Two more preseason games remain. Two weeks until the regular season. I am ready.
I attended the tilt against the Orlando Magic last night in Cincinnati. I had really good seats, around eight rows up, near mid-court. Pre-season battles are the only time I can afford to roll like that, and the games are fun for about three quarters, before many of the match-ups start featuring players that will not make regular season rotations. The Cavs finished victorious last night, by a score of 114 – 111, following four hard-fought quarters plus an overtime. Cleveland lead most of the game, by as much as fourteen midway through the third quarter. That slowly unravelled, until Jeremy Pargo willed-in an improbable and-one to send the game onto an extra period. Possibly, the NBA should let pre-season games end in ties. Here are some thoughts from the game:
Finally, the type of performance that Kyrie Irving routinely spoiled us with last season. Twenty-two points in relatively minimal playing time. Routinely attacking the basket, he made all eleven at the stripe and also canned several jumpers, finishing three of five from outside the paint.
Alonzo Gee provided remembrance of why he signed for $10-mil. With back-to-back thirteen point games; last night he played athletically, made his lone three-pointer, threw down one monster-finish…basically all the things that made Cavs fans say, “Yeah, he looks like an NBA player”. His ball handling was under-control, as he put the ball on the floor relatively often, tallying only one turnover compared to two assists. An additional particularly nice look from a drive-and-dish resulted in free throws.
CJ Miles gets off shots. Eleven of them last night in only nineteen minutes, which produced 17 points on 67% true shooting. While his efficiency will not always be that strong, he appears very capable of taking over Antawn Jamison’s role, which I will loosely define as: “someone besides Kyrie capable of finding looks at the basket”.
Just a so-so game for Tristan, displaying some of the same-old struggles. His foul shot is very flat, as he converted only 1 of 4. Two of his field goal attempts were blocked, and he appeared a half-rotation slow on defense, picking up three fouls and posting a team-worst negative-9. With that said though, prorated to thirty minutes, his pace was 13 points and 11 rebounds. He turned a face-up move into a nifty lefty hook, a likely sign of his efforts this summer. Like much of the team, his season will be up-and-down.
Speaking of potential roller-coasters; Dion performed solidly. His eight points on 57% true shooting came thanks to two long-distance bombs with his feet set. Despite only two assists, he threw a couple passes that lead to free throws (Cavs shot 34 for the game) and also two should-have-been-assists that Samardo did not convert. He is absolutely a rookie, mixing adept pick-and-roll maneuvers with ill-advised over-aggressiveness. On one possession off a defensive rebound, Dion brought the ball up court with Kyrie sprinting the wing. Kyrie was clapping his hands for the ball, apparently to launch a trey, but Dion did not see him. The ball eventually reached Irving, who passed it back to Dion. Waiters dribbled, but based on Kyrie’s post-possession reaction, he certainly expected Dion would throw it right back. Looks like it will take at least one more week for them to master playing alongside each other.
On a related note, Jeremy Pargo played 27 minutes, commanding the point when Kyrie sat. Dion played off-ball next to J-Pargs, who finished with 6 points, 5 assists and 5 turnovers. I continue to anticipate that this is only a pre-season thing, and once the real games start, Sloan or Pargo (whoever makes the roster) will not be playing.
Tyler Zeller moves very well off the ball, finding several opportunities from cuts, which resulted in eight points on three of four shooting. He absolutely needs to defensive rebound better though, but did lead the team at plus-13 for the game.
Jon Leuer played poorly. He also must play stronger, and he missed a gimme from six feet that could have spared us from pre-season overtime.
Boobie splashed in a couple of threes. That is always a lot of fun.
Luke Walton proved surprisingly effective matched-up against Glen Davis. In the first quarter, Luke drilled two jumpers from beyond twenty feet, threw two beautiful back-door assists and defended reasonably well, both against Big Baby in the post and tipping a pass near the basket. Could Walton possibly battle Leuer for the role of “stretch four that plays fifteen minutes and manages to do more good things than bad”? Probably a pre-season aberration, but Luke looked solid in his first action of 2012 – 2013.