Recap: Cleveland 86, Chicago 115 (or Luke Walton is not an NBA power forward)

November 2nd, 2012 by Nate Smith

You can’t really blame the Cavs.  The Wizards were so bad on Tuesday that I’m sure the game just felt like another preseason game.  So the carryover from that game to this had to lull the Wine and Gold into a false sense of security.  Hey, Byron Scott even coached like it was preseason, once again playing Luke Walton at power forward for a particularly brutal 4 minutes that left Luke’s plus/minus at -11 for the game.  But hey, it’s preseason.  You can get away with playing a 32 year old 6’8″ guy who missed the better part of the last three seasons with injuries and was considered “unathletic” in his prime against a 26 year old stud who just got a $32 million dollar contract.  I don’t normally believe in the validity of the plus minus statistic, but words cannot describe how laughable it was to see the Taj Gibson / Luke Walton Matchup.  Let me just distill the experience for you:

Time Bulls Play Score Cavs Play
02:02:00 AM
28-16 Luke Walton enters the game for Anderson Varejao
02:01:00 AM Taj Gibson defensive rebound 28-16
01:44:00 AM Bulls defensive team rebound 28-16
00:34:00 AM Taj Gibson defensive rebound 30-16
00:01:00 AM Taj Gibson defensive rebound 30-16
12:00:00 AM Kirk Hinrich makes layup (Taj Gibson assists ) 32-16
11:21:00 AM 32-16 Luke Walton misses 19-foot jumper
11:02:00 AM 32-16 Luke Walton personal foul (Taj Gibson draws the foul )
10:45:00 AM Taj Gibson makes 1-foot two point shot (Nate Robinson assists ) 34-16
10:33:00 AM 34-16 Daniel Gibson shooting foul (Taj Gibson draws the foul )
10:33:00 AM Taj Gibson makes free throw 1 of 2 35-16
10:18:00 AM Taj Gibson makes free throw 2 of 2 36-16
09:45:00 AM 39-16 Luke Walton misses 25-foot three point jumper
09:37:00 AM 39-16 Luke Walton shooting foul (Taj Gibson draws the foul )
09:37:00 AM Taj Gibson misses free throw 1 of 2 39-16
09:37:00 AM Bulls offensive team rebound 39-16
39-16 Tristan Thompson enters the game for Luke Walton
09:37:00 AM Taj Gibson misses free throw 2 of 2 39-16

So, a 4:23 stretch leads to an 11-0 run. Taj Gibson draws 2 fouls, gets 4 rebounds, 5 points and a dime, and a 12 point deficit extends into an unwinnable game.  And let’s be honest.  Taj could’ve had 6 more points.  When the Cavs first put Walton in, I think the Bulls didn’t pass to him because they didn’t want Scott to pull Walton too soon.  When I say that the Cavs sometimes play and are coached like they’re trying to lose, this is what I mean.  In keeping with Hanlon’s Razor, this is either a ploy to lose games or incompetent coaching.

Anyway… I’m glad the Cavs got their behinds handed to them.  The ridiculous bench rotations, the sloppy starter play, and the general cluelessness needed to stop.  Kyrie played passably on offense, and shot well.   But he and Gee’s 7 combined turnovers were brutal for the first unit.  Boobie Gibson (not) running of the offense for the second unit wasn’t much better.   Gee did crossover to the left for possibly the first time in his pro career, and drew two freethrows on an attempted left hand finish, which was nice to see.  Varajao was his usual brilliant self on the pick and roll, and had several whirling finishes, but also some completely ill advised jump shots.  Thompson was competent and played the least bad on defense of everyone on the team, but given the lack of depth at PF, he’s going to have to play more than 24 minutes a night.  Everyone looked frustrated with the lack of execution, and broke out of the offense to the delight of the Bulls.

Austin Carr has improved as an announcer, and he had a very good point about the Bulls being more balanced without Rose than they were with him, and they certainly were tonight.  They looked like a machine on offense and defense, though the Cavs looked like Tuesday night’s Washington Generals.  Richard Hamilton played like it was 2006, and had a 7-7 3rd quarter all scored off of the baseline and elbow screens away from the ball.  The good guys had zero answer.  The guards for the Cavs looked generally helpless on defense.  Hamilton, Heinrich, and Nate Robinson (the non-garbage time guards) had a combined 44 points, 9 rebounds, and 20 assists on 18-25 shooting, with only 5 turnovers.  Wow.

So garbage time started about 4 minutes into the 4th, and there were some silver linings.  Unlike Luke Walton, Smardo Samuels looked like someone who could actually play power forward in the NBA, and actually wanted to rebound and box out, as did Jon Leuer.  Zeller needs to go on Mass Gainer 3000, but he looked adept at finishing quickly around the basket with both hands.  Casspi got some deserved run, looked like the guy who was the Cavs’ best preseason player, and hopefully gets more run.  Donald Sloan actually settled down and looked competent running an offense, dishing 5 dimes, though at that point the Bulls Psycho-D had been toned down.

Speaking of the Bulls, Thibodeau is awesome.  He had two plays that exemplified The Bulls’ attitude.  First Alonzo Gee makes a steal and and layup at 5:28 to go in the 2nd to cut the lead to 44-24, and Thibs calls a timeout immediately, in essence saying, “there will be no run.”  Second, 10:45 left in the 3rd, and the Bulls are up 63-37.  Deng goes way under a pick and roll and allows Waiters to hit a 19 footer, cutting the lead to 24.  A pissed off Thibodeau calls time out and lays into Deng, and if my lipreading is good says, “What the hell were you doing on that play?”  Let’s just say that the Cavs might be currently lacking that sort of attention to detail.

As for Waiters, the loss was not his fault (though his lessons on how to fight through baseline screens are hopefully well heeded), and he looked like he could get to the basket even against the Bulls, especially on a sweet reverse that schooled three Chicagoans in garbage time.  And even C.J. Miles started to find his stroke toward the end.

Ultimately though, the Bulls are a team assembled and coached in a manner designed to win basketball games.  The Cavs?  Not so much.