Posts Tagged ‘Kyrie Irving’

Recap: Cleveland 95, Brooklyn 91 (or it’s Mike time)

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

If I must make an obligatory nod to Miller brewing company and “Miller Time,” (as every Northeast Ohio sportswriter is tempted to do, tonight) let me just remind everyone that High Life is the champagne of beers. Now that we have that out of the way, the Cavs beat the Nets in an ugly one that saw Kevin Love go 1-10 and still have one of his best games as a Cavalier. David Blatt successfully pushed the right coaching buttons by starting Mike Miller and moving Shawn Marion to the bench. Miller scored 21 on 7-8 from three point land, while Marion added a much needed eight points off the pine. Cleveland outrebounded the Nets 44-37 and went 24-29 from the free throw line. Cleveland overcame Joe Johnson’s 26 points and 69% True Shooting and a 47% to 40% field goal percentage differential. LeBron added some clutch fourth quarter play, and the Cavs overcame some bad crunch time offense to outlast the Nets to notch a much needed home win.

First Quarter: Cleveland gave up 31 to the Nets and reallfy played some lackluster defense. It seemed like surprise starter, Sergey Karasev was going to be the scrub-fuego player of the night, when he scored seven in the first four minutes. Cleveland continued its defensive trend of collapsing everyone to the paint and watching the ball zip around to the weak side for easy baskets. Fortunately, Mike Miller was throwing pennies in the ocean, as LeBron set him up with open looks and Miller hit nothing but net for nine points on three shots. Deron Williams limped to the locker room at 2:38 and never returned. The Nets missed him. Cleveland beat a path to the line, and slopped their way to just a 33-26 deficit after trailing by as many as 11.

Second Quarter: Mike Miller finally missed, then buried the offensive board reload to start the period. Mason Plumlee had been hurting the Cavs with his athleticism and energy around the basket, on both sides of the ball. Fortunately, Tristan’s offensive rebounding activity caused Mason to pick up a third foul early and sent Mason to the bench for the rest of the half. The Cavs bench defended really well by pushing everything to the baseline, sending double teams to both baseline posts, and using the the baseline as a third defender. It was a really effective tactic and limited the Nets to a 16 point quarter. It became the defensive template for the rest of the game. Cleveland had a hard time converting around the bucket thanks to Jerome Jordan’s rim protection (and uncalled goaltending), but the Cavs kept getting to the stripe and converting (11 made free throws in the quarter). Between this, some more Mike Miller string music, and good passing by LeBron, by quarter’s end they were up 54-49.

Even former mascots scored in the third quarter for the Nets.

Third Quarter: Cleveland settled for jumpers early, and started to get frustrated when their shots weren’t falling. But two more Miller threes kept Cleveland in it as the Nets kept finding the open man and converting. Brandon Davies, Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson, Mason Plumlee, Sly the Silver Fox, and BrooklyKnight all scored for Brooklyn while Kyrie and LeBron starting heating up and the Cavs kept marching to the line. Kevin Love was ice cold on offense, but played some of his best defense of the season this quarter as he notched two blocks, and generally contended shots around the rim and then rebounded well. A screaming Tristan putback dunk of a LeBron miss capped the quarter for the Cavs who led 74-71 going into the final frame.

Fourth Quarter: This one started out strangely as Dion was conspicuously absent, and Blatt sent out the “uh oh” lineup of Kyrie, Delly, James Johnson, Marion, and TT. “Oh Crap,” I said, as a terrible closeout by James Johnson led to two Joe Johnson (no relation) free throws. Fortunately Brooklyn’s “who?” lineup of Darius Morris, Mizra Teletovic, Brandon Davies, Alan Anderson, and Joe Johnson was even less inspiring, and the Cavs corrected their defensive lapses. Marion floated in a couple of sorely needed baskets, and looked much better in limited minutes off the bench than he did as a starter. The Bench gave LeBron four minutes of rest, and the TT pick and roll netted him more free throws. LeBron hit a “Tiger Woods from the bunker” turnaround 16-footer (highlight below) as the shot clock expired and I declared, “the Cavs aren’t losing this game.”

Then LeBron turned it over on the next trip, and Allen Anderson forced a jump ball on the subsequent possession. The King won a jump ball easily, but Jarrett Jack stole the tip and beat Kyrie to the other end for a layup to cut the Cavs lead to three with five minutes left. “Crap.”

Crunch Time: LeBron was steamed about the jump ball. To answer, he walked into a wide open three and gave Kyrie an easy dime, and then LeBron weaved through four Nets to give Kevin Love a dime (and again, I must agree with Tom Pestak. Some of the assists the scorekeepers are awarding this year are ridiculous. To give KLove an assist for a pass he made 65 feet from the basket that had nothing to do with the bucket is just dumb).  J-Jack put Kyrie in the blender again and got another layup to cut the lead to four and Tristan followed up an Irving miss to stretch the lead to eight. Then the game got ugly.

After a Kevin Love “great hands” steal, Cleveland turned it over on three straight possessions: LeBron set a moving screen, Miller pushed a guy, Tristan threw the ball out of bounds, and then LeBron threw up a 26 point heave. Four awful possessions thankfully only led to one KG jumper and a Joe Johnson 20-footer to keep the Cavs lead at four. Kyrie drove and scored a beautiful layup over Mason Plumlee to push it to 94-88 with 48 seconds left. Joe Johnson answered with a “there’s a reason I’m making $23 million dollars this year” three. At 94-91, Kyrie tried to repeat his previous magic and drove into four nets defenders for a turnover with 19 seconds left, while missing a wide-freaking-open Kevin Love. It’s plays like these that make people question KI’s decision making. Out of the high p/r, the entire Nets defense was tilted to the left side. All Kyrie had to do was drive to the free-throw-line and pass it to Love. He’s lucky it didn’t cost Cleveland any points.

Lionel Hollins elected not to call a timeout, and Cleveland aggressively denied the Nets any three point looks, until a KG heave with two seconds left gave LeBron the final rebound. After a Nets foul, LeBron iced the game by hitting his second free throw. Cavs Win!

Kevin Love: Here’s your obligatory three block highlight reel! It wasn’t always effective, but he gave more consistent defensive effort than I’ve seen all season. He hustled, played smart, and played hard. This Offensive rebound where he basically stole the ball was emblematic of his night. Kevin isn’t going to beat anyone with superior leaping or lateral quickness. But he has great hands. If he can use is strength and his strong arms, he can get a lot of balls. He kept his hands up on defense and was able to slap down on the ball Karl Malone style. He added a touchdown pass to LeBron and he rebounded while still challenging shots. Though he finished 1-10 he, added 14 rebounds and three blocks. Despite the poor shooting, this is the Kevin Love I remember from his best Minnesota days.

LeBron James looked sharper in transition tonight. He had a  nasty left handed flush after burning through four Nets (1:40 above, or here). He had 22 points  on 7-18 shooting and nine pretty dimes as he mostly directed the offense. Yes, the ball stuck too much. Yes, he held the ball and burned through the whole shot clock on multiple possessions, and no, he didn’t finish well in the half-court offense. Fortunately, he had his safety valve, Mike Miller, was 6-8 from the stripe, and was able to turn up the D on Joe Johnson late, and helped ice the game.

Kyrie Irving is still struggling with his shot, and was 0-3 from three and 6-12 everywhere else. Sometimes he was good on defense, but Jarrett Jack often got the best of him, finishing with 13 on 6-11 shooting. Kyrie seems to get let his head get out of the game when his shot’s not falling, and his late turnover was an inexcusably bad decision. Fortunately his 16-4-4 line was good enough.

Tristan Thompson outplayed Anderson Varejao and got 27 minutes of burn to Andy’s 17. TT was a menace on the O-Boards, and finished with four of them and six defensive boards. I’m going to start calling TT’s scoring total “poutine points,” because they’re all gravy. Despite getting stuffed a couple times, Tristan finished with 9 garbage gravy points, tonight. Andy, on the other hand has got to stop finessing so much around the basket. He had multiple opportunities when he could, have drawn fouls and went up all goofy. He still finished 5-6 from the line.

Dion Waiters didn’t play in the second half. It may have had something to do with this “WTF is Dion doing?” play, where Dion trailed a pick and roll defense mindlessly. Who knows. He seemed ok in the first half (going 1-4 with two trips to the line), but Delly and James Johnson got his minutes in the second. Can’t argue with the results.

Matthew Dellavedova and the Matrix anchored the bench with TT tonight, and added two and eight points respectively. Matrix led the team in plus/minus at 15, and looked much more effective with reduced minutes. I’ll take this opportunity to say that, even though Delly didn’t score a lot, he was +9 in the game, defended KG on the block once, and is the most fundamentally sound rebounding guard I’ve ever seen. He also looks recovered from the flu. I wish I could say the same. This plague just won’t quit me.

Mason Plumlee, the lost Busey.

The Cavs were lucky Mason Plumlee got himself in foul trouble. Cleveland had no answer for his length and hops around the bucket. The FIBA gold medalist had 14 points, 9 rebounds, three blocks, two assists, and no turnovers in 29 minutes. He was +16 for the game, and his replacement, Mizra Teletovic was -16. The Cavs need big man that can counter guys like Mason.

Mike Miller was the story of this game. He was the perfect outlet for LeBron. He’s not going to go 7-8 from three every game, but teams have to respect the Cavs shooting when he plays. With this roster. Starting Miller, and bringing Marion off the bench makes the most sense. But Miller’s not going to get 10 days rest before every start. Let’s hope he can keep this up as the games come closer together and that he can keep living the High Life… (I hear your groans).

The Point Four-ward: Is This The Real Kyrie Irving?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

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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.

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An offensive set to be thankful for

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

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.

Recap: Cavs 127, Hawks 94 (Or, Gaze in Awe at the Meteor Shower)

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

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The Hawks are a good team.  With a healthy Al Horford, a Spursian offense, and one of the best starting 5s in the East, this figured to be a tough challenge for the Cavaliers, who miraculously survived a much-less-talented Celtics squad last night.  The Cavs made their first six threes but could seemingly do nothing to stop the Hawks’ dribble penetration.  With three minutes left in the quarter the Cavs led just 24-21, despite converting 6/6 from downtown.  LeBron was involved in everything.  Then Coach Blatt sat LeBron down and I thought “this is gonna get ugly”.  It did.  For the Hawks.  The Cavs went on a 41-8 run, threw a lead anvil on the gas pedal, and started setting all-time records.

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Recap: Cleveland 122, Boston 121 (or “Once We Start Playing Defense, We’re Really Going to be Something.”)

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

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The title quote was by David Blatt after an amazing comeback win by the Cavs last night. Let’s get to it.

First Quarter: This one started out with Love on the left block on offense, and then devolved to a frenetically paced post-pattern drill, highlighted by numerous Kevin Love touchdown passes, including one over two Celtics that would have mad Brian Hoyer proud. LeBron caught it and two step flushed. A full court alley-oop dunk is coming before the end of the season. Unfortunately, Cleveland was giving up more than they got and by halfway through the quarter the Cavs were down by 17-11. A David Blatt timeout ensued.

That whole meme about LeBron’s lack of “explosiveness” seemed like a story from eons ago, as James looked like he was shot out of a canon every time he took off down the floor, and his pace matched the game’s. At one point in the first, a Celtics-Cavs-Celtics field goal sandwich took about 10 seconds as Brandon Bass scored, LeBron beat the camera down the floor to find TT for a layup, and then Rondo returned the favor to Kelly Olynyk. This whiplash inducing sequence prompted Austin Carr to prophetically comment that at this pace the game was going to be in the 120s.

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Recap: Cavs 118 – Pelicans 111 (Or, Raining Down Talent Bombs)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

After a lackluster two and a half quarters, the Cavs really poured it on the New Orleans Pelicans in the final 16 and a half minutes, outscoring them 49-33 and earning a quality win against an upstart young team.  LeBron James had a monster game, tallying his first triple double of the season and 38th of his career: 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.  Kyrie Irving was his full blown offensive-wunderkind self, scoring 32 points despite playing the role of distributor for most of the 1st half.  At times he was completely unstoppable.  Kevin Love came alive in the 4th quarter, draining four 3-pointers, and finishing with 22 points on 13 shots.  The Cavs survived a 32-point scare from Ryan Anderson (cloaked in NBA JAM Flames), who drained eight 3s.

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The Dion Waiters Zone — Updated

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

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Dion Waiters has been one of the more interesting human beings to follow since he was drafted.  Out of Syracuse he was billed as a talented scorer with as much upside as anyone not named Anthony Davis, and was favorably compared to Dwyane Wade (by both Chad Ford and Byron Scott).  Former Cavs: The Blog editor and friend Colin McGowan anagrammatically foretold the coming of “Saint Weirdo” in a post-draft prophesy, and Waiters has mostly fulfilled the moniker.

His brashness strikes me as a defense mechanism—it’s what allows him the single-mindedness that makes him great at basketball—and when it’s punctured, he retreats inward. I think that’s what happened at SU: Boeheim shouted him down a few times, and Waiters didn’t initially respond well because he felt naked and embarrassed.

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Kyrie and The Crucible

Friday, November 7th, 2014

LeBron James has never played with a high-level true point guard before. Dwyane Wade was the closest thing he had to a guy who could function as a high-level creator next to him, but since Wade is secretly a 6’4 power forward without the rebounding, Miami got away with an inverted situation, having LeBron function as the primary creator, Wade slashing to the basket off the ball, and Bosh providing the floor spacing despite being the tallest of the three.

That’s not going to work in Cleveland. This is evidenced by the fact that it is currently not working in Cleveland. It’s early, but the Cavs currently rank 19th in offensive efficiency, 22nd in True Shooting, and dead-last in assist ratio. The defense is a larger issue, as only the Lakers (bless these horrible Lakers) and the Jazz have a lower defensive efficiency than the Cavs. For those of you keeping score at home, the second-worst defense in the NBA held the Cavaliers to four assists last night.

The Cavaliers need to run an honest-to-god offense, and they need to start running it soon. For that, two things have to happen: Kyrie needs to have a come-to-Jesus moment and LeBron needs to find an effective middle gear.

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Trouble In No Assist Land

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

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Make sure to check out my recap of the Cavs Vs. Jazz here.

Brian Windhorst is reporting that LeBron James had words with Kyrie Irving not only after the game against Portland but also after the game against Utah. The King is upset that Irving isn’t playing like a point guard. He acknowledged the fact that Kyrie hasn’t had an assist in more than forty-five minutes.

“There’s a lot of bad habits, a lot of bad habits been built up the past couple years,” James said to the media moments after the exchange. “When you play that style of basketball, it takes a lot to get it up out of you.”

Irving said this about the Utah game:

“For us, it was a growing process that we have to go through,” Irving said Wednesday. “It sucks right now. For us, we’re still young, and I’m still learning what’s going on.”

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Augmented Reality Coaching Center: New Wrinkles

Monday, November 3rd, 2014
Mrs. Whatsit - Mrs. Who - Mrs. Which, by far the oldest "Big 3"

Mrs. Whatsit – Mrs. Who – Mrs. Which, by far the oldest “Big 3″

The season is finally underway.   The Cavalier faithful finally (FINALLY) got to see their beloved team in action. Preseason seemed hardly characteristic of the main 82 unless David Blatt really is planning on giving Joe Harris as much burn as Kyrie. Hopefully the opening night celebration for the prodigal son wasn’t characteristic either. LeBron aggregating three more turnovers than field goals is a rare occurrence for him (although it’s extremely common when you filter by Octobers coming immediately after Decisions). David Blatt inserting just eight players better be a rare occurrence or injuries are going to strike like a thief in the night.

So with all these caveats making it difficult to take stock in the overall state of the new look Cavaliers, I decided to task a handful of our Cavs: The Blog interns to churn through game footage in our state of the art Augmented Reality Coaching Center (ARC2). The ARC2 slices and processes using a massively parallelized datacenter. We actually have content in 4D, so the interns can feel the heat from the scoreboard flamethrowers, sense the thud of a dead spot on the sideline, or take a whiff when LeBron rips one at half court.

So instead of trying to microanalyze two games worth of basketball, well below the sample size threshold of most valuable analyses, I asked our interns to uncover any new wrinkles previously unseen during the 4-year-long basketball recession.

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