The Cavs built a 21 point lead only to watch it slip away. They didn’t so much win the last six and a half minutes as lose less. All five starters finished in double figures and took turns making an impact. The Jonas Vs Tristan debate could go on for years, but tonight, TT won the bout in a TKO.
I used the above video as header for the last piece I wrote that mentioned Brad Daugherty. Likely, I will use it somewhere in every piece I write about Daugherty.
More than his five All-Star trips in eight seasons wearing the only pro uniform he ever would — the orange “Cavs” or “Cleveland” as short a distance over his number 43 as the basketball rim was over Daugherty’s own head — more than his 10,389 career points (a club best when he retired and still good for third best now), more than his distinctive drawl and a hairline that, at times, was practically Boozerian in its encroachment (Carlos Boozer’s, of course, attacked from below, from his upper chest, while Daugherty’s threatened to cover his lower brow as thoroughly as Batman’s cowl), more than all of that, memories of Daugherty — for me, anyway — endure because he had his own card and sandwich.
Beyond Brad’s Bacon-Cheddar Special, my own relationship with Daugherty the player (not the pitch man), involved decidedly less salivation. I came to the Cavs at a time when those Lenny Wilkens-coached teams were still in their prime. But it was a post-”The Shot” world and our eventual narrative — that it was a time when a fine collection of Cleveland players just never could get over the number 23-shaped hump that was Michael Jordan — was already sketched out, if not yet fully inked in. So, the baby steps of my first rabid sports team attachment were not made in awe of how good this team was (and just how difficult it is to find players that good and make a team work that well) but, rather, in abject dissatisfaction that my chosen team was made of the stuff that breaks hearts. My dissatisfaction centered, unfairly so, on my team’s center, on Daugherty and the “soft” label that clung to him like an early-90s mock turtleneck.
The Cavs played dead for a half and waited until the Knicks had amassed a 15 point half-time lead before putting on a shooting clinic in the 2nd half, converting 23 of 30 shots (!!) and putting a hurting on the Knicks playoff hopes. Jarrett Jack sliced and diced his way over, under, around, and through the Knicks en route to 31 points and 10 assists on 13 of 19 shooting, including the dagger in the final 30 seconds.
Overview: In a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate, the Houston Rockets blitzed the Cavaliers behind James Harden’s performance. Harden had 37 points and 11 assists in just 29 minutes of playing time, and shot 9-15 from the field and 14-14 from the free throw line. Dion Waiters led the Cavs with 26 points on 11-20 shooting, Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 23 points, and Matthew Dellavedova had his second consecutive 10-assist game.
The bottom line on this one was that the Rockets absolutely played the game they wanted to play, and the Cavaliers got caught up in it. I thought the switch from Byron Scott to Mike Brown would bring in some change defensively, but that simply hasn’t been the case this season. The Cavs are tied for 18th in defensive efficiency this season, and they haven’t really been able to make their opponents feel their presence on defense at any point. The Rockets were running, gunning, and getting to the line, and the Cavs couldn’t do much to stop it.
The Rockets pushed at every opportunity, launched a 3 whenever they got a chance, and wore the Cavs down with a parade to the free throw line. The Rockets put up 118 points, and only 10 of them came on mid-range jumpers — the rest came in the paint, on 3s, or at the line. James Harden, of course, was the biggest issue for the Cavs. He really is something to watch when he has it going. He was pulling up for 3, he was slicing into the lane with that slinky dribble at will, he set up his teammates, and he found contact and didn’t miss when he went to the line. Of his 37 points, only 2 came on a mid-range jumper. He set the tone early, and the Cavs never really got back into the game after the Rockets opened things up with a 17-4 run.
The Cavs had a lot of players end up with nice box score lines because of the speed of the game and the fact that, for the second straight game, they were able to turn garbage time into really-dirty-thing time with a late run when the game was all but completely out of hand, but they really did get beat up by the Rockets. Still, the furious pace of the game did allow us to see some good stuff from a few Cavs.
As I mentioned, Tyler Zeller had a career-high 23, and I like how he’s been playing lately. He’s not settling, he’s looking surprisingly authoritative around the basket, and he’s showing that energy we’ve been waiting for. Hopefully he can build on this, and maybe develop that jumper a bit more, because I don’t think Hawes is much of a long-term answer at the pivot spot.
Waiters is proving that he is most certainly an above-average NBA rotation player — when he wants to get 20 or more, he gets it. It might take him a few more shots than would be ideal to get there, but there aren’t a ton of guards in the league who can do that, especially ones that usually come off of the bench. I feel like I’ve more or less said my piece on Waiters — I’d like to see him improve on a few things, namely his ability to finish at the basket, but the main problem is that he doesn’t have enough guys setting him up for open 3s, spacing the floor for him to go to the basket, or protecting him on defense. If the Cavs can get those things in place, he’ll be truly dangerous instead of a guy who can do a passable impression of a #1 option on offense — call it the Monta Ellis theory.
Seth Curry is here! Only 9 minutes, and his only contribution was hitting a 3, which is something we all knew that he can do. It’ll be interesting to see if he shows anything during his 10 days.
Dellavedova’s 3-point shooting and passing continue to look good, although his defense didn’t have much of an impact on Saturday.
That’s about all I have for this one. The Cavs got run out of their building, and the playoffs are all but a mathematical impossibility at this point; before this game, Hollinger’s Playoff Odds gave them a 0.6% chance of making it in, which is basically the odds of any team still left in the NCAA Tournament winning the whole thing. Not great. Until next time.
After a hard-fought first quarter, the Cavs ultimately folded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who outscored the Cavs over the final three quarters of the game. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists on 12-21 shooting from the field, and Dion Waiters led the Cavaliers with 30 points on 11-25 shooting from the field.
The first quarter went about as well as one could possibly hope for the Cavaliers. It was no secret coming into this game that the Cavs weren’t going to be able to beat the Thunder based on talent, but they started off the game doing exactly what they needed to do — frustrating the Thunder offensively and outworking them on the glass. Hawes is a legitimate liability as a rim protector, but his ability to step out and stretch the defense gives the Cavaliers a dimension they desperately needed offensively, even if he couldn’t get his three-point shots to fall early in Thursday’s game.
Kevin Durant got Gee into early foul trouble, which was a blessing in disguise, because Lord Dellavedova was in full effect in the first quarter. He managed to frustrate Kevin Durant — Kevin Durant — when KD tried to isolate him 18 feet away from the basket, forcing Durant to settle for some tough jumpers that he couldn’t get to fall. Offensively, Dellavedova took advantage of the open 3 opportunities that come from offensive rebounds, showing a clean stroke and a lightning-quick trigger, and made the Thunder pay for sagging off of him. Thanks to hustle on the glass, Dellavedova, and some nice plays from Waiters, the Cavs actually held a 25-21 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Kevin Durant got the Thunder into the flow of the game, and they started playing some of the most beautiful basketball I’ve seen from any team this season. Durant, who’s going to go down as one of the five best jump-shooters of all time when he retires, made all of one jumper before the first-half buzzer sounded, and he was punishing the Cavs offensively anyways.
I don’t get to watch Durant as much as I should as a basketball fan, but he seems to get so much better every time I see him play. He was getting himself into the game in so many more ways than he used to be able to — he was getting put-backs off of offensive rebounds, making gorgeous back-cuts for dunks, throwing down alley-oops, and immediately firing off a pass to an open teammate when he didn’t have the angle, even if that pass led to a hockey assist instead of a wide-open shot. Apparently this wasn’t typical, even for the Thunder — I always watch the opposing team’s broadcast feed to get as many points of view as I can, and they were raving about how the ball was moving better for the Thunder in the second quarter than it has all season. Oh, and then Durant finished the quarter with a filthy, filthy crossover to pull-up jumper to beat the buzzer. This dude is on another level right now.
Meanwhile, the Thunder were bearing down on the glass, the Cavs were getting stagnant offensively, and their energy advantage had evaporated. When the Thunder are playing like a well-oiled machine of death, having your energy advantage evaporate is not a good thing, and the Cavs went into the break down by 10.
At the start of the 3rd quarter, Durant decided to announce that he had found his jumper by calmly draining a 31-foot pull-up jumper. Until there were 6 minutes left to play in the 4th quarter, it was pretty much all downhill from there for the Cavs. They couldn’t get an offensive rebound to save their lives, Durant was either hitting jumpers or setting Ibaka up with easy 18-footers when the Cavs came to trap him, and Derek Fisher, who is 63 years old, was draining every three he looked at. Dion was making some nice plays to keep the Cavaliers in the game, but things were clearly getting out of hand, and the Cavs were down by 24 with 6 minutes to play.
That’s when a ray of hope came, in the form of (who else?) Matthew Dellavedova. He started initiating the offense, and brought the Cavs to within striking distance by dishing out four consecutive assists and draining a jumper. After a Waiters layup and free throws, as well as a free throw from TT, the Cavs somehow found themselves within five with 1:12 to play.
However, tonight’s miracles were reserved for the college set, and the Thunder got their bearings after a timeout, got a key offensive rebound, and rode a parade of Durant free throws to a relatively easy finish. Good fight, but the Cavaliers were hopelessly outmatched, especially without Deng and Irving.
I counted four 3-second violations for Serge Ibaka on Thursday — two on the offensive end, and two on D. That’s a personal high for one player in a game I’ve watched.
Waiters had to work for his 30, but 30 points in the NBA is 30 points in the NBA, and he again showed strong flashes — he can score from anywhere on the court, and something good always happens when he uses that devastating first step going left. I think he can be a foundational piece for an NBA team. I just hope the right pieces come into place around him so it’s this NBA team.
Speaking of, who’s on everybody’s draft wish list, now that we’re in tournament time? Maybe this is a “Once bitten, twice shy” thing with Karasev (is he alive?), but even though McDermott is a tweener in the worst way, I can’t see a scenario in which I’d rather have Dario Saric or pay Deng 5x as much on knees with 200,000 more miles on them.
(Caveat: I am fairly terrible at draft predictions, to the point where this was the first article I ever wrote that got major attention. I probably wouldn’t have ended up getting this blog without it. The moral, as always: Fail Upwards.)
Jack’s been playing well lately, but boy was he awful on Thursday. So, so, many short-armed pull-ups in transition.
Yes, I’m in love with Matthew Dellavedova. Double-Double! Give him a Danny Ferry contract. 10 years guaranteed. Needless to say, the Tarence Kinsey Award Race is over for this season.
Forgettable game for Tristan Thompson, who did not seem to remember that Serge Ibaka is quite good at blocking shots.
Cleveland Jackson at Stepien Rules, who ranked Austin Carr the #1 Cavalier of all time, gives a heartfelt tribute to Mr. Cavalier:
“He is the living breathing heart that beats again and again for us, with us.”
#20: Mo Williams & Nate Thurmond by Carter Rodriguez, Real Cavs Fans.
#19: Craig Ehlo by David Zavac, Fear the Sword.
#18: Lenny Wilkens by Jacob Rosen, WFNY.
#17: Bingo Smith by Scott Raab.
#16: Ron Harper by Ben Cox, WFNY.
#15: Andre Miller by Kirk Lammers, WFNY.
#14: Jim Chones by Ryan Mourton, Fear the Sword.
#13: Campy Russell by Ryan Mourton, Fear the Sword.
#12: Shawn Kemp by Robert Attenweiler, Cavs: The Blog.
#11: Hot Rod Williams by Kevin Hetrick, Cavs: The Blog.
#10: World B. Free by Scott Sargent, WFNY.
#9: Anderson Varejao by Andrew Schnitkey, WFNY.
#8: Kyrie Irving, Mallory Factor, Cavs: The Blog.
#7: Terrell Brandon, Ben Cox, WFNY.
#6: Austin Carr, Cleveland Jackson, Stepien Rules.
#5: Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kirk Lammers, WFNY. Nate Smith, Cavs: The Blog. Tom Pestak, Cavs: The Bog.
#4: Larry Nance, Robert Attenweiler, Cavs:The Blog.
Larry Nance won’t make the Hall of Fame.
You won’t hear his name first off most people’s lips when talking about the best, most talented players of the mid-80s/early-90s. He wasn’t even, the truly unindoctrinated might argue, the most memorable player on his own teams whose most enduring legacy is their disadvantage of playing at the same time as a force of nature took hold in Chicago, their coming up short.
He never led the Cavs in scoring or rebounding and his personality came across as professional and subdued on a team known (perhaps unfairly so) for its overall lack of spit.
So, why even bring up the Hall? Why bring up the era’s greats when Nance wasn’t even the best player on his team?
Because, the thing is, the best player on a consistent playoff and championship contender may be exactly the player that Larry Nance was.