Thankfully, preseason is almost over. In the penultimate exhibition game, the Cavs traveled to Cincinnati to take on one of their main rivals for a playoff spot this season, the Washington Wizards. Jarrett Jack started at the point guard spot, and Kyrie Irving made a surprise start at shooting guard. Andy started at center, TT at the power forward, and Earl Clark got the nod at the three. The first quarter couldn’t have gone better for the Cavs as Jarrett Jack made a very positive impact, notching five points and five assists in 10 minutes of play before Mike Brown shut him down for the night. Tristan Thompson grabbed every loose ball in sight for an eye-popping 10 first quarter rebounds. Kyrie looked to score first, flashing a silky jumper and a command of the ball in transition. Earl Clark stopped trying to do too much and hit face-up jumpers and dunked when he ran with Kyrie. Foremost, the Cavs were the rebounding mavens that Kevin described yesterday, and they closed they closed the quarter 32-20.
Cavs radio analyst, and former player, Jim Chones joined Fred and A.C. on the broadcast in the second quarter, as Tristan Thompson exploded. With assertive move after assertive move, Tristan looked confident as an offensive player and showed an expert command of being able to score in the post over either shoulder and drive from the high post to either side of the basket, and he attacked the boards on both ends of the floor. In 27 minutes, Canadian Dynamite finished the game with 17 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, and only 2 turnovers off 7-13 shooting and 3-5 at the charity line. He even canned a 15 footer as the shot clock expired (see the pic above). Chones remarked that if TT continued that kind of play throughout a season, he could be a third team all NBA player. In the words of Nicolas Cage, that’s high praise. I’m not ready to anoint TT an all-star just yet, but if you asked me two year ago if I thought Tristan would be even close to this level of offensive competency, I would have laughed. He has come a long way, and he could be an all-star some day. More importantly, he could be a smart, high level power forward on a championship caliber team.
Kyrie notched a team high 19 points, three dimes, and only one turnover in his usual effortless manner.Unfortunately, this is where the praise stops. A very disturbing thing happened this game. Kyrie Irving’s evil trans-dimensional counterpart appeared — the one who doesn’t play defense. After the first quarter, Kyrie started getting lit up by Bradley Beal. Beal got to the rack at will, and was the benefactor of poor three point line closeouts and terrible pick and roll defense. In the most telling play of the game, the Cavs deflected the ball into the back court and Beal raced back to get it in front of the opposite bench. When Beal got back across the half-court line there were about 5 seconds left on the shot clock. Kyrie stood there as Beal raced past him toward the basket, split between the converging bigs, and scored. Irving stood at the three point line the whole time holding his hands up to receive a pass, as if to say: “give it to me, I’ll get the points back.” Kyrie’s woes continued as he was switched off to Ariza at times in the second half. Trevor had a field day at the the three point line, going 5-7. The engaged, hustling Kyrie Irving from earlier this preseason was mostly absent this game. Kyrie often failed to block out, failed to go for defensive rebounds, and got abused on the pick and roll — sticking to screeners like they were covered in fly paper. (Mike Brown called a timeout immediately after one such instance). Irving was playing Byron Scott style basketball. I hope to God it’s because it was just a crappy preseason game.
That is not to say that the rest of the Cavs were much better, but Irving’s general lack of effort on the defensive end of the court set the tone for the second half — when the Cavs got absolutely waxed. Outscored 60-29 in the latter half, the Cavs routinely gave up penetration from the guards and penetration by Washington’s big men from the high post. This led to lay-ups and an obscene amount of drive and kick plays. By the end of the third, the Wizards were shooting the lights out from three, and they finished the game 15-28 from behind the arc. In the Cavs’ defense, everything was going in for Washington. Xavier Silas, Garrett Temple, and heck, even Josh Childress hit threes for the Wiz. It was “every scrub gets a bucket” night.
The Cavs didn’t help matters by being completely unable to execute anything offensively after the starters left, and being even more hapless when Dellavedova was injured. With no point guard on the floor for Cleveland, the more experienced Wizards bench showed no mercy. By game’s end they’d forced Cleveland’s bench into 18 turnovers. It was ugly. Al Harrington destroyed Anthony Bennett to the tune of 17 points to 5, with Bennett guarding him for most of that time. The Cavaliers from the end of the pine only scored 10 points in the final quarter. However, most of the guys playing in the fourth will not be on the team in a week, and the ones that will be won’t be playing much or at all. So, I don’t worry about any of that too much. The return of evil Kyrie was a scary sight, though. I hope he picks another costume by Halloween.