Tyler Zeller, future MVP and franchise star.
Kyrie Irving was horrendous, the Cavaliers played the best team in the NBA…and somehow, they only lost to the Spurs by a single point. How on Earth did that happen? Let us delve into the details.
Kyrie bricked a deep three to start the game, and it was all downhill from there for him. In a rare turn of events, though, just about every other Cavalier was productive and efficient in the first half. The Cavs looked energetic on defense for once, running around and trapping like demons. Alonzo Gee got a few breakaway dunks, and Tyler Zeller simply looked like a different player from the indolent young man who’s been missing layups and clanking 17-footers all year. And Dion BALLED OUT. Slicing and dicing through the Spurs defense, dumping passes off to open big men, this was the player Chris Grant envisioned when he drafted the young sixth man from Syracuse. The second unit stepped up as well. Luke did Waltonian stuff (pass well, defend poorly) while Shaun Livingston nailed that funky turnaround jumper a few times. Kyrie Irving simply sucked. The only facet of the game he contributed in was distribtion. He fed the big men for some easy buckets, and found C.J. Miles on a beautiful cut (layup was blown). But man, was his defense awful. Tony Parker simply ran by Kyrie to the hoop, over and over and over again. Not to mention no. 2 couldn’t hit a shot to save his life. Still, a positive half for the Cavs. It ended with an eight-point lead! CLE 54, SAS 46.
Ugly start for the Cavs in the third quarter. They missed a lot of shots, and the Spurs did all the things Gregg Popovich asked them to do. And he’s a genius, so that generally works out well for them. Tony Parker simply ravaged the Cavaliers tonight. If it weren’t for Dion Waiters, this game might have been over before the fourth quarter started. He dropped 10 in the third- all on drives- and was awesome. Kyrie continued to be awful on defense and offense. Then the fourth quarter came, and Cavaliers Nation readied themselves for the entrance of the second unit, the mighty group known as the Herculoids. For all the flak Marreese Speights gets about only shooting jumpers, the man has some great second jump-ability when offensive rebounding. He just hops around until the ball gets in the hoop. The offense was sub-par, but the defense was great. Shaun Livingston is worlds apart from Kyrie when it comes to man-up D. The game went back and forth in the fourth, and when Kyrie hit a pair at the line (giving him a whopping six points on the night!), the Cavs were up 93-90. And then Gary Neal hit an absolute dagger, tying the game. He’s an assassin. Kyrie had a big steal, setting the Cavs up with a chance to take the lead. He wisely got out of the way as Dion calmly drained a 22-footer for the two-point lead. And then the next possession….ugh. An AWFUL decision by Dion to over-help on Tony Parker penetration led to a wide-open Kawhi Leonard corner three….money. With two seconds left, Kyrie managed to slip, commit a carrying violation (no call) and miss a one-handed, falling-down “jumper.” Ballgame. SAS 96, CLE 95.
-Maybe the worst game of Kyrie Irving’s young career. I can’t remember him ever looking this out of sorts on offense. 2-15 from the field, six points, five fouls. Sadly, we’re all used to seeing him looks this out of sorts on defense. Tony Parker is a great point guard, but he went to town on Kyrie tonight. Utter decimation.
-Tyler Zeller: 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one block, and fantastic defense on Tim Duncan. Timmy D was helpless most of the night, as Zeller’s length and speed were the perfect remedy to the Big Fundamental’s collection of slow hooks and turnaround jumpers.
-Dion was sublime. If he starts to play like this on a regular basis, the rest of the NBA had better watch out. He is an absolute terror on offense when he decides to be aggressive, and is a very solid passer. A lot of his attributes as a player remind me of Monta Ellis, which is not necessarily a negative comparison, and certainly not one that should bother Cavs fans. A stronger Monta Ellis with a higher basketball IQ would be a force to be reckoned with.
-Ideal Alonzo game. Seven points on five shots, and a few rim-rattling dunks.
-The bench as a whole was very solid. C.J. Miles and Shaun Livingston in particular played very well. Speights shot a little poorly. Wayne Ellington was only OK, and is losing ground in the battle for the official “mediocre three-point gunner who only sorta plays defense and only drives once a game” title to Miles.
-Tony Parker PUT DA TEAM ON HIS BACK.
-The Spurs are a great team, and a one-point loss to them is the definition of a moral victory for a team as young and thin as the Cavs.
Does this Nerlens Noel injury make him more likely to fall to the Cavs?