By George M. Thomas
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Coach Mike Brown had to like the good in the Cavs’ 102-79 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena, but there was a lot of bad and ugly to sift through to get it.
The Cavs shot just 30 percent on the night from the floor as both teams struggled for much of the game on offense. Neither showed the ability to find any sense of rhythm into the third quarter.
Add to the mix that the Cavs shared the ball — with the Pacers — to the tune of 22 turnovers, which led to 22 Pacers points, in the game and the night didn’t end too well.
Brown said it was the kind of game that he likes, but admitted that when he threw younger players into the fire in the third quarter they didn’t respond.
“It was fun. It was nasty. Neither team had a rhythm,” he said. “I thought it was a physical contest and our guys were doing what they were supposed to do or doing what I asked them to do.”
The Pacers didn’t shoot the lights out early, but they got some semblance of a hot hand in the latter stages of the third quarter when they went on to grab their first lead of the game at the 1:28 mark in that period. The nastiness continued into the fourth quarter as the Pacers outscored the Cavaliers 66-40 in the second half.
What kept the Cavs in the game? Rebounding. Willful rebounding. The Cavs crashed the boards, killing the Pacers 55-39, including 17-3 on the offensive glass. But turnovers negated any advantage that provided.
The very nature of preseason basketball worked against both teams as sloppy play resulted in officials calling 67 personal fouls, 25 coming in the third quarter. Given the game’s outcome, who would have guessed the Cavs received 19 in that period?
“I want my guys to be aggressive right now,” Brown said. “I’d rather they be aggressive than passive out on the floor. We’ll figure that out as we go along. Some of the fouls that I can do away with are the ones when we’re not ready to play [defense].”
Brown can take solace that his frontcourt of center Anderson Varejao and power forward Tristan Thompson looks ready to go as the preseason winds downward.
Thompson, a 6-foot-9 third-year pro, continues to be a machine, scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
“Tristan is getting his points the right way. I don’t know if I’ve called a play for him,” Brown said. “Tristan is getting his stuff running, rebounding and little dumpoffs. I like that. He can be very effective. He can score a ton of points just doing that. He can be a double-double guy just because of his activity on the glass. I like the way he’s taken on the challenge defensively. It’s been fun for me to watch.”
Cavs center Tyler Zeller was noncommittal when asked whether he will be back in time for the season opener against the Brooklyn Nets on Oct. 30.
“I’m talking to the doctors right now and I’m trying to figure it out,” the 7-foot, second-year center said prior to Saturday night’s game.
Zeller underwent an emergency appendectomy Oct. 11. He said that he felt some pain and thought that he should get it taken care of.
During his pregame news conference, Brown said that he wasn’t sure whether the team would be making any cuts in the coming days.
The team’s injury situation – Andrew Bynum, Carrick Felix, Zeller and guard Jarrett Jack, who were all out against Indiana — is playing a role in the decision.
However, he said he likes the effort everyone has put in thus far. The reality is that the Cavs can’t keep 20 guys on the roster much longer.