Cavaliers

Game One: Cavaliers vs Nets Behind The Box Score

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

They say box scores don’t tell the whole story. Behind The Box Score is a new series where from time to time we will attempt to look behind the box score and tell more of the complete story of what happened in the game.

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Opening nights are generally fun regardless, but there’s simply nothing better than getting that first win under your belt in game one.

The Cavaliers got off to a slow start, but after a Mike Brown timeout with the Cavs trailing 10-2, both teams settled into a nice groove and for 3 quarters this a pretty solid, well played basketball game. Then the 4th quarter happened.

In the 4th, things devolved into an ugly defensive grind-fest which carried with it an almost playoff like atmosphere. The crowd was into and the game felt like it hinged on every single possession for the last 4 minutes. In the end, though, the Cavaliers were able to make plays to get the needed baskets and they were able to get defensive stops when they needed them.

And defense was the story of this game for the Cavaliers. Lets get into the numbers.

- 40.2% – While it doesn’t tell the whole story, when you want to measure defense, a great place to start is often with opponent’s shooting percentage. The Cavaliers held the Nets to 40.2% shooting from the field. Last year teams shot over 47.6% on the Cavaliers, which was dead last. The league average was 45.3%. In fact, the Cavaliers let teams shoot over 50% against them 33 times (2 of those 33 were the Nets). To hold the Nets to just 40% shooting is a remarkable accomplishment. Some of it was just opening night rust for sure, but the difference in defensive effort and intensity was tangible.

– 8 minutes – Andrew Bynum surprised everyone when it was announced before the game that he was cleared to play and would be active for the game. Bynum gave the Cavaliers 8 minutes in the first half, and what an 8 minutes they were. He didn’t light up the box score (3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks) necessarily, but for his first game in over 500 days, his impact on the court was very real. Brook Lopez was immediately uncomfortable trying to operate in the post with Bynum there and Bynum was making it difficult for the Nets to get any good shots inside the paint. The Cavaliers were +8 with Bynum on the floor. It was an incredibly inspiring sight to see him out there and how well he was able to move, all things considered.

– 9 assists – Kyrie Irving didn’t have his best game. He played just four and a half minutes in the first quarter going 0-2 with 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 assists when he picked up his 2nd foul and went to the bench. Kyrie would never really seem to get into much of an offensive groove in this game. But that doesn’t mean his influence on the game wasn’t felt. Kyrie would finish with 15 points on 4-16 shooting, but he would add 7 rebounds and 9 assists. Last season Kyrie averaged 5.9 assists, which is fairly pedestrian for a starting PG. His 9 assists were enormous. Last year in games like this, Kyrie would sometimes try to force things and fight his way through the funk. In this game, he never pressed the issue, he simply trusted his teammates and found ways to get them the ball in prime scoring position. In every way Kyrie seems to have bought into Mike Brown 100%. His defense was so much better than what we’ve seen his first 2 years, he was active in going after rebounds, and he found ways to set up his teammates. This was one of the best “bad games: of Kyrie’s career.

– 8 rebounds (3 offensive) – Earl Clark was one of the bigger unknowns coming into this game. Would he start? What would his role be? Earl Clark will never be an offensive threat, but in this game he came up with so many important rebounds down the stretch, including 2 offensive boards in the 4th quarter to help the Cavaliers maintain possession. The Cavaliers will need to work on not letting the ball fall into Clark’s hands with the shot clock expiring as it did about 3 times in this game, but it was encouraging to see the intangibles he brought to help the Cavaliers come up with the win.

– 67.6% – One of the few dark clouds hanging over this game was the Cavaliers’ awful free throw shooting. Had they made their free throws, this one might not have even been a close game down the stretch. But the Cavaliers kept missing free throws to allow the Nets to hang in the game. At one point the Cavaliers missed three consecutive huge FTs in the 4th quarter. They were lucky to not have this come back and bite them. Most nights they won’t be so fortunate.

– 10 first quarter points – With Irving going to the bench with those 2 fouls in the first quarter, and with the team somewhat struggling as whole, Jarrett Jack came into the game and provided a much needed spark. In the 1st quarter Jack was 2-3 from the field (1-1 from three) and 5-6 from the free throw line for 10 points. He also provided a pair of assists and two rebounds. The team seemed to respond to Jack’s energy and what looked like a game the Nets might be able to control ended with a 27-26 edge for the Cavaliers, thanks largely to Jack’s performance.

– 18 points – Tristan Thompson, folks. So much has been said and written about the shooting hand switch, but watching the game, Tristan simply looked more smooth and better than ever. He ended with a team-high 18 points on 8-13 shooting from the floor. He fell just a rebound shy of his first double-double of the season. He was as engaged in the offensive flow as I can ever recall seeing and he showed great confidence in his new right-handed shot. He even drilled a few nice looking 18 foot jumpers. He also chipped in 4 baskets in the paint, showing a more complete offensive game. If Tristan can continue to knock down those shots, it’s only going to stretch the defense more and open up inside scoring opportunities even more for Tristan. On a night when so many things seemed to work exactly as planned for the Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson’s offensive output was perhaps the most refreshing of them all.

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  • BenRM

    Honestly, it’s probably the nicest thing he’s said about anyone ever.

  • BenRM

    RE: Andy – he’s a year older and coming off some ridiculous health problems. I am not surprised if he reverts back to pre-2012 Andy.

    And let’s be honest 20-20 Andy was an anomaly. No one ever expected that from him.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Totally agree on Andy. He doesn’t look right. He seemed scared or hesitant to get involved in the offense. Where were the pick and rolls with Kyrie that they ran so effectively before his injury? I’m hoping it’s just a matter of taking a while to get his confidence to play hard back.

    Disagree isn’t the right word for how I feel about your Bennett thoughts, but it’s something in the neighborhood of disagree. I do think he could be in better shape, but he didn’t look that out of shape or winded to me. He fought hard on defense, didn’t look lost in weakside defense, and grabbed some nice rebounds. He could have played better, sure, but I just don’t think he looked that tired.

  • Steve

    The Cavs play the last two years was the turd in the punchbowl. It’s much more enjoyable to watch a team that understands how to win basketball games, and not just how to get their own.

  • Harv 21

    so you’re exposing me as a weight-ist. Dunno, Bennett as he appears now does not conjure up the elephant ballet, a Big Baby, Charles Barkley, or Jackie Gleason playing pool. I want to be wrong, wanna think seeing him within seconds of a 290 lb. cut muscle mass like Brook Lopez makes me judgy. Prove me wrong, Dumbo.

  • Harv 21

    but last year he was also coming off a big injury and came back at top speed, to 20-20. But yeah, it’s way too soon, I’m just blabbering in excitement because my sports diversion is no longer solely dependent upon Jason Campbell’s skill set and Josh Gordon’s self-control.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I think he can and will drop some weight and add some muscle. I at minimum find it a positive sign that his conditioning doesn’t appear to be a problem right now despite his body shape. I’m willing to say that for him. But you’re right in that he can’t keep playing at this weight. That’s why I said I don’t totally disagree with you. I just disagree on his conditioning. I thought he played hard.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I think he can and will drop some weight and add some muscle. I at minimum find it a positive sign that his conditioning doesn’t appear to be a problem right now despite his body shape. I’m willing to say that for him. But you’re right in that he can’t keep playing at this weight. That’s why I said I don’t totally disagree with you. I just disagree on his conditioning. I thought he played hard.

  • woofersus

    If the Cavs and Kings both make the playoffs, it will be a very good year.

  • WFNY_DP

    “And that would be ridic.”

    Redonk, even.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    That FT% is even worse when you consider they started something like 14-15.

  • Harv 21

    btw, hope you know “Dumbo” was reference to Bennett’s resemblance to the Disney character. Wasn’t calling you a name.

  • Harv 21

    Horrific. Cavs broadcast team said something about new rule or new interpretation going into effect. Whatever, the player with the ball was not in the act of clearing space. First game of the year for the refs too, I guess.

  • Rick Manning

    The Nets would have been a 70 win team if they had this collection of players 5 years ago. These days not so much. I dont see them getting past the 2nd round if they even make it that far.

  • woofersus

    In fairness, it was Zeller’s first action in over a month with no preseason and he only started working out again like 10 days ago. He’s thinner than Varejao, but he’s slightly taller and longer and only actually weighs about 12 lbs. less. I agree that Bynum’s sheer size is a difference maker, though. You get sort of jaded to the size of NBA players seeing them next to each other, but when Bynum first walked onto the court I was astonished by his size and reach, even next to some other bigs. A commentator (might have been Chris Webber, I don’t remember for sure) yesterday said Bynum was the 2nd largest person he’d ever seen, after Shaq.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Agree, wasn’t trying to say anything about Zeller’s future… just his play in yesterday’s game. I’m not a TZ hater… I think he’ll eventually become a serviceable center. Fred and Austin talked in the telecast about how difficult it is for Tyler to keep weight on his body, and that makes sense… won’t be as much of a struggle for him as he gets older and his metabolism slows down. I think he may have lost several pounds of bulk being out with injury, he looked smaller to me than he looked in summer league, but as you mentioned some of that may just be due to who he was standing near.

  • BigDigg

    Huge Kyrie fan, but that was not a good game. More Chris Paul needed, less A.I.

    We now have a pretty legitimate starting 5 and he’s going to need to learn to get points in the flow. The 9 assists seems a bit misleading since at least a few of them were bailouts on some poor decisions.

  • BigDigg

    Honestly TT’s shot and touch around the rim is pretty amazing. There’s nothing awkward about it. Can’t believe this guy learned this in one summer…

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Big boy Bynum is a beast it’s really a shame his career got derailed. When the Lakers drafted him I thought they were crazy, guess not. I’m still excited he played in game one I heard the crowd was off the hook when he entered.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You can’t gleam anything from the first game on the road against the second youngest team in the NBA. The Nets didn’t lose by much and the game came down to the final minute so I’d be careful making any proclamations but then again what do I know as I celebrate another Red Sox WS!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea and the Sox won the World Series! How do ya like ‘dem apples?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Lopez is a beast he finally showed last year why he’s one of my favorites – right mgbode? ;-) The Cavaliers three-headed monster in the middle (Varejao-Bynum-Zeller) is a great thing to possess and why you simply cannot have enough big men.

    Hibbert is my other big man and he’s off to a great start for the Pacers.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t see anyone giving any love to JJ Jarrett Jack. He showed why his addition was so big with Irving down in foul trouble. Jack was the floor general and looks like CJ Miles and he might be a nice tandem off the bench.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    First of 82 steps definitely a long way to go this month is tough with all of the road and back to back games but the Cavaliers beat what will be a very good team even if it was only game one. They will be a work in progress all year. Honestly this roster is 1 legitimate star from being very dangerous. Next summer could be the icing on the cake because there are a number of stars who will be on the market.

  • woofersus

    Yeah, I’m not sure where his weight is exactly right now, (listed at 253, which is only 6lbs more than last year, while he was said to be another 5lbs heavier during summer league) but last year he lost weight through the season and it showed. Interestingly, Varejao came into the league listed at 230lbs (one year younger than Zeller) and now plays in the upper 260′s, so there’s still room to fill out even at 24. Both look small next to Bynum, though.

  • Natedawg86

    I agree not a good game. Not a good pull up late from 4 feet behind the arc, but he did play hard. Seemed like he was playing D a little harder and going hard for loose balls

  • mgbode

    he played better last year than I thought he could play. still has work to do going after rebounds and playing defense, but there are few bigs who can score with the ease he does in the paint.

  • mgbode

    without his career going off the tracks for a couple years, he doesn’t end up on our team. so, i’m not exactly upset about how things played out thus far.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Haha, yeah, I knew what you meant. But appreciate the clarification never the less.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well yea assuming he plays in more then one game for longer then what seven minutes. Until then I say proceed with caution but then again this is Cleveland so go crazy!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well yea assuming he plays in more then one game for longer then what seven minutes. Until then I say proceed with caution but then again this is Cleveland so go crazy!

  • woofersus

    I don’t think Bennett is in the shape he needs to get into yet, but I don’t think he was as bad as you’re saying. He moved pretty quickly when he needed to, and was laboring distinctly less than at the beginning of October. The time when he failed at conditioning was May and June when he got up to a reported 261 lbs. (although my eyes tell me it was even more than that) He says he’s down near his UNLV playing weight of 240, and even though my eyes still tell me they’re rounding down a little, he’s probably lost 20lbs so far. I think he needs to be down around 235 AND add some more muscle if he’s going to realize his potential, but at least he’s working at it and making good progress since he showed up for camp.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You can knit pick just about any player Garnett’s job is to rebound but big Brook improved last year and I expect the trend to continue as long as he remains healthy.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You can knit pick just about any player Garnett’s job is to rebound but big Brook improved last year and I expect the trend to continue as long as he remains healthy.

  • woofersus

    I fully expect that team to take around a month to really gel, but it’s hard to say what their ceiling is because older players that used to be great can be real wildcards depending on their bodies. I think they’ll be pretty good for much of the middle of the season, but injuries and wear might cause them to fade at the end.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Wuss! ;-)