Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. UNLESS THE GOAL IS TO LOSE, LUKE WALTON NEEDS TO BE WEARING A SUIT DURING GAMES. WE ARE NOT SURE WHAT YOU ARE THINKING, BYRON SCOTT.
Walton played seven minutes last night, a timeframe during which Milwaukee outscored Cleveland by sixteen points, part of a stretch where a 22 to 10 lead became a 28 to 41 deficit. Walton’s PER is NEGATIVE 9.9. His Offensive Rating is 28. During his twenty-three minutes this year, the Cavs have been outscored by thirty-eight. I know the amazing bench disparities of the first three games are not all Luke Walton’s fault, but his name needs to officially become “Luke Walton’s Expiring Contract”, and we do not need to see him on the court. Play Leuer or Play Samardo.
Really, Byron, fix the rotations in general. The Sloan / Gibson backcourt is not going to work. Playing five bench players as a unit (especially including Walton) obviously leaves the Cavs at a major disadvantage. Generally speaking; keep two of Kyrie, Andy, Dion and TT on the court. The 31 to 6 run was amazingly frustrating for me to watch, and I am sure it was for Coach Scott, too. He has the ability to do something about it. Please make changes immediately.
Aside from the horrendous seven minutes fueled by the Sloan – Gibson – Miles – Walton – Zeller quintet, the Cavs were the better team last night. They were a Brandon Jennings buzzer-beater away from overtime. This seems encouraging, as on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, against a possible playoff team; last night was the type of game I could foresee the Cavs being dominated. They were not though. After falling behind, they clawed back to take the lead early in the third. The teams traded buckets the rest of the way, until Milwaukee stretched to a seven-point lead with under two-minutes remaining, as Cleveland showed a shocking inability to contain Mike Dunleavy or Larry Sanders. If last night serves as any indication; those two may receive All-Star invites, with their 46 points befuddling Cleveland on only 21 field goal attempts. At the end though of course, Mr. Clutch, Kyrie Irving scored seven points in the last minute-and-a-half to force a tie. A desperation Milwaukee buzzer beater sealed Cleveland’s losing fate, and the Bucks walked away 105 to 102 victors. The battle of the bench was won by Milwaukee 62 to 15.
A few notes:
Offensively, Kyrie proved great again. He scored 27 on 63% true shooting, nailing jumpers off pull-ups and out-of-spins, and attacking the paint. The way he puts spin on the ball to convert layups off the glass is amazing; Derrick Rose-esque. His seven assists generally set Cavs bigs up for easy finishes. The Kyrie-to-Andy screen-and-roll is a thing of beauty that needs to stay in intact. Occasionally sloppy however, one of Kyrie’s four turnovers came with a minute to go, marring the otherwise excellent comeback. Finally, Kyrie obviously worked on his left hand during the summer, but on at least one occassion last night, he shot lefty even when unnecessary. Kyrie, we know you are good; there is no need to add degree-of-difficulty.
Somewhere between Lebron leaving, the hurt wrist last year, and tank-a-palooza 2012; the phenomenon of Anderson Varejao “taking a leap” has been overlooked. He tallied 20 points and 17 rebounds last night. During a twelve point third quarter; he drilled three jumpers and flashed his high-post drive into a righty hook. Last year’s averages of eleven points & eleven rebounds are surely in play this season. Borderline all-star discussion could be reasonable. Sometime in the last two seasons, Andy hit his ‘peak’, and it is a joy to watch. I do think he is over-helping on defense, frequently allowing his man scoring opportunities. The Nazr Mohammed drive-from-the-three-point-line on Friday night was one example; last night’s Larry Sanders explosion another.
It was not a great game for Waiters. He nearly air-balled a three. A possession later, he lost the ball in traffic, then complained about a perceived foul, while his guy, Monta Ellis, sprinted down court for an un-obstructed lay-up. He missed a box-out, allowing an easy Dunleavy finish, and seven of his twelve field goals were of the inefficient ‘long-two-point’ variety. But I ain’t mad at ya, Dion. He’s engaged on defense, and has displayed both an ability to get to the basket and be a shot-maker. From a twenty year old who is three games into an NBA career, I am content with his output.
C.J. Miles has been bad. Almost impossibly bad. Like he can’t get worse. Averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 turnovers per 17 minutes is not what Cleveland signed up for. Last night, he shot 0 for 6 and lost the ball three times. He’s not a good three point shooter, but is hoisting them at career-high frequency, including 3 more last night. His drives are out of control and a complete mess. He has not shot a free throw in three games. After Omri Casspi’s horrendous start to last season, now CJ this year…did Lebron leave a curse that forever befalls Cleveland small forward acquisitions? I hope not. Miles has a seven-year track record as a tolerable NBA player; this has to get better.
Speaking of Omri Casspi…where is he?
Alonzo Gee played really well last night, finishing with 18 points and 6 assists. He repeatedly put the ball on the floor with solid results, including a lefty baseline drive for a layup, and later, a ferocious posterizing of Larry Sanders. He canned two shots from long range, and nabbed a couple of steals. Even when it’s working really well; I still get nervous every time AG handles the rock. Something deep in my brain tells me, “this should not be part of the offense. He should be shooting open threes and finishing fast breaks”. Anyways, all the dribbling worked for him last night. His defense was occasionally suspect however, as he wandered away from Dunleavy, in part allowing the aforementioned offensive explosion from the Bucks’ small-forward-sub.
Donald Sloan scored eight, making two from deep, including once while getting fouled on the last possession of the third quarter. His other make was a twenty-foot shot-clock-buzzer beating jumper. This is all fine and well, but offensive-success-via-Sloan-jumpers seems nonreproducible. As a career 31% long-range shooter in the D-League and only 17% in NBA games; his early season 60% shooting is probably unsustainable. Even with those three made threes in five attempts, his PER is single digits. In my obligatory need to reference this; let Dion get the reps as second-string primary ball-handler. He needs the experience for later, plus the team is probably better now. Or keep playing the most overmatched lineups in the entire NBA. The choice is yours, Coach Scott.