Running diary tonight as we visit Dallas. At the tipoff, they look like a pretty scary team, and most of that is because Chris Kaman resembles a casting reject from the Hills Have Eyes…
1st Quarter: The Cavs start out slow, getting dominated on the boards, at one point giving up three straight offensive rebounds on a possession. Fortunately, Dallas is pretty cold. Less fortunately, Tyler Zeller has been blocked twice with some pretty weak attempts around the basket. He then gives up a rebound over his back to… Darren Collison? Oy. At least this this is a good opportunity to watch CtB 2012 draft favorite Jae Crowder, who is starting tonight, and 2013 free agent prospect Brandan Wright who’s checked in early. Speaking of checking in early, we’ve got a Boobie Gibson sighting in the first quarter. Even though it’s due to an Ellington injury, it warms my heart to see Daniel get some run.
Luke Walton starts throwing dimes right away with a sweet alley oop to Livingston, a no look to Gee under the bucket, and an easy kickout to Shaun. Three possessions, three dimes; that’s efficiency. The Cavs defense is looking stout: with good rotations, and two players around the ball every time it goes inside. Holding Dallas to 33% shooting, they end the quarter up 24-16.
2nd Quarter: A Luke Walton three and a quick pair at the line by Miles starts the quarter stretching the lead out to double digits. But Dallas pushes back early as Nowitzki starts hitting, and the Cavs start settling for jumpers. Ronnie Beaubois sparks a nice run, orchestrating the offense for the Mavs, playing solid defense on Waiters, and cutting the Cavs’ lead to one. The Cavs are ice cold. Finally, Tristan finally breaks the spell with a nice post drive on Elton Brand, and Tyler follows it up with an and-1 on a good pick and roll finish with Nowitzki hanging on his back. Shaun Livingston chips in with a couple plays around the basket against Collison, who simply can’t guard him there. Waiters continues his string of maddening long jumpers with a 27 foot brick, but he totally redeems himself on the next two plays as he glides to the bucket with a silky right hand finger roll from the left lane, and follows that up with a steal and sailing layup twelve seconds later, leaving him 3-8 for the quarter, and the Cavs up 46-38.
3rd Quarter: TT scores the first bucket with a running one-hander against Wright who starts the second for Kaman. TT looks so much better when he gets into his post moves quickly rather than pounding and holding the ball — when the defense doesn’t have a chance to settle. The next play, Dion realizes that he has Mike James on him who I think played with Uncle Drew back in the seventies, and blows by him for an easy two. He then settles for two straight contested jumpers against the aged one, which unsurprisingly do not go in. The third quarter doldrums are kicking in for the Cavs and Dallas starts making a run off of some lousy Cleveland offense and lousier transition defense, cutting the lead to two… Dion respons with an and-1! Maybe he realized that he can get by James at will… Of course James counters with drive that leads to three point play for Brand… Livingston brick… Collison layup… Walton turnover… Crowder jumper, Ugh. That lead evaporated quickly. Luke Walton! Bailout three with Vince Carter in his grill as the shot clock expires to re-tie it. I’ve been saying all year that he needs to shoot more…
Gee scores four straight to counter a Collison three as the lead keeps changing. Luke Walton decides that Dirk Diggler can’t guard him, pump fakes three times and drills a left wing three in Nowitzki’s face. Was Luke ever a character in NBA Jam? Because “he’s on fire! ” Collison drains a fallaway three with 2.6 seconds left off the the glass. The crowd erupts. Somehow, Cleveland finds Livingston on the left block. He coolly drills the fadeaway silencer as the buzzer expires. 68-67, Cleveland.
4th Quarter: Wright takes Speights to the post to start the period, to take the lead yet again, and Speights subsequently bricks a turnaround. He’s struggling tonight. Dion with a nasty stepback J off the drive from the left baseline. Ronnie Beaubois abuses Daniel Gibson for four straight points. My heart is no longer warm, Boobie. Walton bricks a heat check J, and Collison feeds Wright on the break to stretch the Dallas lead to 5. Timeout, Cavs. The Herculoids are struggling tonight.
Waiters hits a no-no-no, yes! jumper out of the TO. Brandan Wright scores on the P&R and then blocks Waiters next time down. Beaubois swishes a falling out of bounds three from the right corner. Dallas up eight. Out of another TO, Cleveland turns it over, and then Collison scores again. Cleveland is missing Kyrie right now… badly. Another turnover on the rebound for the Cavs, and then Brandan Wright makes Tyler Zeller look incompetent with an offensive rebound and dunk… 12 point lead. The Collison/Beaubois back court is gelling for the Mavs, and the Cavs can’t seem to answer with Livingston and Waiters in the post… And Crowder forces another turnover in transition. Gee clanks a J, but, thankfully, TT soft slams the putback. Time out Mavs, who lead 84-74.
Crunch Time: Well Dion gets a touch foul that he’d never have gotten in 2012, and the deficit is nine. Nowitzki misses. He’s 4-14 tonight, and just doesn’t look like the guy who won the 2011 NBA Championship. But he follows that up with a patented left elbow net ripper. C.J. counters with a three, and Beaubois and Dirk run a give and go for a dunk on Saint Weirdo. That was some atrocious defense. Dion attacks on offense, splits a pair at the line, and then Nowitzki reads my diary, drains a three from the left wing, and stares me down as he jogs down the court. 12 point lead, Dallas — Cavs time out. Dion with a step-into-it iso-three out of the timeout. Vincsanity answers with a 28 footer like its 2003. I think Dallas has this one in the bag. Miss, Cavs. Dirk gets a no call, then Dion gets a no call. The refs want to go home. Final Score, 96-86 Dallas.
Conclusions: Dion really was a mixed bag this game. He was abused on defense, and even though he shot 9-19, he settled for way too many jumpers on offense. His passes were all over the place too, and even when the weren’t all adding up to his five turnovers, they were just off the mark enough to take the offense out of rhythm — I mean more than it already was. Zeller almost had a double double in the first half, and ended the game with 10 and 10 — so pretty ineffective in the second. His 2013 replacement — if I have my way — Brandan Wright completely outplayed him in the second half for 13 points and 5 boards in 26 minutes. Other CtB favorite, Jae Crowder finished 1-6 but with 14 boards and a game leading +21. Would I rather the Cavs have him than Zeller? Uh…
Cleveland got out-Herculoided tonight. The starters outscored Dallas’ 67-36, but the Hercouloids were pounded 60 to 19. Cleveland missed KI on offense and Ellington on defense. Proving that nostalgia is no substitute for competence, Boobie was a rough -17 with only 4 dimes to his box score in replacement. Starting fourth quarter guards, Gibson and Waiters could not handle Beaubois and Collison who scored a combined 31 points and notched 10 assists in 55 minutes.
Tristan had a nice game with 12 and 7 in 30 minutes, but if winning is the goal, he did not play enough or touch the ball enough. He also didn’t close out on Dirk as well as he should have late, confirming his problems with shooters as Diggler threw in a couple back breakers. Livingston looked solid stepping in for Kyrie with 13, 5, and 6, but his 38 minutes took their toll as he looked like he had less spring in his step and lift in his jumper in the fourth.
You can beat bad teams in the NBA with a good bench. And without Kyrie and Ellighton, that’s what the Cavs are. Dallas proved that tonight. But given all the jockeying for position at the bottom of the league standings, I doubt the brain trust at the Q is calling for Byron’s head. So the Cavs drive the tank to San Antonio tomorrow to take on the Spurs. Have a good weekend, everyone. Enjoy the Cavs, and all the possible future Cavs who will be on TV.