Editor’s note: In the Two For One, Fear the Sword’s staff will spotlight three takeaways from their last game featuring two positives and one negative from the action, or vice versa.
POSITIVE: The Cavaliers didn’t get absolutely wrecked
This sounds passive aggressive, but I promise it’s not. This is a team that’s lost its last five home games by at least 20 points. They’ve lost 10 straight overall. Any competitive game is a pleasure to watch, and it wasn’t trending that way.
The Cavaliers fell behind by 22 points after the first quarter, and over the course of the losing streak, they’ve been one of the worst second half teams we’ve seen in some time, so it was looking a little dark. Luckily, that’s not how it played out.
The Cavaliers outscored the Pacers by 14 the rest of the way, including a 72-point second-half. Part of that was Indiana mostly letting go of the rope, but the Cavs genuinely played well. They started pulling from three, attacking in transition and actually playing some marginally spirited, if not effective defense.
This has not been a fun stretch to watch. We have to cherish these stretches of positive play.
NEGATIVE: The Cavaliers defense can’t stop anybody
This is hardly news, but the Pacers got whatever look they wanted to, even late in the game when the Cavaliers were giving max effort. Thaddeus Young isn’t exactly at the “26 points on 11-14 shooting” stage of his career, but against the Cavs, he walked into easy buckets and wide open threes.
The team isn’t exactly well suited from a personnel standpoint to be a lockdown defense, but they’re significantly less than the sum of their parts. Guards get absolutely wiped out by screens and the Cavaliers bigs have a nasty tendency to sink way too low. This leads to a steady diet of open pull up shots.
If the team switches, nobody tags out smaller guards bullied into post-up defense matchups they can’t win. It’s ugly, and even when this team gets an injection of offense from Kevin Love, wins are going to be hard to come by.
POSITIVE: Cam Payne was actually pretty good!
Cam Payne became something of a microcosm of the Bulls incompetence. They threw in a second-round pick while trading Taj Gibson to the Thunder just to pick up Payne, who had failed to be a positive contributor, and then overpaid Payne in a classic sunk-cost fallacy exercise.
After the Cavaliers shenanigans with Patrick McCaw, it felt like the addition of Payne was a little salt in the wound. Now, he’s almost certainly not a rotation-level player, but for his Cavs debut, he was more than useful enough. Payne scored 10 points on 4-8 shooting, dished three assists and hit a couple threes.
If he keeps this up, he might earn another 10-day deal. The Cavaliers probably could do worse than outputs like Payne’s against the Pacers.