Overview: LeBron James, who used to play for the Cavaliers, outscored the Cavaliers’ entire starting 5 en route to a 95-84 win for the Miami Heat, who have only lost to the Cavaliers once since James left the team in free agency. Dion Waiters was the bright spot for the Cavaliers, scoring 24 points off the bench, while Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley scored 22 and 17 points for the defending champs.
All Things Considered, That Honestly Could Have Gone a Lot Worse Bullets:
— Let’s start with the good news, because there’s certainly no shortage of bad news. Apparently trade rumors agree with Dion Waiters, because that’s about as well as I’ve ever seen him play. All but one of his shots came from the paint, the free-throw line, or behind the arc, and he was aggressive all night — this is the guy the Cavs thought they were getting with the 4th overall pick. Waiters is a good spot-up three-point shooter, and can get to the basket seemingly at will, especially when he goes to his left hand. His two main problems are that his shot selection is usually horrendous, and he has trouble turning his ability to get to the rim into actual points for the team.
The former issue wasn’t a problem on Wednesday, and he managed to be effective in attack mode, as he was 3-5 from inside the paint and got to the line 11 times. Free throws have been a problem all season, and that continued tonight, with Waiters bricking five of his 11 attempts from the line, but that’s something you just have to hope improves. If this Dion keeps showing up, trading him would be a mistake — having trouble converting opportunities at the rim into points is an issue, but it’s not a fatal issue for a player as young as Waiters — it takes some time to adjust to the size of NBA shot blockers, and a lot of young guards figure it out after initial struggles.
— Now, the bad news! There’s a lot of it! First, and most importantly, Kyrie is completely lost out there. He didn’t create angles, and had more turnovers than assists. He forced low-percentage jumpers and drives to the rim alike. It’s Kyrie vs. the world right now, and that isn’t a recipe for winning basketball, especially when it’s your point guard.
— One way to fix that problem would be to have Kyrie come off of some type of action to set up a secondary pick-and-roll with either Jack or Waiters being the primary ballhandler, but that’s not happening, because Jack and Waiters are both shoot-first guys and Mike Brown’s offensive system sure as heck isn’t going to cover up their deficiencies.
— As for who Kyrie’s pick-and-roll partner would be, well, there’s no good news on that front either. Tristan Thompson wasn’t particularly close to finding the rim with either hand around the basket, going 1-for-6, and he was being guarded by Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley, neither of whom is known for being a rough-and-tumble defender. And as sad as it is to say, the Anderson Varejao who would set the pick, fly through the lane, catch it at full speed and flip it in from whatever angle without breaking stride might be gone. At 31, he’s clearly lost a step, and that is very bad news for a player who relies on his athleticism as much as Varejao does.
— Andrew Bynum started the game wonderfully, then went completely silent for the last 3.8 quarters of the game. That’s less than ideal. And the Cavs’ other two lottery big men were DNP-CDs. Also less than ideal.
Bullets of Randomness:
— The Cavs were able to stay in this game because Miami’s ludicrously good floor-spacing didn’t make the trip to Cleveland with them. Shane Battier was out with the flu, Bosh didn’t make a shot from outside the paint, and the 3-heavy Heat offense went just 4-19 from deep.
— LeBron finished with a workman-like 28/8/8, but the Cavs didn’t do a bad job on him. Miami wasn’t able to get LeBron the deep post touches he likes, and he had to work for pretty much all of his points that didn’t come in transition off of Cavalier miscues. (By the way, the Cavs were way, way, way too sloppy with the ball against a Miami team that turns live-ball turnovers into points as well as any team in the league.)
— Wade had one of those games where you just have to throw your hands up. He was making the mid-range turnarounds, the floaters, the everything. When his knees are under him and his mid-range shots are falling, there’s simply no way to keep a player that quick from slicing you apart.
— Jeez, does Michael Beasley look born again. 17 points on 10 shots, he finished the game for Miami, and he didn’t even hit a shot from outside the paint. This is a guy who Phoenix paid to go away and never come back in the off-season. Just goes to show the difference great players and a great team culture can make.
That’s all I have for today, campers. The big story is that Dion looked really good, and everything else looked really bad, but good on the team for holding its own, for the most part, against a team as good as Miami. This upcoming Boston/Chicago/Denver stretch should tell us a lot about whether the Cavs should cling to hope of a respectable season or if we should start watching Wiggins, Randle, and Parker a lot more closely.