There seemed to be an awful lot of things more important going on in the world yesterday than the season’s final meeting between the Cavaliers and their recently minted arch-rivals, the Miami Heat. In truth, there’s always something more important going on in the world than a basketball game. But we watch because the enormity and weight of all the comedy and tragedy in the world cannot be borne by us mortals twenty four hours a day. Sometimes we need our opiates to get by. Sometimes the the best of human endeavor can be measured in a silly athletic contest with contrived rules between a bunch of players payed to hone size, strength, dexterity, and obscure talents to ridiculous efficiency. Sometimes those silly contests are the height of human expression: movement, grace, form, strength, agility, intellect, bravado, and endearing naivete. And sometimes we signed up to write a recap, and we can’t get out of it.
The Cavs played this one against the Heat, who were without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, and Mario Chalmers — who were resting for the playoffs. Norris Cole returned to Cleveland, to star for the Heat, notching 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists for Miami, who had six players in double figures. The Heat were also buoyed by six points delivered by the basketball Gods: first a straight on three by Chris “Birdman” Andersen: off the glass from 27 feet to close the first quarter. And then possibly the worst call against the Cavs of the season happened when Livingston’s block of a Ray Allen three was called for a foul a full second and a half after it happened, giving Allen three freebies with about 9 minutes to go in the 4th.
The first three quarters of this game belonged to Tristan Thompson for the Cavs who was hitting from everywhere — his confidence in that rocker jumper growing with each game. His first basket was a 14 foot jumper that tickled the twine, and I’m not quite sure which hand he shot it with. Tristan finished with 16 points and 13 boards on 7-14 shooting with 2 blocks to help lead the Cavs in scoring, and had a big block down the stretch to keep the Cavs in it.
Dion Waiters returned to action tonight, and scored 16 on 7-14 shooting, with 4 dimes, 2 blocks and a steal in 27 minutes. It was quite a productive outing. In the highlight of the night, Anderson Varejao was broadcasting with Austin Carr and Fred McCleod when Waiters drove from the top of the key, leaving Norris Cole far behind him, and Frion crushed it over the Birdman. A.C. and Fred got Andy got to narrate the replay in Portuguese. Similarly, Dion had a layup off spin move that took him from past the left block to the right block without traveling (I checked). He left the Birdman in the dust on that one too. Saint Weirdo only had a couple heat chucks as the game started to unravel in the late third and early fourth, but his shot selection was mostly sound.
As for the non-core, Kevin Jones looked ambulatory and like a productive offensive rebounder, but he very much plays below the rim and relies on quick shooting around the basket to score, instead of exploding. Furthermore, he only had one defensive rebound in 14 minutes against Miami’s third stringers. Kevin Jones’ ceiling is as a 13th man in the NBA. Wayne Ellington’s crash back to earth continued as he was 2-6 and was complicit in the general breakdown on the defense that led to Norris Cole’s all star performance. Casspi posted 1 rebound and 2 fouls in 11 minutes, and nothing else. Speights was happy to go 2-7 with 2 rebounds in 17 minutes. Livingston played a large section of the first and second halves playing small forward with decent effectiveness alongside Waiters and Irving, and finished with 7 dimes and 4 points.
Irving struggled shooting, finishing 7-19 and 1-5 from three for 16 points and 8 dimes. Also, Norris Cole was glad whenever Kyrie guarded him.
The game was slipping away in the fourth, after the aforementioned three freethrow gift, that was awarded to Ray Allen, put the Heat up 12. The Cavs clawed back to trail 91-93 with 2:56 left in the game, and then Alonzo Gee committed two really stupid fouls in three defensive possessions on Rashard Lewis while the Cavs were in the penalty, which gave the Heat three free points. Despite Kyrie’s efforts to win as he made driving layup after driving layup, the Cavs couldn’t get past those fouls.
The Cavs cut it to a one point deficit, 95-96, with 19 seconds left, when they fouled Norris Cole, and he missed both freethrows. I bet you can’t guess which call Byron Scott ran out of the timeout with 13 seconds left… Yep, spread floor, isolation, Kyrie Irving from the top of the key, or as I like to call it, the old LeMike Brown play. Norris Cole absorbed the ball from Kyrie on a play that the box score called a block, but looked more like grand basketball larceny. Like he was Charles Xavier, Cole knew that Kyrie going left, and took the ball from him with a deft mixture of reflexes, guile, and telekinesis. And that was that.
So there is one game left on the schedule for the Cavs, a moribund affair in Charlotte on Wednesday night. If you’re going to be in the area, tickets are only $2 on Stubhub. There’s not a lot on the line that night. Even if the Cavs win, the fact that Phoenix beat Houston tonight means that at worst (or best?) the Cavs will tie with Phoenix for the third worst record in the league. In other news, Utah beat Minnesota tonight, leaving one night of action for drafty, the Cavs’ second first round pick. If the Lakers beat Houston in LA, and/or if Utah loses to the Grizzlies in Memphis, then the Lakers make the playoffs and the Cavaliers get their draft pick. Otherwise, they get Miami’s. Should make for interesting action Wednesday night as permutations of trying, tanking, and resting for the playoffs all collide.
On a final note, we may have just watched Daniel Gibson’s final game at the Q: a game in which he did not get to play. We may have also watched Byron Scott coach his last Cavs game at the Q. Both men are decent fellows who deserved better than to have to end a seven year career on the bench or have to fall on his sword for a team designed to lose. But life is inherently unfair. Both men will be fine in the long run. Gibson will find a spot on the end of the bench hitting open threes for a contender, and Byron Scott will most probably make millions to do nothing next year. But for both of them, it seems time to move on. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not even unfair, really. It’s just a day in the life.