The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 104 - 93 in a preseason showdown in Columbus Monday night. It was an incredibly exciting game to watch if you were a Cavs fan, with a lot of the Cavaliers core players performing very well. So I decided to message my good friend and the most interesting man on the web Patrick Elder, in order to discuss what we saw, and express what impressions the game left us with.
After several hours of going on like this, we were finally able to nail down some impressions from the game.
- TRISTAN THOMPSON JUMPERS. Also, Tristan Thompson everything. The man is turning into an absolute beast. What with his elite rebounding, emerging fetus hook shot and ability to drive past his man on the perimeter, he's becoming a legitimate offensive player, not just an afterthought. And if that jumper is legit? Well, just watch out rest-of-NBA.
- Kyrie Irving is still ridiculous, and it's nice that he decided to remind us with a full game of it during the pre-season. Especially on a day he just so happened to be ranked #8 in NBA Rank. He finally kicked it up into full-blown Kyriediculous mode and drove to the rim with authority, breaking people down off the dribble with his ridiculous handle, and making some nice passes to boot. And as a cherry on top, he played some really nice defense, albeit on Michael Carter-Williams. Still, he hustled and made the requisite effort while dominating offensively, which was my biggest concern about his defense coming into the season.
- Alonzo Gee magically figuring out how to not be the worst corner three shooter in the entire NBA. People were saying he might improve this year with a lesser minutes load, and tonight that certainly looked to be the case. I still don't buy his defense as being quite what many think it is, regardless of minute load, but he has hit corner 3s in multiple games. As long as he stops dribbling like a big dummy, I might actually like him in the rotation.
- Kyrie's balance on offense. We've seen him dominate and stand out in competitions with Team USA, as well as in all star games. But tonight it felt like Kyrie Irving was able to be himself on offense for the first time with the Cavaliers. With weapons around him he seems to become an even more efficient version of himself that puts on a show, while getting his teammates involved. I hope this continues this year.
- Thompson and Varejao working together looks beautiful. They rotate so well on defense, and seeing them gather countless misses and turn them into second chance opportunities will never get old to me. While Varejao didn't have the greatest game, the chemistry and production that they produce as a pair has me wishing that they stay paired together throughout this season.
- Defense looked really good. While there were still a few breakdowns, I was really impressed at how much more fluid the defensive rotations look for the Cavs. This is with the obvious caveat that this game was against the Sixers in preseason. But even in previous games you can tell that the team moves on a string, and that guys are doing a much better job showing, and pressuring opposing players and making their night difficult.
- Karasev's shooting. I'm really not that concerned about this, but after the first shot it just wasn't there. He's going to need to learn how to determine when his shot just isn't falling, and to try to affect the game in other ways.
- I guess Anthony Bennett's shot selection still concerns me slightly at times. He's a bit quick on the trigger around the three-point line. That said, it was actually a little better in this game, and he looked really good when he was out there with Kyrie.
- I guess there were a couple bad defensive rotations? Honestly, I'm really reaching at this point. There was just so much good in this game. Trying to think of negatives is actually making me really happy, considering how hard it is for me to come up with ones I haven't mentioned already. So I'll just leave it at that.
Yeah there really weren't a ton of glaring negatives, so I'll be brief.
- To add on to your Karasev comment... I'd like to see him drive and get to the line a little more when his shot isn't falling. Knocking down a couple freebie's might help his confidence when he's in a slump like this.
- I thought Taylor looked lost a few times on both ends of the court, and as a result, he would turn over the ball or blow a defensive assignment.
- Kyrie had 5 turnovers and Tristan had 3. They should cut down on these, but if this is the price to pay for them putting up lines like these. I'll deal with it. These are likely just growing pains from two young players that worked hard to expand their games.
Did anything jump out to you guys that wasn't brought up here? Let us know in the comment section below. Plus feel free to email any questions you have for the writers to firstname.lastname@example.org to have your questions answered in our new mailbag. Thank you, and GO CAVS!