The Cavs played like crap in the 1st half, played really well in the second half, and crapped their pants in the final few minutes. The bench played like this:
Shawn Marion canned 3 baseline jumpers of varying distances/difficulty and C.J Miles scored 6 straight points to keep the Cavs hanging around in the first quarter. Luol Deng’s 2 free throws tied the game at 21 with just under 3 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter. After that, the Mavericks went on a 38-16 run before the half.
Besides some individual brilliance from DeJuan Blair, and Shawn Marion (both 5/5 from the field in the 1st half) the Mavericks methodically picked apart the Cavaliers at both ends. On offense they utilized an effective combination of slipping high screens and drive-and-kicks, and played with an energy that earned them most of the 50/50 balls. In the second quarter the Cavs really unraveled on offense, as their attempts to generate some easy baskets with entry passes and splitting screens led to turnover after turnover. It was quite a contrast watching the Mavericks execute their passing and then the Cavs inability to generate any sharp ball movement. The Mavericks have guys that can finish on the break, and the Matador defense of C.J. Miles and Kyrie Irving doesn’t provide much resistance to any squad running a break. So the Cavs gave up 13 points off turnovers in the 2nd quarter alone. The Cavs are lucky they weren’t down more at the half, as the Mavericks missed a handful of wide open set 3s. Monta Ellis played at a frenetic pace, looking to score when he had lanes but finishing with 7 dimes in the first half despite his score-first mentality.
Luol Deng kept the Cavs from being completely embarrassed in the 1st half. You could see him trying to create something where there was nothing and his size allows him to do that better than the Cavs ball-dominant and undersized guards that just get those possessions blocked or stolen. Earl Clark had a rough first half. He did two really nice things: the first was an incredible iso defense on Dirk that led to him actually BLOCKING Dirk’s “unblockable” 1-legged fadeaway. The referee realized that Dirk’s shot is “unblockable” so logic held that Clark must not have blocked it and whistled Clark for the foul. Moments later, Clark did one of his patented left-handed drives. Only this time, instead of losing the ball or denting the rim he veered back to the right side of the hoop and gathered for a right-handed scoop layup that seemed to have a very high probability of going in. He was met in the air by a large body and pushed away from the hoop but somehow no foul was called. After that, with his confidence shot, Clark was a walking…
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Kyrie Irving started the 3rd quarter off well, looking to attack and scoring in a variety of ways. Both Marion and Blair missed shots, and Blair was even issued a T after getting whistled for a loose ball foul against Varejao. Andy, meanwhile, stepped up the energy in the way we are all accustomed. I’ve wondered about Varejao at length this season. Early in the season I thought I was witnessing the beginning of the end. But now it seems as though he still brings a quarter in a half or so of that old Andy energy most games. As long as he can do that (which is similar to the value he provided earlier in his career) he will remain valuable to the Cavaliers. It also helps that he has become such an effective mid-range jump shooter. It’s a really nice safety valve to have on offense. Kyrie’s shot making abilities coupled with Varejao’s energy, especially on the defensive end, brought the Cavaliers to within 10 before Brandan Wright (I spelled his name “Brandon” twice on the Daily Dime twitter account…::sigh::…) threw down two vicious dunks. The Cavs played well in the 3rd, cutting the lead to 13 heading into the 4th.
The Cavs bench started off the 4th about as well as they started off the second. Neither Waiters nor Jack were much interested in anything other than useless perimeter passes and contested long-2s. Mike Brown promptly subbed Kyrie and Varejao back in, and…things got much better. Right out of the gate Varejao got an and-1 off a pretty Irving feed. The Cavs went on an 11-0 run. The Cavs held the Mavs to 6 points over 6 minutes which is incredible defense against a team that was shredding them in the first half. Well done, boys. Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao completely dominated the boards in the middle of the fourth. Tristan also did a nice job being patient under the basket and either finishing or drawing fouls. That’s important – he gets blocked way too often under there, so it was a welcome sign and hopefully a harbinger of things to come. The crowd really came alive in the 4th quarter and the Cavs energy was off the charts. The roof erupted when Luol Deng splashed a straightaway 3 to bring the Cavs within 2 points with 3 minutes remaining.
After Dirk missed a 3, it really felt like the Cavs were going to win this game. The crowd was in a frenzy and Kyrie ran down the court and tried a PUJIT bank shot. It was strong and the Mavericks secured the rebound at least 3 times. Only they never secured it because somehow the Cavs kept finding a way to jostle it loose. After a mad scrum that seemed to last an eternity, Kyrie found himself spotted up along the left wing all alone. The ball swung to him and he gently penetrated the heavy atmosphere inside the Q with his perfectly arcing stroke. The crowd swelled….and then deflated. Kyrie missed the 3 that would have given the Cavs their first lead since 4-2. Monta Ellis streaked down the court and scored, and the Mavericks were never seriously in danger of losing the lead again. The game continued its frenetic pace but Jarrett Jack made sure the Cavs never got over the hump. He missed the first of 2 free throws with 17 seconds remaining, allowing the Mavs to maintain a 3 point lead. A few possessions later, after Monta Ellis missed BOTH free throws (either would have iced the game), Jack failed to inbound the ball before a 5 second violation was called. Seriously.
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-Nate asked me for my opinion of Dion Waiters’ game. I hardly noticed him. I guess 0-4 FG, 0 assists, 0 steals will have that effect. It was Waiters’ first scoreless game of his career. So I don’t have much to say, and besides, I’m sure a healthy dosage of reasonable Waiters’ analysis will take place in the comment section.
-The Cavs bench was abysmal tonight. They finished 3-18 for 8 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 turnovers. Jarrett Jack is an undersized two guard that only seems comfortable taking two-dribble contested pull-ups from just inside the 3 point arc. He has somehow lost the athleticism he previously used to find seams and create mismatches for himself or his teammates. If Jacks puts the ball on the court now and tries to drive he cannot even get past his initial defender. In general, he pulls up short, and either takes a contested shot, or just kicks the ball back out to the perimeter, effectively wasting time on the shot clock and nothing more. The numbers back up this story. Last season, 27% of Jack’s shots came within 9 feet of the basket. This season that has fallen to a mere 20% of his attempts. He’s also less comfortable shooting 3s, particularly off the dribble. This is because the defenders smell blood. They know he can’t get by them with his dribble anymore. So Jack, a once dynamic scorer, finds limited to spot-up 3 point attempts or contested mid-range 2s off the dribble. Consider the differences between last season and this season:
2012-2013: % of Unassisted 3 point makes (dynamic) = 32%
2013-2014: % of Unassisted 3 point makes (dynamic) = 12%
Further proof of Jack’s athletic decline: about 16% of his points last season came in transition. This season that number is 7%.
– Earl Clark finished -17 in 9 minutes. The magic is gone. Earl the stretch 4 is now 4 of his last 28 from distance.
-Luol Deng kept the Cavs from being completely embarrassed in the 1st half and Tristan Thompson had a very nice 4th quarter. He (TT) finished with 8 offensive boards and got to the line 10 times. He was only blocked once. That’s strong finishing for a guy whose biggest weakness is strong finishing. More of this, please.
-Kyrie played well. He missed a lot of shots but he took over the game at various points. He played more than 40 minutes and was +10 and the Cavs lost so you can see how poorly things went without him.
-Varejao was just awesome. He’s automatic from mid-range these days and his energy is still off-the-charts. He finished 7-12 from the field with TWENTY ONE rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals for good measure. He led the Cavs in +/- with +12.
The Cavs put themselves in a hole with their predictable malaise. It always happens the same way: they struggle to create easy looks and the missed jumpers lead to run outs for the other team. Then they start pressing and committing turnovers or taking really terrible shots. Somehow Jarrett Jack always seems to be involved in the malaise but that is just my eye test coupled with my compromised emotions at this point. Look, it’s much more than Jack, it’s just he was brought here to quell those moments of a young team being overwhelmed and mistake prone. And he’s not. Oh and we haven’t even talked about the 5 second violation to end the game. I doubt the Cavs would have won anyway, but what the heck is going on? I’m shocked teams don’t full court press the Cavs and harass the guards all day long with the way they fold under pressure.