I attended the game tonight and had a really great time. It was the first game I’ve been too since the “Welcome Home Z” game. The Cavs and Bobcats had lids on the rims in the first half and came alive a bit more in the second. Kyrie hit a big jumper to send the game into OT and had a wide open look for 3 to win the game in OT, but it spun out and the Cavs lost. Charlotte, meanwhile, clinched the playoffs and could face either Indiana or Toronto. The Cavs may not yet be mathematically eliminated but they won’t make the playoffs this season. The good news is they have played much better the last two months. I expect them to springboard off this foundation next October.
Interesting things I noticed:
-The Cavs really put on a show, but at one point it felt a little much. I swear Ahmad Crump was getting us amped up like crazy, with the epic movie scenes and the scream meter for….out of timeout free throws and must-foul situations on inbounds plays. I want that job. I’m officially throwing my hat in the ring as the apprentice in waiting for the job of pumping up Cavs fans. “CUHLEEEEEEEEVELAND! GET. ON. YOUR. FEET. for the 15th ranked defensive rating in the league since February 12.” I’ll work on the delivery. Trust me; this will be great.
-A fan in front of me had his family with him, very nice folks. Because we were in the nose bleeds I couldn’t discern that #12 was Gary Neal. He heard me thinking out loud and told me. I was impressed, but didn’t want to be outdone, so I started spouting off Gary Neal’s journey the last few years to show my moxy. Anyway, I point blank asked the guy if Delly should win the ROY. And instead of laughing, he said “they would never give it to him, but he’s so much better than his stats suggest.” #winning
-Cody Zeller and Tyler Zeller wear the same number 40, run the same way, shoot in a similar way, and just play the game with a familiar set of moves. Cody had a huge rebound late in the game after the Cavs had played solid D for 24 seconds.
-I love staring at the retired jerseys. I am so glad the Cavs honor Joe Tait up there too. I miss Joe. I tried calling a bit of the second quarter as if I were him. It’s really hard. He was so fast. #LegendsofCLE.
-I know this is sort of an already-aired grievance of a few people, including Zach Lowe, but the Cavs overhelp on the PnR, especially Tristan. I think they need to work harder to keep spotted-up 3-point shooters from getting comfortable releases. They seemingly had OCD tonight about sending the big so far out to block the ball-handler from turning the corner. Kemba Walker split that double team (H/T Mark Price) many times and it just seemed like it wasn’t worth all the extra effort and was even a bit risky at times although I didn’t see the Bobcats exploit the slow-retreating big as much as I thought they could.
-Kyrie’s abilities were on full display tonight. I haven’t looked but I assume tonight was his career high for points. He played with effort and intensity on defense the entire night – I was looking for that and I noticed it. There were times he left the wrong man or something but the effort was strong. Good for him. He was feeling it with his shot most of the game but you could still sense frustration in his demeanor. Upset about a few no-calls, hanging his head at times. After he hit a heat-check 3 that sent the crowd into a frenzy, he put his head down and had a very aggravated jog up the court before succumbing to the adoration and deciding to feed off it. He put his hand in the air and asked for even more. At times tonight you could tell he didn’t want to take over but he saw no other options. The Bobcats are a very good defensive team and they really defended the Cavs well tonight. Irving almost overcame them by himself.
-There was a sequence in the 1st half where Alonzo Gee hit the side of the backboard and then Gary Neal did likewise at the other end. Points were an epic struggle in the second quarter.
-The refs let a ton of contact go, especially in the first half. I love it. No need to slow down the game every time players touch each other. As the game went on they called it a bit tighter. I didn’t see the foul when Dion missed the two handed dunk.
-Kyrie probably makes the final shot 6 out of 10 times. He was WIDE open, spotted up at the top of the key. He looked pretty upset he missed it. But I was pleased with the inbounds play to get him so open!
-Spencer Hawes fired up a three-quarter-court shot after securing the rebound on the final free throw that missed. He could have passed to someone else upcourt or taken a few dribbles, I think he had two and a half seconds or more. He just immediately heaved it with two hands. From that distance in NBA Jam it’s an underhanded uppercut heave. #seasonofhuh?
-Kyrie and Dion were displaying positive interactions all throughout the game, even when Dion wasted a possession in the midst of a Kyrie scoring barrage for some reason.
-I really get a kick out of fans participating in half court contests or timed shooting drills. I’ve seen some epic ones at the Q. Tonight, a decently athletic looking guy had to make seven free throws in 30 seconds. “EZ” I thought. Well, he airballs the first one by 4 feet. Airballs the second one by 2 feet, front-rims the 3rd, rims out a few, and then he front-rims one in. And another: front, back, in. Then net, and net, and net, net, net….and they just made him stop at 7! I think he was a machine and once he calibrated the distance he would have made 100 in a row! It was not what I expected, someone with that form and touch shouldn’t airball the first two.
-Seems some of the other “local Cavalier writers” have either corroborated Windy’s “Kyrie’s camp sez” information or expressed frustration similar to Irving. I won’t say who they are or link you to them though.
-I got to meet Mark Price after the game. We spoke for a few minutes and he thanked me for the #CavsRank tribute I wrote here a week ago. It’s pretty surreal meeting your childhood hero. I probably bumbled like an idiot. We talked about the Bobcats playoff seeding and he seemed to intimate that he thought Toronto was a better match up for them even though he agreed with me that Indiana is struggling.
-I presented him with a framed commemoration of #CavsRank and he seemed to enjoy it although I’m not sure he had actually seen the #CavsRank list before. I hope he likes it. There seemed to be some old friends of his there too, waiting to meet him. He held it up and looked at them and said something like “The blog had a ranking of players…and I won!” Indeed. It was fitting that on this night they showed Price on the jumbotron with his career stats overlayed and he received a roaring ovation. He stood up and acknowledged the crowd.