What a difference a year makes, eh?
I’m not one for moral victories and at the end of the season, a 5 point loss counts the same as a 55 point loss, but it was nice to watch this young Cavs squad compete for the full 48 minutes against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
And compete they did.
Kyrie Irving, a night after scoring a career high 26 in a win in Phoenix, finished with 21 points and 4 assists and Anderson Varejao pitched in 11 points and 14 rebounds (not to mention numerous hustle plays) but the Cavs, who trailed by as many as 19, could never get closer than three down the stretch. Cleveland had no answer for that Kobe Bryant guy (42 points, his third straight 40 point performance) and big man Pau Gasol had a ‘quiet’ 19 point and 10 boards.
The Cavs, playing their sixth game on their seven game road trip, trailed by 18 at halftime (59-41) and could’ve easily folded. However, Alonzo Gee’s baseline dunk (Gee’s only field goal) late in the third cut the Laker lead to just 12 heading into the final period. The Cavs’ effort carried into the fourth, as the Lakers started the quarter by missing their first eight field goal attempts and the Cavs were a couple of Boobie Gibson treys from making the game really interesting.
You had to like what you saw from this team, it wasn’t their night but they gave themselves chances. Kobe needed 30 shots and 10 free throws to score his 42 (I felt like Anthony Parker, Gee and Gibson were just good enough to make Bryant to work for his shots, but not good enough to force him to do anything he didn’t want to do). The Cavalier bench continued their stellar play, keeping the Cavs in the game and outscoring their Laker counterparts 36-4 (Ramon Sessions led the bench bunch with 12 and Gibson and Tristan Thompson each had 9). If you would’ve told me Jamison and Parker would’ve combined for 13 points on 6-23 shooting, I’d have guessed the final tally would’ve been much worse than the 97-92 final.
The Cavs finish their road trip Monday night in Charlotte and return home for Golden State on Tuesday. While I expect the Cavs to compete in that Bobcat game, it’s that Warrior game that scares me; a young team’s first home game in weeks coming on the second night of a back-to-back against a run-and-gun Golden State team? Yikes.
– Omri Casspi had his best game in awhile, finishing with 11 points, 4 boards and 3 assists in 21 minutes. He got punked by Matt Barnes in the second quarter and that seemed to energize the third year forward. Let’s hope that this can jump start his game, as I’ve been underwhelmed thus far and am waiting for Alonzo Gee to take his starting spot.
– Actual quote from a friend, during a “Semih Erden is getting minutes so they can get some idea of what he can do” discussion”: “I get that, but when I watch him play, I find myself wishing that Ryan Hollins was on the court. And that scares me.” Erden looks like he’s still getting his sea legs but I can’t say I disagree.
– I wasn’t completely surprised when I read this in Terry Pluto’s column:
But consider how the Cavaliers are No. 5 in television ratings in this early NBA season.
If any fan base should be turned off by pro basketball, it’s Cleveland after The Decision.
While the Cavs won’t sell out the arena as in the days of You Know Who, their fans are paying attention.
I’ve found that folks are fairly interested in this Cavs team; I’m finding myself in lots of Cavalier discussions (note: obviously this is anecdotal. I mean, I like basketball so people talk to me about basketball). But it makes sense; this team is easy to root for, Irving and Thompson look promising, they’re actually running an offense and they’re challenging and fighting on the defensive end (it doesn’t hurt that the two of the fan favorites from the LBJ-era, Gibson and Varejao, are still around).
However, I do take issue with the “if any fan base should be turned off by by pro basketball, it’s Cleveland” line. This is a team with two top 5 picks, one of which who looks like he could be the Rookie-of-the-Year. Yes, the Decision was terrible but after the LBJ years, this is a fanbase and city now used to watching NBA basketball. Even last year, when the wheels came off, the Cavs were at least interesting (if you’re gonna be bad, might as well be historically bad). Plus they had fun wins at home against the Celtics, Lakers and Heat and there was the whole Baron Davis trade. Yes, they weren’t good, but they were interesting and proactive and at least their owner gives a crap.
– If there’s a fan base that should be turned off by pro basketball, it’s the fans of Cleveland’s next opponent, the Charlotte Bobcats. Perpetual mediocrity and fat, lazy players is much worse for a fan base than (failed) MVP-led, playoff runs and drafting first overall and again at No. 4. I feel the Cavs are in a really good spot.
– I’m finding that fans (especially fans in their late 20s, early 30s) are way into this team. I was pleasantly surprised at all the young adults at the home opener versus Toronto (and even at the intrasquad game). This age group grew up watching the Price-Daugherty teams fight Michael Jordan’s Bulls and then spent their college/post-college years watching the Cavs contend for a title. I also can’t stress enough how much folks love Anderson Varejao’s hustle and loathe Antawn Jamison’s shot selection (hooray for long twos!).
– But don’t tell Cleveland’s sports talk stations (both of which I genuinely like). Driving home last night, I turn on 92.3 and they’re talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame voting (wooo!) so I flip to 850 and I hear “So our question tonight is this: if you could sub the Browns for one of these playoff teams, which team would it be and which matchup would benefit them the best?”. Sounds like a fun, productive discussion…
Now, to be fair, I was only in the car for a little bit, maybe these guys had long Kyrie Irving discussions before or after I tuned in (again, this is purely anecdotal) but it’s not like there weren’t any storylines heading into last night’s Cavs-Lakers game.
– Said storylines: The Cavs were .500 and actually looking competent, Dan Gilbert’s team was facing the team he allegedly (but not really) blocked from acquiring Chris Paul, former Cavs coach Mike Brown was facing the Cavs for the first time (a team now coached by former-Laker Byron Scott), Antawn Jamison: given the green light to shoot for showcasing purposes?, Kyrie Irving: Great Point Guard or Greatest Point Guard Ever?, Will Mike Brown be able to keep Kobe from shooting 30 times a game? (Hint: no), Should the Cavs trade Anderson Varejao? But won’t we miss him? But what could they get in return? What about Ramon Sessions?, and, the most burning question: Why is Samardo Samuels behind Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden?
– And finally, due to the weird lockout schedule, this was the only time the Cavs face the Lakers this season. There will be no rematch in Cleveland, unlike last year.