July 24, 2014

Cavaliers Look To Snap Season-High Losing Streak

Cavaliers hope to fare better against Utah this time around

The Cleveland Cavaliers (13-22, 10th in the East) can officially kiss the playoffs goodbye. Not many felt the Cavaliers could actually make the playoffs to begin with, but the Anderson Varejao injury just made things that much more difficult. Now the Cavaliers find themselves on season high 5 game losing streak and everything is pretty much fallen apart.

Those who prefer lottery over winning games can rejoice in the fact the Cavaliers are actually closing in on a top 5 pick at this pace. The Cavaliers currently have the 8th lowest win PCT and have just one more win than the four teams currently tied for 4th fewest wins. A few more losses to teams the Cavaliers should be able to beat, along with a few timely wins from fellow bottom dwellers like Detroit, Sacramento, Toronto, and New Jersey, and the Cavaliers just might be in the hunt for a top 5 pick after all.

Those who would prefer to see the Cavaliers developing and winning games, this has been a rough stretch. A frustrating lack of focus and effort, things are starting to feel dangerously close to last season. The team is beginning to have that look in their eye again, where they know they’re going to lose before the game even starts.

Tonight the Cavaliers will try to snap out of this funk against the Utah Jazz (17-19, 11th in the West). The Jazz just beat LeBron James and his Miami Heat over the weekend, and they followed that up with a close loss in Dallas to the defending Champs. The Jazz come into this game with a lot of confidence and no doubt feel that they should be able to escape The Q with a win tonight.

With Anderson Varejao this is a tough matchup for Cleveland. Without Varejao, it’s another nightmare matchup. Al Jefferson (18.5 pts, 9.3 reb, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 blk) and Paul Millsap (15.7 pts, 9.0 reb, 2.0 assists, and 1.5 stl) are one of the finest frontcourt duos in the NBA and both are having really strong seasons. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are both making the most of the minutes they are given and are proving to be very efficient players. And then there’s slam dunk champ Jeremy Evans as well.

Without Varejao, the projected starting PF and C for the Cavaliers are Antawn Jamison and Ryan Hollins. Matched up against Jefferson and Millsap. Yikes. We’ll see if Coach Scott feels the need to play Tristan Thompson big minutes to matchup defensively with the Jazz. I would think Samardo Samuels would be a better physical matchup with Jefferson than either Hollins or Erden, but the Cavalier centers have been so awfully inconsistent that it’s tough to say that with any certainty. The point is, the Cavaliers are going to have their hands full in the paint.

The backcourt matchup is a little more favorable. Devin Harris is a really solid PG, but he has been surprisingly mediocre defensively in recent years. His effort in going around screens lags at times, and Irving should be able to take advantage and find some space to get off some good looks. On defense, the goal should be to make Harris shoot from outside, but Harris is so freaking good at getting around much better defenders than Kyrie Irving, so a lot of talk and help defense is a must.

Gordon Hayward’s scoring is up, but that’s a function of his minutes and usage increasing. His shooting overall and from 3-point range is down. He is one of the worst defenders on the Jazz, but I’m not sure either Anthony Parker or Daniel Gibson will be able to do much to take advantage of this. This is where Cleveland’s lack of an attacking wing scorer, particularly at the 2, really hurts them as they may not be able to take advantage of this particular weakness.

This is another game where, quite frankly, I don’t expect the Cavaliers to be able to win unless the Jazz come out and play poorly and don’t give a strong effort on the glass. With road games at Denver and Oklahoma City coming up this week, too, the Cavaliers’ losing streak could be in danger of stretching out longer than anyone wants to see. So I’m not sure how they can pull it off, other than just giving one of their best efforts of the season, but I really hope the Cavaliers can find a way to sneak out of The Q with a win tonight. Otherwise, I’m a little worried about this losing streak pushing 10 games, and I don’t care how badly anyone wants a high lottery pick, another brutal losing streak is the last thing this young team needs right now.

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Image Credit: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images

  • mgbode

    I love Jeremy Evans for the slam dunk contest, but he’s a terrible basketball player.  He’s as likely to turn the ball over as he is to do anything remotely positive for his team.

    I think everyone wants to see Tristan get more minutes now.   The only way to develop the team for the future is to let him play.  He’s probably our best defensive big man right now too, so it helps us be competitive as well.   So, why is he on the bench more than he is in games?

    I think the best way for the Cavs to keep this one close is to deny easy passes inside.  Yes, that means giving the Jazz a little room to shoot from the outside, but you want Harris doing that anyway and you can hope they are a little cold from the outside.

  • Harv 21

    Someone forget to take his positivity pill this morning?

    Maybe this will help. Turned on the game for a sec Saturday night and saw Ryan Hollins grab a rebound. A contested rebound. I didn’t DVR it and I didn’t see him try that again, because it apparently took a lot out of him, but he did it. Also, pretty sure the whistle had not yet blown. So there’s that.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Agreed, you absolutely have to clog the paint against Utah… they don’t have great shooters.  The best way to keep them honest is TT.  The worst way is to give a ton of minutes to Jamison, Hollins, and the statue of Semih Erden.

    I always wondered how a guy as tall, and as long, and as athletic as Ryan Hollins could be such a terrible rebounder.  I think I understand now.  He tries to block everything, even shots he has zero chance at getting to (and he’s not a natural shot-blocker).  When he goes for the block, he doesn’t have the ability to jump right back up and grab a rebound like Thompson does.  Instead, he completely takes himself out of the play.  If Hollins could just realize that he’s not a good weakside shot-blocker and stay at home to wait for rebounds, he’d make so much more of an impact.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Ha, that’s funny… we commented on Hollins and his terrible rebounding at the same time.  Jinx, buy me a Coke.

  • Harv 21

    bought it and put in in your frig. Hollins is also thirsty and has established position in front so you shouldn’t need to break stride.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Hahaha… no worries… he’ll go for the block and miss, so even though I’m 5’10″ with no muscular definition, there’s no chance that he stops me from getting that Coke.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I know, right? I usually try to be pretty positive with these things and focus on the things the Cavaliers can do to try to win. But I dunno, something about this losing streak is really bothering me. Something is off with their chemistry right now and I don’t like it.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I think Coach Scott really needs to consider starting TT at center. Unless he’s worried it will hurt his development at PF, I just don’t see a better option. The Cavs’ centers are just so incredibly bad. 

    And I agree on defending the Jazz. Pack the paint, make them shoot mid range jumpers. It’s better than letting them go to town in the paint.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Is it Anthony Parker coming back?  I’ve been trying to figure this out as well and the only difference I can see is that Anthony Parker is back and playing poorly (shooting 37% in his last 4 games and playing like a scarecrow on defense).  I think the center position is the other problem.  Whatever positive things we were getting from Erden, Samuels, and Hollins… they’re all gone now.  I’d rather see a very undersized Tristan Thompson as our starting center at this point.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Top 5 pick and 25 or less wins right about what I predicted before the season…make it happen Cavaliers!

  • BrownsFanSF

    I agree thats part of it.  But rebounding is so much more than just size and length.  When you look at guys like Barkley, Love, Rodman, these guys are all way above average rebounders without elite size.

    I would say it’s mainly a function of toughness, effort, strength and a sort of knack for finding the ball on the rim.  Of course with Hollins not being very tough, strong or high energy, I think it’s safe to say even if Byron cemented him to the ground on the weak side, he’s still going to get muscled out more often than not.

  • BrownsFanSF

    I really see it as the AV injury starting to catch up with us.  You can only play a scarecrow and AJ for so long as your bigs until the lack of inside game catches up with us.

    The Andy-Kyrie pick and roll was our butter offensively, and allowed Kyrie to play sooooo much more efficiently.  Defensively we don’t even need to talk about the difference between Andy and Hollins, I don’t think there are words in the English language strong enough.

    We were able to survive a little while with Kyrie playing out of his mind, Gee picking up some slack and Razor doing his thing.  Now that Kyrie has come back to earth, it’s clear offensively and defensively there is a big hole at the Center position.

  • mgbode

    it’s definitely worth a shot.  we can always switch him out from center if he’s getting clobbered.

    and we all seem to agree on the defensive strategy, which means that the Cavs will out think themselves and defend the 3pt line (THEY’LL NEVER EXPECT IT!!!!)

  • mgbode

    and watching the shot.  so many players turn to the rim when someone shoots.  if you watch the ball, then you know where the ball is going (unless it takes a weird bounce on the rim).

  • clevelandrocks

    play manny harris! lol

  • gren

    I thought we were done being a joke ? :(

  • porkchpxprss

    Its funny I read (most of, well okay some of, okay I read the bullet points on true hoop) the “Deconstructing Rebounding with Optical Tracking” article from the Sloan conference.  I find it hilarious that a group of MIT brainiacs can spend the milliions in time and resources to study how best to rebound and Moses Malone can take a high school education and grab boards by looking over his shoulder.

  • porkchpxprss

    Andrew, not to be on the offensive, but the whole article comes off as with an “I’m taking my ball and going home” feeling.  You categorize fans as those who “rejoice” in losing, and those who “prefer” developing players.  As if I can’t sit here and see progress in individuals while still possibly gaining ground on much needed top level talent. I personally think you have made 2 great miscalculations.
    1.  The impact losing as on young developing players.  Every and I mean every single great player has gone through a period of losing, if a player’s game or lifetime attitude towards the game changes for the worse forever because they played on a less talented team then said player wasn’t meant to be a great in the first place.
    2.  You have obviously miscalculated how talented this squad was in the first place.  They ave no real NBA quality 2 or 3 to speak of.  Their best center who is best at playing a backup 4/5 is injured.  What did you expect to happen? 
    This comes off as snarky I’m sure, but I’m just trying to give you a pick me up. This team is thin on the bench,lacking talent at critical scoring positions, and got lucky with an easy early schedule and now its catching up with them.  Its not falling apart its moving back towards  the center.  As I have done all season you can root earnestly for this team because where they are going to end up is inalterable.  As the great philospher Rasheedius once said “Ball don’t lieth”

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I appreciate the feedback, but you’re reading into things that I didn’t say. I actually intentionally used the word “prefer” to describe both parties so as to pass no judgment on either side. What I used the word “rejoice” for was the fact that the Cavaliers are actually closing in on a top 5 pick. If someone is rooting for a lottery pick, I would think they would be happy with this development. 

    I’ve been firmly in the “whatever happens, happens” camp all year. Whether the Cavs pick in the lottery or make the playoffs (LOL) is fine with me. I think there’s value in both outcomes. So to think I am passing particular judgment on either side of the argument is just wrong, and probably tells me you’re projecting your personal opinion into my argument. And that’s fine. We all do that. I’m just trying to point out I am actually not concerned whatsoever with the outcome, record wise, of this season.

    My concern with this team is that I see lackluster effort setting in, and that includes in Kyrie Irving. That’s what bothers me. Maybe you don’t agree, but I’ve seen time and again how winning and losing cultures sink into different franchises. It’s not permanent….look at how quickly the Cavaliers lost their winning culture once LeBron left. So if the Cavaliers end up with a high draft pick who makes the Cavaliers into a real playoff contender, then I’m sure the culture can turn around. I’m just not one who likes seeing a team give in to losing, and when I watch this team right now, that’s what I see. But maybe I’m totally wrong about that. Wouldn’t be the first time.