After another eventful week for the roller coaster that is life with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team was back in action last night as they visited the Charlotte Hornets. Behind the red hot Kemba Walker and the offense installed by new head coach James Borrego, the Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are just trying to find their footing after starting the season 1-7 and losing Kevin Love to toe surgery.
On the pre-game show, Sam Dekker broke down how he impacts the offense. He then started the game by giving up an easy basket to Marvin Williams. If that doesn’t sum up how the season has gone so far, I don’t know what does. The game started off a bit sloppy, with both teams committing a couple of sloppy turnovers by traveling and committing offensive fouls. The Cavaliers couldn’t buy a basket early, scoring just three points in the first four-plus minutes of the game. Despite scoring a bit in transition, the Hornets weren’t much better, and the Cavaliers came out of the first time out moving the ball a bit better to keep the game close. Walker started to heat up, and the Hornets took advantage of the Cavaliers’ atrocious transition defense to begin to pull away. JR Smith came off the bench ahead of both Kyle Korver and David Nwaba, and provided a bit of a spark with five points and some energy off the dribble. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, Tony Parker went to work on Collin Sexton in exactly the way you would expect the veteran to do with the rookie, drawing a pair of shooting fouls and giving the Hornets a 30-22 lead after one.
As has been the case throughout the season, the Cavaliers struggled to attack the basket off the dribble, bogging down the offense in the half court. Tony Parker turned back the clock with a mid-range jumper and a funky layup to push the Hornets’ lead to double digits. Shockingly, the Cavs were outshooting the Hornets from deep, and Smith hit his second three of the game (and season) to keep the game close. That didn’t last long, as the Hornets went on an 8-0 run behind a pair of layups and a corner three by Williams. To their credit, the Cavaliers kept fighting back, and a pair of threes by Kyle Korver. The Hornets went to Cody Zeller, who had his way down low to keep the Hornets ahead. The spacing Smith and Korver provided also helped the Cavaliers move the ball a bit better than previous games, and they actually outscored the Hornets in the second quarter. Still, the Hornets lead at the half by a score of 59-52.
This is now two Cavs coaches who want to play JR. He needs to hold up his end
— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) November 3, 2018
The Cavs came out attacking the basket a bit better to start the quarter, and cut the Hornets’ lead to three behind a pair of free throws by Cedi Osman. With that energy came some mistakes on offense, and a pair of turnovers helped the Hornets re-take control of the game. While the Cavs did a better job of getting out in transition offensively, their transition (and half court) defense continued to struggle. They also continued to turn the ball over as the Hornets pushed the lead to double digits. The Cavaliers’ offense went cold as the quarter went on, while their defense remained abysmal, and the Hornets led by 20 as we entered the fourth quarter with a score of 93-73.
There isn’t much to say about this quarter. The Hornets continued to pick apart the Cavaliers’ defense, while the Cavs struggled to create open looks on offense. Despite it being garbage time for the Hornets, the game got further out of hand, with Charlotte leading by as many as 32 before it mercifully ended with a final score of 126-94.
Things I Noticed
Rodney Hood has had a negative impact on the court throughout this young season. He doesn’t shoot enough from deep, struggles with both getting to and finishing at the rim, and plays with no physicality on defense. One good game out of eight simply means that he has played seven bad games. While Hood has done a somewhat better job of moving the ball the past few games, that’s not saying much. He just disappears far too often. At 26 and in his fifth year in the NBA, Hood is who he is, and that is a player who simply can’t be counted on.
As bad as Hood has been, what Jordan Clarkson is doing to Collin Sexton’s development is even worse. It’s been said a bunch, but Sexton needs to get more of his minutes away from Clarkson. While Clarkson has been scoring with solid efficiency to start the season, it doesn’t feel real He isn’t shooting well from deep, and is making an unsustainable number of mid-range shots. To make matters worse, he’s a ball-dominant player who simply doesn’t pass. Despite his scoring, the Cavaliers typically play their worst when Clarkson is on the floor. By playing with Clarkson, Sexton doesn’t get the ball nearly enough. He needs touches to learn how to run the offense, create for himself and others, and work on his outside shot. This team is terrible, and developing the true young players such as Sexton and Osman should be their number one priority. There’s plenty of skepticism right now about Sexton’s potential, but the Cavaliers aren’t doing him any favors by playing him with Clarkson.
Tristan Thompson post-ups are a terrible idea. I love Tristan, and think he doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves, but post-ups are inefficient shots in general, and Thompson simply isn’t good at them.
Sam Dekker isn’t good, but he is active, and that could lead to something with further development. Dekker has to improve his defense and finishing in the half court, but he does a nice job of cutting to the rim and running in transition. His shooting looks much improved, and he shows some potential off the dribble, especially for a four. At 24 years old, he’s the third-youngest player in the rotation behind Osman and Sexton, and younger than Hood, Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Nwaba. With further playing time and development, Dekker could have the makings of a solid bench player.
Larry Nance, Jr., just airballed a 14-footer. @joevardon. I covered 7-59 so my sympathies and my empathies.
— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) November 4, 2018
Larry Nance Jr. missed a layup and dunk that he should’ve made tonight and airballed another jumper. Nance is a solid player, and analytics love him, but he isn’t quite the player some make him out to be. By and large, Thompson has been the better player for the Cavs this season.
It was nice to see JR Smith play decent basketball tonight, at least on offense. JR and Cavs fans have developed a special bond over the past four years, and he should always be remembered fondly in Cleveland. While I understood his frustrations with the front office, I also didn’t think he had much of a leg to stand on. After all, he’s been one of the worst rotation players in the NBA over the past two seasons. That’s far too long to still think that he’s deserves playing time based on merit. Whatever happens going forward, I hope that it can somehow end amicably between JR Smith and the Cavaliers.
That was ugly. This team is likely the worst in the NBA. Be The Fight is a stupid slogan. I’m done.