Archive for December, 2012

Cavaliers Fail to Execute Again

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Let's go Cavs, right?

Toronto 113

Cleveland 99

Well, tonight was more of the same: Cavs play well for much of game, then give it away in the 4th. The Cavs started out like gangbusters, and played well for a while. But the Raptors matched them most of the way, and Alan Anderson (who?) came up with enough big plays for Toronto to pull it out. The Cavs featured some truly horrendous defense in this one, especially down the stretch.

Highlights:

– Even though they weren’t really matched up for most of the game, Tristan Thompson actually kind of outplayed Jonas Valanciunas. This made me very happy. Tristan was active as usual on the boards, grabbing seven offensive big ones. Even better, he shot 5-8 from the field for an efficient 10 points. It was nice to see TT playing so well against Valanciunas (looked like he was playing JV!), although the Lithuanian still showed great off-the-ball movement and a real ability to run on the break.

– Kyrie Irving is an otherworldly offensive talent, in case you forgot. 9-16 from the field for 23 points and 7 assists. He carved up the Toronto defense, and was the only reason we didn’t end the game down by 25.

– C.J. Miles continues to shoot well and play well. He has a ton of confidence right now and is looking great. Pretty much all the bench guys played well tonight, actually. Miles, Boobie, Zeller…hell, even Luke Walton threw a sick assist.

– Anderson Varejao took a big spill tonight, but got back up and had another all-star performance. 22 and 10. #VoteAndy.

– Dion Waiters had a solid first game back. He didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, but distributed the ball well and played in control. I know some people think C.J. Miles should’ve gotten the nod, but I’m glad Byron Scott started Dion. It’s always good to keep your rooks confident, and he had one hell of a dunk on a feed from Gee.

Lowlights:

– Team defense, or lack thereof. The defensive effort here was pathetic, in short. In long, the Cavs didn’t close out on shooters, didn’t box anyone out, and consistently got confused on switches and traps, leading to several wide-open layups. There were two especially egregious plays in the fourth, back to back. Both times, Andy doubled a ball handler with Kyrie on the perimeter, leading to an easy pass to Amir Johnson in the high post, and then an easier past to a Raptor under the hoop for a layup. It was disappointing, to say the least, to see Andy mess up two plays in a row.

– A lot of people will be castigating Kyrie Irving for his defensive performance against Toronto, especially against Jose Calderon, who dropped a wildly efficient  23. But while I’ve never been one to try to defend Kyrie’s defensive effort, I didn’t think he was all that bad tonight. Calderon has been scorching recently, and playing well against everyone. Kyrie tried the whole game, at least, and I loved his tight man coverage in the last minute and a half, when the game was well out of reach. It was a little too late, but I appreciate that kind of stuff.

– Alan Anderson straight lit us up, and I’m still not sure how. It’s tempting to go ahead and blame it on the guys defending him (Gee and Waiters, mostly), but he simply played out of his mind. 5-7 on three pointers? Come on. Also, I cannot stand how John Lucas plays basketball. He’s a less fun Nate Robinson: a more dirty player who can’t jump as high. Also, 6-7 shooting for Amir Johnson, for 17 points with 6 boards and 5 assists? You know you’re in trouble when Amir Johnson is putting up Aaron Afflalo stat lines.

– Byron Scott’s rotations continue to amaze and befuddle me. Mostly, his insistence on keeping Kyrie out of the first five or so minutes of the 4th quarter, no matter the game situation. I’m not going to advocate for playing our point guard 45 minutes a game, but there are ways to stagger the minutes of our best player so that he’s in when we need him. Recently a recurring phenomenon has cropped up. It’s a close game into the 4th, Kyrie isn’t out there, the Cavs go down by 12, and we rely on Kyrie heroics. It just simply is not a winning formula.

Final:

The Cavs shot 51% from the field, 44% from three, and lost. That’s called awful defense, folks. It’s another loss, but hey- tonight was a good time. I think Kyrie’s better with a mask.

Link to the Present: Dion Comparisons

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

At least one of these three guys will play tonight (hint: it's the guy in the suit).

With Dion returning tonight, now is an apt time for this link.  A Mr. Ed Manly occassionally emails me, whenever he publishes a new article at his blog, laughingcavs.com.  The post this weekend focused on Dion Waiters early season performance relative to several other NBA rookies-past.

Interestingly, the first 1035 possessions of Waiters’ career are vaguely reminiscent of Dwyane Wade, however the Heat rookie did shoot many less threes, with an associated higher frequency of shots at the rim.  Regardless of anything that Jim Boeheim or Byron Scott have said though, Mr. Manly (or me)  do not condone tying All-NBA / Finals MVP expectations on Dion.  A few all-star games would be cool.

Also, the bottom of the article features a table that compiles information on 26 perimeter-playing rookies over their first 1035 possessions,  from the last ten years.  Dion’s PER languishes, but he is similar to Eric Gordon, Jason Richardson and Russ Westbrook.  Going to another set of advanced stats, the Cavs-rook ranks 6th in usage, while staying above fifteen players for offensive rating, largely thanks to a miniscule turnover rate.  Areas that hurt him include the third-lowest free throw rate and the worst offensive-rebounding percentage.

Give it a read.  The article is thoroughly researched and offers a fairly comprehensive glimpse of how previous stars performed early in their careers.

(Spoiler alert: Kyrie possesses the highest PER, and the best offensive rating combined with second-highest usage.  He was also 19, younger than at least three-quarters of the list.  That’s a baaaad man.)

Brews and Bruises – Tis The Season

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

In the series Brews and Bruises: Life as a Drinking Cavs Fan, I’ll playfully explore the mixture of pain associated with Cavalier fandom and the glory associated with drinking.  As always, drink responsibly (and legally, ya kids!)

I keep hearing this jingling.  It started faint, but it’s getting louder by the day.  It’s coming, I can feel it in my bones.  Ladies and gentleman….

SANTA. IS. COMING.

Hopefully bringing good tidings, Christmas cheer, and some more Cavalier wins.  But no matter what, the inevitable approach of Christmas Day means one of my favorite things.  Christmas Beer!

All the Cleveland drinkers on here know where this is column is eventually going, but as they say, it’s the journey not the destination.

For this edition of Brews and Bruises I’m was going to try to come up with some clever rhyming to go along with the 12 days of Christmas.  Screw that!  For one thing, I’m way too lazy to start rhyming things (after all, this IS a column about beer) and for another Christmas is in 7 days!

So I got to thinking – Christmas is the time of celebration and, while this hasn’t exactly been the easiest season to palate so far, there are certainly some positives one could take from the pile of dung we’ve seen.  And so, I bring you….

The 7 Best Christmas Beers/The 7 Best Cavs Moments Of This (Young) Season:

Brouwerij St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – The Dark Knight: What a moment this was.  With the weight of the world (or, at least the team) on his shoulders, Kyrie played through a broken jaw (wearing a dark protective mask), showing the country why he’s already considered one of the best.  St. Bernardus can appreciate those sentiments – often forgotten but never overlooked, it’s one of the great breweries of the world, producing fantastic beer and one of the best Christmas ales there is.  While extremely drinkable, this beer is also extraordinarily strong (10%!) and packs a serious punch.  Still, what’s most amazing about the beer is how a fruity consistent beginning and middle can quickly turn to a subtle spicy hop bitterness on the finish.  It’s no wonder such a dark beer can be compared to the Dark Knight himself.  Consistently great against the Knicks, Kyrie upped his game to another level when it counted, showing the killer instinct necessary to be great.  Kyrie scored 17 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter, displaying fearlessness in taking huge step back three pointers with just minutes left.  Alas, his heroics were for naught.  But one sip of this boozy, delicious libation will remind you how great Kyrie already is, from start to finish.

Anchor Christmas Ale – Dion Waiters Goes Off:  If Dion Waiters has proven one thing, it’s that we can’t know what to expect from him on a game to game basis.  At least not yet.  He’s never terrible – not at all.  In fact, he’s already quite good.  But some games he’s clearly much, much better than others.  And no game stands out quite like his fourth as a pro.  Stepping into the bright glow of LA, Dion was lights out.   Really, he couldn’t miss.  Anchor Christmas can understand.  Using a different formula every year, Anchor releases its spicy, sweet, enjoyable brew nation wide.  But this years stands out above the rest.  The 2012 edition is extremely sweet, perfect for savoring every minute of it, much like the Waiters game.  With notes of toffee, caramel, and brown sugar, the anchor Christmas Ale’s sweet stroke stands above all others.  Anchor knows it doesn’t need to have the strongest beer with the biggest hop profile – sometimes it’s best to just make something that tastes good.  And yet, as great as the beer is right now, it’ll get even better – Anchor bottle conditions their annual year-ender so that the flavor can grow and expand into an even more complicated brew.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Troeg’s Mad ElfAnderson Varejao’s MASSIVE Dunk:  Probably the best single moment of the season, at least in my book.  Seeing Andy fake out Dwight Howard, considered by many to be the best defender in the NBA, and then throw it down over a jumping Jordan Hill was incredibly satisfying.  Similarly, Troeg’s Mad Elf uses the taste of sweet cherry from the start to lull the drinker into thinking it’s all light and fun.  But, beware.  By the time you finish the bottle you realize, like Jordan Hill, what just hit you.  A big, heavy, 11% ABV bomb.  Dangerously delicious.

Bell’s Winter White – Andy Takes It To A New Level: Bell’s Winter White – Most people don’t usually don’t expect great things from a wheat beer – they’re pretty consistent in flavor, with a little lemon, a touch of spice and not much else.  But Bell’s took the usual formula for a standard Witbier and kicked it into overdrive for their Winter White.  Heavy on spices like clovers, coriander, citrus zest and lots of orange, this brew is an unusually refreshing and enjoyable way to drink during the cold months.  Andy isn’t much different.  While he was always great at doing the little things that made good, albeit underrated players, Andy has, this year, kicked those little things into overdrive.  Not only does he rebound well, he’s become a vacuum around the glass.  Not only can he score off the pick and roll, he might be the best in the NBA at moving to the basket.  Not only does he disturb on the defensive end, he can now face nearly any player, at any position, and disrupt their game.  Andy has taken what looked like a quietly good career and shot it full of spice.  I never thought I’d enjoy a wheat beer in the winter, and I sure as heck never imagined we’d one day call Andy an all-star. (DON’T FORGET TO VOTE)

Sierra Nevada Celebration AleAlzono Gee’s Game Winner: In a season where pretty much every game has felt the same (disappointing) this game stood out, and for one reason alone: Alonzo Gee.  With about four seconds left, Dion Waiters took an ill-advised three which he promptly missed.  But, thankfully, Gee was there, with a tip in, to save the day and win the game.  Not unlike Gee’s game winner among the consistently disappointing endings to games this season, the Celebration Ale stands out next the monotonous spiced winter warmers of other Christmas Ales.  Excitingly unique and refreshing, Gee’s game winner proved that there’s more to this season than just getting through the grind.  Sierra Nevada, never one to conform to trends, proves, with this great, well-balanced IPA, that all it takes is a veteran brewery to break free from the norm.

Penn Nut Roll Ale – CJ Miles Emerges: We thought we knew what to expect from Miles – a good shooter who was passable at every other facet of the game; a high upside guy who would at least perform with some consistency.  But that wasn’t what we got.  For his first bunch of games as a Cavalier, Miles was awful – jacking up jumpers, playing iffy defense – it was bad.  Just when things looked like they couldn’t get any worse…he woke up!  Starting with a decent 15 point game against Detroit, CJ Miles heated up.  And quickly.  He exploded for 28 points against both the Lakers and the Pacers.  Now, a couple games later, he’s still playing at a much higher level.  Penn has garnered similar expectations, producing some of the most consistently good (and cheap) beers around.  They’re not particularly flashy, and certainly not held on the same level as beers like Pliny the Elder or Heady Topper (which, by the way, deserves all the hype it gets), but trust me, they’re good.  And yet, when hearing about their new winter seasonal, the Nut Roll, I became nervous.  Why would they make such a stupid concept beer?  My first taste left me wanting – it was too sweet, too thick, too this and too that.  But I finally sat down with a pint (an imperial pint, actually) and boy was I wrong.  This beer really delivers, like Penn’s other brews, consistently great flavor.  It’s nothing crazy, but their nut roll is a delicious vanilla tinged nut brown ale – medium to full bodied, malty, and sweet.  I could see myself drinking a bunch of these in one sitting, enjoying every sip of the beer.  Will I always feel this way?  Who knows.  Will Penn be able to keep producing such unexpectedly delicious beers?  Yet to be seen.  But am I enjoying my current ride with a silly-named Nut Roll?  Heck yes.  All I can say is I hope the honeymoon never ends.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale - Kyrie Returns:  Everyone (or most everyone) reading this knows how beloved Great Lakes Christmas Ale is in the state of Ohio.  In college people would lose their minds the moment it was on tap at the Winking Lizard.  When I visit my family for Christmas, it’s long gone from the shelves.  This beer is adored.  Like Kyrie returning from an injury, year after year, we all eagerly await its return.  Every season, when I get my hands on a fresh bottle, I pause before sipping, wondering if my memory will have served me correctly.  Is this beer anywhere near what I’ve convinced myself it is?  But then Kyrie steps on the floor and reminds me why I thought he was so great.  This beer does everything – it has the soft, sweet, honey tinged touch of a three pointer, the shifty, ever changing hop bite of Kyrie’s drive to the rim, and the satisfyingly balanced finish that accompanies every Kyrie to Andy pick and roll.  I’d put the Christmas Ale up against any classic, MVP winning beer on the market and wager that it’s about as good as it gets.  Like Kyrie, this beer’s got everything – and, thankfully, we’re lucky enough to call it our own.

I sadly had to omit three excellent beers – Captain Lawrence’s Winter Ale, Southern Tier’s 2XMAS, and Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice.  All fantastic and ones you should absolutely seek out (particularly the Anderson Valley.  YUM!)

Epilogue – Hanukkah Is Over (But the beer isn’t!)

He’Brew Funky Jewbelation - Omri Casspi: So far in Casspi’s short Cavalier career, things have been very up and down.  One day he looks like a starter, the next he looks like he belongs on my high school’s JV team (OK maybe that’s a little harsh.)  The point is, things have been sweet and sour.  He’Brew’s Funky Jewbelation is no different.  Notes of vanilla and sweet fruit fight the sourness of tart fruit to create a wonderfully complex, interesting beer, sure to cause any Cavs fan to simultaneously smile and pull their hair out.  But the beer is delicious and Casspi shows promise, so enjoy the sour and the sweet – sometimes you need one to appreciate the other.  (If you’ve never had a sour, this would be a great place to start!)

As always, I crave your recommendations.  Hit me @malfii or email me at Malloryfactorii@gmail.com with your recs and I’ll do my best to write about the best.

An Appeal for Andy

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Andy is being held back from a spot on the All-Star squad!

 

Every single Cavs fan needs to cast as many All-Star ballots for Anderson Varejao as possible. He’s averaging 13.8 points, 14.6 rebounds, and currently sports a 21.96 PER. There’s some basic stats for you. If you think he hasn’t had a few monster games that could put him over the top, what about 35 points and 18 rebounds against the Nets? Or two 20 and 18 games in a row? Anderson Varejao should be an all-star, and let’s not leave this up to the coaches. I mean, Cleveland fans got Peyton freaking Hillis on the cover of Madden. I think a little thing like an All-Star Spot is doable.  VOTE NOW. 

P.S. VOTE AGAIN.

Trends, Ranks, and Outliers, Episode 2

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Yeah I read that garbage. Yes, "garbage", you can quote me on that. Shout out to my homie, WES, for believin

The disclaimer at the beginning of the first installment of Trends, Ranks, and Outliers was that “it’s early” [in the season] and that these were highly volatile.  How prophetic.  Since then, the Cavs have played 7 games and the Trends aren’t so Trendy, the Ranks must have been shown to an enraged C.J. Miles (there’s no other explanation), and the Outliers are slightly less outlying.  Let’s quickly recap.

Trending UPWARD was Omri Casspi.  He’d made half of his 3s and his PER was above average.  Since then?  1/7 from 3, and a handful of DNPs.  Hopefully he gets back into the rotation and starts hitting from deep – the Cavs need some floor spacers.

CJ Miles Ranking?  When we last checked in with C.J. Miles he was sporting the NBA’s worst WS/48 among players with more than 150 minutes played.  The Worst.  Today?  7 games later?  He’s moved ahead of TWENTY-TWO players.  And the accompanying FTA:FGA ratio?  Miles has blasted his way from 6th worst in the league to 36th.  Since I authored that post and attempted to embarrass my friend for predicting Miles could be the Cavs second leading scorer, Miles has been…the Cavs second leading scorer, averaging a robust 18.3 ppg.  Who wants to get made fun of this week?

The Cavs riDONKulous block differential Outlier?  Completely vanished.  Haha yeah right, it’s still there, and it’s still a huge outlier – see chart below.  However, since we’re all about BEING POSITIVE here at CTB, on behalf of all Cavs fans everywhere, I’d like to rejoice that the Cavs are now being “out-blocked” by only 4.6 blocks per game – almost a whole block less per game than the -5.5bpg they somehow accomplished through the first 18 games of the season!  (Click and then click again for full screen)

Let’s take a look at some other areas I’ve been quietly contemplating while I watch the losses pile up.

Trending: Back into Earth’s Orbit

Anderson Varejao’s overall production has started to wane slightly.  At one point, Varejao was in the top 5 in the entire NBA in various composite production stats.  That’s completely ludicrous, as he’s spent the majority of his NBA career being a “no-stats All-star”.  He’s still killing it, but it’s more “All-Star” and less “1st Team All-NBA”.  Since his otherworldly streak of double doubles ended, Wild thing has finished 4 of 6 games in single figure scoring, including an 0-9 stinkbomb.  Since the last installment of this column, Varejao is shooting 36% from the field.  To the naked eye, it seems that Varejao’s Kevin Garnett-like proficiency from 18 feet was a mirage.  Wild thing is still swallowing up an obscene amount of loose balls.  He leads the league by a country mile in offensive rebounds (this could have been the topic of today’s “outliers”) and total rebounds, and has just a slight edge on the rest of the NBA in defensive rebounds.  Of note, I’ve watched a lot of Varejao this season and I’ve tried to verify if he, Byron Scott, or any of the Cavs are trying to pad his stats.  The answer is an emphatic HELL NO.  Andy concedes just about any rebound to a teammate if there are no opponents in the area, he doesn’t play garbage minutes, and the Cavs, as Nate has often pointed out, never runs plays for him, even if some think they should.  There’s no Ricky Davis or Javale McGee stench ’round these parts.  Actually, Andy’s not getting anything easy.  In NBA all-star voting, he’s behind Joahkim Noah, who is NOT having a better season, as well as ANDREW BYNUM.  Trolling NBA fans…  Now if the coaches don’t vote Andy in as a reserve?  That would generate angry, spreadsheet-filled letters from all of the NBA’s stat-geeks, hopefully written in comic-sans.

Ranks: As a team, the Cavaliers are: (hoopdata, bball-ref)

1.) 5th worst in FTA disparity
2.) 2nd worst in eFG%, (worst by FAR in eFG% differential)
3.) Worst in FG% of Shots at the Rim
4.) Worst in Assist Rate
5.) 1st (BEST!) in Offensive Rebound Rate

More misses = more offensive rebounds. Keep at it, fellas.

Draw your own conclusions.  Here are mine:  The Cavaliers offense does not move defenses from side to side, does not mix up play-calling, and does not have the right personnel taking the right shots from the right locations.  A healthy Dion Waiters will slightly improve 1-4.  Last conclusion: If the Cavs trade Anderson Varejao, they will be the worst team in the NBA by every configurable “win/loss” metric.

Digging a little deeper:
These issues are partially personnel, and partially because the Cavs do not make defenses pay for collapsing the paint on forays to the rim.  Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Jeremy Pargo, and Donald Sloan all have one thing in common – they all love to beat their man off the dribble and head towards the rack.  Only 1 of them, The Dark Knight, can finish a contested shot.  The others either abort, get blocked, or just miss.  Unfortunately, this “tool” – the ability to beat an isolated defender and get into the teeth of the defense – is completely wasted on the Cavaliers.  This is partly because the Cavaliers are terrible at swinging the ball, and partially because the only effective “floor spacers” on the Cavs are KI, DW(at least that one game), and Boobie Gibson(Casspi doesn’t play).  See the problem?  Watching the Knicks play, they have 2 or 3 guys that can penetrate, 3 or 4 OTHER guys that can stroke a 3, and they even have a dive man living above the rim as soon as a defending big has to step in front of a JR Smith foray to the rim.  On the Cavs?  If someone steps in front of Pargo, where is the ball swinging?  Alonzo Gee in the corner?  Anderson Varejao or Tristan Thompson 17 feet out? (they pick and pop, Chandler picks and SKIES) I can’t even begin to count the number of times this season the Cavs set up their predictable Princeton offense, with the primary ball-handler receiving a high pick, penetrating, getting cut off, and throwing it to either Thompson or Varejao 17 feet from the hoop with less than 10 seconds remaining on the clock, leaving all of the Cavs players in a position they are LEAST comfortable being in, and proceeding from there.  It’s not the Cavs shot location that is the problem (their EXPECTED eFG% based on their shot LOCATION is just fine), it’s that the wrong people are in the wrong spots at the wrong times.  Varejao shouldn’t be launching 17 footers, Tristan shouldn’t be facing up and trying things from 10 feet out, Boobie shouldn’t be trying to take people off the dribble, Sloan shouldn’t be putting his head down trying to finish over taller players, and Pargo shouldn’t be spotting up for corner 3s.  And I could make the case that you could just switch the last names and everything would be alright.  This might seem cliche to say, but the Cavs really need to generate higher quality looks.  They need to draw whistles if they aren’t going to convert around the hoop (the block party has to simmer down), and they need to get out in transition more often.  The Cavs “look” their best when 1 of 2 things happens: an individual GETS BUCKETS, or the game gets chaotic.  When the game slows down, or an opposing team really digs in – the Cavs cannot score.  The Cavs offense IS hero ball, but they only have 1 hero, and the style isn’t sustainable for 48 minutes.

Outliers: The Cavs had 3 players wearing masks last night.  Has that ever happened before?

Windy’s Blustery on Kyrie

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Zorro!

Brian Windhorst wrote a short piece on Kyrie Irving’s fantastic night at the Garden. He’s definitely right on a few accounts- Kyrie’s the best guard to enter the league since Derrick Rose, and he almost certainly will be a top-10 player in the NBA very soon. But he paints an overall grim picture of Kyrie’s career arc with his skepticism towards his injury history. His main point is that you can only have so many freak injuries before a pattern emerges. While I see the logic behind such a statement, it really doesn’t seem fair, especially in reaction to the fractured jaw suffered against the Bucks. It came off a hard foul from Luc Mbah a Moute, and these types of injuries are called “freak” for a reason. I don’t think we have any real reason to be worried about Kyrie Irving’s injury history. It’s not like he has Stephen Curry ankles, or Greg Oden knees. But please, Uncle Drew: never slap a wall again.

Recap: Cavs 102, New York 103

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Let’s start by mentioning the United Way links that were posted before the game. Look past this recap for that; help if you can.

Perhaps Kyrie should have gone for this look.

Wow, I have recapped some amazing losses lately.  First the Miami game; now tonight.  Again, on the road, certainly fatigued, Cleveland gave one of the East’s best all they could handle.  I would love to see wins, but this year, in some of these circumstances, it is fun to see our young group go toe-to-toe with heavyweights.

Tonight’s tilt featured a hot, undefeated-at-home Knicks team against an increasingly beat-up & worn-down Cavalier squad.  Kyrie wore a black mask to protect his broken jaw, but in honor of New York City and theater, perhaps he should have worn white.  Carmelo also sat, due to an ankle injury.  Twenty-eight year old rookie Chris Copeland started in his place.

Cleveland started hot, behind perhaps Tristan’s best offensive quarter of the season.  He posted & went baseline for a dunk, drove from thirty-feet for a layup, kept a possession alive with a tip, and netted a few assisted lay-ins.  He did not make any three-pointers though (wink, wink).  Kyrie pitched in seven, and the Cavs cruised to a 28 to 20 lead.  Unfortunately, the Knicks scored seven unanswered to close the gap.

Early in the second, CJ Miles drained a few deep threes; the play-by-play refers to one as a 29-footer.  I believe it.  Kyrie continued attacking the New York defense, and his thirteenth & fourteenth points tied the game as the half neared a close.  Unfortunately, Steve Novak’s fourth triple pulled NYC ahead 48 to 45 at intermission.  New York assisted on 14 of their 18 field goals, compared to 6 of 19 for Cleveland.

The third stanza featured a series of Knick mini-runs followed by Cleveland recoveries.  Kyrie continued his onslaught of stroked-threes, nifty pull-ups, and smooth lay-ins.  His twelve points could not overcome an ongoing Tyson Chandler dunk-fest though; New York’s Center piled up thirteen points for the quarter, behind a barrage of pick & roll finishes and alley-oop dunks.  The Gotham hosts lead 73 to 78.

The fourth quarter was crazy.  Cleveland fell behind by double-digits twice, behind a parade of New York threes and Tyson Chandler dominance.  Then, Kyrie did his, “I’m the baddest man alive” thing; seventeen points and two assists in five minutes…THAT MAN WAS BALLING OUT OF CONTROL!!!  He got to the rack, he found open cutters, then BAM!!  BACK TO BACK THREE POINTERS to cut the Knicks lead to two.  The Knicks kept making their clutch free throws, but with ten seconds to go, Steve Novak missed…the Cavs rebounded…the Knick defense collapsed on Kyrie…he found a cutting Varejao…Andy’s fouled; two shots to tie with one second to go!!

Well, you know what happened next.  Varejao missed the second free throw.  It was a bummer; it was exhilarating.  Some of these losses will turn to wins soon.

A few notes:

Kyrie scored 41, in a highlight packed career-best.  Since his return from injury, he looks more engaged on defense also; perhaps some time for reflection and video watching proved beneficial.  When he scores 42, it will be in a win.  I can feel it.

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C.J. Miles notched 17, leaving his average at 20 points per game over the last five.

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Tyler Zeller scored 8 points to go with 6 boards on 4 of 5 shooting in 15 minutes.  He flashed his soft touch around the basket and generally looked competent on the boards.  Two more turnovers tonight though, via careless lazy-pass rookie mistakes.

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Another fourth game in five nights, which will be followed by two days off, then another four-in-five.  The season starts with 29 games in 54 days, including seventeen roadies.  That is nearly four games per week, actually the exact frequency of the recent strike-shortened gauntlet.  They will have played away from Cleveland, on average, every three days.   A relaxing holiday respite, featuring three games in ten days, kicks off 53 in 116.  The twenty-four road games after Christmas amount to one every five days.  2013 Cav basketball looks much more promising than their 2012.

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As the unofficial tracker of Andy’s progression up the franchise leader-boards; his two offensive rebounds move him past Brad Daugherty to fourth.  With eight total rebounds, he did not reach double-digits, which shocks nowadays.  Tyson Chandler tipped approximately fourteen-thousand loose-balls to his backcourt.

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Daniel Gibson is shooting 28% from the field in the month of December.

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Iman Shumpert did not play, but he is rocking awesome hair.

I am somewhat surprised that it took Steve Novak until last year to find a place in the NBA.  That shot is soooo fast and accurate, surely there were more than 300 minutes per season that could have been available to him.  He appears pretty capable spotted up, off screens, or even dribbling once then firing. Of 450 attempts from deep in the last three seasons, he converts over 47%, shooting once every four minutes.  That’s just stupid.

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For two straight seasons, Tyson Chandler paced the league in True Shooting Percentage.  Last year, he posted approximately the best mark in the history of forever, this season is even higher, and tonight he tallied 88%.  That man finishes pick-and-rolls and alley-oops.  He’s a beast.

Sometimes Sports seem Small

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

With a game in New York tonight, and recent events nearby, I wanted to take a minute away from basketball.

If you can help, here are links to United Way’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and their Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

Kyrie Getting Fitted for Mask due to Broken Jaw.

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Soon all the kids will be wearing masks.

Now this is just getting ridiculous. Is it a marketing thing?  Are the Cavs starting to sell these in the gift shop?  We definitely need to see some Kyrie, Tristan, Zeller line-ups.  Anyways, Kyrie will play through the pain tonight, which is a fourth game in five days; could get ugly against a New York team that is undefeated at home.  Come back later, for a thrilling re-telling of the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway (Cleveland Cavalier version, actually performed at Madison Square Garden).

Cavaliers vs Bucks

Friday, December 14th, 2012

The Cavaliers lost their 16th straight game against opponents in their (Central) division. After losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Milwaukee Bucks on a 3 pointer with 0.7 left by Brandon Jennings, the Cavs enacted revenge by playing mostly uninspiring pick-up style basketball and falling at home, 90-86.  As has become an unsettling trend, the Cavaliers started glacially slow – needing 8 whole minutes before logging their 10th point.  This game was not without its moments, and in very Anti-Cleveland fashion, the Cavaliers actually  finished a quarter (the 3rd) on a mini 6-0 run, adding some much needed excitement to an otherwise boring game.

1st Quarter:

Very lethargic start to this game.  Cavs came out flat but fortunately the Bucks didn’t exactly take advantage.  There was a scary moment when Kyrie Irving went to the rack and on his way down got some “help” from Prince Richard.  From various replays it was clear that Kyrie’s face absorbed the brunt of the blow.  Also, it wasn’t clear to me if it was a dirty play – maybe just some lazy recklessness.  But there was really no reason for Mbah a Moute to grab him on his way down (ball released a while back) and pull harder.  This wasn’t apparent in real time and no Cavaliers seemed to upset with his excellency so I’m not surprised the officials didn’t issue a flagrant.  The league should take a look though.  Cavs trailed after a quarter 25-17.

2nd Quarter:

TRISTAN THOMPSON BOX SCORE EXPLOSION ALERT.  Tristan was certainly active.  Sometimes that’s exactly what a team needs to win, and sometimes that’s a nice way of just not saying anything negative.  Rarely, however, does Thompson’s activity translate to the box score.  It’s obviously a conspiracy among the NBA’s scorekeepers – there is a seedy undercurrent of anti-Canadians-ism.  So we spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating how Tristan’s “energy” contributes to good things, relying mostly on excellent defensive position, and positive things that other Cavaliers do when Tristan is on the court.  NO LONGER!  This is just more fun as a screenshot – remember to click and then click again for full screen.

The Cavs went down by as much as 16 before Tyler Zeller checked in and the Cavs started running up and down the court launching shots from everywhere.  They made four straight 3s.  A lot of them were PUJITs or after sprinting down the court and making 1 pass.  Basically – their energy level was very high, the crowd finally had a reason to get into the game, and the shots started falling.  Boobie had a wide open 3 to cut it to 3, but it rimmed out and Marquis Daniels buried a momentum-crushing 3 to put the lead at 9 going into the half.

3rd Quarter:

What a week for CJ Miles.  In my Trends, Ranks, and Outliers piece I highlighted how awful Miles has been and I also mocked my dear friend Wes for predicting that Miles would be the Cavs second leading scorer.  Apparently, all Miles needed was a promotion to starter to flip his -5 PER into a 20-point a night on 50% 3 point shooting.  Miles looked solid again from downtown, stepping into shots with supreme confidence.  Not only that, in my piece I highlighted his comical 4 for 89 FTA to FGA.  Miles has since TRIPLED his FTA to FGA ratio and is 19/21 from the line on the season, good for >90%.  It’s kind of maddening actually that Miles has been so darn good and the Cavs have dropped 2 straight games in spite of it.  Anyway, the tag team of Kyrie and Miles scored enough to give the Cavs their first lead of the game midway through the 3rd.  After that, the game turned into a game of mini-runs by Milwaukee and desperate attempts by the Cavs to stay afloat.  After falling behind by 9 again, the Cavs had a nice run to close out the quarter capped off by a strong Tristan offensive board and nice pass to Boobie for 3.  The Cavs were trailing only 5 going into…

THE FINAL QUARTER

Unfortunately, the fourth quarter wasn’t quite as dramatic as a techno remix of an 80s Power-Ballad with the triple-threat montage of Deep Impact, Armageddon, and Independence Day playing in the “background”.  The story went like this: Cavalier turnovers + too much Monta Ellis + another off-night for Kyrie Irving = Cavs lose. I wish there’d been more drama to write about, but each time the Cavs cut it to a two possession game, they couldn’t execute.  Tyler Zeller and Kyrie Irving were both called for charges with less than 4 minutes remaining.  Many fans on twitter and such feel the Cavs are getting the short end of the referee stick.  My take is that the Cavs don’t earn much love from the refs from the way they play, but I agree these FT disparities are becoming hard to ignore.  You can see how guys like Thompson and Zeller rarely get those bail out whistles when they don’t convert in traffic.  Now at the same time, if Kyrie Irving played for any other team I’d find it laughable that the NBA allows him to get away with the constant palming, carrying, and hesitation dribbles.  (I will continue to diligently complain about Tony Parker and Chris Paul)  A lot of “ref love” comes down to style and talent.  CJ Miles was whistled for traveling cus he shuffled his feet after he caught a pass and I saw Kyrie do it 3 times in the 2nd half.  He’s just not awkward about it so it doesn’t get called.  Back to the game.  It ended with a whimper, no heroic last second shots this time by either team.  Just some trips to the free throw line and some missed Kyrie treys at the other end.

Other thoughts: The Cavs are bad and boring and we’ve all had a tendency to over-analyze things.  The reality of this game is the Cavs didn’t match the Bucks energy for 48 minutes and stayed in the game with some streaky but unsustainable shooting.  When the Bucks tightened the screws, the Cavs just weren’t good enough in the half-court.  24 turnovers to 21 assists, and sub 40% shooting otherwise.  Kind of all you need to know about this game.  Brief spurts of spirited play at both ends kept the Cavs in the game.  It’s nice to see C.J. Miles playing so well.  It would be really nice, if the Cavs could use this season to figure out which of their role players makes sense going forward.  We saw some nice things from Casspi, and now he’s buried on the bench.  Pargo arguably WON A GAME (or two?) by himself, and played very well for 2 weeks, and now he can’t get into a game that features a heavy dosage of Donald Sloan.  And C.J. Miles went from demonstrably the worst player in the NBA to the Cavs second most potent offensive force.  You certainly can’t hate on Byron Scott for being stubborn – he’s tried everything under the sun.  At some point, the Cavs need to know what they are going to get from their role players.   Also of note, in limited minutes good ol’ duckbill-Drew Gooden looked very effective battling the Cavs bigs.  Seemed strange to me he hardly played.

Didn't do an hour long TV-Special crapping on his former employers/fans before leaving.

Last Thought: My all-time favorite basketball analyst accepted a job with the Memphis Grizzlies front office.  Everyone here knows who John Hollinger is and it’s a testament to him that we probably drop ‘PER’ orders of magnitude more often than ‘PPG’ when discussing the value of a basketball player.  Most of us can recognize the contributions he’s made to the world of basketball analytics, and it’s most likely his proficiency that has earned him this job.  I do want to point out that I find Hollinger to be an even better WRITER and analyst than stat-geek.  (And that is saying a lot).  He is without a doubt the sole reason I re-up for ESPN Insider every year.  During the LeBron era I would look forward to his “Hollinger Player Profiles” in the fall the way a kid looks forward to Christmas.  I would read EVERY SINGLE PLAYER in the league – not because I particularly cared about that player or team, but because Hollinger’s analysis was always insightful and oftentimes hilarious.  On JR Smith’s card this year “Ask a fan which player the Knicks imported from China last season and chances are they’ll guess wrong; the correct answer is Smith, whom the Knicks signed after he spent half a season in the Chinese league.” There’s little nuggets of gold like that for almost every player.  His PER Diem is a daily must read, and I’m very sad that I won’t be able to read his work or participate in his chats any longer.  But I wish him the best – he’s a professional and I’m sure he’ll add a lot of pace-adjusted, per-minute value to the Memphis front office.  I took a screenshot of this years ago – it was one of my finest moments.  I’m Tom(Dayton) at the top – expressing my completely irrational love of Sasha Pavlovic and also Sam Cassell from Middle Earth at the bottom – hoping he’d answer my question with Cleveland.  Good luck to you, John.

We must...go now...