Archive for February, 2011

Recap: Grizzlies 112, Cavs 105 (Or, of routine incompetence and historic futility)

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Cleveland Cavaliers Players Ryan Hollins (5) And Anthony Parker Help Teammate Ramon Sessions (3) With A Minor Injury

Overview: The Cavaliers tied the single-season record for consecutive losses after losing to the Memphis Grizzlies by a final score of 105-112. J.J. Hickson led all scorers with 31 points and 15 rebounds, and four of Memphis’ starters scored at least 19 points. The Cavaliers have not won a game in regulation since they beat the Grizzlies on November 27th, 2010.

Why yes, this team did just tie a futility record bullets:

Quick announcement before I get to the details: I have joined the staff of the New York Times’ Off The Dribble blog, and wrote my first piece for them today. Go and check it out if you’re in the mood. And no, my new gig shouldn’t have too much of an effect on this blog.

On to the game. I’ve been saying this all year, and I’m going to keep beating the drum: this team does occasionally look like a competent offensive squad. They almost never play competent defense, and that’s why they just tied the NBA record for consecutive losses in a season.

Often times, it seems like mediocre or poor offensive teams have more offensive success against the Cavs than good ones do. Teams with tons of offensive weapons will often settle for the looks they get against actual NBA defenses, but teams like the Grizzlies seem to be more patient, move the ball, and look to attack. When they do that, they inevitably get a great shot, because the Cavaliers cannot play defense.

The Grizzlies moved the ball from side-to-side, kept the defense off-balance with penetration, and got whatever shots they wanted at the rim, on pull-ups, and spot-up mid-range jumpers. After the Cavs made their run, the Grizzlies went into “holy crap, we’re losing to the Cavs” mode and made some panic turnovers in the first half. After a halftime chat that probably went along the lines of “Guys, this is the easiest chance you will ever get to be part of NBA history,” the Grizzlies realized that the Cavs had no chance of stopping them if they fed Zach Randolph down low.

The final numbers: 29 points for Randolph on 12-19 shooting, 54 points in the paint and 27 made free throws for Memphis, 23 losses in a row.

Offensively, the Cavs had some nice moments. Hickson was feeling it from mid-range, and was active inside and on the boards. The team pushed the ball well off of turnovers. Sessions was able to play his game, get to the rim, and set up his teammates, and he even made his mid-range jumpers. Parker was the one who gave the Cavs the lead in the first quarter, and finished with an incredible 18 points on 7 shots from the field — I hope the Cavs trade him, because he deserves better than this. He deserves to be on a team that can use his shooting, length, and decision-making.

The problem was that the Cavs don’t have any go-to sets in the half-court, and that killed them late. Jamison spent most of the game launching quick shots and watching Zach Randolph destroy him, which wasn’t terribly effective. Manny Harris was a total non-factor. The team had its moments offensively, but had no chance of outscoring a team that got whatever shot it wanted all game long.

Last note: if you remember (probably not), the Cavs’ decision to draft Eyenga over Sam Young caused me to nearly swallow my own tongue during a live draft blog. (The pick gets made at 9:23.)

On Friday, Young had a great game. He’s a reliable mid-range shooter, he’s tough, he’s smart, and he can finish inside. That said, it’s becoming more apparent why Cleveland decided to take a massive chance on Eyenga — he will make one or two plays a game where he just glides through the air and dares you to imagine what he might someday become. Manny Harris is a good athlete, but Eyenga is on a whole other level athletically. It’s truly breathtaking. Anyways, just thought I’d mention that. One more chance to avoid the all-time consecutive loss record.

Links To The Present: February 4, 2011

Friday, February 4th, 2011

“[A] a loss Friday at Memphis and Byron Scott will also have his named tied — twice — to the longest single-season losing streak in NBA history. He played on the Vancouver Grizzlies’ team that lost 23 in a row during their expansion season. The Cavs can tie that mark with a loss to those same Grizzlies tonight.” [Jason Lloyd]

“Scott is hinting at replacing Harris in the starting lineup in favor of veteran Anthony Parker. Harris said he has no druthers about starting or coming off the bench. ‘Like anyone in this league, they’d rather start,’ he said. ‘I know I’m just a rookie and have good guys ahead of me.’” [Bob Finnan]

“The pressure of trying to end the misery was at the forefront of Ramon Sessions’ mind at the end of the game against the Pacers, the point guard admitted Thursday. Nerves kicked in. He was rattled. His drive to the basket with 11.9 seconds left ended with a whipped pass to J.J. Hickson that bounced off the center’s hands and became a turnover.” [Jodie Valade]

Sebastian Pruiti over at NBA Playbook, which is just an excellent site, breaks down the Cavs’ atrocious perimeter defense, which killed them against the Pacers in the fourth quarter.

WFNY is giving away tickets to the Cavs/Blazers game on Saturday. You can get the details here.

On The Twitters

“Cavs now have a 3.5-game lead over Wolves for worst overall record. Cleveland puts its 22-game losing streak on the line in Memphis tonight.” [Eric Knappenberger]

“Cavaliers director of pro personnel Wes Wilcox here watching Ohio State – Michigan in person tonight” [Zac Jackson]

“Mo Williams is about a week away from playing. Boobie looked good in today’s light workout.” [realcavsfans]

Links To The Present: February 3, 2011

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

“Very simple way to sum up this game: Two words, offensive rebounding. As simple as that. If we’d have taken care of business on the glass, I don’t think the game would have been this close. We did a lot of good things on both ends of the floor, but 16 offensive rebounds is way too many.” [Byron Scott via Jason Lloyd]

“Nearly every fourth quarter ‘stop’ on defense was merely a result of an Indiana Pacers player missing a shot.  Rarely were jump shots contested on pick-and-pops, while Danny Granger (23 points, five rebounds, four assists) and Darren Collison (22 points, nine assists) seemingly had every shot they wanted.” [Scott Sargent]

“What once seemed impossible has become a hot topic of conversation in Cleveland: Could the Cavaliers actually break the NBA record for the worst season in league history, 9-73 by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73?” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“Defense is hard to quantify, but the offensive impact of losing LeBron James is clear. Shots he used to take are falling to other players who are finding themselves less likely to be open and less capable of carrying the team. All eight players who got significant playing time last yearand this year for the Cavs have seen a drop of true shooting percentage (points scored per possession used with a shot, divided by two). The average decline is eight percentage points, which would translate to a drop of 16 points per 100 possessions.” [Carl Bialik]

On The Twitters

“Cavs Keepers: Sessions, Harris, Gibson, Hickson, Eyenga, Samuels, Varejao (+ 2011 NBA Draft + 2011 NBA Free Agency = new start).” [CavsWITNESS]

“It’s 7:27AM and I think the #Cavs are still running high pick-n-roll.” [Michael A. Young]

“That was about as good as its going to get for this version of the Cavaliers and I’ll take it. Was an entertaining game.” [realcavsfans]

Recap: Pacers 117, Cavs 112 (Or, so close, too bad.)

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Overview: The Pacers pulled out a 117-112 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Darren Collison made the game-winning 3 with 1:07 to play. Ramon Sessions recorded a game-high 25 points and 9 assists for the Cavs.

Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and for teams that are not historically terrible bullets:

- This team’s moments of competence have been few and far between this season. Those moments, when they have come, have generally featured Ramon Sessions attacking weak defenses and playing like a true point guard. Against most teams, Ramon’s attack-attack-attack style doesn’t work: against the Pacers, he looked like Tony Parker. He was able to get into the paint, found the cutter or open shooter when the defense collapsed on him, and lived on the free-throw line against the Pacers, who were completely incapable of defending the rim without fouling. Ramon has his flaws, and they are serious flaws, but the only time the Cavs look like a real team is when Ramon is on his game. I don’t really know what to do with that information. In related news, this team has not won a game since a week before Christmas.

- This was a crazy game. The Cavs faced an early deficit, but got back in the game by pushing the break and drawing fouls by being aggressive. Ultimately, the team lost because they didn’t run their offense on crucial possessions and couldn’t stop the Pacers from getting whatever shot they wanted whenever they wanted it. The Pacers rushed at times, but they got a wide open lane to the basket or jumper every time they didn’t do something comically stupid. For the millionth time, this team is not going to have consistent success if it keeps trying to outscore teams. The only time they can play actual offense is in transition, and they don’t care enough about defense to consistently get stops. That’s a bad combination.

- Manny Harris looks like a legit NBA player. I admit I was skeptical, but he’s dangerous in transition, can make threes if the defense sags, and can slash effectively. If he was playing alongside LeBron, he’d look like a starting-quality NBA swingman. That comment cuts both ways.

- Parker was on his game tonight. Every now and then, he’ll pull out a performance that reminds you how good he was with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Wednesday night was one of those games. He drained tough jumpers, made smart passes and cuts, and even had some nice finishes inside.

- Eyenga settled for rushed shots late, but so did Harris, Jamison, and Hickson. It’s becoming apparent that the players on this team don’t believe the Cavs will win unless they make hero plays late, and no player on this team is really capable of making hero plays. Again, that’s a bad combination.

That’s all I really have for tonight. This was the Cavs’ best chance to avoid the futility record, and they blew it with horrible defense and forced shots late. The team does not trust the offensive system, and there is no defensive system. They lost because they do not know how to win. “They don’t know how to win” is usually a cliche; however, when a team hasn’t won a game in a month and a half, the cliche becomes the truth. Until next time.

Links To The Present: February 2, 2011

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

“I’m a glass-half-full guy. I think the way to look at it is the schedule is about to turn. We have some opportunities coming up.” [Anthony Parker via Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“Speaking of draft picks, the Cavs are owed two first-round picks and three second-round picks spread out over the next couple of seasons. These provide even more opportunities to find talent, and the current roster flexibility provides opportunity to develop it.” [Rick Grayshock]

“The immediate future of this Cavaliers team looks bleak. On Monday night, the Cavs played at Miami, and everyone knew they would lose, and they were down 35-20 after one quarter. They were outscored 51-33 in the second half, even though LeBron played halfheartedly and Chris Bosh was more or less sleepwalking. The Cavs lost by 27, but the score was literally whatever Miami wanted the score to be — the Heat could have won by 60. The reality is that a team starting Manny Harris, J.J. Hickson, Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga isn’t going to win often. Give that team a reason to fail, and history can happen.” [Joe Posnaski]

We’ll wrap things up with a Cavs mailbag from WFNY. Scott Sargent fields questions about Ramon Sessions’ future, J.J. Hickson’s trade value, and the Cavs’ frontcourt deficiencies.

On The Twitters

“As a starter Manny Harris is averaging 12ppg 5rbs and 2.3 assists while shooting 42% from the field and 41% from three in 31.3mpg.” [Michael A. Young]

“Anderson Varejao has no timetable for surgery. Sounds like a lot of discussion taking place between team and Dan Fegan. #Cavs” [Scott Sargent]

“Daniel Gibson is out tonight versus Indiana. Quad is still swollen, will hopefully travel this weekend. #Cavs” [Scott Sargent]

“How many Bill Murray quotes from the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ will we see on twitter if the Cavs lose tonight by 20 or more?” [realcavsfans]

Links To The Present: February 1, 2011

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

“[LeBron] basically told me to keep getting better every day. Coming from a player like him and his caliber it means a lot. Everything he said was right; keep playing every day and help my team get better.” [Manny Harris via Mary Schmitt Boyer]

I mean, the streak wasn’t going to end in Miami. As WFNY’s Scott Sargent points out, the Cavs have a legitimate shot at stopping this skid against Indiana on Wednesday. Their schedule also gets considerably easier this month, with games against Memphis, Detroit, and Washington on the horizon. None of those teams are particularly good, but does anyone else look at those matchups and think to themselves “the other squad is still considerably more talented than this Cavs team.”

Rob Oller writes about what he has coined “The Derision,” and the idea that the Cavs’ completely abhorrent play has gone largely unnoticed by the national media throughout the season, but given that, in any given game, an intelligent NBA fan probably wouldn’t give the Cavaliers more than about an 8% chance of winning, the Philadelphia 76ers’ infamous 9-73 is in play. He’s the first reputable writer of whom I am aware that has mentioned this possibility, but if the Cavs continue to sputter into oblivion for the next few weeks, he won’t be the last.

One of the running subplots of this season has been, in light of the Cavs’ futility, how long are fans going to stand by this team while it completely retools and starts enacting a plan for success some three or four years down the road. Bill Livingston talks to a Cavs season ticket holder who, like many, is incredibly frustrated by team as it is currently constructed. What I’m drawing from articles like this and a general sense of where Cleveland basketball fans are at emotionally via Twitter and the blogosphere, the Cavs desperately need to acquire an exciting young talent in the draft this summer. We’ve all been talking ourselves into Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga, but I think even the most optimistic Cavaliers supporters don’t see either of them as the engine of a playoff or championship team. We need Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams or Perry Jones and we need them to be good; even more importantly, we need them to exhibit the potential to be exceptional. If you’re a Wizards fan, sure, you hate seeing your team lose as regularly as it does, but at least John Wall has shown some baffling athleticism, solid point guard instincts, and you can envision a universe in which, through some success in the draft and a smart free agent signing here or there, the Wiz can enter into NBA relevance followed by years of title contention. Cavs fans’ eyes need to be aglow with the same glimmer if the Q is going to quake as it did for the past seven years.

On The Twitters

“Can this be right? Only 4 times in the past 25 years has the team with the worst record in the NBA won the draft lottery.” [realcavsfans]

“Even though I’m starting to sound like Dan Gilbert, but I’m becoming a big Manny Harris fan. This kid can play.” [Bob Finnan]

“Gotta say, every game Eyenga plays, he looks better and better.” [Jason Lloyd]