April 24, 2014

Cavaliers To Try To Continue To Grow Against Indiana

The Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1) head into Indianapolis tonight to take on the Indiana Pacers (2-0). For the Cavaliers, this will be their first test against a very good basketball team. Looking to build their first win streak of the season, the Cavaliers will need to not only match the effort they gave against the Pistons, but they will have to likely play even better.

The Pacers are off to a great start this year, playing pretty solid basketball in wins against the Pistons and Raptors. Head coach Frank Vogel will feature a starting lineup of Darren Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, and Roy Hibbert. The Pacers have also have quality bench guys like Tyler Hansbrough, George Hill, Dahntay Jones, and Lou Amundson.

The Cavaliers will likely once again feature a starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Anthony Parker, Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao. So far this year, coach Byron Scott has used a wholesale 2nd unit of Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and either Ryan Hollins or Samardo Samuels. With as well as Samuels played against Detroit, it would be surprising to see him go back to Ryan Hollins, but if the 2nd unit is needed to match up with Indiana’s starters, Hibbert’s height could be problematic for Samuels. This may tempt Coach Scott to fall back on Hollins.

Once again, a major focus for the Cavaliers will be their defense, and primarily Kyrie Irving’s continued development in defending the pick and roll. Like fellow Georgetown center Greg Monroe, Hibbert is more of a post up, stay at home center, which should once again allow Anderson Varejao to be more helpful in cutting off both driving and passing lines. However, the Pacers are slightly different with David West. After years of executing nearly flawless pick and rolls with Chris Paul in New Orleans, West is the one who poses the most threat in the pick and roll game. This will offer a tough challenge for Antawn Jamison. If Jamison struggles defending West and helping Irving with the pick and roll defense, Coach Scott could decide to try breaking his routine of hockey style line changes and use a situational substitution of Tristan Thompson to see if he offers a better matchup.

For the Cavaliers on offense, we saw Kyrie Irving show flashes of why he was the first pick in the Pistons game. It was encouraging to see him bounce back from his disappointing debut and make his impact felt in game two. After a bit of a slow start against Detroit where Irving was once again being a little too passive and hesitant, he finally decided to do what he does best and make the offense run through him. The entire team responded and suddenly Irving was pushing tempo on the break, distributing great passes to guys cutting without the ball, setting up teammates for either an easy basket or an easy assist. Hopefully Irving can continue to build on that foundation and play more minutes and make an even bigger impact in this game.

The Cavaliers’ bench has been huge thus far this season. For the Pacers, while the bench should be one of their strong suits, they are struggling to find scoring. George Hill in particular has been struggling with his shot. The Pacers will be looking for better play out of that unit in this game. The Pacers’ reserves have been solid on defense, though, and it will be fun to watch these benches battle it out. Can the Cavaliers continue to find bench scoring from unexpected sources (Gee in game 1, Samuels in game 2) and can Tristan Thompson continue to provide a spark of energy, defense, and yes, even scoring, against a stout Pacers’ bench?

The Cavaliers had a lot going for them against Detroit. It was a good matchup schematically and there was a level of comfort and familiarity from having played them twice in the preseason. Indiana is a new challenge. Both the Pacers and the Cavaliers believe and hope that they are teams on the rise. However, the Pacers are clearly much farther along than the Cavaliers. The Pacers hope to be a legit player in the Eastern Conference. They will expect themselves to beat Cleveland, and rightfully so. But for a young team still trying to build confidence and an identity, the Pacers are a prime opponent to make a stand and prove that on any given night they can jump up and beat a playoff team. In that way, this is a bit of a measuring stick game for both teams. Can the Pacers put away teams they should beat? And can the Cavaliers show that their true identity is closer to the Pistons game than the Raptors game? Find out tonight at 7:00.

  • Shamrock

    Indiana is no Detroit so this should be a far superior test.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    Appreciate the in-depth analysis Andrew. I dont know a lot about basketball’s “Xs and Os” so you’re usually a good read for me. Go Cavs.

  • R

    The Cavs PER ratings through 2 games are shockingly high- Sessions leading the way with 33.6, Thompson at #2 with 25.6. Despite 2/12 shooting vs Toronto, Irving still has a PER of 20.5. Note that Hollinger’s formula always sets the league avg PER to 15.0, and 7 of our 11 guys to see minutes are over 20. The 4 under 20? Gibson, Jamison, Casspi, Hollins. Indiana has ZERO players over 20, despite playing the same two opponents as us. Compared to their peers in the NBA, the Cavs are playing efficient basketball.

    It’s such a small sample of games but what’s not to like?

  • christopher

    Tristan is light years in front of JJ in his 3rd freaking game already.

    Kyrie is looking crisp tonight as well and Gee is quite a nice surprise so far this year.

    Now….lay down so we can net Drummond, Barnes or Perry next year.

  • http://www.60bpm.com/ Robbie

    Going into OT. This has been a fun game to watch.

  • Terry

    Wow is Jamison horrible!!!!!!!!

  • christopher

    Perfect game…showed growth, rookies played great and another ping pong ball in the hopper.

  • Leo

    Definitely agree that Jamison is horrible…that dude barely rebounds and at times is atrocious on the floor with poor shot selection…i hate that some here want the team to purposely lose…we just did that last year…thats so lame…id like to see this team win and be competitive

  • christopher

    @ Leo

    Nobody said to purposely “tank” a game. The only way this organization competes for an NBA championship is to develop the young talent, trade the right assets and draft.

    Welcome to the NBA.

  • http://atechstory.com toph

    Even in a loss, im excited to see this team develop. Well parts of this team. I need them to send Jamison SOMEWHERE. I can count on one hand that man has gotten the ball and not heaved up a shot. He also can’t rebound, and hes slow on defensive rotations as well. An absolute vortex of suck.

    I’ve been most impressed with Tristan. Defensively hes already several light years ahead of JJ.

    Hooray for potential.

  • Leo

    @ christopher….i agree with that sentiment and understand how to win in NBA but the Cavs hung tough with a team that many expect to be top 3 or 4 in the East this year and could have won big if they hit their free throws and rebounded better. This team will improve a lot as season goes on….i never suspected that last year…i just hope we get rid of jamison and use samuels and tt2 a lot more

  • christopher

    @Leo

    Jamison, Varejao and or Gibson I suspect are on the trade block come deadline time.

  • D

    Leo, I agree, it’s LAME to want the team to lose. That’s so corny. We should want the team to compete at the best of its abilities night in and night out. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. But only in Cleveland do we think that a team being better than people thought they would be is a bad thing. How stupid. I get what everybody says, “build through the draft!”, blah, blah, blah. But anything can change in an instant in the NBA. No one can take any game or any season for granted. You can’t just throw away a season because there’s no guarantee how your next year’s draft picks are going to turn out, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have as high of draft picks as you want, there’s no guarantee of your best players staying healthy in next season, there’s no guarantee of anything. Win now. If you don’t, you don’t. But worry about the draft when the draft comes. Wanting the team to lose is wack. Always compete 24/7. That’s all that matters. Not ping pong balls. Not draft picks. Competition. Compete. Fight to win. Period. If you’re not good enough, then you’re not good enough and THEN you focus on the draft. But the draft is plan B. Plan A is to win as much as you can as soon as you can.

  • D

    And, Varejao and Boobie should stay, Jamison should go, in my opinion, as long as we can get something of value for him. If you have to just give him away, then you might as well keep him until the end of the season and let his contract expire.

  • christopher

    @D

    Again, nobody here said for anyone to “tank a game”.

    I cheer for the team to compete, grow and learn under Byron…..now that being said nothing will be more devastating to this organization long term than to end up as an 8th seed playoff team this year.

    The path to success for a small to mid market team in the new NBA is to bottom out, draft high, acquire key pieces through expiring contract trades, shoot for a 1-2 year window, rinse, wash repeat.