Archive for January, 2011

Recap: Nets 103, Cavs 101 (Or, horrible teams find ways to lose)

Monday, January 24th, 2011

epic fail photos - Spelling Bee Trophy FAIL

Overview: The Cavs led the New Jersey Nets for most of the game, but were outscored 30-24 in the fourth quarter of a 101-103 loss. Brook Lopez led all scorers with 28 points, and made the game-winning basket with just over a second to go. The Cavaliers have not won a game since December 18th, 2010.

So close, and yet THE CAVS HAVE NOT WON A GAME THIS YEAR bullets:

Well, it looked like the Cavs might have had a chance in that one. The Cavs’ plan coming into Monday’s game was to attack the Nets at every opportunity and hope they’d make mistakes, and that’s not a terrible plan at all. The Cavs looked to push at every opportunity, Ramon attacked the basket with his signature brand of reckless aggression, Gibson made some nice plays off the dribble and still looks like a better point guard than Mo Williams in every possible way, and the Nets made a LOT of mistakes on both ends when they were (or weren’t) pressured into making them.

Antawn Jamison even slipped the pick and went inside a couple of times instead of slipping the pick, going outside, and launching a jumper immediately, although he also did a lot of the latter. Hickson chose this game to try and make things happen at the rim instead of settling for jumpers, which was an odd choice because he had no chance of scoring inside against Brook Lopez. He shot 6-19 overall, and 5-13 inside the paint.

As the game went on, the Nets were able to settle down and use their dominant size advantage inside, as well as get a couple of nice plays from Devin Harris, whom the Cavs had no chance of guarding.

Still, the game was close with the Cavs up by 7 and 8:25 remaining in the game. Then the following happened:

- Ramon Sessions misses a layup, and Anthony Morrow hits a three in transition to cut the lead to four. I’ll talk more about Morrow later on, but I’m shocked how many times the Cavs got away with leaving him open from beyond the arc.

- After Jamison forces a catch-and-shoot three over Brook Lopez with 14 seconds on the shot clock (GRRRR), the Nets push and get a Farmar three in transition. The lead is cut to 1.

- After Humphries leaves Jamison open 10 feet away from the basket to double-trap Sessions and Lopez leaves Jamison to deny Hickson the ball on the other side of the lane (there’s a reason the Nets suck), Sessions makes the easy pass to Jamison, who hits a flip shot. Cavs by 3.

- The Nets free up Brook in the post with a weak side double-screen and get him the ball. When Sessions comes from the top to double, Lopez spins baseline and hits the hook. Not a lot that could have been done about that one, honestly.

- 1-pass possession as Hickson forces a jumper from the top of the key with 16 seconds left on the shot clock. Devin Harris calmly slices through the Cavs defense in transition and lays it in to give the Nets the lead.

- Out of a timeout, Scott sets up Graham in the post against Morrow. Graham leaves the hook shot short.

- Farmar gets Ryan Hollins to bite on a pass-to-shot-to-pass fake, and Brook Lopez converts the open dunk.

- Boobie forces a contested three with 16 seconds on the shot clock. No dice.

- Farmar gets Jamison on a switch, beats him with an up-and-under fake, and lays it in. You know your bigs suck at defense when Jordan Farmar is going Kevin McHale on them.

- Three-point possession for the Cavs as the Nets commit a defensive 3 and Razor Ramon hits a line-drive jumper when the Nets go under the screen. I’m not sure if that shot went above the rim before going in, but it kept the Cavs in the game.

- Farmar stalls the Nets offense to a halt, but hits the pull-up three to put them up by 5.

- Sessions gets under the basket and draws 3 defenders, then finds Boobie for a clutch three that keeps the Cavs in the game. You’ve gotta love Boobie Gibson.

- Antawn Jamison actually makes the correct rotation on a Brook Lopez pick-and-roll, but Lopez hits his patented 10-foot semi-balanced hook over him.

- After a Graham put-back, Morrow hits a big-time pull-up to put the Nets up by four. Boobie answers with another huge, contested three to cut the lead to one.

- Sessions fakes Anthony Morrow out of his shoes, then dunks over Brook Lopez to give the Cavs the lead again. I try not to assume that good shooters suck at defense, because everyone else does, but Anthony Morrow sucks at defense.

- KEY PLAY: Out of a time-out, the Nets run a Humphries-Harris pick-and-roll. Jamison half-heartedly tries to get above the pick, but comes nowhere close to stopping Harris from turning the corner. He then jogs back towards the paint as Humphries runs to the rim unimpeded, catches a pass from Brook Lopez, and dunks it to give the Nets the lead back. Damnit, Jamison. At least the other players on the team are supposed to suck. Oh, and on the next possession Jamison bricked a forced pick-and-pop three with 10 seconds on the shot clock. Good thing Boobie didn’t get to touch the ball on that possession.

- Anthony Morrow splits a freaking double-team and hits a bank shot to put the Nets up by three. For a guy who came into the league as an undrafted spot-up shooter, Anthony Morrow has watermelon balls.

- With the Cavs down three, Sessions drives and finds Graham wide-open in the corner for three because Morrow is busy smelling a well-covered Ryan Hollins’ back. Morrow giveth, and Morrow taketh away.

- The Nets go to Brook Lopez for their final possession. In what may be the single most hilariously incompetent play in a hilariously incompetent season, Hollins starts SLAPPING LOPEZ’S BACK like he’s playing the bongo drums in an attempt to give the Cavs’ remaining foul. I couldn’t see the foul before the replay, personally, and when I was looking for it it just looked like Hollins had seen a spider on Brook’s jersey. Hollins probably should have wrapped Lopez up, but then again Hollins has the basketball IQ of a hot pretzel with cinnamon sugar glaze.

- With just over a second remaining, the Cavs go for the win and Boobie launches a ridiculous, contested three that nearly goes in but clanks of the back rim. Cavs lose. Again. If they don’t beat the Nuggets at home or the Heat, the Celtics, or the Magic on the road, they’re going winless in January. That’s all for now. Yeesh.

Links To The Present: January 24, 2011

Monday, January 24th, 2011

I’m hopping a train to Indiana in about 45 minutes, so it’s gonna be a quick and dirty links section today, guys.

“Regardless of the outcome of this game, there will be at least 15 teams in the NBA with more wins than the Cavaliers and Nets combined.  As considerable underdogs, Las Vegas expects the Wine and Gold to take their current losing steak to 17 games, furthering the gap between the two teams that could potentially be vying for the first-overall draft pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.”  [Scott Sargent]

“Should the Cavaliers finish with the worst record, they would be assured of drafting no worse than fourth next summer. The bad news is there is no clear franchise player worthy of a No. 1 overall pick — and there certainly isn’t another LeBron James waiting in this draft.” [Jason Lloyd]

“Now starting at point guard for the Cavaliers … rookie Manny Harris?” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

Ramon Sessions is questionable for the Cavs’ matchup with the Nets tonight. I assume that’s referring to an injury and not his ability to play basketball.

Recap: Bulls 92, Cavs 79 (Or, there are no surprises here)

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Overview: The Bulls extended the Cavaliers’ losing streak to 16 games with a 92-79 win. Cavaliers not named Antawn Jamison shot 15-62 against the NBA’s top-rated defense. Ramon Sessions suffered an abdominal strain that limited him to 11 minutes of play.

More injuries, more losses, more of the expected bullets:

I don’t know what we expected to happen when the team with the worst offensive efficiency in the NBA played the team with the best defensive efficiency in the NBA, but this is probably what we should have expected. I’ll give Antawn Jamison credit, because he had a great game — he gets shots up from every spot on the floor, and on Saturday night he was making shots from all of them.

Unfortunately, none of the other Cavaliers could find room to breathe against Tom Thibodeau’s defense, even with Joakim Noah still out. The Bulls fly through screens when they aren’t there, collapse the paint and react back to the perimeter, and make every pass a risky proposition. And they started Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Kurt Thomas, Luol Deng, and Kurt Thomas. Two of those players had bad defensive reputations before this year, two are old guys who nobody thinks of as defensive wizards, and the last one is Luol Deng. That’s the starting lineup of the best defensive team in basketball. Would anybody be surprised if the Bulls were an average/below-average defensive squad, especially with Noah out?

If there’s one point that I’m going to continue to drive home this season, it’s that trying to make a team with this little talent a run-and-gun squad was a fundamentally flawed plan. The team’s rebuilding effort needs to start with a real defensive system and players that will work in it. Everything else is secondary. If the Bulls had won this game with Rose and Boozer combining for 60 points on 45 true attempts, that would be one thing. But the Bulls won this game with Rose and Boozer combining for 44 points on 45 true attempts, and a lot of defense.

I loved the effort JJ showed on the boards — usually his effort goes away when his shots aren’t falling, but he went after it tonight. That’s all I have for now. The takeaway: the Cavaliers need to remake themselves in the image of the Bulls. Don’t look at Rose, don’t look at Noah, look at Thibodeau. He’s the key.

Recap: Bucks 102, Cavs 88 (Or, the bleeding will not stop)

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Overview: The Milwaukee Bucks stretched the Cavs’ losing streak to 15 games with a 102-88 win. The Cavs are now 0-22 in games decided by 10 points or more. Andrew Bogut led all scorers with 23 points on 11-13 shooting from the field.

History is now chasing us, and we cannot run fast enough bullets:

Very short tonight: This was the game we would have had a chance in when healthy. The one thing the Cavs did well was defend the post. Now that Andy is done for the year, everyone gets everything they want, including Bogut.

I guess the good news is that the Bucks only made 4 of their 16 three-point attempts. The bad news is that even when the Cavs’ greatest weakness didn’t kill them, they lost by double digits. The only offense is Ramon forcing drives and Antawn forcing shots. This is not an NBA team. I can’t put it in simpler terms than that. It’s worth mentioning that the Bucks were able to handle the Cavs without Jennings and Salmons, and have survived Bogut’s injury woes. Without Varejao, the Cavs have nothing resembling an NBA team on either end of the floor. Mo’s out too, but he really wasn’t doing much when he was healthy. It’s all about running from history now. If it wasn’t for an overtime win against the Knicks, the Cavs would already have the losing streak record pretty much wrapped up. Until next time, I suppose.

Links To The Present: January 21, 2011

Friday, January 21st, 2011

“By Scott’s estimation, ‘four or five guys know about 90 percent’ of the offense. He didn’t name names — or say if that was limited to healthy players — but that list likely includes Antawn Jamison, Daniel Gibson and the injured Mo Williams, Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao, plus maybe Ramon Sessions, who is now starting at point guard. The rest of the team, Scott said, knows ‘about 50 percent’ of the Princeton offense.” [Rick Noland]

“Since becoming the team’s starting center five games ago after Anderson Varejao was lost for the season, Hickson is averaging 11.8 rebounds, which fans –and coaches — know hasn’t always been his strong suit. His season average is still just 6.1 rebounds per game.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

Our colleagues over at Brewhoop have compiled a preview of tonight’s matchup with Milwaukee that includes the sentence “Most people thought the Cavs would take a major hit following the departure of LeBron James, but I’m not sure anyone saw them being quite this bad.” To borrow a Bill Simmons joke: “Ladies and gentleman, your 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers!”

NBA.com is running a feature today that attributes a report card grade to each team’s frontcourt, backcourt, defense, bench, and coaching. In times like these, it’s good to play games so as to avoid causing bodily harm to oneself or others: I’m setting the over/under for number of “F”s at 3.5. What do you get if you guess correctly? The numbing sensation of existence.

Both Christian Eyenga and Joey Graham could return as early as tonight’s Bucks game.

On The Twitters

“You can say a lot about Byron Scott but he is brutally honest in his after practice interviews.” [realcavsfans]

Links To The Present: January 20, 2011

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

“There was something about this game that made it harder to watch than I was expecting.  There was no point during the game when anyone on the Cavalier bench or in the crowd thought the Cavs were going to win the game.  Even when the Cavs cut the lead to 3 in the fourth quarter, there was no real feeling that this was going to be the night they broke through and ended the losing streak.” [Michael Curry]

“If it was defense Byron Scott was looking for from his Cavaliers, he got it on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns — especially in the fourth quarter. But some untimely errors on offense down the stretch cost the Cavs in their 106-98 loss at The Q.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

Mo Williams will be out at least a few weeks with a hip injury. According to Byron Scott, there is “no timetable” for Williams’ return. When it is better known when Mo will return to action, I’ll be sure to let you guys know. Of course, this means Williams will most likely not be traded before the February 19th deadline.

As Mary Schmitt Boyer states in her weekly podcast, Williams might not have been much of a trade asset regardless, due to both his play and his contract, as he is slated to make about $8.5 million in 2011-12 and 2012-13 (should he exercise his player option in the final year). Among other topics the Cavs beat writer discusses: could the Cavs reposition themselves as the third team in a Carmelo Anthony deal and will we, uh, win a game anytime in the near future.

“Almost everyone in this country plays basketball at one time or other. Few leave their imprint on it. Instead it leaves its ineradicable mark on us, even in the ice and snow and the defeat and desertion of this bitter winter.” [Bill Livingston]

On The Twitters

“Best throw away comment I’ve seen in a long time: Joey Graham’s quad injury must be the worst of all time and I’m including Heather Mills.” [realcavsfans]

“Boobie Gibson says he feels good after 30 minutes tonight. Will see how he feels in the morning after missing the last five games.” [Scott Sargent]

Recap: Suns 106, Cavs 98 (Or, the games are starting to blend together)

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Overview: The Phoenix Suns dispatched the Cavaliers behind a 27 point, 12 rebound performance from Grant Hill. The Suns won despite shooting 6-19 from beyond the arc, which is extremely depressing.

The Cavs totally would have won this game if they didn’t suck bullets:

Two quick things to start out with: This team was the worst team in basketball before the injuries. And it was not particularly close. The first (Or, this is the worst team in basketball) on this site happened a month and a half ago, and that was when everyone was healthy. Also, every team in the league deals with injuries, if not to this extent. No team in decades has played this badly. Do you realize the Cavs are 0-21 in games decided by 10 or more points? That’s horrifying. There is no rationalizing the awfulness of this team. The team is, indeed, notable for its sheer ineptitude.

I don’t know how the Suns could have played worse. They showed no effort, and played their standard horrible brand of defense. Steve Nash honestly played like he didn’t want to have to lower himself to scoring on the Cavs’ defense. Channing Frye forced threes early in the shot clock. Robin Lopez decided he was Hakeem Olajuwon, to disastrous results. Vince Carter scored one basket.

The Suns played like they knew they could win without trying, and they did. They didn’t need to do anything beyond watch Grant Hill get to his favorite spots on the court at will and watch Jamario Moon and Antawn Jamison brick threes to come away with a road win.

Speaking of Jamison, I had my doubts about him when the Cavs got him, and he has confirmed those doubts in each of his games as a Cavalier. I don’t have anything against him personally. He’s a professional, he’s a veteran, and he’s tremendously skilled. However, he’s also a 6-9 volume shooter who doesn’t play defense. He’s Eddie House with 10 extra inches and much better PR. He does not pretend to play defense. He fires up a shot every time he gets a look, and occasionally converts. He exists only to put up numbers and allow more baskets than makes. Watching him has become painful to me.

It was good to see Gibson and his beautiful, beautiful three-point shot back, even if he was a bit unsure of himself every time he went inside the arc. I am MORE than okay with Gibson becoming the starting point guard if anyone is willing to offer cap relief and a 2nd round pick for Mo Williams. I am convinced that Daniel Gibson would be a quality Fisher/Arroyo starter or 6th/7th man on a good team, Anthony Parker would be a solid show starter (like Pavs on the Mavericks!) or 8th/9th man on a good team, and no other player on this team would have anything at all to offer to a team with championship aspirations.

Honestly, that’s all I have to say tonight. The games really are starting to blend together. At no point did I think the Cavs were going to win this game, and this was the closest loss they’ve had in a while. Until next time.

Links To The Present: January 19, 2011

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

“The rebuilding process is underway, and I’m operating under the belief that we’re halfway through the hardest part.  That is my belief, do not convince me otherwise, it took many losses for me to get here, so just let me operate this way.” [Brendan Bowers]

Byron Scott is choosing to make equivocal statements at this point in an attempt to turn this horrid season around. His orders: play defense or sit. One can assume if he stringently enforces this rule, we may see some 2-man lineups in the near future.

Boobie Gibson has finally recovered from his ankle injury and is reportedly ready to go against the Suns tonight.

And another WFNY Cavs Mailbag in which Scott Sargent addresses J.J. Hickson’s ceiling, trade scenarios, and the NBA Draft, also known as the only things Cavs fans can talk about these days without feeling compelled to raid their kitchen drawers for silverware to put into their eyeballs at various angles.

On The Twitters

“Mo Williams Injury Status Uncertain #Cavs http://sbn.to/dIBjyv” [FearTheSword]

“Just as I suspected the 100 little blogs that started up while LBJ was in town have almost died out.” [realcavsfans]

“I think that’s called irony RT @jose3030 Since Lebron’s “Karma” tweet? Miami Heat have lost 4 in a row” [Scott Sargent]

Most things about life are less terrible than the Cavaliers

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The Cavs are one game away from the official midway point of the season. Normally, this is the point where I would try and compare all the good things about the Cavaliers to all the bad things about the Cavaliers and see how they do or don’t even out. However, seeing as to how the 2010-11 Cavaliers are playing historically terrible basketball and are a miserable wasteland where all that is good and happy comes to perish, I’ve decided to try and measure all the bad things about the Cavaliers with all the good things about the rest of the world and see who wins. Without further ado:

Bad thing about the Cavaliers:

I’m looking at the Synergy data on the Cavs’ defense, and dear lord it is horrifying. The Cavs are giving up an average of .95 points per possession, which is dead last in the league. They are giving up .97 points per possession in isolation situations, which is dead last in the league. They are giving up .94 points per possession to the ballhandler in pick-and-roll situations, which is dead last in the league. Essentially, if you have the ball, a live dribble, and the intention to score, the Cavaliers have no idea how to stop you.

Good thing about the Earth:

Puppies!

Bad thing about the Cavaliers:

Seriously, though, the Cavalier defense is unbelievably terrible. They are giving up 1.09 points per possession in spot-up situations, which is dead last in the league. Spot-up shooters make 42% of their spot-up threes against the Cavaliers, which is actually better than the Cavs defend the three in all other situations. Given the choice to stop penetration or protect the three-point line, the Cavs have decided to do neither. The only thing keeping you from getting the shot you want against the Cavalier defense is your imagination.

Good thing about the Earth:

Alison Brie on Community.

That clip is everything good and bad about the internet: after watching that episode for the first time (I’m catching up on the show right now), I YouTubed “Alison Brie gravy train” and that video was the first thing to come up. That’s amazing. On the other hand, the video was uploaded by a one “Sexwithturtles,” and the comments are fairly a fairly saddening exploration of what human discourse becomes when anonymity is granted. Goddamnit, people on the internet. At least use capital letters or something.

Bad thing about the Cavaliers:

The only thing the Cavs do well defensively is guard the post — they give up .81 points per post-up possession, which is the sixth-best mark in the league. They’re also the 13th-best team in the league at defending the roll man on pick-and-rolls. Both of those things are almost entirely because of Anderson Varejao, who is out for the year.

Good thing about life:

I don’t know, sunsets or something. This is going to be harder than I thought.

Bad thing about the Cavaliers:

The Cavaliers are also terrible at offense. They score .88 points per possession, which ranks them 28th out of 30 teams. They are the worst team in basketball in isolation, but when they do manage to get out and run, they average less points per transition possession than any other team. Wait, both of things are terrible.

Good thing about life:

Every time I see Mike Brown on ESPN, I think about the end of Frost/Nixon and imagine Mike Brown telling Byron Scott “Perhaps I should have been the hard-hitting journalist and you should have been the coach of a LeBron James team. Also, I don’t regret not playing J.J. Hickson more against Boston. He sucks. He SUCKS. I want you to put that ON MY TOMBSTONE,” while Scott smiles and awkwardly shuffles away with the other girl from Vicky Christina Barcelona.

I know that Byron Scott can coach, but it is outstanding how Scott has been completely impervious to criticism while stoically watching the worst team in basketball than Mike Brown was for grimacing at the team with the best regular-season record in the league. Armchair coaching has gone from “On a team populated with LeBron James and guys who can’t create their own shots, why does the offense go through LeBron on nearly every play! There is nothing about that strategy that makes fundamental sense on a very basic level!” to “Well, if NBA players are going to make the wide-open threes this defense allows on a nightly basis, it’s pretty clear that a loss was an inevitable act of God.”

Bad thing about the Cavaliers:

Mo Williams scores .66 points per possession in isolation and as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations, and gives up .87 and .95 points per possession on those same situations on defense. Good lord, he is a victim of the Peter Principle.

Good thing about life:

The Strokes.

Bad thing about the Cavaliers:

Ramon Sessions gives up 1.15 points per possession in isolation situations. I didn’t even know that was possible. Also, Antawn Jamison gives up 1.06 points per possession in isolation, 1.14 points when defending the roll man, and 1.11 points when his man spots up for a jumper. I’m not sure if Antawn Jamison could successfully defend a woman’s right to vote.

Good thing about life:

I can’t put this clip in here since it involves a man who was eaten by a bear dropping repeated F-bombs on the park service for not doing enough to defend the bears, but everything about this Timothy Treadwell rant narrated by Werner Herzog is amazing. I demand Werner Herzog narration on professional coach rants immediately. “It is here that Van Gundy crosses a line with Rashard Lewis that I will not cross. He attacks the power forward who took him to the NBA finals. It is clear to me that Lewis’ lazy rotations and passive offense are not Van Gundy’s real enemy here. There is a larger adversary out there — the rest of the NBA’s belief in strict positional definitions and mid-range shots. It is here that his rage becomes incandescent. (I know Lewis doesn’t play for the Magic anymore, but I couldn’t imagine who else that rant could have been about.)

Also, sometimes I imagine Mike Brown wrapping up the season politely in his video diary before getting fired, then totally losing it and going on a Treadwell-like rant. “I did it. I won home-court advantage. I protected the paint. Defensive rotations rule. Mike Brown conquered. F**k Inside the NBA.” I think about cathartic Mike Brown rants more than most people do.

Bad thing about the Cavaliers:

Of course the Cavaliers are all but guaranteed to have the worst record in the league in a year with a weak projected draft that top prospects might not even come out for because of the lockout.

Good thing about life:

There’s always Jimmer Fredette. That’s all I have for now. This is a picture of a kitten. Soon the Cavs will play again.

Links To The Present: January 18, 2011

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

“The Cavs have lost 23-of-24 and are stuck in one of the worst ruts in team history. They won just one game in December and they’re winless in January. They host the Suns and Milwaukee Bucks this week, teams with losing records. They represent the best shot the Cavs have at getting a win this month, although they do get the Denver Nuggets at home next week and Carmelo Anthony could be long gone by then.” [Jason Lloyd]

“A positive attitude mixed with the knowledge that there is a bigger picture is what’s helping the Cavaliers through this time. Antawn Jamison doesn’t remember the longest losing streak of his career — ‘I tend to forget those moments,” he says — but he knows he has been through worse. He’s using that experience and his role as team veteran to help him now.’” [Jodie Valade]

“It’s tough to keep your spirits up after some of the losses that we’ve had. When I wake up the next day, I always look at it as another opportunity to get better. That’s what keeps me going. I know we have a bunch of young guys here who are willing to work. This is a golden opportunity for them as players.” [Byron Scott via Bob Finnan]

“The worst thing you can be in the NBA is middling. After the Price/Nance/Daugherty/Hot Rod era of the Cavs ended, they consistently were a 40-42 win team, sneaking into the playoffs and missing the lottery. That does nothing for your rebuilding, especially in a market like ours. No major stars are going to sign free agent deals here in Cleveland. That is the truth. So the Cavaliers are better off holding their cards, stocking draft picks and cap space, and hoping to hit the lottery with their own high draft picks. The last time they allowed themselves to hit rock bottom, they hit the lottery with LeBron James.” [TD of WFNY]

And now, your moment of zen.

On The Twitters

“I can’t recall an era where there are so many technical fouls/ejections rescinded by the #NBA. And its only January.” [Scott Sargent]

“Lol, chuck doing the duggie. It was more like where my headset at. Lmao…..” [Mo Williams]

“I could pretty much listen to Derek Fisher talk about Legos and think it was interesting.” [Kurt Helin]