It was refreshing to see the team come out with the hustle and energy they started this game with. The Christmas Day game featured so little flow offensively, a product of good defense and early start time, that seeing the team fly around early was a welcomed change.
Crowder, in particular, stood out with his hustle early in the game. He came up with a huge offensive rebound and a block as a help defender. He has shown a lot more activity on defense lately and appears to have settled into his role. His play in December should help ease concerns about his ability to make an impact for this team.
But the good times didn’t last long. The Kings young bench came into the game and made an immediate impact. Bogdan Bogdanovic in particular was electric off the bench, scoring a quick five points and punctuating the run with a buzzer-beater to give the Kings a one-point lead after one.
The second quarter begun with what looked like one of the few memorably bad performances from the bench this season. Bogdanovic and the Kings continued to roll, as the Cavs stalled out offensively. There was very little movement and sloppy play on the offensive end. Fortunately that play didn’t last long, as the team finally managed to get some stops, leading to easy looks in transition.
If there’s one positive for the Cavs defense in the first half, it’s that they didn’t let the Kings get out and run. Sacramento scored just two transition points in the first half. However, their defense in the half-court was abysmal, as the Kings barely had to work to generate an open look.
Cleveland came out of the locker room with a renewed sense of defensive intensity, and an appetite for three point attempts. Kevin Love and J.R. Smith went nuts from behind the arc in the third quarter to help even up the score in the middle of the third.
The team is going on vacation in Napa tomorrow, but they learned Wednesday that some things that have been aged to perfection can still leave a sour taste in their mouth. Vince Carter seemed to refuse to let the Cavs gain or build upon any lead, as he put in a season-high 24 points on 10-12 shooting.
The story of the game was the play of Carter and the rest of the Kings bench. They simply were too much to handle for a Cleveland team that just didn’t have the requisite effort to deal with their intensity.
The Cavs will have two days off where they will have their in-season vacation, before taking on the Utah Jazz Saturday. With a possible return for Isaiah Thomas on Saturday, the team may receive a much-needed spark.