Another close game, another disappointing loss for the young Cavaliers. After two straight games of near-victories, the Cavs came into this one firing on all cylinders, shooting a fantastic 52.2% at the half, while holding the hot-shooting Warriors to 44.4%. The difference in shooting in the first was clear – the Cavs moved the ball as well as they have all season, never settling but instead looking for the open shot. On the defensive end, the played moved well, forcing the Warrior’s heralded offense into forced shots, turnovers, and charges.
But, while the first half saw a glimpse of what could be, the second half saw the Cavaliers return to form: allowing transition buckets and interior penetration on D, and stagnated ball movement (filled with ISOs ) on offense. David Lee, who was held scoreless in the first half, went off for 19 points (before fouling out in OT), leading the way for a Warriors comeback. Thanks to another miracle three by Kyrie to tie the game with just a few ticks left on the clock, the Cavs forced an OT, where they promptly went scoreless for the last 2 and 1/2 minutes.
While the method of achievement may have been different, the outcome was familiar – the Cavaliers again managed to blow a game, this time in which they led by as much as 17, while still searching for their team identity.
And identity really is the key here. While the team finally looked completely in-synch in the first and second quarters, they reverted back to the bad habits that have been prevalent all season long – silly, contested shots, lackadaisical defense, and horrible communication on the court. Fatigue likely played some part of the second half slump, but regardless, this team has some serious soul searching to do.
Ball Movement In The First Half: For the first time this season (or at least that I can remember?) the Cavaliers looked seriously sharp moving the ball. Instead of settling for bad shots, or worse, the dreaded Kyrie/Dion/Jack ISO, the Cavs moved the ball effectively, resulting in a shockingly even point distribution going into the half. The Cavs, who are fourth-worst in the NBA in per-game assists, had 13 going into the half, finishing with 21. More impressively, the team finally fulfilled their destiny as rim-attackers who kick out to the open man. Numerous times in the first two quarters did the Cavaliers successfully run this play. Now if only they could do it with more consistency…
Defense in The First Half: Likewise, the Cavs played tenacious on the D end, forcing horrible passes, overly aggressive shots, and a bunch of offensive fouls. Brown’s D-minded game has clearly sunk in for this team, particularly Zeller who was disruptive the entire game.
Kyrie: Looked pretty decent on D (as decent as you can look against Steph Curry) while moving the ball well (and doing his usual shooting magic). Even without the monster game-tying three this would’ve been among his better games this season. 9 assists and 27 points? I’ll take it!
CJ Miles: We all know the story by now – some days he’s on, some days he’s not. Today he was on. Boy was it fun to watch!
Tristan (on offense): Tristan has developed a serious knack for being in the right place at the right time, consistently knocking in a couple big put-backs, snatching a few big offensive rebounds, and generally being the consistent force down low. He even had a few timely knock-down jumpers from the wing. The one blemish on his night was being battered by David Lee through the second half. But that’ll happen from time to time.
Cavs In The Second Half: Lets keep this one short – while the first half was beautiful and, frankly, the best this team has looked all season, the second half was a mess akin to what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Boring, plotting, slow, sloppy basketball. And Overtime was even worse.
Dion Waiters: I would end up with a classic bad Waiters game. Again, keeping this simple, it was ugly. I counted three horrible early shot clock step back jumpers in the first quarter alone, and it didn’t get much better from there. I do want to point out that Dion was the primary catalyst to the rim attacking, though. I just wish he’d cut down on all the stupid jumpers.
Early Game Plan: Lets give some credit to Mike taking advatnage of the fact that the Warriors are 29th in the NBA in turnovers, forcing them into sloppy passes in the first half. Again, fatigue likely made it difficult to sustain the entire game, but it was a smart game plan.
Fouls Galore: Part of the reason the Cavs were so successful in the first half was because of fouling problems for the Warriors. Lee had three fouls by the early 2nd Q (eventually fouling out in OT), and the Warriors finished the 2nd quarter 15 fouls (and 28 on the night)
Locker Room Issues? Did anyone else notice Dion in Kyrie’s ear at the start of OT? He didn’t look happy…
Disappointment was certainly the theme of 2013 for the Cavaliers. With one game remaining (against the Pacers) before 2014 arrives, lets hope the team goes out with a bang.