CLEVELAND: An unlucky 13 thoughts tonight in honor of the Cavs’ rotten luck in close games lately, including Sunday’s 108-104 loss to the Golden State Warriors…
1. Gotta be honest, don’t have many thoughts about this team right now. Plus, given the ongoing dumpster fire in Berea, I’m guessing the Cavs could release Andrew Bynum tomorrow and no one would notice.
2. The Cavs played really well tonight in the first half. They were terrific in the fourth quarter Saturday at Boston. It was beginning to look like removing Bynum might have been the best thing for this offense … and then they collapsed in the fourth quarter and overtime.
3. Kyrie Irving has to figure out the thin line between when to pass and when to shoot in key situations. Teams are swarming him with more defenders at the rim this season, which should force him to give up the ball, but too often he’s trying to take on two and three defenders at the rim. The results are what you’d expect.
4. I’m not going to pound him too badly for it, however, because he didn’t touch the ball on either of the last two possessions at Boston on Saturday and that was inexcusable. He started in the opposite corner of the inbounds pass Saturday on the final possession and never made it anywhere near the play, forcing Earl Clark to handle the ball and not even get off a shot.
5. Faced with a somewhat similar situation on Sunday, Mike Brown this time positioned Irving right next to the inbounds pass. It was a simple isolation play and Irving made the 3-pointer to force the overtime.
6. Like I said, it’s a thin line of knowing when to go for it and when to give it up. Irving hasn’t learned where that line is yet. Brown has told Irving games are often officiated differently in the closing moments of tight contests than they are in the first three quarters. Bumps that may get called early in the game may not get called late. “He’s the one who has to determine, ‘Can I finish it or kick it?’”
7. The Cavs have been tantalizingly close in a lot of these games lately. They’ve lost their last three by a combined 9 points. Early in the season they were losing big and winning close, which is never a good sign. Now they’re narrowing the gap on a lot of those losses. Now they have to deal with a New Year’s Eve road game at Indiana, meaning there’s a good chance they’ll soon have their longest losing streak of the season. Right now their five-game skid is tied for the longest.
8. The Cavs opened December by winning four of their first five games. There was a belief things were getting better, but now they’re 5-8 this month entering Tuesday’s game against the Pacers. I suppose that’s progress over November’s miserable 4-12 mark, but it really doesn’t feel like it.
9. I was talking to a member of the organization tonight who asked me what the biggest positive surprise was regarding this team. I couldn’t think of one. Not one. I expected either Dion Waiters or Tristan Thompson to take a big leap this season, but I really haven’t seen it. Both are improved and both have played well, but it hasn’t been the dramatic jump I expected. Irving has struggled with his shot, Anthony Bennett hasn’t played well… As I sit here tonight still mulling the question, I suppose I’d have to say the biggest positive surprise of the season has been the play of undrafted rookie Matthew Dellavedova. That perfectly illustrates why this team is 10-20 right now.
10. Klay Thompson scored 16 points and shot just 5-for-16 Sunday, but how good would he look in a Cavs jersey? It nearly happened on draft night in 2011. One NBA source told me recently the Cavs were trying frantically to add a third top 10 pick in that 2011 draft. Byron Scott told me months later it was the night he really came to believe Chris Grant knew what he was doing and was the right man for the job, watching him work the phones trying to get a third pick.
11. The Cavs selected Kyrie Irving first overall and Tristan Thompson fourth. Grant wanted one more pick and one of his targets was Klay Thompson. The Cavs talked to the Sacramento Kings about a deal involving J.J. Hickson for the No. 7 pick, but the Kings ultimately dealt the pick in a different deal and the Cavs sent Hickson to the Kings after the draft for Omri Casspi and a future pick. Then the Cavs had a deal in place with the Utah Jazz for the No. 12 pick, but the Warriors snatched Thompson at No. 11. The Jazz ultimately backed out of the deal with the Cavs and selected shooting guard Alec Burks.
12. The Cavs are holding practice on Monday. It’s rare, almost unheard of, for a team to practice following a back-to-back, but Saturday’s game was an afternoon start, so it isn’t a traditional back-to-back. Plus Tuesday’s game is also an afternoon start, so there won’t be a morning shootaround. Hence, Monday’s rare practice today.
13. I’m tapping out tonight. That’s all I’ve got. Talk to you Tuesday from Indiana.