AUBURN HILLS, MICH.: Twenty-one thoughts for 21 minutes from Matthew Dellavedova in Friday’s 114-106 win against the Detroit Pistons.
1. Remember all those neat stats Tyronn Lue wrote on the white board prior to Wednesday’s game against the Suns? The ones about how the shooting percentage climbs higher and higher the more the Cavs pass the ball? Well they don’t apply to Kyrie Irving, the Cavs point guard. At least not right now.
2. Follow along: Lue went to Irving prior to Friday’s game at Detroit and told him to attack, attack, attack. Irving hasn’t looked like himself since that 32-point outburst at Washington more than three weeks ago. In the 11 games prior to Friday, he was averaging 14.2 points and shooting 38 percent. He was shooting 29 percent on 3-pointers.
3. The goal right now is to get Irving going again. The biggest reason behind this push into an up-tempo offense is to make life easier offensively for Irving and Kevin Love. Both responded magnificently Friday.
4. “I just want him to attack,” Lue said. “Attack first and if it opens up to an assist, then we’ll make the play. But I just don’t think nobody can stop him one-on-one so I just want him to get back to being confident and playing the way he’s capable of playing.”
5. That sounds like a lot of dribbling and isolation, things the Cavs are trying to move away from at times. But the larger picture right now seems to be getting Irving back to being the star that earned him a max contract. If that means dribbling and isolation, Lue is prepared to live with it.
6. “I want him to be aggressive scoring the ball,” Lue said. “I don’t caer about his misses or mistakes. I just need him to get back in game shape and playing for us.”
7. As a result, Irving shot 11-of-19 and scored 28 points, his highest total since that Wizards game. His 19 shots were the most he has taken in more than two weeks and his third-highest total of the season.
8. Irving is trying to stay steady during the good days and bad, not getting too high or too low depending on that night’s game. This was a night for optimism, however, particularly since all three of the Cavs’ stars scored 20 points in a game for the first time this season.
9. “It means that we’re showing signs of being where we need to be and where we see ourselves and just finding that continuity that we spoke about all season,” Irving said. “The pace created a lot of opportunities for us.”
10. Love had that vintage game-after-All-Star-snub: 29 points, five 3-pointers, six rebounds and three assists. Again, the reason for the push behind this up-tempo style is to accommodate both Love and Irving. There are those within the organization hopeful Love will finally fit in this offense for the first time in this system.
11. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy blamed himself for not stopping Love’s pick-and-rolls. “I didn’t have a good enough answer,” he said. “They got it done. Three great players who all played great.”
12. Van Gundy had an interesting observation prior to the game that coincided with Lue’s desire for Irving to attack. Irving is averaging 3.7 assists per game, which is easily a career low. His assists average slipped from 6.1 his final year without LeBron James to 5.2 last season and now 3.8, which ranks 58th in the league. Van Gundy, however, believes that is becoming the norm.
13. “Scoring point guards are more the norm now than the pass-first, set-the-table guys,” Van Gundy said. “The game has changed in that regard. It’s a very heavy pick-and-roll league now. For most of the teams it’s conventional for the point guards to run most of the pick-and-rolls to score a lot.”
14. I’d respectfully disagree with Van Gundy to some extent. Ten years ago, for example, only one point guard averaged double figures in assists for the season (Steve Nash), he was also the only one to average at least nine assists and six point guards averaged at least eight per game. This season one point guard is averaging double figures (Rajon Rondo), four (including Rondo) are averaging more than nine and five are over eight. So the role doesn’t seem to have changed all that much in the last decade. But when Irving and Steph Curry and Reggie Jackson are putting up big scoring nights, it’s easy to see what he means.
15. James lashed out at Tristan Thompson at the end of the first half after Thompson blew the defensive assignment on a switch against Jackson. James was upset Thompson let Jackson blow by him for an easy layup at the end of the half and he let Thompson know about it on the floor before they made it to the locker room.
16. Thompson clearly didn’t seem interested at first in the verbal scolding, particularly in front of a full arena, but Lue was happy he didn’t have to intervene and the players policed themselves.
17. “Shot clock is going down and I’m too good of a defender on the guards to let one go by me and lay it up,” Thompson said. “I let Reggie Jackson do that and just take it more personally.”
18. James knows all too well about everyone watching him all the time, but he didn’t let that stop him from confronting Thompson on the floor rather than waiting until they got back to the locker room.
19. “For me it’s about saying it right then and there and those guys not taking it personal, understanding I’m doing it in good faith,” James said. “If I let it go, then it could happen again. I think at the end of the half Double T allowed Reggie Jackson to get where he wanted for a layup and instead of a 10 point game it was an eight-point game at halftime. And I think that stuck with him to the fourth quarter, they got the same switch on the left side and got a 24-second shot clock (actually a travel), and Double-T was on him again, so it pays off in the long run.”
20. James, incidentally, eclipsed 26,000 points for his career and moved into 20th place on the all-time assists list.
21. This is hardly a finished product, but it was a step in the right direction. A huge rematch with the Spurs awaits Saturday at the Q. Talk to you then.