April 25, 2014

Cavaliers Show Peek of Princeton Offense

It was poetic. It was fluid.  It even led to a Byron Scott smile. One placed roughly one foot above a set of crossed arms, but a smile is most definitely a smile.

The first quarter featured a young Cavalier team trading largely in slop, ultimately resulting in double-digit turnovers and a few head-scratching moments vis a vis extra, perhaps unnecessary pass attempts. But once this ten-man rotation had even more time to gel, perhaps aided by a post-first quarter pep talk from Scott, fans were graced with flashes of what the Wine and Gold can become on the offensive end.  With roughly seven minutes to go in the third frame, the team’s first unit – on a night that was largely dominated by the “reserves” – flawlessly executed back-to-back plays that included nary a dribble.

Rooted in transition due to a tag-team defense of a high pick-and-roll by Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers point guard was merely the first domino to fall in a set of passes and screens. A look to the wing resulted in Antwan Jamison faking a ball screen before rotating to the corner. Anderon Varejao would follow suit, streaming to the top of the key where he would pull his defender, allowing Jamison to cut, undefended, to the rim for a bounce pass and easy conversion. It was Princeton offense in it’s finest moment, drawing a “text book!” scream of joy from the uber-unfiltered Austin Carr who was able to witness the beauty from his courtside perch.

Following yet another stop on the defensive end, the Cavaliers would hold their opponent to 44 percent shooting while amassing nine steals, Irving led a fast-break attempt, driving to the key before kicking the ball out to the wing where Anthony Parker was ready and waiting.  Irving would roll to the far side of the floor as key-based defenders would flash toward Parker in attempt to nullify any three-point attempt. Again, a streaming Jamison would catch a pass, resulting in a successful lay-up attempt and a foul.

Successive plays laced entirely in ball movement and player location. The Cavaliers would be up five only five points prior to the first Jamison score; four quick points would extend their lead to nine before a three-pointer (again by the veteran power forward) would take the lead to double figures, all in the course of 50 game seconds.

Though only having two preseason games and a condensed slate of preseason practices, it appears that Byron Scott’s ever-so-slight implementation of his preferred style of offense is working in small doses. The players are communicating better two games into this season than they appeared to at all during the course of the 2010-11 slate; feel free to use correlation to the addition of Irving, but Ramon Sessions and his unit – comprised largely of players who called Cleveland home last season – appear to be doing just fine. One could see the elation in the second-year Cavs coach’s face as his players seemed to “get it,” even if each instance were by happenstance of an opponent turnover.

Once again, this time in a winning outcome, the upstart Cavaliers have been able to get to the rim via ball movement rather than isolation drives; 15 of the team’s 21 field goals at the rim were assisted with Irving, Parker and Daniel Gibson all chipping in at least three and all four of Jamison’s lay-ins being a product of his teammates’ passing.  Where the said fluidity didn’t result in a lay-in, the Wine and Gold were able to make the opponent pay as assists also led to five of the team’s seven converted three-point field goals. Unselfish ball and nonstop movement leading to largely unabated success, quality of opponent notwithstanding.

This young team needed nothing more than to get a win on the road, seeing what it takes to come out the victors given their essential lack of a safety net.  With a 10-man rotation with every single one of the players contributing, earning at least 20 minutes across the board, there is a complete focus on accountability and execution.  This team will learn from its mistakes, knowing when not to make that additional pass, and realize exactly what they have to do to bridge the current gap between them and their future opponents, be it rooted in athleticism, conditioning or experience.

And in the oft occasion that gap can include a fluid, made-for-video type of play that makes you rise up from what would otherwise be a moment of intense comfort, it is that much better.  Especially when it leads to something that we didn’t get to see all that much of one season ago: a happy and proud head coach.

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

  • Harv 21

    Affable Austin made a rare lucid observation last night: Irving needs to play at his speed and make his teammates react to him. Like this kid’s understanding of floor spacing and the basketball geometry that tells him what angles are available for his drives and passes.

    Also, despite his points last night Jamison’s legs look totally dead to me. Like Phil Hubbard at the end of his career – gravity-bound and surviving on veteran savvy – but with none of Hubbard’s defensive determination. Hope they can jettison Jamison and keep Andy because Andy is so clever moving without the ball and it already looks like he and Kyrie have a little floor chemistry that will help the rook develop. Andy’s cutting is perfect for the Princeton offense.

  • masonjarjar

    I’d love to have us move Jamison and get a true center or a healthy Erden, freeing Andy up to play PF.

  • yerfdog

    Very pleased with the play last night. The rookies look good, Samardo reminds me of big babyin Orlando.

  • The Other Tim

    Atta boy, Kyrie!

  • ben

    Since Kyrie still didn’t put up as many points as Cole, it is clear that we should have drafted Cole 1st Overall. We didn’t, and so the Cavs are terrible. Gilbert is terrible. And Cleveland will never succeed at anything ever. Amen.

  • Omar’s Magic Glove

    Good game last night. It was nice to see Samuels finishing at the rim instead of Hollins getting blocked at the rim. I thought Gee played very well last night also. And I really like the Thompson pick thus far. He had quite a few good defensive plays last night. Also, I thought Irving played better last night than the first game, but he was outplayed by Piston’s rookie Brandon Knight. Go Cavs!

  • http://www.mrrlaw.com tsm

    Anyone else think Samardo reminds them of Lonnie Shelton or Tractor Traylor? At least we are interesting to watch this year, with our 2 rookies showing why they were drafted so high. Agree that Jamison needs to go, and Parker should also be sent packing at some point during the season. Here’s hoping we can draft a scoreer at the 2 or 3 position next summer.

  • CavsFanInLA

    The Cavs looked fantastic last night, with admirable team effort and unselfish play.

    And Scott shows why he is an elite Coach

    I am torn between wanting them to win, and wanting them to experiment, try different rotations, and have an end-of-season record that allows them to draft high in the 2012 draft.

    Bit, it’s clear that we have the pieces, coach and teamwork needed to be a good team.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    I’m not sure Kyrie was necessarily outplayed by Brandon Knight. For one, Knight played a lot more minutes than Irving did. And yet Irving had more assists and rebounds than Knight. I thought Kyrie was better defensively than Knight, too, as Knight committed a lot of dumb and reckless fouls. Picking up his 4th early really hurt his team as he was the hot hand but had to sit down.

    Knight is more of a pure scorer than Irving is. I’m not sure there’s ever been a question about that. But in terms of being a complete PG and being able to have an effect on all facets of the game, Irving showed last night that he is closer to being that player than Knight is.

  • oribiasi

    @ CavsFanInLA: Why be torn? Let them win! Why not? It’s not like the next LBJ is in the draft in 2012. Win as much as possible; make your team get used to it, so when they do encounter the Miamis and the Dallas’ of the world, they will feel compelled to perform.

    All that said, let’s be honesty: Detroit is a very sad team right now. Very little direction, poor coaching, hardly any play-makers and I cannot for the life of me figure out why Ben Wallace is still playing basketball.

    Sound like a team we all know/love around here? =0)

  • DocZeus

    If you came away with the notion that Brandon Knight played better than Kyrie Irving last night than you were not watching the game right. I don’t know what to tell you.

  • Ethan

    @6 Knight had about ten more minutes than Kyrie on the floor as well

  • Harv 21

    @7: hope it would be more Lonnie Shelton than Traylor, who only played hard when the spirit move him. Lonnie had slightly more limited skills but was always a beast. Dude subdued an armed burglar outside Hot Sauce Williams one winter night, then sat on him until the cops arrived. That’s the kind of guy I want protecting Kyrie on the court.

    @Ben: not to worry, some of us have a functioning sarcasm detector.

  • Josh

    People who think Knight outperformed Irving should be banned from watching basketball. “He scored more points so he was better” isn’t really analysis.

  • Shamrock

    No bias around here but as pointed out the Cavaliers beat the Pistons not the Heat. Knight and Irving should have battles for years to come.

  • Harv 21

    Knight looked great, like a future star. No need to get defensive about Kyrie v. Knight. If the Pistons keep him at point guard this will be a great rivalry within our division for years. Just a little early for the comparison after 2 games. They’ll both be different players by 2013.

  • oribiasi

    @ Harv 21: I totally forgot about that burglar story. Amazing.

    Also, how can you see us all from your fully armed and operational/functional ivory tower? lol

  • ben

    High powered binoculars

  • Joe

    Nice team win. IMO – Ryan Hollins needs to be stapled to the bench & used ONLY in garbage time situations or if injuries happen in game. Several players have raised their games: Samuels, Gee, Sessions and the rooks and Casspi are just going to get better. Throw in healthy Andy, Boobie and a couple others…AND…look out – when they are not FLAT and play D, they might be able to be competitive & light yers better then last season. Winning culture – bring it on…NOW!

  • Ryan

    I really like how Andy and K.I. are meshing on the floor. I know Andy is really emotional on the floor, but I see Kyrie feeding off of it. These boys really looked like they were having some fun last night. Eventhough it was Detriot, they moved the ball well and played as a team. This is going to be an exciting season and everyone in
    Cleveland should be watching and supporting
    them. See you all at The Q Sunday night!!!

  • Omar’s Magic Glove

    I guess I’m catching a lot of heat for the Knight played better than Irving comment. It’s not that I think Irving played bad, just that Knight had a better game.

    Irving:20 minutes, 5-9 shooting, 14 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 2 steals

    Knight: 29 minutes, 10-13 shooting, 23 points, 6 assists, 1 rebound, 2 turnovers, 2 steals.

    I do understand that Knight playing more minutes than Irving is a factor, but the game I watched, in the “battle of first round draft picks: guards”, Knight was the better player on the losing team, in my opinion.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    According to ESPN, If the playoffs started today, the Cavs would be the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. Maybe Dan will make good on his promise earlier than expected.

  • The Other Tim

    Why should I expect the 1st overall pick to be better than the 28th pick? I’m just a Cleveland fan and should be happy with whatever we get. The first overall pick is supposed to be nervous. Why should he have an immediate impact? That’s silly. After all, we don’t have to pay him a lot of money until he develops, right? And the great news is, we’ll have him forever. Imagine how good he’ll be in 10 years.
    Dan Gilbert Awesome-time Amen!

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    What’s silly is proclaiming one to be better than the other after 2 games. Norris Cole scoring 20 points in his first game, doesn’t make him better than Kyrie Irving.

    Irving had one bad game, but his positive influence was all over last night’s game. Anyone who thinks Irving didn’t play well or didn’t have a strong impact on that game probably didn’t watch the game and is just reading the box score.

  • The Other Tim

    All I did was ask Irving to have a good game in his second game. Which is what Cole did.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    And Irving complied.

  • ben

    Nope, you’re wrong. Norris Cole is obviously the better player. Look at all the evidence.
    1) He scored more points
    2) He’s on the Heat

    We messed up. Cleveland is doomed.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    hmm, i think irving would have more points scored than cole if he was on the heat simply because, i dont know, hes surrounded by really really good players? cole would probably be doing worse if he was in cleveland.

  • Pich

    Norris Cole is a Boobie Gibson look-a-like if he practices and learns how to play NBA D. Stand in the corner and wait for one of the double covered big 2.5 to throw him a pass for an uncontested open shot.

    Irving… is THE option. A starting PG that is being double, triple teamed with not many options to throw to.

    Huge difference.

    That’s all.