ORLANDO, FLA.: Final thoughts from Friday’s 108-104 loss to the Magic.
* Byron Scott said he wanted to review the film, but thought the Cavs’ defense actually played relatively well despite the Magic scoring 63 points in the second half, shooting 50 percent for the game and more than doubling their typical output on 3-pointers.
* The Cavs struggled for two years defending the 3-point line, but they’ve actually done relatively well this season. Opponents were making 34 percent of their 3-pointers before tonight, which ranks about middle of the pack. It’s an upgrade over last season, when the Cavs ranked 24th (36 percent) and a huge upgrade over two years ago when they had the worst 3-point defense in the league (41 percent).
* Maybe this game was just an aberration. Arron Afflalo entered making just 34 percent of his 3s and he went 4 for 6. Jameer Nelson was making only 25 percent of his 3s and he went 4 for 8. Guys get hot sometimes. It happens. The true test will come Saturday.
* The Miami Heat lead the league in scoring (104.3 points) and field-goal percentage (49 percent). They’re second in 3-pointers per game (9.1) and 3-point percentage (43 percent).
* The statistical improvements made in two games against the Sixers cannot be viewed in a vacuum, since the Sixers are one of the worst shooting teams in the league. The Magic are better than the Sixers, now the next two opponents (the Heat and Grizzlies) are far superior offensively than the Magic. The true test for any defensive improvement lies ahead.
* Players often mimic their coach in postgame sessions. At least with Byron Scott, the message he conveys to the media is typically similar to the message he must deliver to the players immediately after the games. Usually the players say about what the coach just did. That’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise that Dion Waiters thought the Cavs played well defensively. Scott just got done telling reporters essentially the same thing.
* “They shot the ball well, you have to give them a lot of credit,” Scott said. “At times, I thought we were right there and tried to affect the shot, but they just shot the ball well. … I thought for the most part, we did some of the things we wanted on the defensive end.”
* And now Waiters: “I thought we played great D. They just made a lot of tough shots, especially down the stretch.”
* I beg to differ. I’m not sure how you can say you played great defense when you allowed 63 points in the second half and the opponent made more than double the amount of 3s they were averaging coming in. But that’s just me.
* I was impressed with Tyler Zeller tonight. He was just starting to look comfortable when he broke his cheekbone, and has understandably looked a little hesitant and rusty the last couple games. Tonight he was aggressive around the basket and showed a nice touch with his left hand. He had 13 points and nine rebounds and even took away some of Tristan Thompson’s fourth-quarter minutes. “I thought Tyler played well,” Scott said. “He’s still learning just like Dion. Both those guys have come a long way in a short period of time, but they still have a long way to go.”
* For whatever it’s worth, Waiters seems much more comfortable in his surroundings. He was uneasy over the summer, particularly in dealing with the media. He was relaxed and joking before the game Friday, poking fun at Scott for disagreeing with his assessment that he’s fouled nearly every time he touches the ball. He also said he can’t root for Ohio State, or even pretend to, because he grew up a rabid Miami Hurricanes fan. He’s letting his guard down a little bit, and in turn, he’s looking more comfortable on the court. I’m certainly not implying that his dealings with reporters has any impact on how he plays, just a general observation that the longer he’s here, the more comfortable he looks in all aspects. Now he needs to get to the basket more often. It’s one of the big reasons the Cavs drafted him, but he still seems to be settling for too many jumpers.
* It was near impossible for Jeremy Pargo to duplicate what he did the other night, but I thought he played very well in his encore performance. He had 15 points, but only one assist. That number needs to be higher, but he didn’t turn the ball over in 30 minutes. That’s huge after he struggled with turnovers throughout training camp. In 69 minutes over his last two games, Pargo has just three turnovers. That’s excellent.
* Daniel Gibson missed all three of his attempts in his first game back, but he did have six assists. Gibson took a hard fall on his right arm/elbow in the second half, but it didn’t seem to affect him.
* The odd man out following Gibson’s return was C.J. Miles, who played pretty well on Wednesday, but appeared for less than three minutes on Friday. Omri Casspi had one of his better games as a Cav on Friday, which is what forced Miles out.
* Scott seems intent on sticking with a three-man bench for right now. The roster is young, but with so many back-to-backs coming up, it will be interesting to see if fatigue sets in.