The Cavaliers faced a real test as they traveled into Portland to take on the dangerous Trail Blazers. What they found was a challenge that they were not properly prepared for.
While many Cavs fans in Ohio may have felt fatigued with the late start to the game, the Cavs didn't show any jet-lag as they came out on fire in Portland. They made their first 10 shots on the night, including 5-5 from the 3-point line. Unfortunately for them, the Blazers came out just as hot. A combination of poor defense and impressive shot making from Portland stopped the Cavaliers from being able to muster up any lead worth mentioning.
The second quarter was... considerably less fluid at the start. All of the starters not named Varejao sat on the bench, and the ball movement took a breather with them. Ugly isolation attempts from Tristan Thompson and the rest of the team caused the offense to come to a stall. Eventual additions of Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving failed to stop the hero ball attempts and it was not until David Blatt subbed in Kevin Love and LeBron James that the offense started to resemble actual offense. While it did improve, there were still too many lulls in energy and it resulted in too much standing around and lazy shot attempts
The Cavs woes were not left in the locker room at halftime as the Blazers were able to extend their lead to double digits in the third quarter. It was more of the same unfortunately until the latter half of the third quarter. The effort appeared to wane a times, which will kill you against a team like Portland. The Cavs had a chance to cut it to five or four in the closing seconds of the third quarter, but miscommunication between Irving and Shawn Marion resulted in an ugly turnover and a failure to get a shot up.
That misstep proved to be a harbinger for the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers were unable to string together a meaningful run in order to get in position to steal the game. Portland proved to be too much for the Cavaliers to handle and were able to put the game away late in the game.
Thoughts from the game
- Blatt still needs to find a way to properly stagger the minutes of his key players. He started the second quarter with Dellavedova, Miller, Marion, Thompson and Varejao. Which is nothing short of nightmare fuel. There should be very few lineups that don't include one of the big three, or at the very least Dion Waiters. Blatt, like the rest of the team, is going to take some time to figure things out. But with expectations sky-high, learning quickly would be advised.
- The Cavs are who we thought they were. At least on defense. There were far too many lapses on the defensive side of the floor that resulted in open looks to good shooters. What the Cavs lack in defensive talent, needs to be compensated for in communication and awareness. At this point they do not have sufficient levels of either.
- Thompson seemed to forget what made him so effective vs Chicago. He took a few too many forced shots, particularly in the first half. He needs to remember to play within himself on the offensive end and pass the ball when he doesn't have a situation where a made shot is likely. He and the whole team need to remain hungry for the best possible shot. While Blatt didn't do him any favors with questionable lineups, it isn't an excuse for his poor decision making.
- James/Love pick and roll or pop. This is something we have maybe seen once or twice this season? In theory it should be impossible to defend and should be utilized when the offense stalls out. While Blatt wants to implement his offense, he and the Cavs could probably benefit from a few NBA plays to make the transition easier.
- Love was really good tonight. He had the hot hand throughout the night and the Cavs failed to get him enough touches. He's deadly in the pick and roll, in the post and as a spot up shooter. It shouldn't be difficult to find ways to get him quality looks.
- Irving had his first bad game of the season. He took some ill advised shots and was guilty of trying to play hero ball on some possessions. When the offense is standing still, it is his responsibility to call plays and take on a leadership role. He needs to hold himself to a higher standard and like Blatt, he needs to learn quickly.
- James also had a poor showing tonight. While he started off hot, he appeared to have lost his edge as the game wore on and even appeared clumsy at times on offense. While Irving needs to show more leadership, it is simply inexcusable to see LeBron fail to hold his team accountable and try to gain control of the situation. He doesn't look like himself physically or mentally. To say that the Cavs need him to be better would be an understatement.
- Dion Waiters and the rest of the supporting cast didn't fare much better on the night. But it's hard to expect role players to settle into a role when nobody can seem to figure out their role.
- This was the Cavs first real test against an established good team. Chicago may be one of the better teams in the East, but they do not have the chemistry or the talent of a team like Portland. While the Cavs failed this test, it's a useful reminder that there is plenty of hard work between where this team is now and where they could be in a few months.