Four points I’m thinking about the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers…
Pre-point: If you haven’t checked out David Wood’s recap of last night’s Cavs/Bucks game yet… GO. NOW.
1.) Saturday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers was my favorite Kyrie Irving game in a very long time. I, like many Cavs fans, had become a little calloused to the wiles of some of Irving’s more obvious skills on the basketball court, because — as we were reminded again and again last season — what Irving did well did not seem to translate into winning basketball. He dominated the ball. He’d pout when things got tough or didn’t go his way. He played defense so poorly most of the time that he actually became the opposing team’s sixth man on the floor on offense. There were feuds and buddy ball and a whole lotta stuff coming from Number 2 that were key factors in the grueling slog that was the #SesasonOfHuh (promotional non-sequitur: look for the e-book/paperback that is the definitive guide to all things Huh with writing by some of the most talented and beautiful Cavs bloggers around coming very soon… for serious… GET EXCITED!).
All of this made me enjoy Irving — an undeniably talented ballplayer — just a little bit of a lot less.
The Cavs played a tough game against the Bucks last night and went to bed feeling lucky. They somehow pulled out a victory after giving up 19 turnovers for 21 points during their trot with the Deer. Kevin Love owned the first quarter scoring 17 points, but it was LeBron James’ ten assists and Kyrie Irving’s 28 points on 10-15 shooting that allowed the team to grab this win. The Bucks were led by Brandon Knight who did a great job of getting into the paint to grab 27 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds in 37 minutes. Jabari Parker played a crucial role too scoring 22 points on 11-15 heaves. Time to examine how the Bucks gave this game away.
The Bucks come into Cleveland tonight looking to bounce back after a 14 point loss to the Rockets. The Cavs need to continue their three game win streak and display above average defense against this young group. Milwaukee has been a surprise this season defending their way to 10 wins to earn the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference; they are allowing just 98.3 points a game, which is good for tenth in the league right now. They also rake up turnovers with their lankiness; teams are tossing it away 15.7 times a game against the Deer, that’s a top five number. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, the NBA passed the one-month mark of its 2014-15 season. On the court, as well as on your fantasy roster, this is usually when you can expect teams and players to sort of round into what they are going to be the rest of the way. There will be blips on the radar — your Joe Harrises and your Zach LaVines — but, outside of occasional injuries and little ups and downs for your players, the players on your team are likely performing somewhere near a level that (one hopes) will continue.
This can make your waiver wire pick-ups seem a lot less appealing, since it’s unlikely that you’re going to find a solid, regular contributor in your constant scrolls through the list of available players than was possible in the season’s early weeks. Then, you could find a Tony Wroten (before his recent injury) or a DeMarre Carroll or a Robin Lopez — a player who is going to give you something predictable regularly. As we lower our expectations bar one notch lower, though, there can be spot pick ups who can really help out your team if you choose them wisely.
In a reversal of the move they made at the beginning of the season, the Cavs waived Will Cherry in order to claim A.J. Price off waivers, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Price was released by the Indiana Pacers. Price averaged over 10.5 points and 2.7 assists for the Pacers, but was deemed expendable with C.J. Watson returning from injury.
Cherry was unable to make much of his time in Cleveland, averaging 1.9 points and one assist in 8.6 minutes a game, white shooting only 5-19 in his eight games in a Cavs uniform. Meanwhile, Price has shown he can be a legit bench scorer, posting an 18 PER, with a 54TS%, and scoring in double figures despite only playing 19.3 minutes a game. I’m surprised the Pacers let him go, and even more surprised that the Cavs were able to claim him. Let’s hope he can add some the same scoring punch we saw him exhibit for the Pacers and for the Cavs in preseason.
The Cavs came into this game looking to continue the defensive trend, and they definitely followed through on that goal. They held the Pacers to 39.3% shooting, and they managed to have LaVoy Allen named the top performer for Indiana with 10 points and eight rebounds. That isn’t a typo, no one on that team could get hot. The Wine & Gold defense is turning into a legitimate game changer. The offense wasn’t bad either; Kevin Love put up 28 points making 9-13 shots to go along with ten rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Time to break it down. Read the rest of this entry »
The Indiana Pacers come to take on the Wine & Gold tonight. They are still without Paul George and may be without Roy Hibbert too because of an ankle sprain. David West and CJ Watson returned to the lineup less than 30 hours ago picking up a win against the Orlando Magic. Their status is probable, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they sat out on the second night of a back-to-back. Read the rest of this entry »
Each week there is a ton of NBA media pertaining to the Cavs and the league in general that deserves recognition. A lot of it goes unread because there just isn’t enough time to keep up with it. Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered with six to eight notable reads/videos (the last two reads are up in the air just like the Cavs bench production this season) from the past seven days to get you through the weekend feeling entertained, caught up, and much smarter. I’ll throw in Dion’s Neon Man Of The week and some other features to add to the entertainment.
First off, if you didn’t catch our Thanksgiving 5 on 5, check it out here. Highlights include the Cavs Thanksgiving parade with the inflatable Big Z arms float, the float of short-term Cavaliers, and a Cavs Christmas wish list.
During the Thanksgiving week, there aren’t many mind blowing NBA articles; however, I shoved aside my Turkey high, sort of how Tristan Thompson shoved John Wall to the ground (more on that later), and still managed to capture some interesting takes from the past seven days. Sheridan Hoops, the site that first broke the concept of LeBron James coming back to Cleveland, featured the Cavs prominently this week. Chris Bernucca’s weekly column dealt with the weaknesses of the King’s team. There’s a lot. Here’s one the national writers are currently noticing:
That is what gets teams into the playoffs and through the postseason wars. It is psychological as much as physical, and the Cavs don’t have a whole lot of depth in that area, either. Among their basic eight-man rotation, James and Marion are the only ones who have played in the playoffs this decade.
Love is in his seventh season and has played in any many postseason games as I have. So has Irving, a four-year veteran who sounded ridiculous when he said “I have been through the trenches” after Friday’s loss at Washington. Thompson was 74 games under .500 through his first three seasons. And while Varejao is a trusted trooper, he hasn’t been to the playoffs since James first left in 2010.
Happy Thanksgiving, campers. This Thursday, since it’s a holiday, I’ll spare you my weekly 2,000 word screed on what I’d like to see the Cavs doing and just show you a perfect example of the Cavs doing exactly what I’ve been begging them to do all season long.
Hopefully, the above video above (which comes from @DawkinsMTA, who runs the best NBA YouTube channel out there) is set to the appropriate time, but since I have no idea how to do that, skip to the 3:55 mark if it starts from the beginning. This is how a 2014-15 Cavalier offensive set should look.
STEP 1: The play here is a simple 3-1 pick and roll, which was a staple of the Heat offense when LeBron played there and has been an attempted staple of the Cavalier offense this season. It’s a very effective set, since not many teams can have a 250-pound man as the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll. The problem with it so far for the Cavaliers has been that Kyrie has been setting nonchalant screens, so instead of a 3-1 pick-and-roll it’s “Kyrie and LeBron waste 8 seconds of the shot clock while standing near each other.”
On this play, however, Kyrie sets a screen like a guy who was born in Australia, not like a guy who went to Duke. LeBron’s man can’t fight over the screen fast enough, and LeBron has a lane to the basket. Now the Wizards are on the back foot, and good things can happen organically. That’s what a successful offensive set does.
STEP 2: Marcin Gortat makes a nice rotation to keep LeBron from getting an easy finish on the drive, and Kris Humphries rotates down to keep LeBron from having a pass to Thompson for an easy dunk. This leaves Joe Harris open for an above-the-break 3, and LeBron fires the pass to him.
STEP 3: Since Harris is a 3-point threat who has to be respected, Kyrie’s man leaves him to contest what would be a wide-open 3. Harris, without so much as putting the ball on the floor, swings the ball to Kyrie, who’s open at the top of the 3-point arc. This forces Dion Waiters’ man to leave Waiters alone in the corner and close out on Kyrie at full speed.
STEP 4: Kyrie now has two options: Hit Waiters with a pass that would set him up with an open 3, or decimate the ankles of a defender who has to run at him full-speed, and thus has no real chance of staying in front of one of the best ballhandlers in basketball. Kyrie goes with option B, and goes from left to right with a behind-the-back dribble on his man.
STEP 5: Kyrie is now between the top of the key and the free throw line, with options. He can pull up on his man for a mid-range jumper, which isn’t a terrible shot, but isn’t a great one. There’s still enough room between Waiters and his man for a three if Kyrie fires a pass to his right side. But the best option is the one Kyrie goes with — since Kyrie’s crossover forced Humphries to step into the middle of the lane to prevent Kyrie from getting a layup on a potential blow-by, LeBron is now open just under the basket, on the left side. In a flash, Kyrie picks up his dribble and hits LeBron with a bullet pass in one fluid motion. Now LeBron’s got a layup, and he even gets an and-1 out of the deal.
That’s what we’re talking about here — spacing, guys working together, multiple good options created by actions, and LeBron and Kyrie using their respective talents to make life easier on each other. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Nate Smith is an Associate Editor. He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and moved to NE Ohio in 2000. He adopted the Cavs in 2003 and graduated from Kent State in 2009 with a BA in English. He can be contacted at email@example.com or @oldseaminer on Twitter.
Tom Pestak is an Associate Editor. He's from the west side of Cleveland and lives and (mostly) dies by the success and (mostly) failures of his beloved teams. You can watch his fanaticism during Cavs games @tompestak.
Robert Attenweiler is a Staff Writer. Originally from OH, he's long made his home in NYC where he writes plays and screenplays (www.disgracedproductions.com) some of which end up being about Ohio, basketball or both. He has also written for The Classical and the blog Raising the Cadavalier. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @cadavalier.
Benjamin Werth is a Staff Writer. He was born in Cleveland and raised in Mentor, OH. He now lives in Germany where he is an opera singer and actor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cory Hughey is a Staff Writer. He grew up in Youngstown, the Gary, Indiana of Ohio. He graduated from Youngstown State in 2008 with a worthless telecommunications degree. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or @coryhughey on Twitter.
David Wood is our Links Editor. He is a 2012 Graduate of Syracuse University with an English degree who loves bikes, beer, basketball, writing, and Rimbaud. He can be reached on Twitter: @nothingwood.
Mallory Factor is the voice of Cavs: The Podcast. By day Mallory works in fundraising and by night he runs a music business company. To see his music endeavors check out www.fivetracks.com. Hit him up at Malloryfactorii@gmail.com or @Malfii.
John Krolik is the Editor Emeritus of Cavs: The Blog. At present, he is pursuing a law degree at Tulane University. You can contact him at email@example.com or @johnkrolik.
A monster lives in the comments section of Cavs: The Blog, and he likes to feed on comments. We have very little idea about when he will strike. What we do know is that comments with 2 or more links will get filed into the spam folder, as will comments with foul or discriminatory language. The comment monster also seems to enjoy extra-long comments, so if you have a long comment, you may want to press copy before submitting a long comment and break it into multiple pieces if the monster eats it. If you are having particular trouble with the monster, email one of us and we will talk to him for you.