Thus dies the dream of the perfect season.
Kemba Walker had 24 points, including a three with just under a minute to play to put Charlotte ahead 87-84, and Bismack Biyombo finished with 11 points and 10 boards to lead the Charlotte Bobcats over the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-84. Tristan Thompson paced the Cavs with 21 points and 11 boards and CJ Miles poured in 22 points off the bench but it wasn’t enough. Kyrie Irving finished with 16 points and seven assists but was bothered by an elbow stinger and went scoreless during the final period.
To say I was hoping for a better performance from our young Cavaliers would be an understatement. After their exciting victory on opening night against the Brooklyn Nets, I expected the Cavs to come out and handle their business against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. If this squad will be playing the postseason, they’ll have to take advantage of teams like the Bobcats, especially with their best player, Al Jefferson, sitting out due to injury.
Didn’t happen. The Cavs came out flat and listless and they dug themselves an early hole which haunted them for the rest of the game. They were sloppy with the ball; multiple players had unforced turnovers where they simply fumbled the ball out of bounds off of a pass. At times the offense looked like they were trying too hard for the extra or perfect pass, while other times there was too much dribbling. And they did themselves no favors by shooting just 38% from the floor.
But to their credit (or maybe Charlotte’s), the Cavs hung around. The Bobcat lead never got out of hand (it went up to 11) and the Cavs were within three to five points for much of the game. Cleveland even managed to tie the game in the fourth period (it was 84-84 with two minutes left) but they could never get over the hump. You kept waiting for Kyrie to go all Uncle Drew and pull the Cavs’ collective bacon out of the fire, but it was not to be. Irving missed all three of his field goals in the fourth quarter (as well as two(!) free throws) and the Cavs gave away a very winnable game. The Cavs couldn’t steal this one. They aren’t good enough to play poorly on the road and still win.
The good news is, there’s 80 games left and the Cavs have a lot of time to fix their issues. It’s insanely early. Hell, both the Suns and the Sixers are 2-0. The bad news is, the Cavs face the 2-0 Indiana Pacers tonight in Indianapolis. Playing the Pacers is more likely to exacerbate any issues rather than fix them.
I was hoping to be done with the overlooking of teams’ business. One of the most frustrating aspects of the Byron Scott teams was how they’d show up for big games against OKC or Boston at home, but then come out completely flat and lackadaisical versus a team like Sacramento. Obviously, the Cavs (like their fans) would see a team like the Kings or Bobcats (or Pistons) come to town and they’d assume it was a win (because, hey! That team stinks!). Unfortunately, those bad teams often saw the Cavs the same way (and with good reason! The Cavs were often stinkier!). This loss wasn’t a historically bad Byron Scott level loss, but it was certainly a bad loss. The Bobcats are a team this Cavs squad will need to beat going forward.
It’s only two games, but I think it’s safe to say that Tristan Thompson made the right (GET IT) move to switch shooting hands. Thompson followed up his 18 point and 9 rebound effort against the Nets with a 21 and 11 versus Charlotte. Also, he was 9 out of 10 from the foul stripe. I REPEAT: TRISTAN THOMPSON WAS NINE OUT OF TEN FROM THE FOUL LINE. Tristan was easily the best Cavalier on the floor on Friday: he ran the floor (got a nice one-handed oop from Kyrie on the break), he played defense (he got himself a nice swat of a Josh McRoberts layup) and he was even hitting his jumpers. I love that Tristan now has the confidence to take a 12-footer. My only complaint was his out-of-control drive with just under a minute to player. The Cavs were down three and needed a bucket and I’m not sure an iso for Tristan is the way to go (Tristan has a good first step but his handle … leaves a bit to be desired).
Cue complaints about “Mike Brown’s offense” in 3… 2… Down the stretch, well, there were issues. Namely, the fact that none of the final three shots were taken by Kyrie Irving. I mentioned Thompson’s drive, but the Cavs followed that up with a Jarrett Jack 25-footer … that went 24 feet. Plus, only scoring 84 total points against the Bobcats is not good. The fact that the Cavs were at 80 with 5:30 to go and only scored four points over basically the final half of the fourth quarter, that’s an issue. There was a lot of CJ Miles and Jarrett Jack down the stretch (which makes sense, given that they finished with 22 and 13 points, respectively) but that may have been due to Kyrie’s elbow issue.
Dion Waiters only played 14 minutes. Clearly, he didn’t play well but I didn’t see anything that warranted sitting nearly the entire second half. Maybe Dion missed one too many defensive switches. Maybe Mike Brown just went with the hot hands in CJ Miles and Jack. I dunno. But I do know that the Cavs looked really slow and Dion might have been able to provide an emotional spark. Or maybe some scoring. I dunno. It just seemed weird that Waiters sat the entire fourth quarter.
The shortening of “Bobcats” to “Cats” messed with me the entire game. I kept hearing the Charlotte announcer yelling “LET’S GO CATS” every time I thought I was hearing Cavs until the hard T. It was weird. It’ll be nice when they return to being the Charlotte Hornets next season.
First half second unit >> second half second unit. In the first half, the bench unit consists of Jack-Miles-Gee-Bennett-Bynum. It’s a fun group. Bynum commands a lot of attention and Jack attacks the defense. Bennett looks a bit overwhelmed at the moment; he’s clearly thinking out there rather than just playing. I’m not particularly worried, he’ll find his game legs soon enough. The second half bench unit looks nearly identical, except Tyler Zeller plays center rather than Bynum. It’s kind of a big difference, believe it or not. Bynum, like Bennett, looks more than a bit rusty and his touch around the rim isn’t quite there. Defensively, Bynum looks active and mobile. Like the opener, Bynum only played during the first half.
The small forward position is a dumpster fire. Two games in and I’ve had enough of Earl Clark. Coming into the season, my vision of Earl Clark was a “3 and D” guy. But instead of hoisting the spot-up threes that come his way, Clark will pump-fake, take a dribble or two inside the line and clank a 19-footer. He also dribbles way too much, often getting himself into no-man’s land where he’s not quite sure if he wants to shoot or pass. Not a fan.
Where I give Charlotte some credit. The Bobcats bounced back from the opening night shellacking and took it to the Cavaliers. The length of Michael Kidd-Gilcrist and Bismack Biyombo seemed to give the Cavs some issues. SF Jeff Adriens came off the bench and gave Charlotte some good defensive energy and got the crowd into it. Also, after making his first three baskets and providing a spark off the bench in the first quarter, Ramon Sessions finished 4-10 from the floor.
There was only one Zeller vs Zeller matchup that I could remember. It was both wonderful and uneventful. Cody missed a layup.
What’s Bynum’s situation for back-to-backs? The Cavs have their first back-to-back of the season tonight when they travel to Indianapolis to face the Pacers at 7 pm. With Roy Hibbert manning the middle for Indiana, you’d assume the Cavs would want Bynum out there. But given that he hasn’t played more than 10 minutes in either game, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cavs held him out as a precaution. Regardless of Bynum, I’ll be interested to see how the young Cavs bounce back from a disappointing loss.
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)