Recap: Thunder 102 , Cavs 95 (Or, Okay, Fear the Reaper)

March 20th, 2014 by John Krolik

 

Overview: 

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 Rundown:

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.

Notes:

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.

 

#CavsRank #6 is Mr. Cavalier, Austin Carr

March 20th, 2014 by Tom Pestak

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.”

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#CavsRank Introduction and Authors

#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.
#3:  ???
#2:  ???
#1:  ???

 

Links to the Present: Distractions Edition

March 19th, 2014 by David Wood
Hopefully Kyrie Irving is feeling this relaxed about Dion Waiters' breakout game.  No jealousy right?

Hopefully Kyrie Irving is feeling this relaxed about Dion Waiters’ breakout game. No jealousy right?

I’m feeling good.  Kyrie Irving may be out for two weeks, but Dion Waiters posted his first NBA double double against the Miami Heat last night, and the Cavs legitimately held their own against a 43 point LeBron James performance.  Luol Deng wasn’t even playing, and Alonzo Gee was able to be a real replacement dunking on LeBron and making some threes.  I’m going to distract myself for a little bit to keep thinking we will keep this transcendent Kyrieless play up.

Read the rest of this entry »

#CavsRank: Number 4 – Larry Nance!

March 19th, 2014 by Robert Attenweiler

larry-nance

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.

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Recap: Heat 100, Cavs 96 (or, who are these Cavs?)

March 18th, 2014 by Tom Pestak

Tonight the Cavs lost their 10th straight game to the Heat.  The Cavs were without Irving or Miles, the Heat without Wade.  LeBron scored 25 points in the 1st quarter and yet that seemed like the most characteristic stat of the evening (although impossible by definition since it was a career high).

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Glass Half Full View of the Season (or, how consistently wrong can I be about this team?)

March 18th, 2014 by Kevin Hetrick

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I have a vague theory.  Every time I write pessimistically about the Cavs, they immediately embark on a hot streak.  If I take an optimistic tone, an ensuing 30-point loss becomes inevitable.  Seriously, look it up (Edited Note:  I began writing this on Sunday evening.  Within an hour, Kyrie had injured his biceps).  Sum up the team’s record in the two games after each negative article I write.  It is the equivalent of the 1996 Bulls.  Combining every set of two games following a positive article, they resemble the current 76ers.  Most recently, after offering a thumbs down, the team won twice on the road against Western Conference playoff contenders.

So far, this season has not gone as planned.  The Cavs made three big free agent acquisitions this past summer and selected two first-round draft picks, including #1.  This season’s salary commitments for those five players approached $23 million, and due to Bynum’s odd deal, counted nearly $30 million towards the 2013 – 2014 salary cap.  At gotbuckets.com, we recently created a RAPM-based wins equivalent, SWAgR.  Through March 10th, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev combined for negative 1.5 SWAgR.  Based on that stat, replacing their minutes with available, reference level players like Alonzo Gee, Nazr Mohammed and Darius Morris wins the Cavs 1.5 more games.  And that is not meant as a complement to the latter three guys.

That is a rotten summer and a wasted season.  But this is not a negative article.  Balancing last week’s piece, here are silver linings from the 2013 – 2014 season.  But don’t worry, I have taken special considerations to ensure I don’t jinx the Wine & Gold!

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#CavsRank! At number 7, it’s Terrell Brandon

March 17th, 2014 by Tom Pestak

Brandon SI Cover

Ben Cox of WFNY gives us a wonderful profile of one of the most underrated players in Cleveland history.

“Brandon (and his era of Cleveland basketball) is routinely overlooked. In fact, how little people knew of Brandon was one of the main takeaways from the famous Sports Illustrated piece.

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#CavsRank:

#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.
#3:  ???
#2:  ???
#1:  ???

Links to the Present: Traditions Edition

March 17th, 2014 by David Wood
kyrie_irving_32

He can play in a mask, but can he play in a sling?

Every year at several points during the Cavs season, I find myself furiously searching “Kyrie Irving Injury.” I thought this year was going to break that tradition, since Irving has made it more than half of the season missing only three games. It seems I’m wrong again. Read the rest of this entry »

Recap: Los Angeles 102, Cleveland 80. (Or, The City of Angles).

March 16th, 2014 by Patrick Redford

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I’m wary of “killer stats,” the kind where a broadcaster will glance at a stat sheet from an assistant, look at the score, do two seconds of math and say something like: “Well the Cavaliers have 13 less second chance points than the Kings and that’s the difference in the game, otherwise it’d be a dead heat.” These quick equivalencies fail to take into account the many coeval facets that go into winning and losing a basketball game. That all being said, the Clippers assist/turnover ratio was 6.4, compared with the Cavs’ 1.1. The Cavs couldn’t hold onto the ball, and their offense was sludgy tonight, while the Clippers were efficient and generous, which the A/T ratio disparity captures succinctly. A 3-0 west coast trip against playoff teams was probably a bridge too far anyway.

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Recap: Golden State 94, Cleveland 103. (Or, Pass the Mic)

March 14th, 2014 by Patrick Redford

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One of the best Cavs wins this year? One of the best Cavs wins this year. The Cavs lent the Warriors plenty of shovels to help dig them into a big 20-4 hole, but they battled back and ended up coasting to an easy finish. Spencer Hawes and Dion Waiters stood our tonight, but the defense over the last 3/4′s of the game sealed the win

The Warriors are one of the most energetic teams in the NBA, and this year, they’ve managed to balance this on an inner mantle of tough defense. Tonight, they seemed to establish their quick lead without really doing much besides shoot well and position themselves to pounce on Cavs mistakes. The only Cavs points were two Luol Deng jumpers that came on improvisations, not within the offense. Kyrie didn’t look aggressive, and the Warriors continually ran under screens, which compacted the paint and forced turnovers when the Cavs tried to move inside. Cleveland started out not making necessary adjustments, and they couldn’t deal with the Warriors’ pace.

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