Cleveland Cavaliers (0-2) vs
Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0)
Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
Friday, October 30, 2009
8:00 PM EST
Ok, now that we’ve all gotten our cathartic musings on the decline of Cavalier civilization out of our system these last two days, it’s time for the Cavaliers to get on the court and make us forget about this insufferable start to the season. Quite frankly, there’s not too many opponents I would rather see right now than the next 2 the Cavaliers have on their schedule. If the Cavs can get right over these next 2 days, it will go a long way to help get everyone through the upcoming stretch that includes games against good teams like the Wizards, Bulls, and Magic as well as the team’s only trip to New York this year. Fun times ahead! Tonight’s game against the Wolves isn’t a must win game…..but the Cavaliers better win. This city will likely implode upon an 0-3 start.
I’ll keep this short and sweet. If you want the extended version of my thoughts on what the Cavaliers should be doing, you can read this article. For tonight’s game, we’re just looking for baby steps. The Wolves have some good players. I’ve always like Al Jefferson’s game and Jonny Flynn showed flashes of excellence in his NBA debut. Then off the bench you have Ramon Sessions who seems to be unfortunately tied to teams where his talent will go unnoticed, you have another rookie that looks real good in Wayne Ellington, and then there’s the always annoying Brian Cardinal. Oh, and then there’s Sasha Pavlovic, too. None the less, the Wolves, particularly without Kevin Love, are not a very deep team nor do they look like all that great of a team to me. This is a team the Cavaliers might be able to use to get back on track.
If I have a worry, it’s that Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions are going to continue this trend of slicing apart the Cavaliers’ perimeter defense. If they are able to do this, they can draw defenders away from Al Jefferson who could potentially have a nice night. We’ll see if Mike Brown has figured out any wrinkles to stop this yet. The most obvious wrinkle would be to let Delonte play, but I don’t see that happening. Hopefully Mo Williams came ready to turn his defense up a notch. The Cavaliers need it.
If the Cavs can slow down the Wolves’ perimeter attack at the point, their offense will likely struggle against the Cavaliers’ style of defense. I worried going in to the Raptors game that their offense might hurt the Cavs defense with their ability to replicate the Rondo-Pierce-Garnett dynamic in Calderon-Turkoglu-Bosh. Of course, granted, it was Andrea Bargnani and not Hedo Turkoglu that killed the Cavaliers, but regardless, the point is that the Raptors’ offensive explosion wasn’t totally surprising. If the Wolves’ offense blows up on the Cavs, though, it could be a very, very bad sign.
When the Cavaliers are on offense, they must start doing things differently and start getting Shaq or Mo involved early. You can’t keep splitting between the two of them. Pick an offensive system and stick with it. The Timberwolves were 25th in defensive rating last year, and they could be slightly better this year, but I wouldn’t expect a drastic change. The Cavaliers have been overloading the strong side of the court a bit too much this year, it seems, and I’d like to see that get straightened out. Last year, the spacing with Mo and Delonte was superb. This year Anthony Parker hasn’t quite figured that spacing dynamic out yet. If they can start to develop that chemistry, perhaps it will help lead both of them out of their poor performances. Baby steps.
Finally, I’ll be keeping a close eye on how LeBron plays tonight. Does he still trust his teammates? Will he still be willing to defer to them at times and try to set them up for easy baskets? Or will he be too frustrated from the losing and decide instead to just take over this game and win it himself? I don’t know the answer to that. But I’m eager to find out, and I’m hoping the answer is that he still trusts in his teammates.