The Cleveland Cavaliers struggled in their first outing as a semi-complete lineup as they lost to the Chicago Bulls 108-94. While there were signs for optimism, it’s clear that this roster is still a work in progress as they prepare for the regular season.
The Bulls received an inspired performance from their young players, as Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, and Robin Lopez all had dominant stretches throughout the night. They also took advantage of some sloppy play from the Cavs, winning the turnover battle 22-15. As well as taking advantage of the Cavs smaller starting lineup by earning a 51-46 edge on the boards.
- It’s a good thing that the starters were getting some time together, because they were a mess early on. The team went back to it’s trademark slow pace with the starting unit and the lack of familiarity resulted in a bunch of turnovers. Hopefully the team can get on the same page soon and pick up the pace to help negate some of the spacing issues of that unit.
- LeBron James looked like LeBron, only rusty. James was a mixed bag full of spectacular plays and turnovers. He is clearly out of shape as a result of resting his ankle injury, but he’s still pretty damn good. He finished with 17 points, five boards, three assists and eight turnovers on 8-13 shooting.
- Balancing LeBron’s preference of playing slow, and the clear advantage this team has when they fast should be interesting to keep an eye on. A lot of the commentary this preseason has been about how exciting the team is with their newfound pace. But the methodical pace of the past was just as much a result of LeBron James as it was Kyrie Irving. With the team slowing down to start the game and Love mostly being used in a spot-up role, there was a little too much of the old Cavs on display for a roster that’s no longer suited to playing that way.
- On the plus side, the bench was really fun. The lineup of Rose, Shumpert, Smith, Green and Thompson produced the best run of the evening for the Cavs. They played with the pace we saw for much of the preseason and any misses were promptly cleaned up by Thompson. The chemistry the unit has together is obviously a big factor in all this. But it’s encouraging to see Rose continue to play well with players that support what he does best.
- I don’t want to be too harsh in criticizing the starting lineup, as this is a veteran group in a preseason game playing together for the first time. However as a unit they allowed too much easy penetration from the perimeter and the poor rotations often resulted in players catching the ball deep in the paint. With Love in at center, the team will need to commit to limiting the penetration if they don’t want to bleed points at the rim.
- It’s clear that Dwyane Wade isn’t quite comfortable with the Cavs offensive playbook. Especially when playing alongside LeBron James. It seemed like he was frequently freelancing and stopping the ball movement with midrange post-ups. To paraphrase a great philosopher, Wade needs to focus on fitting in, not fitting out.
- J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are going to put in some serious work against second units this season. The duo had great chemistry together and will be an asset to whoever Tyronn Lue puts alongside them. They are two of the six best players on this team, regardless of when they play.