26 points… That’s a big lead to blow. Blowing a lead that big turns what should’ve been a success into a failure.
The First Half of this game was a revelation: a clinic on what the Cavs can do when they’re engaged on offense and defense and their shots are falling. Kyrie directed a symphony of layups. Daniel Gibson was shooting like it was 1997. Alonzo Gee was posting up, defending, driving to the basket, and running the floor. Samardo Samuels was effective off the Bench, and Waiters was the balling like the best rookie in the league. Cleveland had a 26 point lead at one point, but towards the close of the half, started to wane: their intensity on both sides of the ball dripping away.
The 2nd half was where things fell apart. When the Cavs came out lackluster, the 13 point halftime lead faded quickly. Samardo Samuels had the rare double dribble called for a second time in the game against the Cavs. The 3rd quarter cut the lead to 7, with the Suns chip chip chipping away, and the good guys settling for a lot of traded baskets.
Then… the end of the bench came in to blow the lead and reset the game to a 10 minute fight. C.J. Miles was… atrocious. He established a new statistic: PVRDLP: Points Versus Random D-League Player. His count this game: -4. The Cavs guards couldn’t get around screens. Boobie Gibson lost the ability to guard anyone. No one got back on defense, and the Cavs defensive philosophy was exposed. The Cavs help a LOT — too much. This will be explored more in detail on this blog later, but the Cavs run a high risk/high reward defense: lots of trapping on pick and rolls, random double teams. This can lead to turnovers, but also to wide open shots, especially against a team that passes as well as Phoenix.
The Cavs found ways to lose this game: taking their foot of the throat of the Suns, Andy’s bad shooting, not getting back on defense in the 4th, and the escaped sanitarium patient who kidnapped C.J. Miles, put on his jersey, and snuck in the game. This mental patient was so delusional that he thought he could shoot. Andy was taking shots that have been falling earlier this year, but his outside shooting fell back to earth, and the 17 footers weren’t dropping. Also, his defense was well, not Anderson Varejao quality defense.
Dion Waiters tried his best to win this game in the fourth for the Cavs: running the backup point when Irving was on the bench and eating Hobbits raw when he was playing two guard: shooting, driving, looking like he was made by Saruman in the pits of Orthanc to destroy whoever came across his path. He and Alonzo Gee Shagrat (his Uruk–hai name – I can’t give up in this metaphor) rebuilt the blown lead to 7.
But Phoenix could not miss, and the Cavs inability to get back on defense kept hurting them. Down 3, in the last 20 seconds, the constant flopping by Phoenix finally drew dividends when Goran Dragic was shot by an unknown shooter from the second floor of the book depository and Kyrie Irving got called for an offensive foul that should never ever be called in the last twenty seconds of an NBA basketball game. Kyrie looked like he was pressing though: unable to quite deal with the fact that it was Dion who kept the Cavs in the game, and not him. At the end, the Cavs blew 10 seconds while down 1 chasing Sebastian Telfair around, trying to take an intentional foul. Kyrie had the opportunity to foul him and seemed to think it was someone else’s job, taking a half hearted lunge at Bassie while KI’s feet were trapped in cement. Also, he coughed the ball up 7 times this game…
So I’m not impressed with B. Scott so far this season. He seems a steady as she goes guy: a guy who won’t make changes mid game, or without 2 or 3 games of evidence. And his situational coaching has been Mike Brown-esque… Casspi should have been playing in the second half. Miles needs a stint on the pine. In trying to save Miles’ confidence, Scott’s destroying the Cavs bench.
The Cavs were only in the position, down 2, to win or tie because of a ridiculous fadeaway by Boobie to cut the lead to 1 with 14 seconds left, and a brick at the line by Telfair, but that lost 10 seconds hurt badly. KI took the inbound with 2.9 seconds at the top of the key, tried to do some behind the back magic, and then clanked a 3 pointer. In two games with last second inbounds shots, Milwaukee and Phoenix, I’ve not been impressed at all with Byron Scott’s calls. At the Bucks, the inbounds defense was terrible and situationally obtuse. In the Phoenix game, the inability of the Cavs to realize that Phoenix had a foul to give seemed daffy. Then not running a play with some screen action going to the basket with enough time to get a putback in case of a miss, seemed like a bad idea too. And I’m just sayin’… as hot as he was, maybe Neon Dion should’ve been taking that shot.
Yeah,we might just have two Alpha Dogs.