Posts Tagged ‘Kyrie Irving’

The Point Four-ward: A Personal Blatt-ack?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

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If you haven’t read David Wood’s excellent recap of last night’s loss to the Suns, get on it!

Four points I’m thinking about the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) The fallout over David Blatt’s comments after the Cavs loss in Sacramento that Kevin Love is “not a max player yet” should come as a surprise to no one. Blatt has always been known as a fiery guy who, thus far in his career (storied abroad, though it may be) hasn’t had to deal with as many of the finer points of player ego-massaging as he has this season, his first in the NBA. While he has ladled freely from the soup of praise when talking about his players, Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, in particular, there was bound to be a moment when Blatt, understandably frustrated following a 19-point drubbing by a Kings squad where his team played unengaged, uninspired and… well, basically un-anything-good, would release a little steam. Unfortunately, his pressure check was in front of the media and at the apparent expense of the player who, should he leave after just one season in wine and gold, would leave the team with a lot of gold — from the yolk running down their collective face — to show for it.

Do I think Blatt thinks Love is a bad player? Absolutely not. I think Blatt believes his starting power forward is a very talented offensive player — one of the more versatile offensive bigs in the league — but to say that Blatt, in his most private moments, is without criticism of Love is probably unrealistic, as well. Blatt later backpedaled saying that what he meant was that Love has not yet signed a max contract with the Cavs and didn’t want to be accused of tampering by suggesting that those kind of discussions were had with Love.

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Recap: Warriors 112 Cavs 94 (Or, teeny tiny margins for error)

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

The Cavs lost on the road to the best team in the NBA.  The final score doesn’t really indicate how competitive the game was – it was a 5-point game midway through the 4th quarter.  GS blew it open in the final four minutes.  The Cavs hung in there despite some abysmal outside shooting from the guys brought in specifically for that purpose.  J.R. Smith had a strong game at both ends, and Timofey Mozgov really made a difference in the limited minutes he received.  Kyrie Irving was like a quiet assassin at times.  Ultimately, the Cavs couldn’t stop Klay Thompson and the Warriors got so many easy baskets there was just no way the Cavs were going to overcome being without LeBron.

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Recap: Dallas 109, Cleveland 90 (or, one of these teams looks like a contender)

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

 

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In what was possibly the most predictable outcome of a game you’ll see all year, the deep, balanced machine that is the Dallas Mavericks made short work of a Cavs team missing its star and still struggling to figure out how to string more than a few good possessions together.

The Mavericks shot 56.4% from the field and 46.2% from three in a game that saw six Dallas players score in double figures, led by Monta Ellis’ 20. The Cavs, meanwhile, managed just 40.7% as a team, but did see Kevin Love continue his recent LeBron-less strong play. Love’s 30 points made this his highest scoring game as a Cavalier (he also pulled down 10 boards) but no one else on the team was able to make enough of an impact to keep the Cavs within striking distance much past the first quarter. The team cut a 15-point second quarter deficit to 10 at the half, but saw the game quickly get away from them in the third.

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The Point Four-ward: New Year’s Daze

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

 

Four points I’m thinking about the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) A lot of what I’m going to say here is anecdotal rather than analytical. These are points and ideas born from conversations I’ve been having over the last couple of holiday weeks. They are more temperature-taking than anything else but, as with other recent Cavaliers seasons, I’ve found it useful to see exactly at what point the fan base (and myself) go completely off the rails. That point could well be now.

The overriding feeling of those I’m talking to is the same as mine: these Cavs just aren’t any fun.

And it’s not looking to get any more fun if, as reported today, LeBron James misses the next two weeks nursing a holiday cookie tray of injuries (or, more precisely, diagnosed strains to his ailing knee and back).

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Recap and Podcast 57: Hawks 109 Cavs 101 (Or, moral victories may not be anything but they sure beat the hell out of getting embarrassed)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

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Check out the podcast that Nate and I recorded tonight. It’s available at Soundcloud , and iTunes. (CtB Episode 57!) Here’s a short and sweet recap to supplement your insatiable desire for Cavs analysis.  The Cavs moved the ball well in the first quarter and played the Hawks to a draw.  They completely choked when the Hawks turned up the intensity in the second quarter and then Kevin Love left the game with back spasms.  The Cavs, without LeBron, Love, or Marion, started the second half by watching Kyle Korver drain a couple of threes to push the lead to 17.  It looked like the Cavs were going to get blown out of the gym.  But they fought back behind the wizardry of Kyrie Irving, the power and relentlessness of Tristan Thompson, and some gutsy-if-not-quite-effective defense throughout the contest.  They were within striking distance throughout the fourth quarter in a back and fourth affair where they cut the deficit three on three different occasions, and to two with 4:43 left.  The Hawks absorbed the blows and settled into some two-man action between Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, eventually putting the Cavs away.

Kyrie Irving finished with 35 points and nine assists (and almost none of his shots were easy looks) but he coughed it up eight times in a game where the referees refused the blow their whistles for three quarters without a coroner on the scene and flipped the switch in the fourth – needing little more than pantomime routines to stop the action.  Irving looked a lot like he did last year – dribbling through double teams, taking a lot of those “why not” 3s from five feet behind the line, and of course, finishing at the rim from impossible angles.

Tristan Thompson had a really nice game.  His energy, offensive rebounding, and finishing abilities infected the Cavs in the 3rd and 4th quarters.  His alley-oop execution of Jeff Teague was a sight to behold.  He finished with 18 points on 12 shots and 13 rebounds.  He was old-man-at-the-gym’d by Paul Millsap all night long with the help of the referees, but he played a valiant game.

Dion Waiters and Kevin Love didn’t show up, figuratively speaking, and since LeBron James and Shawn Marion literally didn’t show up this game tested the Cavs’ depth.  Joe Harris was 3/4 from beyond the arc and had a few heady plays (and a gut-wrenching layup attempt that licked every inch of the rim before willing itself out).

Someone put on James Jones’ jersey and a Mission Impossible 2 mask because at least three times I had to double take “wait…James JONES just rejected Paul Millsap at the rack!?”  He missed a bunch of wide open 3s and was supremely active on defense.  Not your mother’s James Jones.  Over/under on the number of days until JJ has three steals and two blocks again?  I’m going infinity days.

All in all it was nice to see the Cavs dig deep when the dam was about to burst and make a game of it.  The Hawks are a really good team and will be a formidable playoff foe.  Their offensive talent was too much for the Cavs to stop in the waning moments of the game.  Ultimately the Cavs need to play like this every night (a scrambling defensive effort for 48 minutes) and at full strength they will win more than they lose.

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 disparity. LeBron added some clutch fourth quarter play, and the Cavs overcame some bad crunch time offense to outlast the Nets and notch a much needed home win.

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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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