CLEVELAND: Thirteen thoughts for 13 first-quarter points from the Spurs, back when it looked like the Cavs had a chance in what eventually became a 122-101 thrashing at the hands of the Spurs…
1. Gregg Popovich was in a good mood today, and that was before his team destroyed the Cavs in the second half. When Pop is in a good mood and feels like talking, it’s in your best interest to listen. And Pop had it rolling tonight before the game.
2. On the rare occasions when the Spurs look like crap, Pop will call a timeout and not do anything else. “I’ll say, ‘I got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times, everybody’s holding the ball. We got no drills to do here. Figure it out.’ Then I’ll get up and I’ll walk away from them. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them.”
3. Classic Pop and he’s absolutely right. This is precisely why I put a lot of the blame for the Cavs’ struggles most of this season on the players. Mike Brown’s system works. He hasn’t proven it wins championships, but he’s come awfully close.
4. Where Brown has fallen short this year is maybe reaching this team, at least early on. There was an obvious disconnect between him and these players. I’m still not sure it’s all the way patched, but it’s certainly better than it was six weeks ago. But his principles, his beliefs, his ideas, his system… it works. The players have to play hard and give effort, though. That was missing for far too much of the season and that’s why the Cavs are frantically chasing the playoff train now.
5. Back to Pop and the impact coaches have.
6. “I can give some bulls--- and act like I’m a coach or something. They’re out there playing – if they’re holding the ball, they’re holding the ball. I certainly didn’t tell them to hold the ball. Just like if they make five in a row. I didn’t do that. They get great rebounds, I didn’t do that. It’s a players’ game and they gotta perform. Then you interject here and there. You call a play or make a substitution, or that kind of thing that helps the team win. But (the players) basically have to take charge, or you never get to the top of the mountain.”
7. And that’s where the Cavs have fallen woefully short this season. This young team just wasn’t ready to climb the mountain. They didn’t know how. Brown tried to show them, but this was their first exposure to the pressure of winning. This team had no expectations the last couple years. They finally had expectations this season and they didn’t handle it well.
8. Popovich has a team that has played together for more than a decade, so he can tell them to “figure it out” and more often than not, guys like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker usually do. The Cavs aren’t there yet. Brown can’t walk away and tell them to figure it out, he’s still trying to show them. Some nights it’s there, some nights it’s not.
9. Tonight it wasn’t there. The Spurs had a little something to do with it, but the Cavs didn’t really help their cause after the first quarter. The Spurs had assists on 29 consecutive baskets from the second quarter until the fourth quarter. Think about that. They had 39 assists on 43 baskets, which is just stupid good ball movement.
10. The Medina Gazette’s Rick Noland joked with me after the game I should have four Final Thoughts tonight, one for every basket the Spurs scored without an assist. I liked the idea, but since this is No. 10, I guess I overshot the landing.
11. Jeff McDonald, the Spurs’ beat writer for the San Antonio Express News, said the Spurs’ assisted basket percentage (91 percent) was the seventh-highest in the NBA in the last 10 years. It was fourth-highest, McDonald said, until Cory Joseph’s unassisted basket in the final minute screwed up everything. Until that point, the Spurs recorded assists on all 11 baskets in the fourth quarter, all 13 of their baskets in the third quarter and the final five of the second quarter.
12. “I think everybody touched it at least twice in 24 seconds,” Dion Waiters said. “I don’t know how they do it.”
13. The Cavs’ March grind has been well documented here and elsewhere. So far it’s living up to the hype. The Cavs are 0-2 in March with a pretty big game looming Friday at Charlotte. See you then.