is to say: sorta), putting up 20 points in the first 24 minutes. Irving struggled down the stretch; took a lot of contested jumpers; and, as noted, his touch at the free throw line was curiously absent. But he did most of the work on Thompson’s crucial and-one lay-in, and only turned the ball over twice so all is forgiven.
–Dion Waiters stays Dion Wiatersing. He went 3-for-11 from the field (2-for-5 from three-point land) and put up nine points and one assist. I didn’t think Saint Weirdo’s shot selection was particularly egregious in this game, but he took a lot of shots with a wobbly sort of balance. He gets lazy with his footwork sometimes and that leads to complete bricks. When he has his shoulders square and jumps straight up, his rainbow jumper is quite beautiful, but too often he shoots moving to his right or left, which I think is why he puts up so many shots that don’t even come close, including his customary once-per-game airball three-pointer. Waiters also didn’t attack the rim much in this one. I know he’s struggling to finish there, and he feels he’s not getting calls, but the coaches need to stay in his ear about getting into the paint because he’s not a pure jump shooter. I have confidence he’ll figure out how to score around NBA big men if he sticks with it.
–The lowlights: C.J. Miles and Jeremy Pargo were ineffective off the bench, combining for 5 points on 1-for-6 shooting. And I think we all know this but Tyler Zeller is overmatched starting at center. Against a pretty good PF/C combo, he got pushed around and only finished with six points on 3-for-10 shooting and seven rebounds.
–For any interested parties, Brad Beal is still struggling to adapt to the NBA. He went 0-for-5 tonight and was generally a non-factor. I was pretty enamored with Beal when he was coming out college—mostly because of his jumper—but he seems stuck in the same shooting funk he experienced during the first half of his freshman year at Florida. He’s shooting just 36% on the year. For comparison’s sake, Waiters is shooting 37%. (And both are prone to having nightmarish 2-for-11 nights.) Here’s to Beal relocating his shooting stroke and Waiters assuming his identity as Wade-lite. It would be really fun if Irving-Waiters vs. Wall-Beal was a marquee matchup in a couple of years.
The Cavs host the Hawks on Friday. Until tomorrow, friends.
The last two games featured a much more 'purposed' Dion. I like that.
Nice win last night, as Cleveland never trailed and cruised to a double-digit road win. The puzzle pieces fit for a night, and the team enters Christmas on a win streak. Everyone can go home, ice their aching joints, and celebrate with loved-ones under the glow of victory.
I will cover this through some bullets:
Last night featured the perfect Tristan-game. Six of eight field goals, four of them assisted, and one a put-back; the offense found him opportunities and he finished them. At the other end, he snagged twelve defensive rebounds, and despite what the box score says, I swear he blocked more than one shot. He certainly impacted several others. Overall, a really nice two game stretch for the young big man.
Dion Waiters continued his aggressive play from Friday, taking seven shots at the rim and making five. His jumpers were also falling on the way to 18 relatively efficient points. His two assists netted Tyler and Tristan bunnies, including a beauteous wrap-around look for Thompson’s dunk. Did the official score keeper have a grudge against Cleveland? I really thought that Waiters tossed more than two dimes.
The refs also seemed to prefer Milwaukee. Despite Dion’s continuous forays to the basket, he shot zero free throws. A series of questionable block / charge calls went Milwaukee’s way. Cleveland shot 45 times inside of nine feet, compared to 34 for the Bucks, who still received seven more freebie attempts.
Kyrie took a back-seat, but tallied 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and only 2 turnovers on 58% true shooting. He hit an absolutely huge buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter; Milwaukee was in the midst of a 16 to 4 run and the game appeared ready to unravel before Kyrie’s momentum shifter.
Tonight featured a welcome return for Jeremy Pargo. After sitting six straight games, his attacking style primed a ten-to-nothing run to start the second quarter. Milwaukee never came within six again.
Luke Walton played his best game as a Cav: seven points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. His three points and three assists, along with Pargo’s play, fueled the 18-to-6 run that opened things up. Two months ago, I would have assumed that it involved one-million monkeys sitting at one-million type writers to generate that sentence. In the second half, he looked a little more like 2012 Luke Walton, but very nice early run.
C.J. Miles scored sixteen to perpetuate a streak of ten double-digit games in his last eleven.
Milwaukee flexes the league’s fourth-worst offense, but Cleveland’s fourth-worst defense held them in check. Stoppable force meets movable object? Put this one in the win category for the latter. The Cavs only allowed Monta Ellis into double digits. Ellis, by the way, was unstoppable. Waiters, Gee and Gibson had no answer; Ellis scored on pick-and-rolls, in transition, and he canned a couple threes for good measure. Other than Ellis’s 37 points, Milwaukee’s True Shooting ended at 38%.
Well, tonight was more of the same: Cavs play well for much of game, then give it away in the 4th. The Cavs started out like gangbusters, and played well for a while. But the Raptors matched them most of the way, and Alan Anderson (who?) came up with enough big plays for Toronto to pull it out. The Cavs featured some truly horrendous defense in this one, especially down the stretch.
- Even though they weren’t really matched up for most of the game, Tristan Thompson actually kind of outplayed Jonas Valanciunas. This made me very happy. Tristan was active as usual on the boards, grabbing seven offensive big ones. Even better, he shot 5-8 from the field for an efficient 10 points. It was nice to see TT playing so well against Valanciunas (looked like he was playing JV!), although the Lithuanian still showed great off-the-ball movement and a real ability to run on the break.
- Kyrie Irving is an otherworldly offensive talent, in case you forgot. 9-16 from the field for 23 points and 7 assists. He carved up the Toronto defense, and was the only reason we didn’t end the game down by 25.
- C.J. Miles continues to shoot well and play well. He has a ton of confidence right now and is looking great. Pretty much all the bench guys played well tonight, actually. Miles, Boobie, Zeller…hell, even Luke Walton threw a sick assist.
- Anderson Varejao took a big spill tonight, but got back up and had another all-star performance. 22 and 10. #VoteAndy.
- Dion Waiters had a solid first game back. He didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, but distributed the ball well and played in control. I know some people think C.J. Miles should’ve gotten the nod, but I’m glad Byron Scott started Dion. It’s always good to keep your rooks confident, and he had one hell of a dunk on a feed from Gee.
- Team defense, or lack thereof. The defensive effort here was pathetic, in short. In long, the Cavs didn’t close out on shooters, didn’t box anyone out, and consistently got confused on switches and traps, leading to several wide-open layups. There were two especially egregious plays in the fourth, back to back. Both times, Andy doubled a ball handler with Kyrie on the perimeter, leading to an easy pass to Amir Johnson in the high post, and then an easier past to a Raptor under the hoop for a layup. It was disappointing, to say the least, to see Andy mess up two plays in a row.
- A lot of people will be castigating Kyrie Irving for his defensive performance against Toronto, especially against Jose Calderon, who dropped a wildly efficient 23. But while I’ve never been one to try to defend Kyrie’s defensive effort, I didn’t think he was all that bad tonight. Calderon has been scorching recently, and playing well against everyone. Kyrie tried the whole game, at least, and I loved his tight man coverage in the last minute and a half, when the game was well out of reach. It was a little too late, but I appreciate that kind of stuff.
- Alan Anderson straight lit us up, and I’m still not sure how. It’s tempting to go ahead and blame it on the guys defending him (Gee and Waiters, mostly), but he simply played out of his mind. 5-7 on three pointers? Come on. Also, I cannot stand how John Lucas plays basketball. He’s a less fun Nate Robinson: a more dirty player who can’t jump as high. Also, 6-7 shooting for Amir Johnson, for 17 points with 6 boards and 5 assists? You know you’re in trouble when Amir Johnson is putting up Aaron Afflalo stat lines.
- Byron Scott’s rotations continue to amaze and befuddle me. Mostly, his insistence on keeping Kyrie out of the first five or so minutes of the 4th quarter, no matter the game situation. I’m not going to advocate for playing our point guard 45 minutes a game, but there are ways to stagger the minutes of our best player so that he’s in when we need him. Recently a recurring phenomenon has cropped up. It’s a close game into the 4th, Kyrie isn’t out there, the Cavs go down by 12, and we rely on Kyrie heroics. It just simply is not a winning formula.
The Cavs shot 51% from the field, 44% from three, and lost. That’s called awful defense, folks. It’s another loss, but hey- tonight was a good time. I think Kyrie’s better with a mask.
Wow, I have recapped some amazing losses lately. First the Miami game; now tonight. Again, on the road, certainly fatigued, Cleveland gave one of the East’s best all they could handle. I would love to see wins, but this year, in some of these circumstances, it is fun to see our young group go toe-to-toe with heavyweights.
Tonight’s tilt featured a hot, undefeated-at-home Knicks team against an increasingly beat-up & worn-down Cavalier squad. Kyrie wore a black mask to protect his broken jaw, but in honor of New York City and theater, perhaps he should have worn white. Carmelo also sat, due to an ankle injury. Twenty-eight year old rookie Chris Copeland started in his place.
Cleveland started hot, behind perhaps Tristan’s best offensive quarter of the season. He posted & went baseline for a dunk, drove from thirty-feet for a layup, kept a possession alive with a tip, and netted a few assisted lay-ins. He did not make any three-pointers though (wink, wink). Kyrie pitched in seven, and the Cavs cruised to a 28 to 20 lead. Unfortunately, the Knicks scored seven unanswered to close the gap.
Early in the second, CJ Miles drained a few deep threes; the play-by-play refers to one as a 29-footer. I believe it. Kyrie continued attacking the New York defense, and his thirteenth & fourteenth points tied the game as the half neared a close. Unfortunately, Steve Novak’s fourth triple pulled NYC ahead 48 to 45 at intermission. New York assisted on 14 of their 18 field goals, compared to 6 of 19 for Cleveland.
The third stanza featured a series of Knick mini-runs followed by Cleveland recoveries. Kyrie continued his onslaught of stroked-threes, nifty pull-ups, and smooth lay-ins. His twelve points could not overcome an ongoing Tyson Chandler dunk-fest though; New York’s Center piled up thirteen points for the quarter, behind a barrage of pick & roll finishes and alley-oop dunks. The Gotham hosts lead 73 to 78.
The fourth quarter was crazy. Cleveland fell behind by double-digits twice, behind a parade of New York threes and Tyson Chandler dominance. Then, Kyrie did his, “I’m the baddest man alive” thing; seventeen points and two assists in five minutes…THAT MAN WAS BALLING OUT OF CONTROL!!! He got to the rack, he found open cutters, then BAM!! BACK TO BACK THREE POINTERS to cut the Knicks lead to two. The Knicks kept making their clutch free throws, but with ten seconds to go, Steve Novak missed…the Cavs rebounded…the Knick defense collapsed on Kyrie…he found a cutting Varejao…Andy’s fouled; two shots to tie with one second to go!!
Well, you know what happened next. Varejao missed the second free throw. It was a bummer; it was exhilarating. Some of these losses will turn to wins soon.
A few notes:
Kyrie scored 41, in a highlight packed career-best. Since his return from injury, he looks more engaged on defense also; perhaps some time for reflection and video watching proved beneficial. When he scores 42, it will be in a win. I can feel it.
C.J. Miles notched 17, leaving his average at 20 points per game over the last five.
Tyler Zeller scored 8 points to go with 6 boards on 4 of 5 shooting in 15 minutes. He flashed his soft touch around the basket and generally looked competent on the boards. Two more turnovers tonight though, via careless lazy-pass rookie mistakes.
Another fourth game in five nights, which will be followed by two days off, then another four-in-five. The season starts with 29 games in 54 days, including seventeen roadies. That is nearly four games per week, actually the exact frequency of the recent strike-shortened gauntlet. They will have played away from Cleveland, on average, every three days. A relaxing holiday respite, featuring three games in ten days, kicks off 53 in 116. The twenty-four road games after Christmas amount to one every five days. 2013 Cav basketball looks much more promising than their 2012.
As the unofficial tracker of Andy’s progression up the franchise leader-boards; his two offensive rebounds move him past Brad Daugherty to fourth. With eight total rebounds, he did not reach double-digits, which shocks nowadays. Tyson Chandler tipped approximately fourteen-thousand loose-balls to his backcourt.
Daniel Gibson is shooting 28% from the field in the month of December.
Iman Shumpert did not play, but he is rocking awesome hair.
I am somewhat surprised that it took Steve Novak until last year to find a place in the NBA. That shot is soooo fast and accurate, surely there were more than 300 minutes per season that could have been available to him. He appears pretty capable spotted up, off screens, or even dribbling once then firing. Of 450 attempts from deep in the last three seasons, he converts over 47%, shooting once every four minutes. That’s just stupid.
For two straight seasons, Tyson Chandler paced the league in True Shooting Percentage. Last year, he posted approximately the best mark in the history of forever, this season is even higher, and tonight he tallied 88%. That man finishes pick-and-rolls and alley-oops. He’s a beast.
The Cavaliers lost their 16th straight game against opponents in their (Central) division. After losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Milwaukee Bucks on a 3 pointer with 0.7 left by Brandon Jennings, the Cavs enacted revenge by playing mostly uninspiring pick-up style basketball and falling at home, 90-86. As has become an unsettling trend, the Cavaliers started glacially slow – needing 8 whole minutes before logging their 10th point. This game was not without its moments, and in very Anti-Cleveland fashion, the Cavaliers actually finished a quarter (the 3rd) on a mini 6-0 run, adding some much needed excitement to an otherwise boring game.
Very lethargic start to this game. Cavs came out flat but fortunately the Bucks didn’t exactly take advantage. There was a scary moment when Kyrie Irving went to the rack and on his way down got some “help” from Prince Richard. From various replays it was clear that Kyrie’s face absorbed the brunt of the blow. Also, it wasn’t clear to me if it was a dirty play – maybe just some lazy recklessness. But there was really no reason for Mbah a Moute to grab him on his way down (ball released a while back) and pull harder. This wasn’t apparent in real time and no Cavaliers seemed to upset with his excellency so I’m not surprised the officials didn’t issue a flagrant. The league should take a look though. Cavs trailed after a quarter 25-17.
TRISTAN THOMPSON BOX SCORE EXPLOSION ALERT. Tristan was certainly active. Sometimes that’s exactly what a team needs to win, and sometimes that’s a nice way of just not saying anything negative. Rarely, however, does Thompson’s activity translate to the box score. It’s obviously a conspiracy among the NBA’s scorekeepers – there is a seedy undercurrent of anti-Canadians-ism. So we spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating how Tristan’s “energy” contributes to good things, relying mostly on excellent defensive position, and positive things that other Cavaliers do when Tristan is on the court. NO LONGER! This is just more fun as a screenshot – remember to click and then click again for full screen.
The Cavs went down by as much as 16 before Tyler Zeller checked in and the Cavs started running up and down the court launching shots from everywhere. They made four straight 3s. A lot of them were PUJITs or after sprinting down the court and making 1 pass. Basically – their energy level was very high, the crowd finally had a reason to get into the game, and the shots started falling. Boobie had a wide open 3 to cut it to 3, but it rimmed out and Marquis Daniels buried a momentum-crushing 3 to put the lead at 9 going into the half.
What a week for CJ Miles. In my Trends, Ranks, and Outliers piece I highlighted how awful Miles has been and I also mocked my dear friend Wes for predicting that Miles would be the Cavs second leading scorer. Apparently, all Miles needed was a promotion to starter to flip his -5 PER into a 20-point a night on 50% 3 point shooting. Miles looked solid again from downtown, stepping into shots with supreme confidence. Not only that, in my piece I highlighted his comical 4 for 89 FTA to FGA. Miles has since TRIPLED his FTA to FGA ratio and is 19/21 from the line on the season, good for >90%. It’s kind of maddening actually that Miles has been so darn good and the Cavs have dropped 2 straight games in spite of it. Anyway, the tag team of Kyrie and Miles scored enough to give the Cavs their first lead of the game midway through the 3rd. After that, the game turned into a game of mini-runs by Milwaukee and desperate attempts by the Cavs to stay afloat. After falling behind by 9 again, the Cavs had a nice run to close out the quarter capped off by a strong Tristan offensive board and nice pass to Boobie for 3. The Cavs were trailing only 5 going into…
THE FINAL QUARTER
Unfortunately, the fourth quarter wasn’t quite as dramatic as a techno remix of an 80s Power-Ballad with the triple-threat montage of Deep Impact, Armageddon, and Independence Day playing in the “background”. The story went like this: Cavalier turnovers + too much Monta Ellis + another off-night for Kyrie Irving = Cavs lose. I wish there’d been more drama to write about, but each time the Cavs cut it to a two possession game, they couldn’t execute. Tyler Zeller and Kyrie Irving were both called for charges with less than 4 minutes remaining. Many fans on twitter and such feel the Cavs are getting the short end of the referee stick. My take is that the Cavs don’t earn much love from the refs from the way they play, but I agree these FT disparities are becoming hard to ignore. You can see how guys like Thompson and Zeller rarely get those bail out whistles when they don’t convert in traffic. Now at the same time, if Kyrie Irving played for any other team I’d find it laughable that the NBA allows him to get away with the constant palming, carrying, and hesitation dribbles. (I will continue to diligently complain about Tony Parker and Chris Paul) A lot of “ref love” comes down to style and talent. CJ Miles was whistled for traveling cus he shuffled his feet after he caught a pass and I saw Kyrie do it 3 times in the 2nd half. He’s just not awkward about it so it doesn’t get called. Back to the game. It ended with a whimper, no heroic last second shots this time by either team. Just some trips to the free throw line and some missed Kyrie treys at the other end.
Other thoughts: The Cavs are bad and boring and we’ve all had a tendency to over-analyze things. The reality of this game is the Cavs didn’t match the Bucks energy for 48 minutes and stayed in the game with some streaky but unsustainable shooting. When the Bucks tightened the screws, the Cavs just weren’t good enough in the half-court. 24 turnovers to 21 assists, and sub 40% shooting otherwise. Kind of all you need to know about this game. Brief spurts of spirited play at both ends kept the Cavs in the game. It’s nice to see C.J. Miles playing so well. It would be really nice, if the Cavs could use this season to figure out which of their role players makes sense going forward. We saw some nice things from Casspi, and now he’s buried on the bench. Pargo arguably WON A GAME (or two?) by himself, and played very well for 2 weeks, and now he can’t get into a game that features a heavy dosage of Donald Sloan. And C.J. Miles went from demonstrably the worst player in the NBA to the Cavs second most potent offensive force. You certainly can’t hate on Byron Scott for being stubborn – he’s tried everything under the sun. At some point, the Cavs need to know what they are going to get from their role players. Also of note, in limited minutes good ol’ duckbill-Drew Gooden looked very effective battling the Cavs bigs. Seemed strange to me he hardly played.
Didn't do an hour long TV-Special crapping on his former employers/fans before leaving.
Last Thought: My all-time favorite basketball analyst accepted a job with the Memphis Grizzlies front office. Everyone here knows who John Hollinger is and it’s a testament to him that we probably drop ‘PER’ orders of magnitude more often than ‘PPG’ when discussing the value of a basketball player. Most of us can recognize the contributions he’s made to the world of basketball analytics, and it’s most likely his proficiency that has earned him this job. I do want to point out that I find Hollinger to be an even better WRITER and analyst than stat-geek. (And that is saying a lot). He is without a doubt the sole reason I re-up for ESPN Insider every year. During the LeBron era I would look forward to his “Hollinger Player Profiles” in the fall the way a kid looks forward to Christmas. I would read EVERY SINGLE PLAYER in the league – not because I particularly cared about that player or team, but because Hollinger’s analysis was always insightful and oftentimes hilarious. On JR Smith’s card this year “Ask a fan which player the Knicks imported from China last season and chances are they’ll guess wrong; the correct answer is Smith, whom the Knicks signed after he spent half a season in the Chinese league.” There’s little nuggets of gold like that for almost every player. His PER Diem is a daily must read, and I’m very sad that I won’t be able to read his work or participate in his chats any longer. But I wish him the best – he’s a professional and I’m sure he’ll add a lot of pace-adjusted, per-minute value to the Memphis front office. I took a screenshot of this years ago – it was one of my finest moments. I’m Tom(Dayton) at the top – expressing my completely irrational love of Sasha Pavlovic and also Sam Cassell from Middle Earth at the bottom – hoping he’d answer my question with Cleveland. Good luck to you, John.
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