The road trip is finally over. After opening the season with two games at home, the Cavaliers set out on a 6-game road trip. The Cavaliers went just 1-5 on that trip and Byron Scott described it with one word: "terrible."
The Cavaliers ended that road trip last night against the Brooklyn Nets. Despite ridiculous efforts from Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs found themselves down by 20+ points and ultimately lost 114-101.
Cavs leaders: Points: Varejao, 35; Assists: Irving, 8; Rebounds: Varejao, 18
That was so painful. I've never seen such an enormous difference between a team's starters and its bench. The five starters can basically compete with anybody and that showed in the first quarter. Once the bench unit had to come in the game, however, everything went to shit. The Cavs were outscored 35-12 in the 2nd quarter and were never able to recover. In the second half, the starters came back in and cut the lead to 10....but then the bench had to come back into the game and the lead exploded again. The starters are not the main problem. Tristan Thompson is not the problem. Dion Waiters had a terrible night shooting the ball, but he wasn't that bad. He played within the offense and just missed makable shots. He's a rookie, it happens.
I will break this game down into three general themes:
1) Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao are really really good.
Irving and Andy combined for 69 points and the team lost by double digits. Both players posted new career-highs in points and ended with absurd stat lines. Varejao had 35 points and 18 rebounds (11 offensive!) and Kyrie had 34 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. The two combined to shoot 25 of 40 (62.5%) from the field. The rest of the team shot 13 of 57 (22.8%). In the 37 minutes that Andy and Ky shared the court, the team was a +4. That means the team was a -17 in the 11 minutes in which they were not on the court at the same time. Again: that's simply ridiculous.
2) Nobody is playing any defense.
Despite the brilliance of Andy and Kyrie, the Cavaliers will not win consistently until somebody plays defense. Brook Lopez had an unreasonable amount of uncontested layups and Brooklyn scored at will. Byron Scott is pissed. I'm pissed. Everybody should be pissed. The defensive effort is pathetic and nothing will change until the ENTIRE TEAM decides that it wants to defend. The Cavs have allowed 100+ points in sevens straight games and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
3) I don't think I've ever seen a worse NBA bench.
The letdown when the bench comes into the game is unbelievable. It has to be demoralizing for the starters to build a lead or cut into a deficit and then see the bench come in and crap all over it. They got the lead down to 10 points and I start to feel good...and then they bring in LUKE WALTON. LUKE FREAKING WALTON. AHHHHHHH. I'll admit that I was confident and felt good about the pieces that the Cavs added in the offseason. I thought Jon Leuer could play. I thought C.J. Miles could play. I thought Samardo Samuels could be better. And maybe they still can, it's early. But as of right now, none of them can play. You might as well put my intramural basketball team in the game. The Cavaliers got six bench points last night. SIX. I feel as though I could come in the game for 17 minutes (like Leuer and Gibson played) and chuck half court shots and score more than 6 points. I'm mostly serious.
The good news is that the starters are good at basketball. They can compete. Now, they just need a bench that doesn't enter the game, roll around in dead fish for 12 minutes, allow 30 points, and then leave. With all this cap room and flexibility, it should be pretty easy to put together a competent bench in an offseason. But it's damn hard in the middle of the season, so we're stuck with what we've got.
Fear The Sword's Player of the Game:
It's Anderson Varejao. He's a total beast and he's completely untrade-able. Here's a video of Kyrie and Andy being insane to make you smile.