Archive for October, 2010

Recap: Kings 107, Cavs 104 (Or, the time Ryan filled in for John)

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

(Somehow, applicable...)

Overview: Is ‘a tale of two halves’ a cliché yet?  What was looking like a very promising evening turned quickly for the Cavaliers, as the Kings came out in the third quarter and quickly erased a 14-point deficit.  Even more sadly, said Kings did not stop there as they rode that momentum all the way to the finish.  The Cavs continued (continued because 2 out of 3 games will henceforth be indicative of the status quo) to get encouragingly strong guard play…but there wasn’t much else.  And that, I think, is the worry.

The Tale of the First Half (approved for all audiences):

(Cavs 67, Kings 53.)  The first half, while a bit high scoring for what I think this team will eventually be going for, was pretty darn fun to watch.  The Cavs were able to hang with the Kings (a phrase scarcely used since 2003) through a high scoring first quarter, and then, in the second, perhaps gave us a preview of what Byron Scott’s vision for this team seems to be.  In the second, Byron’s bunch was able to muck up the Kings offense, forcing them into turnovers and just generally sloppy play, all the while holding the Kings to 40% shooting.  All of this went about speeding up the game in general, and the result was a lot of open shots for the Cavs.  Not coincidentally, this was when the Cavs broke the game open with a 12-2 run, and they outscored the Kings 33-19 for the period.  The defense for the bulk of the second was something else and, all across the board, the team was rolling.  Andy was active, J.J. was very good, and the guard play (Session, Gibson, Parker) was phenomenal.  I wrote this stat down at half time: PG position – 25 pts, 9 assists.  That’s pretty good work for a half.

The Tale of the Second Half (restricted):

(Kings 54, Cavs 37.)  And then, for the finish…basically everything good ended.  To the extent that it wouldn’t surprise me to find the game was directed by M. Night Shyamalan circa 2004.  What actually happened was the defense faltered, and for reasons about to be mentioned, that can’t happen.  There are a lot of finishers (of sorts) and specifically skilled players on this team.  They’re like tradesmen.  That’s a result of years past, when each of those players filled a gap around LaBron James (sp?).  What I think Byron Scott envisions, and practically so, is that the transition game can take Le-Bron’s (sp?) place.  That the transition game can be the creator that allows our niche players to have access to their respective niches.  And three games in, he’s proving to be right.  When the Cavs are able to run, Gibson gets open threes, J.J. and Jamario can use their athleticism in the open court, and from what I’ve seen so far of Sessions, he is far better at finishing at the basket in either transition or early offense then he is once a defense has set itself.

So as soon as the defense dried up in the third quarter, so too did the transition opportunities, leaving the Cavs to operate in the half-court.  And the Cavs looked awful uncomfortable in the half-court.  That’s where it becomes readily apparent there is just no one prepared to create.  Gibson looks great and much improved, but his penetrative skills are still more of a change of pace attack, made to look stronger than they are because of his admittedly top-notch shooting.  Meanwhile, Sessions penetrates to score, and neither he nor Boobie look tremendously comfortable shooting off the dribble.  AP is playing very well, but again, is not a creator.  In the fourth quarter, when the game was getting out of hand, the Cavs went into the post to Andy Varejao on consecutive possessions.  I love Andy as much as anybody, but I think that’s ominously illustrative of how the Cavs were operating in the half court.  They had no real sense of what to do.  And there is no one on the team who can really play when forced to operate out of his comfort zone.

Now, if anybody has ever read anything I’ve written before, you’ll know this…I am wont to overreact, jump to conclusions, and fear the worst.  And in spite of that I actually think the Cavs will be okay.  Byron Scott admitted to me after the game (via yahoo.com/nba) that the Cavs “have a lot to learn about ourselves as a basketball team.”  And I’m inclined to believe him.  After all -

Coach Byron Scott (Getty Images)

- this looks like the stance of a man who knows what he’s doing.

The players will learn to stay in those comfort zones, how to rely on the offense to set them up, and hopefully, eventually, how to run off makes (!)… The only thing I could see really derailing this season is if the Cavs find themselves truly unable to guard.  Athletically unable to match-up.  But against most teams, I don’t think that will happen.  I think the defense will come.  So often tonight, the team looked disheveled and off with their once razor-sharp rotations.  There was a play in the fourth quarter where Andy nearly forced DeMarcus Cousins into a turnover at the three-point line, only to have Cousins recover the ball and drive down the lane completely untouched for a dunk.  Cousins is tough, but he’s not a superior athlete.  There was just no help.  No one even close.  I realize we’re one uber-athletic small forward short of where we used to be, but I have to believe the rest of the guys still remember how to do this.  And if the defense comes, the rest will be so much easier.

And now, a couple of…

Cavs Related Bullets:

Guard Play – Who were huge bright spots.  AP looks very steady.  He’s not going to go toe to toe with the Wades and Kobes of the world, but he almost reminds me of a poor man’s Paul Pierce sometimes.  Just in that he’s playing very methodically.  And Sessions and Gibson were fantastic.  Sessions was under control and selectively attacked the rim with abandon.  Boobie Gibson continues to play by far the best ball of his still relatively young career.  And just as encouraging, I think there’s room for Mo to play with the two of them and provide something that neither of those two really can, the ability to shoot off an aggressive dribble.

J.J. Hickson – Who, right now, is like a speed rushing end in football.  He can be so effective, but ultimately, he’s gonna need a counter-move or two.  At least before he can be relied upon consistently.  Just something so he can adjust if Plan A is cut off or goes awry.  Not necessarily today, he’s twenty-two and he’s growing, but that’s a big limitation for someone we were hoping could provide the majority of our interior offense.  And speaking of interior offense…

Antawn Jamison – Whose appearance in this blog will be his most prominent of the night.  Is he sullen, old, or just off to a bad start?  It’s crossed my mind the answer could be D) Dog House.  He played 18 minutes tonight, and with the Cavs down three with 5 seconds left, I could not think of one reason for him to be out of the game.  None.  Other than Byron Scott was making a statement.  Again, I love Andy Varejao as much as the next guy, but when he failed to succeed from the post, I don’t think the answer was to have him as an option for the game-tying three.  The Cavs may not need Jamison for the long term, but as this year goes, it wouldn’t hurt if he could give them some production in the half-court off the bench, as well as improve on his early season 2.3 pg rebounding average.

I’ll close with these:

Silver Lining # 1: Without their starting point guard, the Cavs manufactured a significant amount of balanced scoring.  Ideally, 104 points is supposed to be enough to win the game.

Silver Lining # 2: If we were going to lose in the Kings’ return, I’ll sleep easier knowing that it happened with that apostrophe placement.

Recap: Raptors 101, Cavs 81 (Or, when God opens a window, he steals a laptop)

Friday, October 29th, 2010

epic fail photos - Fire Safety Fail

Overview: The Cleveland Cavaliers got their asses absolutely handed to them in their first road game, losing to the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 101-81. Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison were the only Cavaliers to score in double digits.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

I’ll be brief tonight, because that was awful and terrifying. The Cavs’ offense was horrible. Beyond horrible. I mean, this was the Raptors the Cavs were playing. Ramon Sessions drove recklessly into the lane without any real plan approximately 200 times, and it didn’t really work out for him. Sometimes the Cavs would rotate the ball around the perimeter, almost get an open three, realize nobody really wanted to take it, and give it back to Ramon Sessions for a reckless drive at the hoop. I think the best set of the night was one that got Ryan Hollins a post-up opportunity. Anthony Parker ran the point for extended periods of times, and that was probably a good decision. Dear lord.

Bright spots: Hollins looks like an NBA player. Jamison hit threes. Powe took it right at Bargnani and got some baskets that way. Everything else was bad. It’s the first road game, and Mo and Varejao being out is a big deal. But losses like this will take your morale away. Good news is that the Cavs get to go back to the Q tomorrow and get a game against the Kings. Let’s see them get this loss back and play like the team that beat the Celtics.

Preview: Cavaliers at Toronto, October 29th

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Alright, let’s see if the team can keep this undefeated thing going. First road game of the year, against a Raptors team coming off a terrible first outing. If you believe in momentum, things look good for the Cavs. Some notes:

-This team likes to run. Even in a loss, the Raptors outscored D’Antoni’s Knicks on the fast break. Like the Cavs, it’s an undersized team with some solid guards and athletic wings trying to make the thing work as best they can. This should be a good test for Cleveland’s running game.

- No Varejao this game, and that’s going to hurt. That the Raptors have no true centers (Amir Johnson is the closest thing) should soften the blow — I don’t think the Cavs will get killed if they play Jamison and Hickson together for extended minutes.

- If DeRozan and Weems get going, the team can be dangerous. Bargnani can be a tough matchup, and Jack is solid. Outside of that, this isn’t a very scary team. The Cavs should come out aggressive tonight.

Alright, open thread. I’m doing the Daily Dime Live tonight, so stop by and say hi.

Links To The Present: October 28, 2010

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

“More people tuned in to watch the Cavs’ first game without LeBron James than any other season opener with him.” [Akron Beacon Journal]

“But this team is going to fight and they are going to give maximum effort. The fans are going to love much about this team. The fans who packed The Q last night were outstanding down the stretch.” [Andrew @ WFNY]

“Scott is remarkably open and friendly, and I can say the same about every last one of the players. They act more like our peers than big-time athletes, and that alone makes them worth rooting for.  Of course, there are certainly bigger reasons to embrace this group. The biggest being that this is your town — and this is your team.” [Sam Amico]

“It paid off, just like Scott’s been preaching it would. Six Cavaliers ended up scoring in double figures; that Varejao may have been his team’s MVP but wasn’t one of them says a lot about the total team effort it was. Daniel Gibson, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half, iced it with late free throws and addressed the crowd afterward as confetti fell from the rafters. During the celebration, a fan mugged for the television cameras with a sign that read “Just like the playoffs, LBJ’s not here.”" [Zac Jackson]

“No, we got some work done. Hard work is a habit just like losing, just like laziness. I want us to get into the habit of every single day that we’re going to work.” [Byron Scott]

“I find these doomsday predictions to be incredibly unrealistic. In order for something like 12 wins to be true, LeBron James’ slice of the Cavaliers’ pie last season would have to have been worth 50 wins! LeBron James is a future Hall of Famer, but does anyone really think his presence alone is worth 50 wins? If so, why don’t we just pencil the Heat in to go 82-0 right now?” [Neil Paine - BBallRef]

Anderson Varejao had 10 board in 32 minutes.  Boobie had 8 assists in 27 minutes.  Those are impressive per minute stats.  Know what else is impressive?  Jermaine Oneal had 6 fouls and 3 turnovers in TWELVE MINUTES.  [Box Score]  Also, if you click on BBref’s “Advanced Box Score” you will see that Anderson Varejao was the ADVANCED BOX SCORE MVP of the night.

“Wednesday’s 95-87 win over the Celtics was one of the best regular season victories of the last three or four years. It was beyond a playoff atmosphere. Actually, there have been playoff crowds over the past couple years that weren’t that amped. The last time I can remember enjoying a regular season home game at The Q was a January 22 game against Washington.  The Cavaliers had just made the huge deal for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Ben Wallace. It was a snowy Friday night and none of the new Cavaliers had taken their physicals. Cleveland had only eight players – including two NBDL call-ups – and rallied to beat Washington, 90-89.  I realize that game doesn’t mean everything. But this year, every game means something.” [Joe Gabriele]

You’re in our prayers, Joe.  We miss you.

“You have to understand,” said Boston’s Paul Pierce, “this team is hungry. Everybody is against them and everybody is writing them off.” [Paul Pierce talking about Cleveland]

A few people have alluded that the shot clock could have been at 1.9.  But the shot clock expires as soon as it shows zero.  There is no 0.9 hidden in the 0 of the shot clock.  Either way, AP probably got the shot clock up in 1 second, and the Jazz timekeepers gave about 5 total extra seconds to Utah during the last minute of the Sundiata Gaines game.  It happens.

“On it is a silhouette of the city’s skyline. Sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, a Cleveland company that has been here almost a century and a half, the new banner is a reminder of when Clevelanders defined themselves by the things they produced, instead of letting fickle sports celebrities set the limits of their self-esteem.” [Bill Livingston]

I love JJ Hickson interviews for some reason.

Recap: Cavs 95, Celtics 87 (Or, that went well)

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Overview: The Cavaliers were able to win their season opener against the defending Eastern Conference champions, outscoring Boston 27-14 in the fourth quarter en route to a 95-87 victory. J.J. Hickson had 21 points to lead all scorers, and Ramon Sessions filled in for Mo Williams by combining for 30 points on 29 shots.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

-First of all, that was awesome.

- First bullet goes to Hickson, who exploded to the basket, stayed patient and let the game come to him, kept the defense honest from outside without falling in love with the jumper, and catch-and-dunked his way to 21 points on 11 shots. I’m not sure that anything would have been a better omen for this team’s future than a huge game from Hickson tonight. Huge success on every level, and don’t forget that Hickson fed Parker for the biggest three of the game.

Of course, this is going to make everybody wonder why Hickson didn’t get more playing time against the Celtics in last year’s playoffs. Nobody ever wins.

- Sessions was aggressive as hell, as was Boobie. Their low shooting percentages are a product of what happens when you attack that Boston defense with impunity, but both of them set the tone. Too many teams get whistled for one charge or commit one turnover against Boston and immediately start settling for jumpers and letting Boston dictate the tone. If you push a team hard enough, they’ll eventually slip, and that’s what happened to the (old and on the tail end of a back-to-back) Boston team in the fourth quarter.

- Hollins definitely showed me something tonight. I continue to worry about Antawn, although KG might just be in his head at this point.

- Cavs only got 10 fast-break points to Boston’s 17, but won anyways. Running will be a big part of the plan for this team, but it’s good that they know they can win a half-court game against a good team.

- Bullets of Randomness:

The thing that makes the Celtics so unpredictable at times is that Pierce, Garnett, and Allen are all jump shooters at this point in their career. On Tuesday, they were at home, they had their shots going, and calmly dispatched the Heat. On Wednesday, they combined to go 12-33, and made a grand total of four shots at the rim combined. Rondo got his, because he’s a freak, but Boston becomes very beatable when their three veteran leaders can’t get their shots to fall. Also, the Cavs wanted this game tonight. Great win. Until tomorrow.

Preview: Celtics at Cavaliers, October 27th

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Here we go. First game of the regular season. Some things to watch out for:

-The way the Celtics played last night, they look like a terrible matchup for this team. Miami tried to play the kind of swarming defense you have to imagine the undersized Cavaliers will be playing, and Boston calmly picked it apart with ball movement, Rondo diving into the lane when he had space, and quality three-point shooting. They’re an extremely patient team offensively — 78 of their 88 points came from the paint, the three-point line, or the free-throw line on Tuesday.

- Defensively, the Celtics are just scary. The more the Cavaliers can push the break instead of facing their half-court defense, the better. Hey, maybe the Cavs can run Shaq off the floor.

- If Shaq beats up Andy inside, doesn’t settle for hooks, and makes a major impact on the game, I will throw something.

- Gotta find Pierce on the break, gotta keep Rondo from grabbing long rebounds and stopping the break, can’t lose Ray Allen in the half-court.

- This is J.J.’s first game as a key piece — I can’t shake the feeling Kevin Garnett is not the guy he wants to see.

Alright, open thread. Let’s start this season off with a bang. I won’t be doing the Daily Dime Live because of class, but check back here later tonight for the recap. It’s time.

Get Excited

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Summer is over. On Tuesday, the season starts. On Wednesday, the Cavs play their first game. It’s time to get excited.

It’s time to get excited about a team with a chip on its shoulder. It’s time to get excited about a team ready to play balls-out basketball and give any team a run for their money on any given night. It’s time to get excited about a team that nobody thinks is going to do anything this season.

It’s time to get excited about Mo Williams diving to the corner off a back-screen and draining a three, or pulling up when his man goes under the screen, or driving on an off-balance defense and finding the open cutter for a layup.

It’s time to get excited about one of the most athletic frontcourts in basketball. It’s time to get excited about Andy slipping the pick, darting backdoor, catching the pass and putting in the reverse. It’s time to get excited about watching JJ come one step closer to putting it all together with the passing of each game, or get excited about him catching the pass, gathering with both feet, and rising up above everybody for a slam. Hell, it’s time to get excited about Andy either taking a charge or standing his ground when he goes straight up to contest.

It’s time to get excited about Jamario running the floor, rising up to snatch rebounds, and gliding through the air en route to converting alley-oops. It’s time to get excited about Anthony Parker…well, the time to get excited about Anthony Parker will come.

It’s time to get excited about Ramon Sessions pushing the break, flying into the lane, getting to the line, and finding his teammates with bullets. It’s time to get excited about Jamison cutting to the basket, seeing the defender, and nailing a floater right over him, or stepping back and draining a three. It’s time to get excited about Leon Powe banging down low. It’s time to get excited about Ryan Hollins proving he belongs in this league.

It’s time to get excited about a race for that eighth spot. It’s time to get excited about every game mattering. It’s time to get excited about basketball in front of the Quicken Loans fans. It’s time to get excited about Boobie teeing up an open three.

The summer is over. Basketball season is nearly upon us. The Cavs are coming back to Cleveland. Will you be there to cheer them on?

Recap: Cavs 83, Bucks 77 (Or, the final tune-up)

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I thought I posted this last night before I went to sleep, but I just saved it as a draft. Hate when that happens. Anyways:

- Always good to end the pre-season with a win. Very, very, promising 26 for Ramon Sessions, who’s struggled with scoring efficiency all pre-season. If he can score efficiently on a consistent basis, it’ll be huge.

- Man, did Antawn have a terrible pre-season. He’s not a part of the team’s long-term plans, but it would be nice if he could play like himself this season.

- I may have drank the Moon/Hickson/Varejao kool-aid a bit too quickly. They shot 7-18 from the floor on Thursday, and combined for 12 rebounds. Bogut is a good defender, but still.

- Parker had a surprisingly decent preseason.

- That’s all for this game — the next one counts. Get excited.

Interview with Randolph Keys of Real Cavs Fans

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Hey folks, here’s an interview I did recently with Randolph Keys of Real Cavs Fans. Enjoy. Midterm in seven hours. Tip for everyone wondering whether or not to graduate in seven semesters — don’t.

Recap: Cavs 111, 76ers 95 (Or, this might not be so bad after all)

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

- Okay, I’m a little bit excited. I’m not going to lie. This is the first look we got at the Hickson-Varejao starting tandem, and it went very, very well.

This is the best way to get excited about the season: a Moon/Hickson/Varejao frontcourt features three players who will be either faster or more athletic than their counterpart nearly every single night, and Byron Scott wants to exploit that advantage. (If the starting backcourt was Sessions/Williams, the Cavs would have a speed advantage at nearly every position, but I do begrudgingly concede that the real NBA isn’t NBA 2K. Still, I want to see Sessions running point with Mo at the two-guard.)

The final numbers on the frontcourt: 22 points on 16 shots for JJ and 11 rebounds. 11 points on 7 shots for Varejao and 11 more rebounds. 8 points on 4 shots and 4 rebounds for Jamario. Hickson went 3-5 on jumpers taken outside of the key, and Andy even knocked one down from the top of the circle. If JJ can hit that 17-footer (WHEN HE’S ABSOLUTELY LEFT OPEN AND THERE’S 15 SECONDS OR LESS ON THE CLOCK) with enough consistency to keep the floor stretched for Andy, this could be a revelation.

More good numbers: 30 assists on 43 field goals for the Cavs. Points in the paint were 50-24 in favor of the wine and gold. 17-6 advantage in fast-break points. If the Cavs are going to win games, this is how it’s going to look.

Assists from unlikely sources tonight: Boobie had what would have been a career-high nine dimes, Mo Williams had seven, Anthony Parker had five, and Ramon Sessions only had four. I still don’t see how this team is going to consistently run the type of offense it wants to run without relying heavily on Sessions, but they made it work on Tuesday.

-Hollins seems to have earned a rotation spot in Varejao’s absence, although Jamison was a DNP-CD tonight. Eyenga also got minutes tonight, which Powe, Danny Green, and Manny Harris did not. Solid night for Jawad Williams as well.

- Is Andres Nocioni a Cavs-killer, or do I just not like him that much? I can’t remember which one it is.

- Who’s still riding the Evan Turner hype train? I can’t remember hearing anything about him for at least a month and a half.