The Cavaliers missed two-thirds of their shots and failed to find a rhythm on offense, falling to the 76ers in an embarrassing double-digit loss. Andrew Bynum’s entry into the game elicited a raucous chorus of boos and jeers, and the 76ers harnessed the negative energy into a 36-minute domination of the hapless Cavaliers.
1st Quarter: The Cavaliers came out firing away, and played with energy at both ends. This was a positive sign, as recent away games have featured rather lazy, uninspired ball. Earl Clark took 4 questionable shots in 2 minutes (YOLO!), but the Cavs held the 76ers to 1 shot per possession and rode some streaky scoring from Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles. Waiters scored 8 points in 2 minutes and C.J. followed it up with 6 points in 30 seconds. The Cavs held the 76ers to 2 points in the final 5 minutes of the quarter, going into the commercial break with tons of momentum.
2nd / 3rd Quarters: A 28-14 lead was shockingly meaningless as the 76ers ran off 63 points in two quarters while the Cavs executed some of the most miserable offense ever seen at the NBA level. They had a 5-minute stretch where the only basket was a Jarrett Jack trey. Anthony Bennett sprained his right shoulder (he had surgery on his left shoulder this offseason) early in the 2nd quarter, ending his uneventful evening. Tony Wroten exploded off the bench with thirteen 2nd-quarter points. The game felt over midway through the third as Wroten, a career 25% 3-point clanger, was imbued with enough swag to shamelessly launch 8 threes. He only made 2 of them, in keeping with the statistical narrative, but he was hardly shooting the 76ers out of the game. They played with confidence and athleticism, cleaned up their own misses, and by the end of the 3rd, the Cavaliers, to a man, seemed shell-shocked.
4th Quarter: The Cavaliers showed a little life to start the 4th as they whittled the 16-point 3rd quarter deficit down to 10, but the 76ers stepped on their throats and cruised to an easy 15-point victory. Sergey Karasev got 5 minutes of 4th quarter burn, similar to the type Omri Casspi received last season under Coach Scott. His only notable activity was throwing a bad entry pass out of bounds.
-The Cavaliers offense is a mess. Fans may recall the rudimentary offense of the early LeBron+Mike Brown years (but please don’t forget about the juggernaut offenses of the 08-10 seasons) with Bron Bron going 1 on 5 with 4 guys standing in the periphery. The thing is, as ugly as that sometimes appeared, it was often pretty effective. The reason? LeBron is the best player in the league and often took decent shots from decent spots at appropriate times in the shot clock. Tonight, the wrong players took bad shots from awful spots, at head-scratching moments. The game started with Earl Clark heat checking from all over the court, and featured a mind-numbing amount of long-2s and out-of-rhythm 3s early in the shot clock, with defenders contesting. It’s like they’re channeling their inner 2009 Rafer Alston. Only instead of banking in 3s off the glass, they’re just banking the ball off the glass, with no regard for human lives. The formula tonight was – miss a bunch of outside shots, and then get determined to “go inside” with it while the perimeter players stand disinterested 30 feet from the hoop. It was like watching a football team put in a 3rd quarterback with a torn rotator cuff, going into the I-formation, and getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage over and over. A few times, Andrew Bynum received the ball in the high post, was double-teamed, and the other 4 Cavs made no attempt to cut or even get in position to receive a kick out.
-Some of the struggles have to be bad luck. Jarrett Jack and Kyrie Irving missing 20 out of 27 shots seems like an anomaly, although the general malaise on the offensive end seems toxic to the entire team right now. (With one notable exception….)
-It’s time to talk about the most pleasant surprise of the early season. Calvin Miles Junior must be going home at night to bathe in flames…to COOL DOWN. Compare C.J. Miles’ first 122 minutes of last season with his first 122 minutes of this one: 12/55 from the field versus 33/62. And it’s not just shooting: he had 5 assists to 11 turnovers through 122 minutes last season. This season? Nine assists and only 6 turnovers. He’s also made his presence felt on defense more than a few times. Miles is a talented offensive player and sneaky-good athlete. He’s a bargain right now and the Cavs should consider him a part of the future.
-Dion Waiters played pretty well tonight. Our own Nate Smith informed me before the game that Waiters was shooting effectively 62% on spot-ups and 32% on pull-ups. While that extreme contrast is partly due to sample size, the thought crossed my mind multiple times tonight as Waiters splashed home set shots (even ones I would normally consider “bad”) and bricked the falling away ones with the one leg kicked out. His final line looks a bit inefficient, but overall he played well and finished with a team best +/- of zero.
-Tristan Thompson played hard and snagged nine offensive boards. (He had plenty of opportunities.) Cavs fanatic David Zavac mentioned on Twitter how much the hand switch has helped Tristan from the stripe, and not the field. There was a moment in the middle of the game where Thompson stood isolated with Spencer Hawes guarding him 18 feet from the hoop. He attempted to shoot a contested fadeaway and had it blocked. It was puzzling and awful, and I never want to see it again. I’m going to pretend like it never happened.
-I thought Andrew Bynum looked fine tonight. He is a presence in the post and has done a nice job altering shots and even sending a few back. His post game isn’t there yet, but the Cavs aren’t doing him any favors by giving him the ball and abandoning him. I hope he keeps his head up.
-You may recall my perverse satisfaction with posting the eye-popping block differential stats the Cavs incurred last season. Seems the Cavaliers are on track to live below the rim again. Spencer Hawes, a.k.a. Dr. Hoops, deflated the rock tonight, denying the Cavaliers six times. Thaddeus Young added 2 more including a vicious take-down of Dion Waiters at the apex. Through 6 games, the Cavaliers block differential is -16.