MIAMI: Twenty-three thoughts tonight, presumably one for every swear word Mike Brown hurled at referee Sean Wright before he was ejected from the Cavs’ 114-107 loss to the Heat…
1. Mike Brown’s sideline eruption tonight wasn’t due to just one blown call. It had been mounting for games, even weeks.
2. The Cavs don’t get very many calls. That much is obvious. Their players are young and the team hasn’t been very good for a few years, so rarely will they get the benefit of the doubt.
3. The officiating down the stretch of the Cavs’ loss at the New Orleans Pelicans a few weeks ago was atrocious and cost the team a handful of points in a game they should’ve won. Brown always tells his players to keep playing and not worry about no-calls, that it’s more important to get back defensively than to stand their arguing with the officials. But when he saw Tristan Thompson’s back arch going up for a dunk and no one blew the whistle, Brown exploded.
4. “I lost it,” he said. And he did. He was so mad he was one-third of the way onto the court and standing on one leg hollering at Sean Wright. Brown said he put his players in a hole because of the free throws it gave the Heat, but I thought it was a coach fighting for his players.
5. “We lost our leader,” Kyrie Irving said. “We pulled it together. Down (16) coming out at the half, we’ve been in those situations before. This team, we have more togetherness. We all believe in one another that if we continue to fight and get stops, we could tie it up and we did.”
6. The calls seemed to balance out more in the second half, to the point Chris Bosh – who rarely gets upset – was given a technical for arguing a foul call.
7. Big deficits have often buried this team through the season’s first month, but not anymore. They overcame a 14-point deficit at Orlando on Friday to win by 10. They trailed by 19 early in the third quarter with little hope for a rally, but they started defending better, they stopped turning the ball over and they dug their way out.
8. The Cavs wanted to turn the Heat into jump shooters and they did that in the third quarter and much of the fourth. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 53 of the Heat’s 68 points in the first half. But in the third quarter, the Heat shot 33 percent (6 of 18) and the Big Three were limited to 5 points. The Cavs had the deficit down to 84-80 after three quarters and tied the game early in the fourth.
9. “We can’t take everything away from these guys, they’re so good,” Brown said. “We tried to take away the paint points.”
10. The Heat’s dribble penetration is difficult for teams to stop because it opens up so much of their offense. The Cavs did a better job of slowing that penetration in the second half and it made a huge difference.
11. They also stopped flinging as many cross-court passes. James’ old football habits were on display Saturday. The Cavs kept firing too many passes across the court and James – and others – were jumping the passing lanes like cornerbacks jumping receivers’ routes in football. It was leading to too many easy transition baskets for the Heat in the first half.
12. “The very last thing you want to see is LeBron James, in the open court, with a full head of steam and headed toward the basket,” C.J. Miles said. “Like, that’s at the top of the list of things you don’t ever want to see in basketball. Ever.”
13. Miles had to grab James on one of those breakaways in the second half. As James was charging toward him, Miles looked like he was preparing to tackle a bear in the wild. He wrapped both arms around James and didn’t let go. Miles has committed a number of silly fouls this season that led to and-ones because he didn’t foul the shooter hard enough. With James, he made sure the ball was never leaving his hands.
14. “Even after I had him wrapped he was trying to get the ball up,” Miles said. “I just wasn’t letting go.”
15. Miles is getting frustrated with his lack of productivity. He struggled again shooting Saturday because a couple shots rattled in and popped out. He said he’d rather throw an air ball that watch a shot rattle in and rim out. Miles feels good, he’s fully recovered from the calf injury and he has his wind back. He just can’t get shots to fall. He went 1-for-7 shooting 3-pointers on this Florida trip.
15. Matthew Dellavedova played 15 minutes, scored 5 points, grabbed four rebounds, had a steal and an assist. Every time he’s in the game, he makes an impact on it in some way. “We are showing a lot of life and we are still building our identity, forming it,” Irving said. “I was really proud of our guys including Matthew Dellavedova who came in, got stops when we needed him to. That send unit had the momentum in the fourth quarter.”
16. The Cavs got 53 points from their bench tonight and 20 of the team’s 39 rebounds. Anderson Varejao had his usual 8 rebounds, but Jarrett Jack had 5, Delly grabbed 4 and Waiters had 3.
17. After banging up both knees in Friday’s win, Varejao said before the game his right knee was in worse shape than the left. The right knee is what collided with Victor Oladipo, leaving it bruised and a bit swollen even Saturday. Oladipo caught Varejao on the inner part of the knee, while last year’s collision of knees that ended his season happened a couple inches above the knee cap straight on the quadriceps muscle. Varejao still has a thick scar on the knee from the incision.
18. Anthony Bennett says he has lost between 12 and 15 pounds since training camp. He has changed his diet and has watched hours of film from his college days trying to get back to the player that made him the No. 1 pick in the draft.
19. “I just have to get back to the player I was in college,” Bennett said. “I was playing with a smile on my face. It was fun, carefree, running up and down a lot. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I can try to get back to.”
20. Beginning with his diet. Bennett bristled during training camp when I told him he looked heavy. He said his weight was fine and he wasn’t really worried about it. Only now he has changed his diet, lost all the weight he put on post-shoulder surgery and says he might even be a few pounds lighter now than he was at UNLV. He has cut out a lot of dairy products, he’s eating more protein and less carbs. He’s drinking more water and avoiding juice. “Just cutting down on a lot of sugar,” he said.
21. He has shown more of a willingness to play inside in recent games, which is where he should be. But he hasn’t done enough to really earn Brown’s trust. As a result, he has only played about 185 minutes this season. Oladipo has already played about 720.
22. The Cavs return home to face the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. The Blazers are the best team in the West thus far and dropped 139 points on the 76ers Saturday. The Blazers play at the Pistons on Sunday and the Cavs game will be their third in four nights.
23. Enjoyed sunny Florida and a couple of hours on the beach today. Back to the land of snow blowers and frigid temperatures.