Cavs Leaders: Points: Miles, 18; Rebounds: Thompson, 7; Assists: Pargo, 5
The Cleveland Cavaliers started their preseason schedule against NBA teams Tuesday night when they "hosted" the Milwaukee Bucks at the Canton Memorial Civic Center. While it's awesome that we have mostly real basketball back on our televisions, the game didn't exactly go as planned. The Bucks mostly dominated the Cavs and cruised to a 97-80 win. So that's the season. We're doomed. It's all over. Okay, we're not doomed. It was the first preseason game and I guarantee we'll forget about it by this time next week. Regardless, it's my job to analyze it for you and pretend that it *really* matters.
Byron Scott used the same starting lineup in this game as he did in the game against Montepaschi Siena. It's not really a surprise or notable other than the fact that Dion Waiters wasn't in either lineup. Byron Scott made it clear that Dion Waiters will earn the starting shooting guard spot. In the meantime, C.J. Miles filled that void and actually played pretty well (more on that later). Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao joined Miles to fill out the starting lineup.
One of the things about preseason is that the coaches aren't necessarily trying to win. That's not to say that the players aren't playing as hard as possible, but rather that you're not going to see the starters play big minutes or see key lineups come in at crunch time. Scott wants to limit the minutes of starters to around 20 per game at this point. I'm sure we'll see something like a full dress rehearsal later in preseason, but not yet. So if you want to simply look at the final score and say "HOLY CRAP THEY LOST BY 17," that's probably not a good idea. I would suspect that Jeremy Pargo won't often play more minutes than Kyrie Irving once the regular season rolls around. Similarly, Byron wants to get everybody a chance to show what they can do in and have a chance to make the final roster. With 20 players on the training camp roster, it's basically impossible to play everybody in each game. Naturally, some guys will be left out. Tuesday night, Samardo Samuels, Omri Casspi, and Donald Sloan were told that they'd be sitting this one out -- due to the fact that they played Monday night and others did not. So if you're looking at this game for possible lineups that Scott would use or how guys play with one another, keep that in mind. You may have seen lineups that they've never practiced with before. We know that Casspi will be on the team and that Samuels will also likely make the roster. Things will obviously change once they are inserted in the place of some of these other guys.
All that said, there was still a basketball game last night and it's kind of hard to pretend it never happened. Some things were obvious: Kyrie can get to the basket whenever he wants, for example. He and Andy still have some pretty nice chemistry and timing on that pick and roll. It was impressive at the beginning of last year before Andy got hurt and it should be a nice weapon for the team this time around. C.J. Miles was also pretty great. He's a career 32.9% three-point shooter, but managed to sink 4 of his 7 attempts last night as he poured in 18 points in just 22 minutes. He also threw down a pretty impressive dunk. Coach Scott has said that Miles' game would fit well with the Cavaliers' offense. That seemed to be the case last night. I was cautiously intrigued by CJ's potential to be a significant contributor for the Cavs.
The team, as a whole, struggled with ball security. 22 turnovers is unacceptable. At this point, it's also not surprising. They seemed lazy with the ball and as a result, the Bucks took advantage of it. I'm sure that will be a focal point in practice today. On the defensive side of the ball, they seemed a step slow. Their communication wasn't where it needs to be by the start of the season. Too often shooters were left alone and the Bucks were sure to find those guys.
Most of the other things that we saw were in such limited playing time that it's hard to make any sort of conclusions. A handful of plays doesn't tell you a whole lot. But again, when you're watching a basketball game it's kind of hard not to notice particular things. People will be quick/eager to point out that Dion Waiters shot just 1 of 7 from the field with his lone basket coming off an alley-oop layup. The rest of his shot attempts were either reckless drives to the basket or off-balance jumpers. He played just 14 minutes and was obviously forcing things. Coach Scott said after the game that he eventually took out Dion because he didn't know some of the plays. If you want me to freak out about this, you'll be disappointed. It's the first game of preseason. He seemed like he was trying to score 10 points on every possession to make a good impression and earn that starting role. When you have that mindset, you get away from the offensive philosophy and make dumb decisions. My one real hope for preseason is that Byron lets Dion play 30 minutes at some point. Give him time to work through the lumps and take some of the pressure off.
Some of the other things that I noticed last night: Jeremy Pargo was a bit out of control and Tristan Thompson had the same problems as last year. Pargo's ability to penetrate the defense was apparent, but he struggled figuring out what to do with the ball once he got there. The result was some bad layup attempts and a bunch of turnovers. Tristan led the team in rebounding and showed his same knack for grabbing offensive boards (two in just 20 minutes). However, he also got blocked on a couple of shot attempts and was stripped in the paint. These are two of the areas that we pointed to as obvious places to improve. He needs to take less time to gather before exploding to the basket (like he did on his lone basket, a nice dunk in transition) and he needs to not go straight into defenders when he attacks.
Kelenna Azubuike looked impressively spry. Coming off major knee surgeries, we had no idea what to expect from him. From the 14 minutes that I saw of him last night, he moved pretty well. I have no idea if he'll do enough to make the final roster, but he wasn't bad.
Jon Leuer had his midrange game working. It's clear that pick and pop is his strength. He allowed ball handlers to drive and draw an extra defender, and then caught the ball in space and knocked down open jumpers. If he keeps that up, his shooting will help space the floor and open up the paint. I was also pleasantly surprised by how adept he was at handling the ball. It appears he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. That's a pretty neat skill for a power forward to have. It was clear from tipoff that he was seething with rage due to the fact that the Bucks traded him to Houston. I probably made that last part up.
I really just wrote 1200 words about a preseason game, didn't I? Welp. Keep in mind that none of this really matters and be sure to tune in Friday night when the Cavs take on the Bulls at 8 PM Eastern.