The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to steal a win in their season opener against the Boston Celtics after blowing a large first-half lead in a 33-18 third quarter that went the Celtics way. LeBron looked amazing as usual, but there are going to be kinks to work out over the course of the next several weeks.
Here’s three things we learned from the Cavaliers opener against the Celtics:
The Derrick Rose experiment did not start off with a bang
Derrick Rose’s first game wasn’t without highlights, but he ultimately hurt the team in this one. He jacked up 14 shots in his 31 minutes on the floor, was a non-factor off ball and only dished two assists. Both Rose and new backcourt mate Dwyane Wade combined for 24 shots in their 60 minutes while Kevin Love only got up nine shots.
In 16 minutes, the Cavaliers starting lineup had a net rating of -12.8, per NBA.com.
Rose and Wade don’t really fit together, and early foul trouble for Love forced lineups featuring that duo alongside Tristan Thompson, which should really never see the floor.
Rose is going to have to learn not to force the action and to be more involved off-ball as a cutter and screener if he’s going to earn minutes alongside LeBron with the starters. Ultimately, he will be much more settled in as a second-unit ball-hander in lineups that don’t involve LeBron. As of now, every time he’s got the ball in his hands, you wonder if it wouldn’t be better for James to just take care of it (it would be, incidentally.)
The new-look Cavaliers already have a pet play
Late in the 4th quarter, the Cavaliers ran a set that featured LeBron James passing to Dwyane Wade at the elbow (one that could be easily run for Kevin Love HINT HINT)with Jae Crowder then setting a back screen on James man with LeBron flying towards the rim for a prospective alley-oop, which worked to perfection with 2:31 left in the fourth quarter in a close game.
Clutch. RT @NBA: Stop if you've heard this before.— PHSports LiveScores (@LiveScoresPH) October 18, 2017
Wade to LeBron! #AllForOne pic.twitter.com/FdOW1F0fIt
Kyrie Irving (who was switched onto Crowder at the time) was not super interested in engaging James on the roll to the rim, and there was no way Jaylen Brown was going to be able to catch up on his own. The end product was an easy alley oop.
Just over one-and-a-half minutes of game action later, the Cavs went back to the same action:
same play they ran for the LeBron alley oop. Defended better by Celtics. I like the Smart double, but it’s gotta be a steal or else pic.twitter.com/tJIk4m3oYi— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 18, 2017
This time, Wade catches it at the opposite angle, which makes it a tougher entry pass. Also, Irving is much more game to at least bump LeBron and slow him down on his path to the rim. Wade, on the other side of the action, has to reverse the ball to Crowder who makes the easy pass into the post to LeBron.
The Cavs didn’t run the play optimally and the Celtics defended it better, but James still got deep post position on a weaker defender. Marcus Smart is a gamer with the double, but LeBron is too strong and Derrick Rose smartly cut into the lane to draw Al Horford away from Kevin Love in the corner.
Love, of course, does his part by catching the pass cleanly and nailing the game-clinching jumper.
Something tells me we’re going to see this set a lot.
Tyronn Lue is going to take some time to figure out his rotation
A minutes breakdown for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Celtics:
Cavaliers Minutes vs Celtics
|LeBron James||41||J.R. Smith||22|
|LeBron James||41||J.R. Smith||22|
|Jae Crowder||35||Tristan Thompson||19|
|Derrick Rose||31||Jeff Green||14|
|Dwyane Wade||29||Iman Shumpert||13|
|Kevin Love||28||Kyle Korver||7|
Well, this could be optimized, to say the least. Lue played a 10-man rotation in this game, something he’s never done in this head coaching career, and he really could’ve optimized his minutes much better.
Jeff Green may be a sentimental favorite, but, whew, there is no reason he should be playing 14 minutes in a game that Tristan Thompson only gets 19 minutes. Thompson is a player who should be getting at least 27-28 minutes a game, and if you’re looking for extra opportunities for TT, there they are.
Meanwhile, Iman Shumpert only earned 13 minutes while freshly-signed Kyle Korver only played seven of those minutes. Tyronn Lue might’ve wanted to play Shumpert to help guard Kyrie Irving, so that could be a one-game anomaly.
In general, it was just a really messy game that featured 17 different five man configurations that didn’t always make a lot of sense.
One pairing Cavs fans will want to see more of: Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love didn’t share a single minute together in this game. Jae Crowder isn’t really a 35-minutes-per-game kind of player, and giving the Love-Thompson combo more minutes in the front court is an effective use of minutes.
I’m not going to sweat early mistakes from Lue here. He didn’t have his full team for most of training camp, and he’s integrating several new pieces into the rotation. Lue historically doesn’t stick with lineups that don’t work, so we’re going to have to give him the benefit of the doubt in the short term.