That was a fun game. Playing against the rival Pistons, a team likely to challenge for a playoff spot this season, the Cavs managed to outdo them thanks to the efforts of several knowns and unknowns.
Appropriately, let's start with the starters. Numero Doso, Kyrie Irving started the game relatively cold by his standards. A couple missed shots, mostly mid-range J's that I absolutely despite, but you'll live with those with Kyrie. He hit a corner 3 at the buzzer to close the first half, which seemed to spark his play in the second half. He came out of the half strong, hitting a few shots and notching a few more assists with some fancy dimes. His ability to get to the rim at will was on display in the second half, and his willingness to dish it to teammates around the rim is a great sign for things to come.
I'm gonna skip over the SG position because I want to save Sergey for last-ish. That's how good he was.
Anyways, Alonzo Gee was terrible. He took a corner three which he obviously missed. He couldn't hit a shot from anywhere on the floor to save his pathetic basketball life (sorry for the extremity, I just really don't like Alonzo Gee). I think Gee is the obvious odd man out in Mike Brown's preferred 9-man rotation at this point. His defense on Josh Smith was abysmal. In the regular season, I assume Mike Brown would match Earl Clark up against Smith, but tonight Gee got torched. Aside from his defensive deficiencies, he can only dribble with his right hand, he takes terrible shots, he can't hit any of those terrible shots, and his defense is woefully overrated. It's not looking good for him, especially with Earl Clark's play tonight, which I'll get to later.
Tristan Thompson was solid throughout the game. He moved well within the flow of the offense and actually had a couple nice passes that didn't lead to assists. Most astounding of all was hit drainage of a legitimate mid-range jumper from 16 feet out. It looked measured and smooth coming out of his hands, with perfect rotation. However, he attempted another jumper later on that looked equally abysmal. He has the tendency when somewhat rushed to gather as if he's going to shoot left-handed, which makes for an incredibly awkward motion. With time, I expect he'll correct this, but as of now, he should only be taking very wide open jumpers. Other than that, he rebounded okay, nothing to write home about. Several hustle plays and nice tips around that worked out good or bad. He seems to be meshing well with Andy, which is a great sign after his explosion without Andy on the court last year.
Anderson Varejao was his typical Anderson Varejao self. He hustled for every loose ball, got his paws on any ball within his vicinity and was a generally destructive force. He also flashed his mid-range abilities, as he has proven wont to do in the last year or so. It's obviously much more effective when he's wide open, but if he can continue hitting that shot, he'll create many more opportunities for other Cavaliers driving to the hoop.
I will transition into the bench review with a look surprise starter Sergey Karsev. There was a reason I saved this until now. Sergey was goddamn brilliant. He passed with the acumen of a 270-year-old basketball wizard, moving the ball when it needed to be moved and holding on when there was nothing there. He shot the open shots and hit them for the most part: 4-7 on the night and 2-4 from 3-pt range. If you missed this game I feel bad for you son, I've got two or three problems but missing this game wasn't one. Please don't hit me.
Speaking of not hitting, that's something Anthony Bennett's opponents would love to ask him to stop doing. He came out of the gate strong with a couple of made jumpers, but quickly faltered. Not that he was particularly bad, but he definitely took some ill-advised shots. His propensity to shoot threes is something to admire while simultaneously abhorring, as he's not quite demonstrated the ability to consistently hit them. As long as he takes wide o[pen threes, as he did a couple times tonight, he'll be perfectly fine. Taking them with a hand in his face after a couple unproductive pump fakes is another story.
And I didn't even mention his ferocious dunk off of a steal. It was glorious to say the least. Bennett's defense was excellent in this game. He's gotten progressively better at hedging on pick-and-rolls, which was one of the few aspects of defense he really struggled with in the first few pre-season games. He's showing a tremendous amount of improvement in an area many (*cough*David*cough*) thought he would struggle immensely. Honestly, his shot selection is more troubling to me at this point than his defense.
As for the Cavs' best subs, the two who truly stood out to me were Henry Sims and Jermaine Taylor.
Henry Sims has continued his preseason tear by shooting 4 of 5 for 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals (!!!) and 1 assist en route to a pleasing performance. His defense has been exceptionally adequate, as has his rebounding. He seemingly can't miss from mid-range, which is a quality Tyler Zeller doesn't seem to possess so far. A question was posed in the game thread as to whether it would be more beneficial to play Sims over Zeller, given Sims' current play. I'd have to give the nod to Sims, considering his ability to space the floor with that mid-range J. His defense has been better than any I've seen from Zeller, as well as his rebounding. I would put big money on Sims to make this team come the regular season.
The other, even bigger surprise off the Cavaliers' bench was Jermaine Taylor. He absolutely dominated in his time on the floor, beating everyone off the dribble, getting to the rim at will and finishing with relative ease. His athleticism was obvious. He easily beat his men off the dribble with simple fakes, leading to either easy buckets or easy dish-offs to open teammates. Jermaine Taylor made a serious case to make this Cavs team tonight. At the very least, he'll warrant playing time for the rest of the pre-season to see what the difference is between him and Matthew Dellavedova.
Speaking of Delly, he was okay tonight. As my new favorite commenter Thunder12 pointed out, he was +7 in the first half, making everyone eat crow about their Delly ridicule. But in all seriousness, single-game +/- is an abysmal stat. Delly was solid this game, though. He finished with 8 assists on 2-7 shooting, so take that for what you will. What I saw was a guy who can hit an open 3 while marginally handling the ball and making decent passes. He's nothing special, but he might be a better option as a 3rd PG simple for practice reasons than Jermaine Taylor. He played good defense, forcing a couple turnovers, and has generally impressed me with his tenacity and distribution of the ball. His major flaw thus far is his propensity to jump-pass, which will bite him in the unintentionally rhymed ass come the regular season.
Overall, the Cavs did a good job containing a scary Pistons team. There will be many more rematches to come in the regular season, though, so this should be a fun matchup all year long.