The Cleveland Cavaliers failed to extend their winning streak to five games, as the Denver Nuggets outworked them on their home floor.
The game was sloppy throughout. The Cavs were thoroughly outworked throughout the night by a Nuggets team that just seemed hungrier. The defense was rough once again, as the Cavs gave up several opportunities in transition as well as failed to close out on shooters. Their inability to cover the three point line, particularly the corners, was something that haunted them throughout the night. Nothing kills momentum like repeatedly giving your opponent open three-point looks. While the Nuggets have been a mess this season, they still have plenty of talented offensive players that can kill you.
As for the offensive end of the floor, the Cavs were getting a lot of open looks but failed to convert at the same rate they did Saturday night. While the movement and energy was good at times, they did end up having a few too many possessions that ended in isolation attempts. The Cavs only turned the ball over six times in the first half. But they became much sloppier in the third quarter as they coughed up the ball six more times.
The Cavs inability to defend and inconsistent effort cost them tonight and the Nuggets were able to punk them on their home floor. This game was probably a needed reminder that they can't expect to just turn things on late in games and expect to win. There needs to be a team-wide commitment to defending and keeping the ball moving. Even though not everybody on the team is capable of being a plus defender, consistent effort would go a long way.
- LeBron James' head cold was pretty evident throughout the night. While he moved around well, his reaction time was off and just seemed a step slow mentally. I didn't know that cyborgs could get sick.
- Kyrie Irving has been much more active on defense this year, but it's clear that he still doesn't full understand what he needs to do/ how to channel that energy. This was very evident as Ty Lawson repeatedly would go after him on offense. While effort is a big step in the right direction, Irving should be spending the bulk of his free time in the film room with Tyron Lue.
- I liked Dion Waiters' game tonight. Most of his shots were within the flow of the offense and he was aggressive in attacking the rim. He kept the Cavs within striking distance in the fourth quarter until things got out of hand. While his defensive effort was abysmal on the night, his decision making shows some signs of improvement.
- Tristan Thompson was incredibly aggressive on the defensive end of the floor tonight. Not only did he block shots, but he did a good job getting a hand on the ball and being and a pest. Judging from the last few games, the Cavs would probably benefit from playing Tristan more instead of Varejao. The team moves a lot quicker and they don't get burned by the pick and roll as frequently.
- The Cavs were really successful in the first half going to Kevin Love and running the offense through him. Then they completely abandoned him for reasons that escape me. I feel like a bit of a broken record, but Love is one of the most versatile scorers in the league and has tremendous vision. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH LOVE. Especially on a night where LeBron was clearly not himself, failing to run the offense through Love comes across as a glaring mistake.
- While Kyrie Irving had a pretty decent game, he still made far too many mistakes and got suckered into doing too much on some possessions. While the temptation to assume a larger role with LeBron struggling is understandable, he was pressing at times and winded up with four turnovers (he had only twelve on the season coming into this game).
- The saying is cheesy as it gets, but it seems to ring true tonight: "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."