There were plenty of eye opening issues with the Cavaliers in Game One. The first, and most obvious one, was the play of Kyrie Irving. While some nervous Cavalier fans might be concerned with the young PG after just one game, the reality is that there’s not much worth reading into after just one game.
There’s no question Irving was hesitant to create his own offense. Only a couple times did he decide to make matters into his own hands and create something by driving into the lane. The Cavaliers will need him to be much more assertive. That’s what he was drafted for. As he gets more comfortable with his teammates and his role in this offense I expect him to be much more aggressive, the way he was with Duke.
The Pistons game gives Kyrie his first chance to show how he bounces back from sub par games. It will be a tough test at is also his first regular season game on the road. Fortunately for Irving and the Cavaliers, it will be in an arena they have already played in, thanks to the preseason matchups with the Pistons.
The biggest issue for Irving, however, was not his offense, but his defense. He was routinely pinned down by the high screen of the Raptors’ bigs and he was slow to recover, often watching Jose Calderon slice through the lane and setting up an easy assist.
It is imperative that Anderson Varejao be quicker in recovering to help cover Irving. As the team’s best defensive player, Varejao needs to be a leader on defense and make sure he is communicating with Irving on the screens to help the young PG out. Both Irving and Varejao looked completely out of sync in defending the pick and roll game.
It was frustrating for Cavs fans after listening to a lot of offseason rhetoric about how defense was going to be the focus this year. The Raptors said many of the same things, and their new coach was able to showcase some real results as the Raptors’ defense certainly did not resemble what fans were used to seeing out of them. It was unfortunate the Cavaliers could not say the same.
The Pistons will offer the Cavaliers another chance to prove their is some meat behind their words and that defensive improvement really is on the horizon. The Pistons and new coach Lawrence Frank feature a starting lineup of Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko, and Greg Monroe. The Cavaliers will likely use their same starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Anthony Parker, Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao.
The Pistons are once again without Charlie Villanueva who is still serving his 4 game suspension. This creates a bit of a void in size for the Pistons, something the Cavaliers might want to try to take advantage of. If Omri Casspi doesn’t revert back to his preseason form and once again plays like he did in the opener, it might be wise for Coach Scott to consider sliding Jamison to SF and playing Tristan Thompson at PF with Varejao at C to give the Cavaliers a bigger lineup to match up with the Pistons’ smaller lineup.
Of course, if Antawn Jamison plays like he did in Game One, it might not be a bad idea to just put Thompson in at PF instead of Jamison, anyway. Either way, the Cavaliers need to take advantage of other teams’ weaknesses. That falls on Byron Scott. At times Scott is either too rigid or too slow with his player rotations and substitution patterns and he misses out on chances to create mismatches. It will be interesting again to see how Coach Scott continues to develop his rotations. I felt he left the 2nd unit in way too long in the 2nd quarter of the first game. I’d like to see a little quicker reaction when the hot lineup is clearly cooling off. I’d also like to see a little more mixing and matching of players and lineups rather than more or less wholesale substitutions in one or two moves.
The Cavaliers have a “easy” schedule to start the season. This Pistons game is another winnable game. But they have to play much better than they did in the opener. It was disheartening to see such a flat team fall back on many of last season’s bad habits. Byron Scott needs to get through to his team. Sending messages to slumping players like Casspi and Jamison would be a good start. Playing guys like Gee and Thompson with some first team players might shake things up a bit.
Whatever the case, the Cavaliers can’t afford a repeat of Game One. Losing is one thing, but playing such abhorrently bad basketball as we frequently saw last season is simply unacceptable. The Pistons are a team the Cavaliers probably match up better with, as they don’t have a player like Bargnani who can pull Varejao out away from the paint. I look for a much better effort from the Cavaliers in this game, and I look for improvement in a number of areas.
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