Entering this season, Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott idealized within a nine-man rotation. Rife with young, inexperienced talent, having nine different players who could tally 25-30 minutes per night seemed to be the best course of action, especially with several bench players who could be worthy of the ever-popular starting nod.
The results of said experiment were largely positive as the Cavaliers experienced very little drop-off — if not the occasional boost — in production thanks to solid, efficient work from guys like Tristan Thompson, Daniel Gibson, Alonzo Gee and Ramon Sessions.
Fast forward to Tuesday night’s contest in Miami and one-third of Scott’s nine-man rotation were not even in the building. As the Cavs and Heat raced back and forth in front of court-side advertisements for Hublot (new watch alert!), Gibson, Thompson and Anthony Parker stayed back in Cleveland to receive treatment on their various ailment. Couple this with the recent release of the unguaranteed Mychel Thompson and Scott was forced to not only make Gee a starter but work with an even thinner rotation. Wins over Replacement, personified.
With all respect due to their respecitve levels of professional basketball talent, replacing Thompson and Gibson with Luke Harangody and Christian Eyenga — the only two men to have played for Cleveland’s NBDL franchise this season — is rarely going to bear fruit when it comes to the win column. Certainly, Tuesday evening’s final score indicated far worse of a demise, but the Wine and Gold went in to the fourth quarter (typically their best period through this season) down a mere six points. It would only be after the team shot 5-of-23 in the fourth with the Heat continue to trade in transition and dagger-like three-pointers, even a superhuman effort from Kyrie Irving wouldn’t have narrowed the gap.
Akin to the team’s fourth quarter output was that of the reserves, with the non-starters hitting only four of their 23 field goal attempts. “Our second unit couldn’t throw anything in the ocean,” said Scott postgame. Unfortunately, the team released Thompson when it had appeared that Boobie Gibson’s neck infection had subsided; once he had a bit of a setback, Gee — typically the team’s offensive spark off of the bench — was forced into a starting role, leaving Sessions as the lone scoring threat.
The Cavaliers can ill afford to have a team decimated by injuries. While this statement would seem obvious for any professional franchise in any sport, it is exponentially more prevalent with the Wine and Gold due to their relative inexperience. Certainly, a bump here and a bruise there is sustainable — three key rotation players, however, is tough to endure regardless of roster.