April 20, 2014

Suns Stifle Irving as Cavs Drop Six of Seven

Before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Phoenix Suns would commence, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving took to the floor to give the visiting team’s starting five an array of token “good luck” gestures. Five fist-bumps were doled out, two of them complimented with a quick hug. The hugs were reserved for fellow Duke University product Grant Hill, and hero and fellow point guard Steve Nash.

Little did Irving know, the entire Phoenix game-plan would focus on the first-overall pick; a team bound and determined to keep him out of the paint, denying the easy buckets on the defensive end, while using a bevy of screens and slashing when they had ball in hand. Following the 25-point loss, their sixth such an outcome in the last seven games, Irving would leave the Cavaliers locker room with the look of someone who was just involved in a hit-and-run. He provided a solid all-around game — a team-high 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, adding in six rebounds, four assists and a steal — and Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry could not have been more pleased.

“We did a good job on Kyrie [Irving],” said Gentry. “The guy ends up with 16 [points], six [rebounds] and four assists and we talk about what a good job we did on him. That’s a testament to the kind of player that he is because that is doing a good job on him. I thought we kept him out of the paint for the most part. That kid is a great player. He’s got a really, really, really bright future ahead of him.”

That’s a lot of “reallys.” One can also attribute the same amount of amplifiers on how much help Irving needs if this Cleveland Cavaliers team is going to become a powerhouse within their own division let alone one to be in the championship contention talks. Irving only had four assists in this game, as opposed to Nash who was essentially a distributor by dishing out 13 assists (compared to only two field goal attempts) in 29 minutes. However, where the Suns would slice and dice the Cavaliers defense with a barrage of pick-and-rolls leading to 22 essentially uncontested points from the hands of center Marcin Gortat, Cleveland spent the majority of the afternoon missing jump shots and fumbling passes.

Antawn Jamison was 1-of-8 from the floor, Anthony Parker was 1-of-5. Omri Casspi provided some life off of the bench, but it would by no means compensate for the multiple passes from Irving that would merely clang off of the hands of players like Samardo Samuels — Irving was attributed with five turnovers, three of which were his fault in the way that a quarterback is charged with an interception when his wide receiver attacks the ball with stone-laden digits.

Nash could only qualify Irving as a “terrific” player, both in the Cavs win in Phoenix as well as the fresh loss in Cleveland. The difference in this one was not letting the 20-year-old beat them single-handedly.

“I just tried to do the best I could to keep him in front of me,” said Nash. “Not a lot of people have success doing that. I just tried to do the best I could and hopefully our team defense was good and tonight it was.”

Irving, in turn, discussed how frustrating the last two weeks of play have been for he and his team. “We’re not together out there,” he stated, discussing team communication, being at the right spots on the floor during a given set and getting through screens rather than switching — the latter, something that head coach Byron Scott has long been against. There will be nights when the team’s shots are not falling; if the defense cannot get stops and keep the team withing striking distance, the issues merely compile.

Following the loss, Irving strapped on his backpack and took to the hallway outside of the locker room where his father Drederick Irving was waiting for his 20-year-old son. Providing ample symmetry for the evening, two hugs would be administered — one to his father and another to Byron Scott’s wife Anita, both individuals knowing that the Cavaliers’ point guard could use some chin-lifting. Irving would later send out a tweet to his 150,000 followers claiming that he has a “new attitude.”

Down the hall, in the locker room previously occupied by the Suns, the giant dry erase board was scrawled with the words “Great job!” On the one in the locker room Irving emerged from to meet his father, the words “11:00am practice.”  .

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE Getty Images)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You are seeing the problem with the Cavaliers if opponents stop or even slow down Irving the team can’t score.  This is one of the reasons why I’d be in favor of resigning, at a much friendlier contract, Jamison for next season.  That is unless the Cavaliers can add 1-2 rookies who can create offense for themselves in the upcoming draft.

  • porkchopexpress

    Great article Scott, its stuff like this that made me switch from the local papers to WFNY for most of my local sports news.  Of course I have to go elsewhere to find anything regarding Akron teams :).

    Watched this game too and came away with three sort of obvious thoughts.
    1.  Kyrie Irving is in fact really really really good, but you can see where there is room for growth and if he gets there he is going to be near impossible to stop.
    2.  This team is still really really really bad.  I can’t root for losses but I do believe we are going to look back on the games Andy missed and the fact that his injury put us in the 4-9 pick range rather than 10-14.  Believe me, getting to choose from possible Rivers, Beal, or Lamb, is going to make next years Cavs fan happier than choosing between Henson, Leonard, or Tyler Zeller.  Although I wouldn’t mind if they tried to move back up into the teens to snag one of the several big men that look to be very servicable role players.
    3.  We have a pretty good idea of what type of players will complement Irving now.  Black hole big men, or pebble pounding off guard/ small forwards need not apply.  Great hands, slashers, move without out the ball catch and shooters will thrive in this offense with this point guard.  I couldn’t help but watch Bradley Beal, and think how nice he would look right now playing place of Clank Parker. 

  • Steve

    Short-term solutions that just patch and don’t fix the answer should not be pined for. The Cavs need serious help on both sides of the ball. If that means they get to pick in the top 5 three straight years, then they’ll be better off for it.

  • mgbode

    Beal has won me over.  i still like MKG better, but if he comes out I also think he goes top3.

    also, I don’t quite put Rivers in the same class as the others you mentioned.  thankfully, it shouldn’t matter.

    MKG, Beal, Barnes, and J.Lamb are the guys that would work for us the best (assuming we don’t get #1 overall again w/ Anthony Davis)

    then, other teams needing bigs more go for Drummond, T.Robinson, Sullinger, Moultrie, Leonard.that’s already 10 guys and we haven’t mentioned someone drafting PJIII in the top10 based on his “potential” that he’ll never reach.

  • porkchopexpress

    Actually MKG may fall to us.  I had to call in some favors but I managed to get CBS tournament coverage blacked out in Cha, Wash, Det, NJ, and NO.  Since Canada hasn’t gotten television yet Toronto wasn’t a worry.  I can’t help but feel that Charlotte is going to take Anthony Davis and spend 10 years wondering why they didn’t take that athletic guard/forward who puts up 22 a night and plays lock down defense.

  • mgbode

    man, you should have saved those favors and just gotten Stern to rig the lottery again.  or, are you still indebted from last year?  if so, thank you again :)

    (though I still think he would have rigged it anyway just to tweak Sterling)

  • BrownsFanSF

    I think unfortunately both Beal and MKG (if he comes out) are wish list players right now.  They are both looking top 5 (especially after Beal carried Fla farther than they should have gone).

    If I were a betting man, I would have to say it’s going to be Lamb for us at the 7th pick.  My secret wish player is Cody Zeller though.  If he comes out, it looks like he may be in our pick range.  I think he’d be a nice 5 to put next to TT.

  • mgbode

    I don’t think Cody is coming out though.

    If Beal does go top5, does that mean we can hope Barnes falls to us?    if we sit 7/8, then it seems crazy that almost all teams would take wing players.  

    if all 3 of those guys are gone and we are selecting between J.Lamb and Moultrie, then I’m still pretty happy though.

  • BrownsFanSF

    I just looked at like 4 different Mock Drafts and there is so much variation it’s impossible to really predict right now.  MKG seems to be a lock for top 3.  Beal and Lamb have both been all over the place.

    You are right about that many wings in the top 7 picks, could that mean Barnes the odd man out after how well Beal played?  I guess we can pick this back up after the playoffs start and draft talk begins in earnest lol

  • porkchopexpress

    Lets not forget that Austin Rivers announced he’s making the jump.  As far as being a pure scorer is concerned he’s got the most potential of the bunch.  He also has the potential to be a poor mans Jamal Crawford.  In any case either he’s an option for us or he pushes someone else down a slot.  If he could show the ability to work without the ball, I think he and Irving could be a real tough, if kind of short backcourt combo.