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.
I’ve been staring at a blank page for about 10 minutes trying to figure out how to start writing about a game like this. I rarely second guess myself when it comes to basketball. I watch a lot of basketball and it generally makes sense to me. That’s not to say I’m never wrong about things. I most certainly am. But I never doubt my understanding of why things happen and how I came to the conclusions that I have.
Yet tonight I find myself questioning a lot. I don’t have any answers for what’s wrong with the Cavaliers this season. I can’t figure out whether this is just a young team going through some early season growing pains, or if this is a serious problem. I find myself questioning if I was wrong about Byron Scott. Is it possible that this is just a collection of players who don’t care and who give up at the first sign of things going sideways?
I generally try to trust my instincts, so here’s what I think after a game like this. I think outside of Indiana and probably Miami, the Eastern Conference is filled with nothing but flawed basketball teams. I think making the playoffs is still something the Cavaliers will be fighting for all season. I think the Cavaliers will eventually start playing better basketball and go through some stretches of winning basketball. I think Mike Brown is doing everything he can to get through to this team. Whereas Byron Scott was content to sort of just let games like this play out, Mike Brown was continuously calling time outs, mixing up lineups, and searching for anything to spark this team.
None of this is to ignore what happened not just tonight, but for much of this season. Lets face it, this team is an absolute mess right now. But there are no fixes on the horizon. These players are who the Cavaliers have to work with. The answers are going to have to come from within, and I believe that eventually things will start to turn around. I think Mike Brown is an excellent basketball coach and in time his philosophy will start to get through to this team.
Or maybe I’m just completely wrong about this team. That’s a scary thought, because if this is as good as it gets, then not only is this season ruined, but so is the future of this team. And it is just way too early in the season to be thinking that way. The Cavaliers may not turn things around, but to write them off completely in the 2nd week of the season just doesn’t work for me.
So, unfortunately, lets look at the numbers:
– 62.5% – The Timberwolves came out scorching hot in this game, shooting 62.5% from the field. Some of it was poor defense from the Cavaliers, but the Timberwolves offense, when clicking, is a thing of beauty. And boy was it clicking. The Wolves seemed to be knocking down everything and they were moving the ball with grace and confidence and a fluidity we can only dream about seeing in Cleveland. This Wolves offense is good, and they are going to give plenty of teams fits this year.
– 12 – I wrote in the preview to this game that the Cavaliers bench needed to really take advantage of the Wolves bench to keep the Cavaliers in this game. But the Cavs could only muster 12 bench points in the first half, to 10 bench points for Minnesota. When playing a team like this on the road, you simply have to have better bench production to beat them. The Cavs would get a little more bench scoring in the later part of the 3rd quarter and all of the 4th quarter when the team was already down 30 and the game was basically extended garbage time. Too little, too late.
– 29 to 6 – The Wolves scored 29 fastbreak points to just 6 for the Cavaliers. Now, to be fair, it’s hard to get any fastbreak opportunities when your opponent isn’t missing anything, but the Cavaliers once again did a horrible job getting back in transition. Teams are routinely finding it easy to get out on the break against the Cavs and find a wide open lane for an easy layup or dunk. The Cavaliers are slow getting back, and even when they do, they tend to be late picking up the attacker and nobody is offering help to cut off the drive. It’s not just that teams are scoring in transition, it’s that they don’t even have to work to finish the break.
– 96 – The Timberwolves starting five scorched the Cavaliers for an astounding 96 points. All 5 starters scored in double figures, with none of them shooting worse than 58% from the field. Kevin Love led all scorers with 33 points and Corey Brewer added 27 points, picking up the slack for Kevin Martin who missed this game due to illness. Conversely, the Cavs starters managed just 54 points. Kyrie Irving was the only Cavalier to score more than 13 points, finishing with 20 for the game.
– 39 – The Wolves’ biggest lead in this game was 39 points. A lot was made of Byron Scott’s teams giving up 20 point leads and also having far too many 20+ point losses. For a while, it seemed like this team was going to lose by 40. The Cavaliers ended up losing by 29 points, but it truly didn’t even feel that close. This was about as ugly of a loss as I can remember a Mike Brown team suffering (the Cavs did lose by 29 or more 4 times in Brown’s first stint). I guess the good news is things can only get better from here.
– 7 – Because I don’t want to go this entire post without mentioning a single positive for the Cavaliers, I’ll just mention that Sergey Karasev got his first extended playtime of the season, and he scored 7 points with 2 assists and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes of play. It was mostly garbage time and much of it was against Minnesota’s bench, but on a night when so much went wrong, including a spectacular Anthony Bennett uncontested missed dunk, Karasev seemed to show some life in trying to make the most of his minutes.
Most games you try to look for things to build on. There’s not much to take away from this one, unfortunately. It was just yet another lifeless blowout, the type we’ve grown all to accustomed to in Cleveland. You can only hope it’s something that galvanizes the team, rather than tears them apart. The Cavaliers return to Cleveland for a much needed home game Friday against the Bobcats. It’s extremely important the team not get too down on themselves and remains focused on getting better and trying to improve incrementally with each game.
Image: David Sherman/NBAE/GettyImages