The Cleveland Cavaliers fell to the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 97-92 on Friday night at the Staples Center. We went into the night assuming that the Cavaliers would be outmatched by the talented Lakers and truthfully, I was pleasantly surprised. The Cavs lost by just 5 and probably could have won if not for some boneheaded mistakes and wide open misses. Overall, it was a fine game. The Cavs showed some good things and signs of improvement while at the same time getting more ping-pong balls. Win-win, err..kinda.
Cavs Leaders: Points: Irving, 21; Rebounds: Varejao, 14; Assists: Parker, 5
Save for an absolutely putrid second quarter in which the Cavs were outscored 27-13, Cleveland played a pretty good game. Yes, Kobe Bryant scored 40 points again, but it took him 31 shots to do so. In taking all of those shots, he kind of froze Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol out of the offense. It was clear early on that the Cavaliers had no answer for Bynum down low, so all of the off-balanced shots that Kobe took were kind of unnecessary.
I was once again impressed by Byron Scott's halftime adjustments on defense. After allowing 59 points in the first half, the Cavs clamped down in the second half and allowed only 38 points in the second. Apart from the play of Kyrie Irving, I have to admit that Scott's ability to make effective adjustments mid-game is the most encouraging thing about the Cavaliers in this young season.
Even against the length of the Lakers, the Cavaliers managed to out-rebound them on the offensive glass, 13-7. As one of the "Four Factors" is offensive rebound rate, if Cleveland can keep up the great work on the offensive boards, it's going to keep them in a lot of games. So much of the credit goes to Anderson Varejao, who once again grabbed double digit rebounds with 14, 6 of them being on the offensive end. Tristan Thompson, in his limited minutes (grrrrr), also snagged 8 rebounds, 2 of them offensive. Here's an idea: play both of them at the same time and dominate the boards? But then that keeps Jamison out of the lineup, giving the Cavs very few scoring options. Hm...
Just when we thought he was coming around, Antawn Jamison throws up a dazzling 4 of 16 shooting performance. Honestly, it wasn't as bad as it looks. It wasn't like he took horrible shots, rather, he was taking good shots that he just couldn't get to fall. It seemed like his touch just wasn't there Friday. Regardless, if Jamison hits those easy shots, the Cavs probably win this game.
It's about time I talk about Omri Casspi, right? Well against the Lakers, he gave me a reason to talk about him. For the first time all season, he looked like the better option at SF. Matt Barnes is an asshole. Oh sorry, that slipped. Barnes hit Casspi in the face with the ball and that really seemed to set him off. Omri was way way more aggressive than he has been all season. It didn't lead directly to production, as he scored 11 points on 9 shots and grabbed 3 offensive rebounds, but it was an improvement. Someone should hit him in the face before every game, and then we might actually have a small forward.
Semih Erden. Ugh. If I weren't so lazy, I would have compiled all of the hilarious descriptions of Erden that I saw on Twitter and in our comments last night. He's essentially a human moving screen. He played 19 minutes and grabbed 4 rebounds to go along with 3 points and 4 fouls. He scored all 3 of his points on free throws and is yet to put the orange ball thing through the metal circular thing other than on free throw attempts. What he lacks in made field goals, he more than makes up for in personal fouls. He may have a FG% of 0 so far, but at least he has 15 fouls. Sigh. I'd much rather see Samardo Samuels out there. I almost wrote "and Ryan Hollins", but it's early in the morning and I haven't been drinking.
Player Of The Game
Don't get me wrong, I love him as much as you do, but I find it a little disconcerting that the Cavs best player every night is 19 years old. Not only does he have the pressure of being the number one overall pick, he has nobody to really lean on. As a point guard, he has no security blanket. He can't just dish the ball to a go-to player and get his team an easy basket. The easy baskets come when he blows by defenders and makes some ridiculous move at the rim or hits a jumper. Irving continued his streak of 20-point games and has now reached that mark in 4 straight. I'd like to see him act as more of a "pure" point guard and pile up more assists, but he doesn't really have the opportunity to do so right now. When he's on the floor, we need him to score.