Four points I’m thinking about the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers…
First off, if you haven’t read Ben’s excellent recap of last night’s big come from behind win against the Raptors, what are you waiting for??
1.) Read the following quote from Cavs head coach David Blatt:
“I think it’s important that you know how to catch yourself. We didn’t have an easy time in the first half and we caught ourselves at halftime. We recognized what we were doing wrong and what we needed to improve and we did that. We had very little defensive intensity.”
Now, tell me, what game that came from.
Okay, it’s not like it was so long ago. That was Blatt speaking after the Cavs 110-88 win in Brooklyn on Monday night. But it could have easily come from last night’s win against the Raptors, as well.
Brook Lopez (back) and Joe Johnson (illness) sat out for the Nets and the Cavs rode a monster third quarter — and Dion Waiters’s best game of the season — to an easy win, their seventh in a row, Monday night in Brooklyn.
Here’s what happened:
The Cavs looked to Kevin Love early again and he responded scoring the team’s first four points. But the Cavs were practically inviting the Nets to score around the basket and LeBron James was sluggish early. His first shot was a long three that barely made it there. Then, after Allan Anderson beat LeBron James and Shawn Marion in transition leading the Cavs to call a quick time-out, James air-balled a three.
Love continued to be the Cavs’ only steady hand on offense, as the 6-10 power forward used an even mixture of post moves and outside shooting to account for 15 of the Cavs eventual 22 first quarter points.
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.
In a press release for Citizen Kane, Orson Welles described the film as an examination of one man’s character. That “six or more people could have as many widely divergent opinions concerning the nature of a single personality. Clearly such a notion could not be worked out if it would apply to an ordinary American citizen.” Dan Gilbert is everything but ordinary, and few owners in sports create such divergent opinions.
As a litmus test for this article, I posted a question on my Facebook asking for opinions on Gilbert. Good and bad. The anti-Gilbert responses ranged from “he’s a classless cry-baby,” and “a giant tool,” to him being the primary reason that former commissioner David Stern vetoed the Chris Paul deal to the Lakers, as if he were the Illuminati puppet master who secretly pulls the strings behind the leagues moves. The pro-Gilbert side defended his investments in the Rust Belt, the open pocket book he runs his franchise with and his commitment to charity. Either way, people knew who Gilbert was. If I would have asked a similar question about Peter Holt or Wyc Grousbeck, there probably wouldn’t have been a single response.
“Really Charles, people will think-” – Emily Monroe Norton
“-What I tell them to think.” – Charles Foster Kane
LeBron might be just like a grandpa at the age of 29. He’s griped about Kyrie Irving not getting assists, the team lacking focus, and guys not playing good defense in less than a four week time span. Now, he thinks he’s playing too many minutes. Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has LeBron’s thoughts on playing the third most minutes a night in the NBA.
“For me, I don’t want to do that all year,” James said. “Obviously right now it’s difficult because we’re trying to find a groove and we’re trying to find a rhythm and we’re trying to find something that you can’t really, you don’t want to shortcut it but at the same time you gotta be smart about it.”
Four points I’m thinking about the NBA and the Cleveland Cavaliers…
1.) Over the weekend, reports surfaced that the Cavs were interested in trading for Corey Brewer of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Cavs have the trade exception they acquired in the Keith Bogans merry-go-round and, therefore, would not have to include a player in the trade. The Wolves are said to be looking for “future assets” in exchange for freeing up their glut on the wing and the Houston Rockets have also been listed as a potential trade partner. The Cavs roster stands at 15 right now, so if they don’t include a player in the trade, one would have to be released.
If this trade happens, Brewer likely slides right into the starting lineup, moving Shawn Marion back to the bench. At 6-9, Brewer brings tremendous length to both the shooting guard and small forward spots. Outside of being Kevin Love’s preferred touchdown target for his outlet passes, Brewer has never been known for his offense. He’s never developed into even an average three-point shooter (29% for his career), but he has a tendency to find ways to contribute across the box score.
2.) The Cavs interest in Brewer seems to come down to two things: a.) his relationship with Love and b.) the Cavs front office realizing that their defense is even worse off than they thought coming into the season.
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.
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.
Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA…
1.) As recently as last year, people were describing LeBron James as being one of the fastest players in the NBA. While perhaps not tops in terms of sheer speed, James’s ability to cover large swaths of the court in precious few strides made him one of the quickest players his size ever. That’s why so much is being made of the relative snail’s pace of his play this season. What Cavs fans have seen thus far is one of the most athletic players in league history running and jumping like he’d added 20 pounds in the off-season rather than dropped it.
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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