I mean, they still lost, of course. But by not-as-much! The final was 92-85. Single digits!
This meeting with LeBron and the Heat felt a little different. Instead of some CLEVELAND vs LEBRON battle (that some folk just can’t get enough of), it was just a mid-winter NBA game between a playoff team and a lottery team. Cavs vs Miami/LeBron will never be ‘just’ another game, but this wasn’t a Big Event, just mediocre basketball.
And mediocre it was. Miami looked like the old LeBron Cavaliers, sleeping walking against a bad team, only to win in the end through sheer talent.
The score at halftime? Tied at 37. The Cavs finished with a whopping 22 turnovers but somehow Miami scored just 4 fastbreak points. Now, part of that was the Cavs’ good transition defense (and it was pretty solid) but part of it was also the fact that many of the Cavs turnovers were so bad, the ball went out of bounds rather than to a Heat player. It’s hard to start a fast break when the ref is holding the ball.
Surprisingly, it was Chris Bosh, not LeBron, who ended up torching the Cavaliers. Bosh finished with a season high 35 points and he got it in all kinds ways. He was 10-16 from the floor and it was easy to see why; when he was outside, the Cavs left him open (pick and roll defense… still not good), when he was inside, he was guarded by Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins (Hollins: 4 fours in his first 5 minutes- that stat is not made up). And when it inevitably turned out that they couldn’t guard him, Bosh made the Cavs pay from the line, going 14-14 from the stripe. Dude even hit a trey. Bosh demolished the Cavs.
Now, Bosh’s 14 freebies are interesting, as they’re just three less than the Cavs’ team total. The Cavaliers shot 11-17 from the line and only Ramon Sessions got the stripe more than once (he was 4-4). Watching the game, I didn’t feel like the Cavs were getting particularly hosed by the refs (non-Bosh Miami players were 9-12 from the stripe), but it’s hard to look at that box score and not be a little miffed.
And it’s not like the Cavs weren’t aggressive – they were (they even had three straight dunks during a stretch in the first half) – but too often the aggressiveness led to offensive fouls or turnovers. I have a hard time bitching about fouls when the Anthony Parker attempted an alley-oop to Omri Casspi and Casspi, after seeing how well that turned out, decided to try to throw one to Antawn Jamison (GUESS HOW THAT WENT).
If there’s anything to bitch about, it’s not the refs, but Byron Scott’s rotation. Specifically, the minutes of one Kyrie Irving. Irving had 8 of the Cavs’ first 14 points to start the second half (and assisted on 2 of the other 3 baskets). Scott took him out with 3:18 to play in the third period (Cavs trailed 57-51) and Irving didn’t check back in until there was just 5 minutes left in the fourth (Cavs were behind 72-67). Roughly 10 minutes without their best player. No me gusta.
As annoying as this, I’m not overly concerned about Irving’s lack of minutes. This is just his 16th NBA game (after missing most of his college season and with a shortened training camp), I’m fine with Scott leaving us wanting more of Irving than overexposing Kyrie to too much.
Now, is it frustrating as all hell? OF COURSE. I’m not subjecting myself to these crappy games because I want to watch Anthony Parker. I want to see the number 1 overall pick, I want to see how he handles facing LeBron and the rest of the Heat. Plus, it’s pretty clear that said number 1 overall pick is the best player on the team (Irving finished with 17 points, 4 boards and 4 assists), so it’s kinda mind boggling that Irving played only 26 minutes while Alonzo Gee and Anthony Parker each finished with 28.
I’m cool with Scott doing the ‘tough love’ thing. I agree with making Irving earn his minutes through defense or taking care of the ball (Irving had 3 turnovers). Hell, I’m even fine with them trying to showcase Ramon Sessions for a trade. It’s just, when your team needs a shot and we’re sitting here watching a lineup from last season, when we know Kyrie is better than anyone out there, it’s pretty goddamn frustrating watching Sessions miss layups or Boobie try a floater.
Of course, you could argue that Tuesday’s loss was the best longterm outcome. The Cavs competed for 48 minutes, they played well defensively and Kyrie Irving looked great. That’s pretty much what we’re looking for, no? They didn’t look like crap, they boosted their lottery chances and Irving looking like a future all-star.
I’ll take it!
– We saw LeBron go to the post a few times and man, he could not wait to pass that ball. That LeBron (18 points, 8-21 FG, 1-4 FT, 5 boards, 5 assists) didn’t take advantage of Anthony Parker says mores about his lack of trust in his post game than AP’s defense.
– Though I thought AP and Alonzo Gee did a decent job making LeBron work for his points.
– Antawn Jamison: 2-6 FG, 5 points, 2 boards, 4 assists, 0 free throw attempts. Anthony Parker: 3 points, 2-6 FG, 3 boards, 1 assist, 0 free throw attempts. That’s some veteran leadership right there.
– Omri Casspi looks slow. His shot is slow, his driving is slow… Casspi finished with 6 points, 0 boards, 0 assists and 4 turnovers in 18 minutes. Yikes.
– The only other non-Irving starter who looked like a Real NBA Player was, of course, Anderson Varejao. Andy finished with 11 points and 11 boards in 31 minutes.
– We had a Samardo Samuels sighting and it made you wonder where he’s been hiding. It was nice to see Samardo overcome his addiction to score 15 points (7-10 FG) off the bench. Assuming he doesn’t fuck up some more, he should be ahead of Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden.
– The Cavs will try to get their first win on the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday when they host the Knicks at The Q at 7:00pm.