Recap: Cleveland 91, Boston 103 (or cheer up. It’s Christmas.)

December 19th, 2012 by Nate Smith

like a drum

We measure events by their ability to pierce the cacophony of the world around us.  During December this is an especially difficult task.  The days are filled with caroling and figgy pudding, desperately trying to finish (or avoid) work before a long weekend, parents coming to see their grandchildren, Christmas shopping, Star Wars Christmas specials, holiday editions of Chopped, bowl games, worrying over bills, and elementary school concerts where the soundtrack from hell is played by 4th graders with hand bells.  In the wake of the season, it seems as if the gravitas of this Cavaliers teams is fading quickly.  I can tell by the way the comments have quieted.  I can tell by the way no one talks about the Cavs at the office.  The Cavs are drifting to the small print in the Beacon.  Terry Pluto seems worn to the nub.  The Cavs are in danger of fading into afterthought status: the winter Indians.

This game was endemic of the squelching of the buzz.  The Cavs sorely missed Anderson Verajao: bringer of energy.  Without him it seems as if the Cavs have none — no hustle, no excitement, no fire.  Dion Waiters seemed as if he was trying to summon that fire at times, but he had no effective way to channel it.  After a meh first half in which the Celtics started to inch away, the Cavs melted down in the first half of the 3rd quarter – lacking energy and direction, and ended up down 80-60.  Somehow, 3 minutes later they’d cut the lead in half on a 12-2 Samardo Samuels, Kyrie Irving run.

Tyler Zeller, in his best offensive game of the season, helped cut the lead to 80-84 about halfway through the 4th.  Tyler looked like he was at UNC, hitting on an array of jump shots, hooks, and freethrows though I believe that Kevin Garnett scored all twelve of his points on turnaround jump shots with Tyler Zeller (not really) guarding him.   Speaking of (not really) guarding… Gee, Kyrie, Dion… all did a lot of that.

Then the Celtics pulled away, as basketball teams tend to do when the team they’re battling doesn’t play any sort of disciplined or coherent defense.  The Celtics also realize what most teams should have realized throughout the year: to beat the Cavs in the late 4th quarter, just make anyone other than Kyrie beat you.  The Celtics double and triple teamed Irving, and Kyrie obliged their dogged defense with a turnover, Gee too, and Dion Waiters with two more.  It was certainly a game of runs, and The Celtics made more of them.  Terry, Rondo, and Pierce ran the offense and dropped an easy 8-0 run in less than a minute.  And that was the game.

I fear very much that we are at a tipping point for the Cavs.  The Cavs are in danger not being a promising young team with a bright future, and instead being a lousy team that doesn’t play defense, doesn’t have an identity, and has a questionable future.  The Cavs are wandering in the wilderness right now, and I’m not sure Byron Scott is their Moses.

I know the schedule will get better.  I know the draft is coming.  I know that they have two more games before Sunday.  I know TT is trying.  He’s even hitting free throws, and he’s learned how to pass.  I know he’s the only Cav playing defense.  But as a tribe, the Cavaliers seem listless: guided by a never ending series of baffling decisions on and off the court.  Why is Dion Waiters jacking up long 2s and hogging the ball?  Why isn’t he coming off the bench after Miles was so effective as a starter?  Why is Luke Walton our de facto backup point guard?  Why when he can barely stand up did Andy even travel with the team?  Why not tell him to sleep an extra day?  Why isn’t Casspi playing?  Why can’t Paul Pierce’s defender resist the temptation to help?  Why don’t all four other Cavs on the floor rush to pick a guy up the way Boston does?  Why can’t Gee play defense any more?  Why aren’t we doing anything about global warming?  Why does the inevitable entropy death of the universe make me cry?  Why isn’t Byron Scott screaming?

As another CtB staffer told me, “Watching the Cavs offense is like watching a pickup game.  Watching the Cavs defense is like watching a train wreck.”  I think that’s an apt description.  But I’m not going to dwell on it too long.  I think I’ll go check out the botanical gardens while my folks are in town, or maybe take Saturday and go eat my way through the West Side Market.  I hear the Life of Pi is good, and I’ve got to take my kid to see the Hobbit.  Maybe I’ll even watch a good basketball game tomorrow night.