Things started out well enough. The wine and gold shot 65% in the first quarter, moved the ball well with 9 assists on their first 11 field goals, and they held the Bobcats to 17 first quarter points. The second unit carried over that effort for the most part as Anthony Bennett hit a pair of first quarter threes and the Cavaliers managed to take a two-point lead into intermission. Out of the break, the Cavaliers didn’t have their legs, and the Bobcats got increasingly easier shots. On offense, the team stopped making cuts to the basket and settled for chucking up long jumpshots at the end of the shot clock. The Cavaliers wound up shooting just 36% after that hot start, and they turned the ball over an inexcusable 25 times. Because of the slow steps on defense, they racked up the foul count too, with 31 of them that sent Charlotte to the line 39 times compared to Cleveland’s 18 trips. Charlotte had success with Kemba Walker driving to the basket (14 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) and post-ups from Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist that earned them trips to the foul line. The Bobcats wanted this game more, and they played their starters into the fourth quarter with the Cavaliers in coast mode and down into their third and fourth string guys.
Unfortunately, there weren’t that many noteworthy Cavalier performances to take away from this one. Kyrie Irving and C.J. Miles led the Cavs with 15 points each, but Kyrie was 5-of-13 from the field. Dion Waiters after two incredibly strong showings this preseason was just 2-for-7 for 5 points with 4 turnovers. Gee played just 9 minutes on his way back from injury. In truth, the best performance probably came from the spot starter Sims. The undrafted second-year player out of Georgetown, in a battle with Kenny Kadji and Desagana Diop for the team’s final roster spot, showed a little bit of a face-up game and played tough if not mistake-free inside. Sims posted 8 points and 9 rebounds in 27 minutes.
Anthony Bennett looked like a lost and fatigued rookie after those two first quarter treys. In 20 minutes, Bennett would wind up fouling out with just 7 points and 5 rebounds. AB turned the ball over four times himself, including a pair of knockaways while facing up to make a move on the perimeter. The talent is undeniable, and I think the Cavaliers are going about things the right way by easing him into his minutes off of the bench. But, the kid has a long way to go to get into game shape along with learning Mike Brown’s strict defensive principles. As I mentioned on Twitter, you can see him thinking out what he needs to do on defense in slow motion. Couple that with the fact that after a minute or two he’s MOVING in slow motion, and you see that Bennett on that side of the ball is going to be a season-long project.
The battle at small forward is probably going to be the most critical decision to come out of training camp, though in no way do I expect it to be the final word on the starting three spot. Earl Clark has not shot the ball well at all (3-of-9 last night, 5-of-21 in the preseason), and he dribbled way too much on several occasions that disrupted the offensive flow. Alonzo Gee is the incumbent, and he’s likely to endear himself to Brown with his defensive work. The Cavaliers have stressed that they view Karasev as a shooting guard, though I wouldn’t mind seeing him steal a few minutes at small forward. Overall though, the man who has done the most to get on MB’s radar in the young preseason has been C.J. Miles, whose shot has been and has been putting forth the effort on the defensive end. Now, do I expect Miles to win the starting job? No, but I think he has shown that he will be a rotation player, which may not have been a given on paper looking at this roster.
Next up for the Cavaliers is a Thursday night game at the Q against the new-look Detroit Pistons.
(Photo: Phil Long/AP)