The Cavs finally played an NBA team tonight, in Brazil. It was pretty cool.
The Cavs reserves eventually surrendered a 19 point lead and the game went into overtime, but none of that is really important. That the Cavs regular rotation (minus a certain All-Star MVP point guard) built multiple 19 point leads in the first place is the take away here. We did get a huge STEVE HOLT! 3 and then Joe Harris game icing FTs though, and that is cool. Young guys gotta be #clutch too right?
There isn't much to complain about here. LeBron James shot 2-8 from the floor, 3-7 from the line and had 3 turnovers, finishing with 7 points and 8 assists. The Cavs still put up 59 points in the first half. The Heat shot 46% for the game, but hovered around 40% until the Cavs and Heat reserves got into a shootout. When you have the Cavs offense, 40% is plenty good as far as opponent shooting goes. Kyrie Irving wasn't even playing! Chris Bosh led the Heat with 19 points.
Ball Movement - My, my are the Cavs getting the hang of swinging the ball around. The starting lineup of Matthew Dellavedova, Dion Waiters, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Anderson Varejao did a great job of making the extra pass, and finding the open man. Love, LeBron, and Dion Waiters all had some passes that made me rewind the DVR a few times.
Rebounding - Tristan Thompson (18 points, 9 rebounds, 6 OReb) was a man possessed tonight, but as a whole the Cavs are really gonna dominate the glass. Thompson, Love,and Anderson Varejao are among the best rebounders in the game, and so far have not shown much in terms of clunking into one another. In particular, having guys like Varejao and Thompson who can control offensive rebounding opportunities makes it really easy to let Love operate on the perimeter and elbow extended, where he seems to be most comfortable. Matthew Dellavedova had 6 rebounds as well.
Shooting - Suddenly EVERYBODY on this team can shoot! The Cavs shot 43% for the game FROM THREE! Known commodities like James Jones, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, and Dion Waiters all had a really nice stroke tonight. Rookie Joe Harris stood out as well, he shot 3-8 from deep.
Kevin Love - He seems pretty good at basketball. Collecting 25 points and 7 boards, he looked a whole lot more comfortable tonight. Frequently spotted in the right corner, he was 4-5 overall from 3, 3-4 from that spot. He did it on the block too, with a few nice hooks against Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem.
Dion Waiters - I really enjoyed Dion's game tonight. He took a couple shots that made me cringe, but that happens. He moved the ball well, found Shawn Marion and LeBron James for good looks on the break, and had a ridiculous pass to Tristan Thompson that Thompson lost. He's looking more and more like a willing passer, and he seems to fit in. Defensively, he was really engaged with Dwyane Wade, and his speed and strength really stood out. Just like the YOLOISO step backs, there are still bad times off the ball to be had, but the level of activity tonight was impressive. He finished with 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and 2 blocks. (one on a Wade isolation drive and layup that was rather nice) Wade finished with 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting.
The usual caveats apply here. It IS just pre-season. That said, we aren't looking for a lot of things that aren't A.) Known Commodities or B.) Translatable. We know how good a lot of these players are. Shooters like Miller, Jones, and Love won't just stop being able to shoot. Varejao, Thompson, and Love have been among the best rebounders in the game for years. LeBron is LeBron. The chemistry we're seeing is important, and bodes well for the Cavs getting out of the gate quickly, which is one of the biggest question marks. Everyone knows this team will be good, but how quickly can they jell? How will Waiters integrate with the roster?
Early returns are positive. On to the next one.