The Cleveland Cavaliers came into Memphis to take on the Grizzlies Wednesday night without LeBron James. While the Cavs were not featuring their full lineup, it was still a good litmus test against one of the strongest defensive teams in the league. In the end, however, the Cavs lost by a final score of 96-92.
The Grizzlies were able to dictate the pace of play early in the game. They were able to prevent the Cavs from getting out and running and were able to force them into turnovers. When the Cavs weren't turning the ball over they were missing shots. They opened the game shooting 4-17 and were only able to muster 16 points in the opening quarter.
While the game may have got off to a sluggish start, it began to open up in the second quarter. The Cavs were able to get to the rim with relative ease throughout the first half, but began to convert those looks after the first quarter. Kevin Love also started to get some quality touches in the second. Immediately upon being subbed into the game, David Blatt called for a post up with Love in which he was able to get a high quality look. The Love-Irving two man game was heavily featured in the latter half of the quarter and it resulted in really good looks for both of them, as well as the players around them. This Cavs team has too much talent to have players operate in isolation. When they play off of one another, good things usually follow.
Speaking of good things... We interrupt this recap to bring you a reminder that Kyrie Irving is ridiculous:
The Cavs continued to utilize the Love-Irving pairing into the third quarter until Blatt pulled the plug on the starting lineup. While it took a minute or two for the bench to adjust to creating their own offense, the Tristan Thompson, Lou Amundson, Joe Harris, Mike Miller, and Matthew Dellavedova unit ended up moving the ball very well and somehow were able to manufacture a functioning offense.
The Cavs bench was ultimately unable to come away with a win against the Grizzlies bench. It seem redundant to state this, but that means absolutely nothing.
- Tonight was another ride on the roller-coaster that is Dion Waiters. He wasn't shy about jacking up shots and probably took too many contested step back jumpers from mid-range. Overall he was still very productive, scoring 15 points on 6-10 shooting. But it was uncomfortable to watch at times. He did attack the rim well at times and hit shots. But his baskets didn't feel to be within the flow of the offense, which is something he'll need to adjust to in order for this team to operate at it's highest level. He gave the Cavs life at the end of the first quarter by hitting tough shots when nothing else was working for the team. Dion has incredible talent and a fearlessness that can't be taught. It's what makes him electric and terrifying at the same time.
- Irving was spectacular and put on a show against a very good defensive point guard in Mike Conley. He did a good job overall of not going into globetrotter mode and hijacking the offense.
- It still feels like the Cavs haven't quite figured out how to maximize Love and his unique skill-set. Love/ the Wolves experience a lot of success by featuring him in the high post and allowing him to quarterback the offense. From the high post he can either find an open cutter, bury an easy jumper, or blow by his defender. It's going to take the Cavs awhile to figure out how to best utilize all their weapons, and considering there isn't a player in the league with Love's combination of skills, it's understandable that it might take time to get the most out of him. It's nothing to freak out over, but it's something to monitor moving forward.
- Shawn Marion had a lackluster effort in this contest, and really, the entire preseason. He's incredibly gifted, but he just doesn't seem to be in sync yet.
- Thompson came back to earth a little bit in this game. He hadn't shot below 50 percent in a game throughout preseason until tonight, and while he remained active, he struggled with his touch early in the game. He bounced back in the second half and finished with nine points on 3-8 shooting, but wasn't as effective as he had been in previous matchups. Memphis is a very good defensive team, and he was put out there with some less than ideal lineups. But it was a good reminder that he still has a long way to go on the offensive side of the floor. He did do this...
- Harris continues to look composed and ready to contribute. He had 10 points on the night and seems to be comfortable within the offense. I've always been a fan of drafting college seniors outside of the lottery, especially when you have playoff aspirations. While they may not have the same upside, they're physically mature and usually are more congnisant of who they are as players and what they are capable of. It looks as though Harris has supplanted James Jones in the rotation and will get a chance to have a contributing role on the team.
- THE GAMES ARE GOING TO COUNT FROM NOW ON! After a horrid season last year, the Cavaliers are going into the season with one of the most unique collections of talent to ever play in the NBA and are about to put on a show. There will be highs and lows, but we are all in store for something special. I can't wait to see how it unfolds.