In what was the most fun Cavs' game to watch this season from an objective standpoint, the Cavaliers fell to the Atlanta Hawks in double overtime 127-125 on Jeff Teague's 20-footer at the buzzer.
I'll be doing this in note format because I didn't know I'd be writing this tonight, so I wasn't I wasn't taking notes while watching the game. Let's start with the good first:
-Kyrie Irving scored 40 points and dropped nine dimes. If you complain about the 33 shots you're a moron. Forty points on 33 field goal attempts and four free throws is a 57.5% TS%, which is well above average. He played exceedingly well tonight despite that single turnover at the end of the first overtime that everyone seems to be focusing on. It seems remarkably silly to blame him for a loss tonight.
-Dion Waiters was awesome during regulation, scoring 18 points on 8/11 shooting with three rebounds and two assists. He turned the ball over five times, but overall was extremely assertive and played excellent basketball considering he missed the last three games. He seemed to a majority of his work with Irving off the floor tonight though, and the two didn't play particularly well together in overtime. Overall though, this is the kind of performance that the Cavs should want from Waiters in the future.
-Anderson Varejao was everywhere tonight. He only scored eight points, but had 17 rebounds and made all of those little plays that don't show up in the box score to keep balls alive. He was also one of the few bright spots defensively. He hedges hard on all screens despite his body that has broken down and failed him countless times in his career. I've said that I think Varejao probably should be dealt for that reason if the Cavaliers can get value, but I know I'm really going to miss him if he does leave Cleveland.
-Tristan Thompson rounded out the triumvirate of high draft picks in 2011 and 2012 by scoring 22 points on 13 shots with six rebounds and two blocks. He looked to get going early, scoring eight first quarter points including a sweet dunk on a pretty Waiters assist.
-The energy in general was up. I don't know if the layoff helped or if Waiters' infusion into the lineup gave them more energy, but they looked happier to be out there tonight.
Now the bad:
-This team is a dumpster fire defensively in the pick-and-roll. I'm explaining this tomorrow in my mailbag, but tonight the guards especially were awful fighting through screens. Irving was mostly to blame here, allowing Teague to go off for 34 points and 14 assists. Because of that, the defense is kind of a mess. The Hawks had four players score over 20 points, including Kyle Korver who could have probably scored 35 based off of the looks he got from Teague.
-Andrew Bynum wasn't good. He only played 18 minutes because Tyler Zeller got time in the second half. Normally the plus/minus statistic isn't totally useful, but in this case it was pretty telling. In 18 minutes, Bynum was a -10. In 11 minutes, Zeller was a +6. He's so much more active defensively than Bynum, and the added strength has helped him at least hold his ground better in the post.
-Turnovers killed the Cavs. You cannot expect to win when you turn the ball over 22 times. Irving and Waiters are partially to blame here with half of that number.
Overall, this was a fun game, and the Cavs took the third-best team in the East to double overtime. They played really well and, as you can see from the notes, I think there was more good to take away from this game than bad. The dumpster fire train wreck that happened on Twitter after the game was pretty much awful. Sometimes you play well and still lose. It happens. Let's try not to be terribly reactionary and act like the world is going to burn.
This roster and coaching staff is clearly an island of misfit toys right now, and you can partially blame Chris Grant for that. There are no wing shooters outside of C.J. Miles. The defensive scheme, despite being a good one in theory, doesn't fit the personnel. The offseason acquisitions haven't been anywhere near what they were anticipated to be (even though Jarrett Jack and Anthony Bennett were always an awful fit on this roster). But still, when the team plays well let's try to find the good. Waiters played really well and galvanized the bench. Thompson is coming along swimmingly. And the Cavaliers still have Kyrie Irving, who played awesome tonight.
Losing to a team like this in heartbreaking fashion happens sometimes. The Atlanta Hawks are a good team. The Cavaliers are not. Take it for what it is.