Cleveland, OH -
The Cleveland Cavaliers were shorthanded, playing without Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack. The Cavaliers were coming off a back-to-back loss to a bad Brooklyn Nets team. They welcomed what is perhaps the Eastern Conference's best team to the Q. Trade rumors swirled, with Mike Brown being forced to answer multiple questions in pre-game about the effect the whispers might have on the team, or what he thinks about Pau Gasol.
In other words, the game was a recipe for disaster. And the Cavaliers did lose this game, 82-78. It could have been a disaster. Cleveland fell behind by double digits several times in the game. But they fought back. They defended, holding the Pacers to 36.4% shooting for the game. They got stretches of inspired play from C.J. Miles, Tristan Thompson, and ultimately Dion Waiters in a fantastic shooting and passing performance in the 4th quarter. Matthew Dellavedova continues to make other NBA teams mad while knocking down the occasional three point shot.
The Cavaliers didn't win. The game functionally ended with Waiters standing all alone in the middle of the court disconsolate after Earl Clark stepped out of bounds with 6.9 seconds left. But when you support a team that finds itself 11-23 and is missing their best player, why can't you have moral victories? At a certain point you stop getting excited about flashes from Dion Waiters and look at the big picture; Waiters finished with 5 fouls, had two points heading into the 4th quarter, and finished with more shots than points.
For me, that night isn't tonight. Waiters flashed the dynamic play-making that Chris Grant and Byron Scott saw when they used the 4th overall pick on him not so long ago. A night after finishing with 0 assists against the Nets, Waiters notched 5, and two of them came on absolutely crucial jams from Anderson Varejao. Quicken Loans arena got crazy in a way that only Cleveland can for a losing basketball team. It was really cool.
And Waiters wasn't alone. Miles finished with 21 points on 13 shots, and Tristan Thompson had 13 on 10. Thompson spent much of his night on David West who finished 4-13 from the field. Frank Vogel stressed before the game that defense is about ability and continuity in a system. Thompson has defensive ability. He doesn't have continuity in a system. I have been disappointed in Thompson's rotations and lack of rim protection thus far in his career. As he gets comfortable in Mike Brown's system, perhaps it will come back.
Here are some things I liked and some things I didn't like:
I LIKED Tyler Zeller coming up with 8 rebounds. He is still struggling to find his footing in the league, but he was a great rebounder at North Carolina. Hopefully he can get back to that as he gets used to the physicality of the NBA.
I LIKED Anthony Bennett being assertive a few times in the game. I question his handle, but there were some times he looked like an NBA player.
I DIDN'T LIKE Anthony Bennett getting winded quickly, getting beat by Roy Hibbert to the basket, or the 4 personal fouls that were all too often a result of being behind on the play. He is a rookie so I expect him to react slowly.
I DIDN'T LIKE Earl Clark's offensive game. 18 minutes, 6 shots, no field goals made, 2 points, game-ending turnover. Yikes.
Alright I will wrap it up here but hopefully I can get some good quotes and information from Cav's players and Mike Brown to follow up on tonight's game.