Team USA looked bad during the first half, while Lithuania looked competent. America’s offense looked like a bunch of guys just playing pickup ball, and the defense just didn’t exist much of the game. The score at the end of first half didn’t reflect that though. The talent gap between the two teams was too big for Lithuania to overcome, as they entered the second half of the game down by eight. James Harden blew the game open in the third quarter by scoring 16 points and missing only one shot. Kyrie kept the US lead growing in the fourth quarter scoring 11 points in the period to go with two assists. The US could have ended the game by a larger margin if they had made their free throws instead of going 11-20.
Back in April, Cavs: The Blog writer Tom Pestak took a ton of time to try and figure out which Cavs two man units were the most effective using plus-minus data for individual players and plus-minus data for two man units. To make some sense of that data, a little math was required. Plus-minus (PM) numbers don’t take into account how many minutes players and lineups played, so it needs to be adjusted to be looked at as a per 48 minute rate. Once that rate is figured out it can be used for all sorts of fun stuff. By comparing players’ expected PM/48 in lineups to their lineup’s actual on the court PM/48, you can see how well the players made magic together. If the numbers match up, then the unit played average, but if the two numbers are drastically different, the unit either under-performed or over-performed.
Tom did this exhaustive exercise for two man units on the Cavs. The conclusion: everything commonly thought was more or less wrong. CJ Miles was a beast, Andy V and Matty D made everyone better, and Kyrie only exceeded an expected PM/48 number when playing with Miles.
Three Cavs continued their FIBA Basketball World Cup march this weekend. First off, Erik Murphy and Finland failed to make it out of pool play. Of course, since Murphy has the same odds of making the opening day Cavs roster as I do, calling him a “Cav” is generous. Kyrie, Andy, and Delly did, however, make it to the elimination round and one of them failed to advance…
Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…
1.) I caught up with fellow Truehooper Graydon Gordian earlier this week. Graydon is Editor Emeritus of the Spurs’ blog 48 Minutes of Hell and this finally-August-hot September evening was the first time we’d talked hoops since the Cavs’ Hulked-Out off-season began. Possibly because I immediately demurred to his own loyalties (“There’s no way I want any part of the Spurs, should the Cavs make the Finals this year,” said I) we strolled down Hypothetical Way, talking about the likely Western Conference contenders and how, should all of the 950,000 things that must go right for any team to dream of playing into late-June go right for the Cavs this year, each of them might match up against the wine and gold from Nor’thrn ‘Hia.
Sorry, Kyrie, but Anderson Varejao is the third most important player on the 2014-2015 Cavs. I came to this conclusion as I watched Andy outplay his starting teammates, Tiago Splitter and Nene, in a losing effort versus Spain, Monday. In a game in which Pau Gasol looked as good as he has in six years, Varejao played very well, and reminded us that his presence is vital if Cleveland is to contend for a championship this season.
The inaugural FIBA World Cup is officially underway. Two days of group play has yielded relatively expected results: USA and Spain look dominant, Goran Dragic is hilariously fun to watch, Iran isn’t very good at bringing the ball up and the talented Brazilian frontline will challenge Spain’s for bigman bragging rights. That is all very good. But, as stated in the preview, this series is dedicated to the Cavaliers.
Kyrie Irving PG, USA, Group C
Kyrie got the start and played solid ball against Finland. The Finnish guards are so weak that Irving didn’t really have to break out his Team USA defensive stance. To be honest, he looked “regular season Cavs” in this one, but it’s hard to blame him. Kyrie was a totally different player against Turkey. For large stretches of this heavily contested game, Kyrie controlled pace, (perhaps to fault; he still loves walking that ball up) and played hard-nosed all around ball.
As Spain is rather famous for swashbuckling and suave cavaliers, it seems only fitting that the Cleveland Cavaliers will play important roles for their respective international teams in the Inaugural FIBA World Cup. Let’s hope the young Cavs (let’s just pretend Andy is young) will focus more on crisp ball swings and active defense than seducing a Zerlina or taking out a troublesome commendatore. (Cavs: The Blog: your random source of operatic entertainment.)
In this series of FIBA coverage, I will focus predominantly on the performance of the Cavaliers participating in the Cup. You don’t need me to remind you that Spain’s front court is ridiculously stacked with the Gasols and Ibaka dwarfing the USA bigmen, or that Greece’s backcourt will be ridiculously entertaining with the Greek Freak and Nick Calathes handling the ball. (For more on that, read Grantland’s preview). Instead, this space will be devoted to Cleveland Cavalier performance.