AUBURN HILLS, MICH.: The Cavaliers have put up an admirable effort on most nights despite the absence of Kyrie Irving. But removing Dion Waiters, too, was bound to lead to offensive disaster – even against one of the worst teams in the NBA.
The simple fact is the Cavaliers aren’t good enough to compete offensively most nights without Irving and Waiters – their two leading scorers who combine to average about 38 of the Cavs’ 97 points a night. That was evident in Monday’s 89-79 loss to the Detroit Pistons in front of about 3,000 fans, even though the announced crowd was 11,352.
The Cavs shot a season-low 34 percent. They were 3 of 20 on 3-pointers. The remaining players couldn’t put the ball in the basket in part because they weren’t getting the open looks they’ve grown accustomed to getting with both Irving and Waiters – or at least Waiters these last two weeks – penetrating, collapsing the defense and kicking out to the open man.
“We didn’t have the same type of shots because we didn’t have the same creators out there,” Scott said. “Dribble penetration is always important. When you’re playing against good teams that pack the paint, you get somebody who’s a creator who can get it in there, it’s going to draw somebody. So he’s always kicking it to somebody who’s going to be open. We didn’t have those same looks tonight.”
Irving’s fractured finger is progressing, but he’s still going to miss another couple of weeks and Waiters’ status going forward is questionable at best. The Cavs have been routinely hammered by the Chicago Bulls, Wednesday’s opponent, over the last couple of years. The Bulls are one of the best defensive teams in the league and the Cavs could be in real trouble offensively if Waiters is again unable to play. He was considered a game-time decision on Monday and scratched prior to tip-off because of remaining soreness in the left ankle he sprained in the second overtime session on Saturday.
“If it’s that sore, there’s really no need to put him out there and risk it getting worse,” Scott said. “Let’s give it a few more days and see how he feels for Wednesday.”
The Pistons blocked a staggering 13 shots in the game, including seven in the first quarter. They led 30-17 after the first quarter and expanded that lead to 22 points late in the half.
The Cavaliers tightened up their defense in the second half, holding the Pistons to just 32 percent shooting, but the deficit was simply too big. They pulled within 85-79 on a pair of Anderson Varejao free throws with 1:54 left, but couldn’t get any closer and simply ran out of time.
They failed to score for nearly the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, when their first five possessions ended with four turnovers and five missed shots – including a few missed open looks underneath on offensive rebounds. Yet they still only trailed 79-66 after Omri Casspi’s 3-pointer with 8:15 left.
Casspi got the start in place of Waiters, with Alonzo Gee shifting to shooting guard. He finished with 10 points, while Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 11 rebounds, Jeremy Pargo had 10 points and eight assists and Donald Sloan had eight points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench.
The best news to come out of the night was Varejao, who extended his streak to a club record nine consecutive double-doubles. Varejao finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds despite shooting just 7 of 18.
The Cavs simply didn’t have the firepower to come back, and as Scott bluntly admitted after the game, might not until Waiters returns.
Asked how he can compensate offensively for the absence of both Irving and Waiters, Scott said, “I don’t know that you can, to be honest.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.