NEW YORK: Thirteen thoughts for 13 Anderson Varejao rebounds during a 108-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets…
1. I’m not going to declare this a devastating loss to the Cavs’ playoff chances. I’ve already done that enough (at Charlotte, at home against the Knicks) and yet somehow this team is still lingering.
2. I’ll go so far as to say they could lose Sunday to the Pacers and still make it, but that would likely abolish any room for error and force them to win their final seven games of the season. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young team that hasn’t handled pressure well.
3. The fact the Cavs have 29 victories with eight games left and still have a shot at the playoffs is more an indictment on the Hawks and Knicks than anything the Cavs are doing right – although they undoubtedly have played better lately. The Hawks look completely disinterested at this point and seem to be begging anyone else to come claim the eighth spot. So far, they aren’t finding any takers.
4. If the Cavs can go 7-1 in their last eight games, the Hawks would have to go 4-7 or worse. (The Knicks are still ahead of the Cavs, too, but are on a brutal West Coast trip and will be fortunate to win two more games the rest of the way). That should leave the Cavs and Hawks to pillow fight it out for the last spot.
5. The Hawks’ finishing schedule isn’t overly taxing, but I’d have more confidence in them closing this out if they actually showed an interest in playing.
6. Speaking of things I don’t understand, I can’t comprehend how Paul Pierce was left so wide open so many times in the first quarter. To be fair, it wasn’t the deciding factor in the game’s outcome because the Cavs recovered to tie the game heading to the second. But the Cavs have this maddening habit of falling into deep holes early because of silly mistakes. That’s the bigger issue.
7. The Nets’ small lineup forces Tristan Thompson to cover Pierce. Thompson often left him to double the post – even for Shaun Livingston, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense. “We didn’t do a great job with our game-plan discipline,” Mike Brown said afterwards, while Thompson blamed the rotations.
8. “It’s a team effort,” Thompson said. “If we double in the post, it’s a full rotate. When the game started, sometimes we rotated and sometimes we didn’t.”
9. Brown seemed to indicate it wasn’t all on Thompson when he said the one time the Cavs covered it the right way, Jarrett Jack fouled Pierce on a 3-point attempt. That seemed to absolve Thompson of at least some of the blame, but Pierce ranks among the top five of all-time 3-point shooters (in terms of makes). He might be old, but he should never be left unsupervised. Bad things happen when he is. Very bad things.
10. “Once you knock the first couple down, you feel like you’re on fire,” said Pierce, who knocked down his first four from long range and scored 17 points in the first quarter after beginning the night averaging 13.5 points per game. “I’ve been a scorer my whole life. All you’ve got to do is see one go in. You feel like all of them are going to go in.”
11. Dion Waiters is a scorer and thinks the same way. Unfortunately, Waiters missed his first seven shots and the Cavs received zero production from their bench in the first half. By the time both caught fire, it was essentially too late.
12. The Cavs could get Kyrie Irving back for the stretch run. Irving told me tonight the arm feels good, he thinks he’s ahead of schedule because the injury wasn’t as bad as originally feared and he’s hopeful he can play on next week’s big road trip to Orlando and Atlanta. He’s expecting to get re-examined after Sunday’s game against the Pacers. We should know more after that.
13. That’s it from here. A disappointing loss, but the East is so terrible it’s hard to rule anyone out. Talk to you Sunday after the Pacers.