INDIANAPOLIS: Final thoughts from a terrible shooting night, but what Mike Brown thought was an encouraging offensive performance...
* It was strange to hear Mike Brown call this "our best offensive night" since the Cavs shot 35 percent and only scored 74 points. But he was pleased with the way the Cavs moved the ball, the way they set screens and made hard cuts toward the basket. They just couldn't knock down a shot.
* I was talking to C.J. Miles after the game. Recorder wasn't running, just two guys talking about the game. He was amazed at some of the looks he had, particularly the 17-foot looks straight at the basket. He said any other night, he goes 7 of 9 shooting with those looks instead of 2 of 9. He even hit the side of the backboard once, but said the ball just slipped out of his hand.
* Anthony Bennett seemed to be in a better mood after the game than before. I talked to him for a minute about his struggles before the game and he didn't seem interested in talking. Afterwards he was a little looser, even though he blew that open layup and missed all four of his attempts. Bennett is now 0 for 12 through three games, including 0 for 7 on 3-pointers.
* "I just feel like there’s a lid on the basket," Bennett said. Asked if he's ever gone through anything like this, he said, "Nooooo. Never." On the bright side, he still managed to get six rebounds in 12 1/2 minutes.
* After he was benched for the second half Friday, Dion Waiters played much better against the Pacers. He only shot 7 of 21, but he had 17 points and at least tried to attack the basket with mixed results. He also had four steals.
* Brown liked the improved effort, but reiterated what Byron Scott said all of last year: Waiters has to stop worrying about whatever calls he's not getting and just keep playing. I think he is developing a reputation as a guy who whines every time he goes to the basket and officials don't want to hear it, particularly from a second-year player. I think that's part of the reason Mark Lindsay was quick to give him a technical tonight for complaining about his lack of calls when it appeared Waiters didn't even really say anything at all.
* "This is what I'm trying to work with Dion on: They're not calling the foul, so you've got to keep playing," Brown said. "If he doesn't get a foul call, move onto the next play. If he talks to the refs or sulks, it can affect our transition defense going the other way."
* Waiters too often falls backward when he's going to the rim rather than fall forward and draw contact. It's obvious he's not getting the calls right now, so Brown is encouraging him to kick it out or pull up for a floater or short jumper. Or be more aggressive and either dunk it or put a knee in somebody's chest, and if they call him for an offensive foul, Brown can live with it.
* "I've got to play through it," Waiters said. "I can't let it get me down and get me out of my game. They're going to call it or they're not." Waiters struggled with this stuff last year as a rookie. Apparently it hasn't gone away.
* Interesting observation: Brown said the Pacers use the "rule of verticality" well, meaning their bigs extend and jump straight up, forcing the offensive player to shoot over them. In theory, if the offensive player jumps into the defender and initiates the contact, an offensive charge could be called. Those calls more often than not seem to become judgment calls and go 50/50. Brown is trying to get the Cavs to be like that defensively, but it will take time.
* Now for the interesting part: Less than five minutes later, Kyrie Irving parroted Brown and also threw out "rule of verticality." Irving also tonight used the line that the Cavs had too many, "My bads" defensively, the same line Brown used after Friday's loss at Charlotte. Whether intentional or not, star player sure seems to be backing up the coach's analysis.
* Spoke to Anderson Varejao briefly after the game and he was encouraged by how well his legs felt despite the back-to-back. Varejao still isn't where he wants to be, but he was excited his legs felt so good. Now he needs to work on his timing and court awareness. He said there was a play Friday where he didn't realize where he was on the floor and how close he was to the rim. He took an entry pass and could've just turned around and flipped it in, but instead he kicked it back out. Brown showed him the play on film. Varejao likened it to Andrew Bynum. "I can't imagine how he feels after being out so long," Varejao said.
* Varejao, incidentally, passed Larry Nance in career rebounds and is now sixth on the Cavs' all-time list with 3,665.
* Indeed, Bynum's touch around the basket is rusty, as you'd expect. But I was impressed with his spin move down the lane Friday. The shot didn't fall, but Bynum clearly still has some post moves and has enough confidence to use them. He should be back for Monday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
* Irving insisted before the game the elbow isn't a concern, so for now we'll take him at his word. But he shot 6 of 17 tonight after missing all three of his fourth-quarter shots following the injury Friday night. He also uncharacteristically missed two free throws tonight after missing two in the fourth quarter on Friday. Just something to watch moving forward...
* This was supposed to be a good week for the Cavs with games against the Timberwolves (Monday), Bucks (Wednesday) and then a home-and-home with the Philadelphia 76ers over the weekend. But the Timberwolves are 2-0 and the Sixers are 3-0 and playing out of their minds right now with wins over the Heat and Bulls, arguably the two best teams in the East. The hot run won't last (this is still one of the worst teams in the league), but it's a remarkable story. Remember, the Cavs began the season 5-5 in the first year after LeBron James left before everything unraveled. The Cavs are hoping the Sixers start unraveling this week. And yes, Bynum returns to Philadelphia on Friday. He likely won't play in both of those games since it's a back-to-back. It will be interesting to see if the Cavs let him play in Phiadelphia or Cleveland or give him the choice to decide.
CLE: Dion Waiters 17 points, Kyrie Irving 15 points, Anderson Varejao 14 points, 6 rebounds
IND: Paul George 21 points, 13 rebounds; Lance Stephenson 22 points (tied career high)
Key stat: Cavs shot 35 percent
"We moved the ball and we had open looks. It just didn't fall, shots that we normally make. There are going to be nights like this." -- Dion Waiters
The Cavs (1-2) host the Timberwolves (2-0) at 7 p.m. on Monday.