So the Cavs played their first televised game of the season… In the Hall of Fame City.
The city of Canton acquitted itself well with a near sellout in pre-season, and it was a beautiful 60 degree fall evening in the hometown of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate, The Canton Charge. I took my daughter to her first Cavs game. Jackson High School’s Jacks and Jills choir sang the national anthem, and the boys in tuxes and the girls in gowns sat in my section and made it the social event of the season. I covered my daughter’s ears a lot.
There are no luxury boxes in Canton, and the Cavaliers Brain Trust was courtside, down with us littles, to take in the spectacle. They looked as bored as me by the late third quarter.
We were all reminded of why we love pre-season basketball for 7 minutes, and hate it for the next month. Cavs starters played well through most of the first half, though sloppy towards its end. Then the second half was a mess full of turnovers and bad bad offense, especially after the starters left. Midway through the 4th, the Cavs subs gave a token effort at coming back and did not succeed. My daughter was groaning to leave and I finally caved with a minute left. Let me know if I missed anything.
The best play in the game came early. Miles stole the ball on an entry pass, threw it ahead to Kyrie, who waited till the perfect moment to return it with a behind the back bounce pass right before getting fouled, leading to a Miles slam, and a freethrow for Kyrie.
CJ Miles looked every bit a starting NBA player with a really nice line: 22 minutes, 18 points, 4/7 from 3, 3 boards, 3 steals, and no turnovers. His three point shooting was impressive, especially because they came from the wing and the top of the key. He definitely had a nice matchup against Tobias Harris and the undersized Monta Ellis, and he took advantage of it. His movement without the ball was excellent. I’m hoping he was a steal.
Jon Leuer is a keeper, despite his game low -10 plus/minus, which was more a reflection of his many minutes on the floor without Kyrie. A 3/3 first quarter kept the Cavs in the game early, and he seemed to know where to be on the floor all the time. He had a couple decent moments putting the ball on the floor off the pump fake, and has a nice handle for a 6’ 10” power forward. His defensive rotations were solid, though he picked up some fouls that he shouldn’t have, and needs to work on keeping his arms straight up when he’s going after a shot. His six D-boards were the result of good positioning and strength. Given that defensive rebounding was a weakness of his last year, it was nice to see.
Kyrie was Kyrie. It looked like he played a pedestrian game, until I looked at the box score: 16, 5 boards, and 3 dimes on 5/11 and 6/7 from the line in 22 minutes. Sloppy with the ball, all 3 of his turnovers were due to dribbling errors. You know a guy’s elite when his ho-hum games beat everyone else’s best.
Aside from his funny bits on “Access Cavaliers,” TT was forgettable, but he definitely looks thicker. 7 boards and 1-5 and 2 blocks, but defensively, he got burned by Ilyasova a couple times, and gave up some buckets that were way too easy, but his board work was nice. With a bigger bum and broader shoulders, he should definitely pick up more D-boards.
Andy looks the same, and it was nice to see him scrapping with Drew Gooden who looks ready to braid his goatee into another Johnny. Despite rumors of Andy having “lost a step,” he looks the same to me, and when the games start I think he’ll be fine.
For Milwaukee, 3rd year power forward Larry Sanders was beastly on the boards and around the basket. He had several memorable putbacks. Tobias Harris looked solid, though his defense on Miles wasn’t very good. Dunleavy and Marquis Daniels give Milwaukee a couple of very solid options off the bench. Between them, Gooden, and Mbah a Moute, they can easily go ten deep. They look hard to get past for the playoff race in the East.
Kelenna Azubuike looked like an NBA player, and didn’t seem to be showing any ill effects of the knee injury that kept him out of the last two seasons. He scored with nice elevation on pull up bank shot and jumped pretty high for few high rebounds to go along with a 6 point first half.
Justin Holiday played some decent defense, hit a nice shot, made a nice dish, and looked like he was worthy of more run. He certainly played exactly like the book on him: defensive wing stopper with a passable 3 point game and a good midrange game. But we already have an Alonzo Gee. Speaking of…
Alonzo Gee’s line in 2 games: 39 minutes, 6 points. That is not getting it done for a starting guard. He doesn’t seem to be looking for his shot at all, and why he’s not getting post up looks (or even trying to) against Monta Ellis is either a coaching error or a player error.
Dion Waiters did not look good, and that’s being nice. His one field goal was on a sweet alley oop feed from Miles that he almost blew. On the ball, Saint Weirdo was 0-6 and his 4 turnovers were ugly. His 2nd quarter contested 3 with 20 seconds left on the clock was the kind of play that loses games. Such is the life of a rookie.
The options at the backup guard spot in general don’t look good. The offense fell apart when Kyrie wasn’t on the floor, and there seemed to be a general inability to feed the bigs at all, or get any shots off the ball when Pargo, Waiters, or Anderson were running the point. 38.5% field goal percentage for the game was evidence of this. By the end of the game, Eddie Gill was pressing every guard in the back court, and the good guys couldn’t get into their offense at all. I guess it’s Sloan’s turn again.
Tyler Zeller looked like a rookie: some decent plays, some bad ones, but he really looks like he’s lost out there sometimes, and that he needs to add some weight. The second half was underwhelming for him.
Boobie had some shooting woes and missed several wide open looks.
Milwaukee’s guards combined for 55 points. Tobias Harris had 11. To say that the on the ball defense, screen defense, and perimeter rotations were bad would be polite.
Benoh Udrih took a nasty fall in the 2nd off of a Pargo charge, and probably got a concussion. Hope he’s ok.
No Lukes, Smardo, Sloan, or Casspi. DNPs happen on a 20 man roster.
Michael Eric is very tall. Kevin Anderson is not. That is all I could discern from watching them.
Kevin Jones has an NBA body with a decent frame and some long arms despite being 6’7”. He also pitched an o-fer: no stats in 5 minutes.
I counted four turnovers coming out of timeouts or to begin quarters. No es bueno.
This is of course one game: over-analyzed because it’s the first time we’ve seen these guys since summer league and tankapalooza 2012. It is a ridiculous word count for a preseason game recap. But it’s been eight months since we’ve seen real basketball, and we’ve another month to go. We are hungry. Boxes of “Your Pizza” will not satisfy us (they had no DiGiornos at the Memorial Civic center). Until then it’s pre-season. We must find succor in the first five minutes of games, watch “Access Cavaliers,” play NBA 2K13, and pine for the days when third string point guards Do Not Play.