A few small positives that won’t be listed below: The Cavs took 16 more free throws than the Pacers, Tristan Thompson made a three-pointer and was excellent, John Henson got back on the court and did well, Darius Garland has no problem making long three-pointers and two-way player Tyler Cook made his NBA debut in garbage time.
Here’s the two for one from the Cavs’ 110-99 win over the Pacers in the Cavs’ home opener.
POSITIVE: Ball movement and offensive execution
One of the major allures of hiring John Beilein, if not the top allure, is his offensive system. His scheme — full of ball movement, precision cuts, spacing and more — figured to do well at the NBA level. The Cavs’ offense struggled against the Magic in the team’s season opener, but it looked much better against the Pacers. Case in point:
Here's the Garland-to-Thompson lob, plus the set-up. This is so much different than what the Cavs did last year in walking the ball up: pic.twitter.com/5y5milDcfD— Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) October 27, 2019
Was it all perfect? No. The team bogged down a little bit in the second half once the Pacers got back into the game. Some Jordan Clarkson possessions went a little bit off the rails. But this was progress. The ball moved, the team generated several good open shots and the Cavs just looked much more in sync than they did against the Magic. That’s what Beilein ball should look like.
NEGATIVE: Turnovers almost hampered the Cavs
Turnovers might be part of this team’s DNA. Two young guards and teammates still feeling each other out is bound to lead to some miscues. That said, the Cavs will have to limit them a bit more going forward than they did in the second half against the Pacers.
It wasn’t good in the first half either; Cleveland committed eight in the half, leading to 11 Indiana points. In the second half, the Cavs added another 11 turnovers — for a total of 19. The Pacers turned those 11 second half turnovers into 16 points.
Except for Thompson and Larry Nance Jr., every Cav who played pre-garbage time committed at least turnover. Love and Garland, two focal points, had four apiece. It’ll probably get better. It has to.
POSITIVE: Kevin Love is good at basketball
Breaking news: Kevin Love is still very good at basketball.
Love, after only scoring 11 points on Wednesday, looked like the best version of himself against Indiana. Everything that Love does well on offense — posting up, scoring/facilitating from the elbow, spacing the floor, etc. — was there. And late in the game, when the Cavs’ offense was mucked up by the Pacers beginning to switch everything, Love at the elbow was one of the reliable choices for the Cavs. Even when Domantas Sabonis was defending him, Love was able to create enough space to get off a quick jumper at the elbow or throw a pass to a cutting teammate. It’s not sexy offense, but it was effective. Love’s final stat line: 21 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.
To Love’s credit, he also was great vs. Pacers forward TJ Leaf inside when Sabonis was in foul trouble in the first half. With Myles Turner sticking on Thompson, Love had room to post up and either bully his way through or find the open man when Turner came to double. Again, it’s not sexy offense. But it would make sense if the Cavs went back to that well depending on who they are playing.
A final note: Love and Thompson had great chemistry inside the paint against the Pacers. Four of Love’s assists were to Thompson off of cuts or a quick roll to the rim.