“A rookie guard earned his first career start, a forward who was signed one day earlier drew significant playing time and the backup point guard was forced to be the aggressive scorer. But the Cavaliers’ old nemesis of shaky perimeter defense yielded another predictable result — a loss. This time it was a 101-92 stumble to the Charlotte Bobcats, a loss that was Cleveland’s fifth straight, the 15th in the past 16 games, and one that dropped the squad to 8-24.” [Jodie Valade]
“maybe we should focus on the quit-job we’re seeing from the current Cavs roster. It all started on December 2nd. Facing the Miami Heat and with the eyes of the nation upon them, the Cavs laid an ostrich-sized egg. Their record prior to the Heat game… 7-10. Since then it’s been an ugly 1-12.” [Cory Felegy]
“Trade Idea: Cavs send Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao for Andrew Bynum and Shannon Brown.” [Michael Curry]
“When Williams woke up in Charlotte on Wednesday, he could barely move his left leg, and the hip wouldn’t loosen up no matter what he did. Official diagnosis is a left hip flexor strain, and it might explain why Williams didn’t score after he had 14 points in the first quarter against the Magic on Tuesday.” [Jodie Valade]
On The Twitters
“Sources tell the Sun-Times that the Bulls will not likely add a “big name” SG. If trade is made, sites are still set on #CavsGibson/Parker.” [Scott Sargent]
“Once you look past all the rookie mistakes Manny Harris made last night you can see his potential. Needs to work on his ball handling.” [realcavsfans]
Overview: The Cleveland Cavaliers’ season-long parade of miserable failure continued on Wednesday when the Charlotte Bobcats outscored the Cavs 33-20 in the first quarter of a 101-92 victory. D.J. Augustin and Stephen Jackson to score 66 points on 21-38 shooting from the floor.
This is all very, very bad bullets:
When a team has lost 15 of its last 16 games, getting blown out in the majority of them, it doesn’t lose games just one way. It loses games in a wide variety of equally spectacular ways. Normally, the Cavs lose games by failing to get into the paint, playing lazy team defense and missing rotations, and failing to stop penetration, but they’re also horrible at other aspects of basketball. Let’s take a look at what went wrong on Wednesday:
1. Coming out flat
With Mo Williams out of the starting lineup and Manny Harris taking his place, the Cavs came out with absolutely no energy. They forced up a few jumpers when they had the ball, and did absolutely nothing to stop the Bobcats from doing anything they wanted to do offensively. When the Bobcats did mess up, they outhustled the Cavs and beat them to the rebound or loose ball. By the time the Cavs woke up and realized what was going on, the Bobcats were up 27-10. The Cavs never recovered.
2. Allowing penetration
Stephen Jackson is not the fastest player in the NBA, so he really shouldn’t have been able to get into the paint at will. Some of his (and Augustin’s) points came on step-back jumpers, but a lot of the Bobcats’ offense came because Jackson was able to walk right into the teeth of the Cavs defense and either lay the ball in or find an open teammate. Cleveland somehow managed to do a worse job on D.J. Augustin. They let him get to the basket as will, they didn’t follow him out to the three-point line, and they lost him when he cut off the ball for layups. That’s a trifecta of horrible defense right there. Also, they turned the ball over too much and played bad transition defense. Other than that, great defensive effort. 87 of Charlotte’s 101 points came from the paint, the free-throw line, or the three-point line
3. No offense
Well, the perimeter weave is gone. On Wednesday night, the only thing that worked for the Cavs was Ramon Sessions putting his head down and flying straight to the rim. That’s his game, and it can be hard to stop, especially when teams get big early leads and don’t feel like working hard on defense. It’s probably time to give him more minutes alongside Boobie or Mo — after all, what is there to lose?
Parker, Boobie, Jamison, and Manny Harris combined to go 3-20 from behind the arc. That is not good. Parker was missing open threes and out of rhythm, Manny Harris looked over-caffeinated and under-informed, Andy couldn’t find space to cut through, and Boobie had a game to forget. J.J. Hickson literally forced a mid-range jump shot and committed an obvious charge in one five-second sequence. Alonzo Gee has energy, but wasn’t really helping the offense much.
That’s pretty much it. Ramon willed the Cavs back into the game in the fourth with some help from Jamison, but Stephen Jackson hit a clutch step-back three to seal it.
And that’s it. The Cavs won one game in December, and they needed overtime to get it. Better luck next year, I guess.
“You guys have to probably tell me who’s the so called best center in the league right now because I think Andy’s up there. I don’t think he gets enough credit for how hard he plays and the things he’s been able to do for us. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to combine his effort with wins right now. There’s not a guy in the league right now that’s playing better, so I think he needs to know that. Right now he should be on that all-star ballot as one of the top guys in the league, my opinion. I’m biased.” [Byron Scott]
“The truth is, this team is 1-14 in their last 15 games. This is probably the worst team in the NBA and the only reason their record is better than others is because of the pride, effort, hustle, and winning attitude of players like Anderson Varejao, Boobie Gibson, Antawn Jamison, and Mo Williams. In terms of talent, depth, and the statistics, this team is in the cellar. Their (-9.1) point differential is worst in the NBA. Their Expected W-L of 7-24 is dead last in the NBA. Their (-8.54) rating on the SRS scale is dead last. They are 29th of 30 in Offensive Rating and 26th of 30 in Defensive Rating. It’s time to stop the delusions and time to start changing expectations and start executing a new plan of rebuilding.” [Andrew of WFNY]
“When will things start to happen, when will we see this team start taking steps in the direction of a rebuild. Though Byron Scott still thinks that the playoffs are attainable, I’m here to provide a bit of an answer to the question above. And that answer is: Whenever Carmelo Anthony is traded or re-signed.” [Scott Sargent]
Since we’re all waiting for this team to be gutted in the near future, perhaps we should take the time to get acquainted with Samardo Samuels, who might see some playing time if the Cavs deal a couple forwards in the coming weeks.
Overview: The Magic buried the Cavaliers by shooting 19-31 from beyond the arc en route to a 110-95 victory. Gilbert Arenas led all scorers with 22 points off the bench.
Teams are allowed to shoot from behind that line, and in fact shots made from beyond that line count for more points bullets:
- The Cavs were actually really competitive in this game, mostly because they played with more confidence on the offensive end than they’ve had in a while. Mo Williams set the tone by making some aggressive drives and hitting a few tough pull-up jumpers, and the team moved the ball and looked to attack early and often.
Antawn Jamison spent a lot more time in the paint than he usually does, and was more patient down there as well — instead of throwing up the first floater he dreamed up, he’d make multiple moves and wait until he actually had a good angle to the basket. And he did hit a few of his patented crazy runner/floaters as well. Sessions also had a promising game (he made jumpers! multiple jumpers!), and in the third quarter the Cavs ran an actual Princeton set to set JJ up with a dunk off a nice Varejao pass.
I actually didn’t mind the way the Cavs played defense at all, strangely enough. Howard finished with 12 points and 7 turnovers, the Hedo pick-and-roll wasn’t all that effective, and Arenas didn’t get to the basket much. And, believe it or not, the Cavs did a better job of contesting threes than they normally do. They didn’t run the Magic off the line, of course, but they weren’t giving up wide-open threes, and most of the time there was a Cav close enough to the shooter to contest the shot a little bit.
On Tuesday night, none of that mattered, because the Magic had themselves a three party. They hit threes in transition. They hit contested threes. They hit post-and-kick threes. They hit threes of of dribble-penetration. They hit pull-up threes in semi-transition. They hit crazy buzzer-beating threes. The entire team was absolutely on fire, and there’s no way that the Cavs were going to win. I’d call it a basketball deus ex machina, except the end result of the game was exactly what everybody expected it would be. Also, Earl Clark made jumpers on key possessions. Come on. That’s just not fair.
That’s all I really have for tonight. Not much more to say about this one, except for this: Last season, I was extremely confident that the Cavs could beat any team if they played their best game. This season, I am extremely confident that any team can beat the Cavs if that team plays their best game. The way the Magic were shooting tonight, there was no way the Cavs were going to be able to avoid their fourth straight loss.
Orlando Magic (19-12) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-22)
Offensive Efficiency: Magic 104.8 (12th) vs. Cavaliers 97.7 (29th)
Defensive Efficiency: Magic 99.0 (4th) vs. Cavaliers 107.6 (26th)
Pace: Magic 93.1 (21st) vs. Cavaliers 95.3 (16th)
The Cavs took the ball to the basket a lot against Minnesota, but that might not be a great idea in this game. No team defends the rim better than Orlando, and Dwight Howard is going to send the ball back every time the Cavs throw up a weak layup. The Cavs’ best chance is probably to swing that ball around the perimeter and force the Magic’s new pieces to make rotations.
This could be a trap game for the Magic, who are coming off two huge wins but still haven’t gotten used to playing with each other. So we’ve got that going for us.
The Magic are going to get a ton of open three-point looks tonight. Richardson, Jameer, Hedo, FINGA GUNZ and the rest of their shooters are feeling good, it could get ugly. Also, the Cavs still can’t guard Dwight Howard straight-up, and he might take out his frustration with his 6-point game on the Cavs.
Alright, that’s all for right now. This one could end badly. Check in with me on the live dime, and check back here later for the recap.
Byron Scott is still clinging to playoff aspirations, or at least that’s what he’s telling the media. The last team to make the playoffs after starting the season 8-22 or worse was the 1984-85 Cavs. No, not the last Cavs team: the last NBA team.
Following Jawad Williams’ release, the Cavs held an open audition for the Cleveland native’s roster spot. They settled on Alonzo Gee. Gee, a 23 year old out of Alabama, has played for both the Spurs and Wizards this season. In 2009, he was named the NBA D-League Rookie of the Year, averaging 21 points and 6.6 rebounds per game with the Austin Toros. It’s not clear whether Gee will be slotted into the rotation immediately, if Manny Harris will see the bulk of Jawad’s minutes, or if Byron Scott has something else entirely in mind, but one can assume Gee will get some burn at some point in the near future., if only for tire-kicking purposes.
The Beacon-Journal’s Jason Lloyd reports that the Cavs’ decision to move Samardo Samuels to the D-League is simply to get the rookie some floor time. Samuels has played in only four NBA games this season, averaging 4.5 minutes per game.
For those who remember the NBA in the roaring 80s (or for young’ns such as myself, have watched the Pistons, Celts, and Lakers teams of the 80s on VHS tapes or NBA TV), Byron Scott was something of a tough guy in his day. Scott has been laying the “In my day…” rhetoric on rather thick lately, deeming the effort of today’s NBA players as “scary.” Then again, we Cavs fans have endured stretches of basketball that could, at best, be described as “lackadaisical” and, at worst, “completely lifeless,” so maybe Scott has reason to be so curmudgeonly.
On The Twitters
“There was no need for LBJ to backtrack on contraction. He was honest, wasn’t baited, and made some good points that stirred debate. I like.” [Ken Berger]
“Gee mentioned his athleticism multiple times. Says he’s a “high energy” guy. #Cavs” [Scott Sargent]
“Eyenga will remain in Erie for at least a few more games, then #Cavs could make decision to bring him back” [Jason Lloyd]
“You don’t cut a rotation player no matter how bad he is before you have to. Cavs are surely close to making a move.” [realcavsfans]
This is one of those games that’s best summed up by a quotestravaganza:
“This was a team that still knew how to win. This was a team filled with veterans who were around for 127 victories over the last two regular seasons, and those veterans would be counted on to win tight games.” [Jason Lloyd]
“The Cavs, who played without Daniel Gibson (flu-like symptoms), got a great game from Anthony Parker (season-high 21 points, seven rebounds, season-high seven assists), 17 points, five boards and 11 assists from Williams, 11 points from J.J. Hickson and three big 3-pointers from Jawad Williams, but they fell apart down the stretch instead of burying the Timberwolves when they had the chance.” [Rick Noland]
“It’s been a long December for the Cavaliers. The longest seven minutes of it may have happened Sunday night.” [Zac Jackson]
“The last three minutes, we really had the game. Defensively, we kind of stopped playing. Offensively, the ball was kind of sticking, but when it was passed around, we let the shot clock get to seven or eight seconds and then it was like nobody really wanted to shoot it. (We) were almost scared to win the game. When you want to win the game, you have to go and take it. That’s the bottom line. I thought we were kind of passive on both ends of the floor the last three minutes of the game and it cost us.” [Byron Scott]
There are two ways to look at this game: either the “Worst. Loss. Ever.” angle the media is taking or the “Here’s to better lottery odds!” angle. I’ll be comforting myself with the latter and repressing the former.
Oh, and here’s an excellent piece from WFNY that examines Mo Williams’ strange season. An example: his percentage from beyond the arc is just 28.3%, but he is averaging 8.9 assists per game throughout the month of December. And his scoring from game to game is all over the place. Again, weird season for Mo.
On The Twitters
“Not much to be said about last nights game that hasn’t already been said 21 other times this year.” [realcavsfans]
“The transformation of Mo from SG in a PG’s body to an actual distributor has been one of the more bizarre aspects of the Cavs this season” [RockWFNY]
Overview: The Cavs suffered their closest loss of the season after Michael Beasley made a game-winning layup with five seconds left in the game. The Timberwolves only shot 39% from the field, but made more than half of their 23 three-point attempts and over 90% of their 22 free throws.
The only way the final score could have been better is if the Cavs had won bullets:
- Well, the Cavs started hot. The team was in a groove early, with Mo knocking down some open three-point looks, the Cavs forcing some turnovers, and the Cavs moving the ball well and looking to get layups. Instead of just running their perimeter weave and looking for three-pointers, the Cavs were looking to get to the basket on Sunday, both with dribble-drives and backdoor action.
- Normally I’d be praising the Cavs’ decision to try and get some things going towards the basket rather than just whipping it around the perimeter and settling for threes, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t make three points about the shift in the offensive philosophy:
1. The Timberwolves are freaking horrible at defense. I honestly can’t envision a team that plays worse defense than the Cavaliers have for most of this season, but according to defensive efficiency the Timberwolves have played SIGNIFICANTLY worse defense than the Cavaliers. And the Timberwolves’ only good defensive player was limited to 18 minutes of play. So any offensive success the Cavs had on Saturday should be taken with a shaker of salt.
2. Jamario Moon replaced Boobie in the starting lineup, and that had a huge impact on the spacing. To Jamario’s credit, he didn’t want to take open threes, and quickly passed whenever the Wolves threatened to close out on him. However, Minnesota was able to force him into taking five open threes, and none of them were particularly close. The three best athletes on the team (Varejao, Moon, and Hickson) have shown that they have the ability to make open outside shots and make some plays, but when they miss one or two jumpers they lose all confidence in their shot. And this team is not exactly a breeding ground for confidence right now.
3. The “let’s swing the ball around the perimeter and jack threes” offense’s saving grace is that the Cavs don’t commit turnovers — coming into the game, they were the league’s best team at holding onto the ball. When the Cavs got more aggressive on Saturday, they committed 16 turnovers, including a whole mess of turnovers in the second quarter that led to the Cavs blowing their early lead.
Honestly, the Cavs could’ve won this game if it wasn’t for lazy turnovers and lazy defense. They threw the ball away way too many times, and I can’t even tell you how many times the Timberwolves hit a three because the Cleveland defender simply neglected to close out all the way to the three-point line and contest the shot — at one point, Jamario watched a shooter make a three directly in front of him because he didn’t put his hands up. The Wolves made 12 of 23 three-pointers, and they honestly weren’t moving the ball that well; it seemed like most of their threes were open because the Cavs weren’t expecting them to take a three in that situation. Not good stuff.
Let’s talk late-game execution. It was poor on both ends. With 8 minutes left, the Cavs were up by 14. After that, they gave up a mid-range jumper, a layup, and four three-pointers, with the last two threes being off-the-dribble threes from Luke Ridnour. Instead of trying to score, the Cavs went into a run-out-the clock offense down the stretch, which led to an embarrassing 24-second violation, then Mo threw it away, Kevin Love cleaned up Luke Ridnour’s miss on the ensuing fastbreak, and the Wolves went up 1 with 24 seconds to go.
After that, Antawn put the Cavs up one by exploiting Michael Beasley and hitting a floater over him.Then Beasley exploited Jamison by making a strong drive to his off-hand and laying it in with 5 seconds to go. With the game on the line, Jamison went to exact move he’d made 20 seconds ago, but this time Beasley was in position. Jamison threw up a sloppy shot and tried to draw a bail-out whistle, but it didn’t come. Game over.
I really liked what I saw from Jamison, who drove aggressively all night, took those floaters a little closer to the basket than he normally does, and showed really good touch on all of them. Unfortunately, he forced a few 20-footers, which kept his True Shooting from going above his usual 50% range. Him and Beasley are a lot more the same than different — they can make jumpers, they’re good off the dribble, and they can get a shot off from anywhere, but they don’t really see why good shot selection is important and aren’t the best passers or defenders.
AP had a great game filling in for Boobie. He made his threes, was money from midrange, controlled the boards, and made a lot of really nice passes. I know I’ve made this point before, but you can’t be the best player in a professional basketball league without being able to do it all. Even though AP was never that athletic and has lost more than a few steps, the guy still has all the tools.
Watching Varejao and Love battle for loose balls was a pleasure. If you could combine Andy’s size and athleticism with Love’s skills, you’d have a heck of a power forward.
Sessions and JJ showed some signs tonight, although the latter made his customary mistakes. I’d really like to believe that Sessions can become a critical and effective part of this team’s rotation, but he keeps doing things like attempting to make his first three of the year when the Cavs have a two-point lead with a minute to go in the third quarter.
Hey, Jawad made some threes!
Alright, that’s all for me tonight. Until later, everyone.
“When Cavaliers coach Byron Scott made changes to the starting lineup to include three guards — 6-1 Mo Williams, Gibson and 6-6 Anthony Parker — he knew there would be nights like this. That is to say, nights when the Cavaliers are dwarfed by their opponents, particularly in the backcourt.” [Jodie Valade]
“The Hawks were bigger and stronger at almost every starting position. Perhaps the biggest mismatch was at shooting guard, where Johnson was being defended by 6-2, 200-pound Daniel Gibson.” [Bob Finnan]
“It was another solid effort by our guys, but we ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw in the third quarter. They go 10-for-10, and we played some pretty good defense. As good as they are, and as athletic as they are, then obviously it’s an uphill battle. Again, I thought our guys fought to the end. We played another very good basketball team.” [Byron Scott]
“Scott says his Princeton offense would be even more effective if it had a post-up player who drew attention from the movement of guards who control the pace of the game.” [Jodie Valade]
As always, here’s Mary Schmitt Boyer’s weekly podcast. She talks Verajao, Mo Williams, and the possibility of the Cavs making a move for O.J. Mayo.
On The Twitters
“#Cavs given today and tomorrow off for the holiday. First time not playing on Christmas Day since 2006.” [Scott Sargent]
“Let the quotes begin RT @WojYahooNBA: Charles Oakley has officially joined Paul Silas’ coaching staff with the Bobcats” [Kurt Helin]
And Christian Eyenga knows just enough English to love him some trap-hop: “Young jessy and fucci mane go hard with : trap or die 2 i Like That. @Damien23 Check That” [Christian Eyenga]
Overview: The Atlanta Hawks overpowered the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half of a 98-84 victory. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 23 points and seven assists, and 4 of the Hawks’ starters scored at least 16 points.
Oh God the Birds Bullets:
I would break the Cavs’ losses this season into two basic categories. The first category is the “there is no way a professional basketball team can possibly play that badly” losses — those are the ones where the Cavs give up open three-pointers and drives to the paint at will without even pretending to play help defense, don’t push the tempo offensively or keep the floor spread, and throw up some lazy mid-range jumpers or force some doomed drives to the basket before jogging back to watch the other team practice running their offensive sets. Those are not fun.
However, losses like this, where it becomes apparent that the Cavs had no chance of winning the game regardless of their strategy or effort level, are not much more fun. At almost every position, the Hawks are bigger, faster, and more skilled than the Cavs. That is not a good thing. The turning point in the game came when Joe Johnson decided to start shooting over Boobie Gibson and drilling mid-range jumpers. What is Boobie supposed to do? Grow? Risk fouling him on a jumper? What is Byron Scott supposed to do? Double Johnson 18 feet out and give Horford/Smith an open run to the rim or Bibby an open three? Should he go to his bench and get Jawad in there to guard Johnson, even though Jawad has reached new, The Abyss – like depths of awful recently?
The Cavs did eventually start doubling Johnson, but the Hawks calmly rotated the ball and made open jumpers — Horford is the type of player than Andy can usually defend, but he was automatic as usual from mid-range and was able to convert on some weird hybrid floater/layup type things — he didn’t go all the way to the rim or commit to drawing contact, but he made strong moves and knocked down those weird little tweener layups with ease. Dude is really good. Throw in Josh Smith lighting up Jamison on defense, Marvin Williams bullying AP inside and stepping out for threes, and the Cavs really had no chance.
Nate Smith is an Associate Editor. He 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.
Tom Pestak is a Staff Writer. 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.
Robert Attenweiler is a Staff Writer. 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.
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