Game 4: Cavaliers vs Timberwolves Behind The Box Score

David Liam Kyle/NBAE

David Liam Kyle/NBAE

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.

David Liam Kyle/NBAE

David Liam Kyle/NBAE

A win is a win, right?

Blowing 20 point leads is a sore subject for the Cavaliers and their fans. After blowing many 20 point leads the last few seasons, as things began to fall apart in this games, the inevitable seemed to be closing in around the Cavs.

But outcome is all that matters, really. When the final record is tallied at the end of the season, this will count as a W, same as if the Cavaliers won this game by 20. While Byron Scott had to live with the record of losses after holding 20 point leads, Mike Brown will carry this one as a win on his record. Never mind that the Cavaliers did indeed blow a 23 point lead and had to rely on Minnesota not converting on the final possession of the game. When people tally the number of times that this year’s team blows 20 point leads, they won’t count this one. That’s why winning is the only thing that really matters. The Cavaliers beat a hot 3-0 Minnesota team. That’s the only thing that counts.

But you better believe Mike Brown is going to have a few things to say to his team about this game. I know I sure have a few things to say as well. So let’s get into the numbers…

– 3:57 – With 2:23 left in the 3rd quarter, Kyrie Irving hit a jumper to give the Cavaliers a 74-54 lead. For the next 4 minutes, the Cavaliers would not make another FG. This is really the stretch of the game where the Cavaliers let the Timberwolves back into the game. During this stretch, the Wolves would close to within 10 points of the Cavaliers. It wasn’t until the 10:30 mark of the 4th quarter when Jarrett Jack would knock down a shot to end the FG drought. But by then, the Wolves were smelling blood and the Cavaliers were starting to panic a bit. Turnovers, bad shot selection, atrocious transition defense. It would all help Minnesota climb to within 1 point before their defense would force Kevin Love to shoot a three at the buzzer, a shot he would ultimately miss and the Cavs got the win.

– 11 – In the first half, the Timberwolves had one offensive rebound. One. On Twitter I praised the Cavaliers’ defensive rebounding. They were holding Minnesota to nothing but one-and-done possessions and it was a huge reason why the Cavaliers held a 55-38 lead and it looked like the Cavaliers were going to cruise to an impressive bounce back win. But in the 2nd half, the Cavaliers stopped boxing out and fighting for rebounds on the defensive end, and the Timberwolves had 11 offensive rebounds. The Wolves had 10 second chance points and 38 points in the paint in the 2nd half, all indicators of the defensive collapse the Cavaliers suffered through.

– 0 – It’s still too early to completely panic about Anthony Bennett, but boy, it really doesn’t look good. Through 4 games, the #1 overall pick in the draft still has not made a FG. Everyone knows about Club Trillion, but Bennett is starting his own Club Ten Trillion. In this game he played 10 minutes, went 0-3 from the floor (2 of which were three pointers, including one after he was fed the ball in the post…..yep) for 0 points. He looks equal parts lost, nervous, and trying too hard. It’s just uncomfortable to watch and it’s really hurting the team. The Cavaliers need to get production out of the guy they took with the first pick in the draft. Chris Grant has made some interesting picks in Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, to mixed results. But the Bennett pick is not looking good right now. Thankfully, it’s only 4 games and he’s still a 20 year old kid. Cavs fans shouldn’t panic just yet, but there is reason to be skeptical. Hopefully Bennett can get his first basket soon and let his game develop from there.

– 1-for-3 – Kyrie “Mr 4th Quarter” Irving’s 4th quarter line reads 1-3 for 2 points, 0 assists, 2 fouls (1 offensive), and 3 turnovers. This was far from a poor game overall of Kyrie. In fact, for a while, it looked like he had a shot at his first career triple-double. But despite his 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, he also had 4 fouls and 9 turnovers. Kyrie just doesn’t seem in rhythm. He’s clearly focused on involving his teammates more in the offense, and that’s generally a good thing, but in the 4th quarter, he just hasn’t been able to take games over like he used to. Again, it’s early in the season. There are a lot of new teammates to get used to, a new offensive system, and a new focus on exerting energy on defense. Getting the right balance takes time. So while it’s too early to be worried, it’s still disappointing that the Cavaliers haven’t been able to rely on Kyrie’s 4th quarter performances that used to be so dependable.

– 36.2% – I don’t want this all to be negative. The Cavaliers did win, after all. Mike Brown’s impact on this team’s defense is impossible to ignore. The Cavaliers held the Timberwolves, who came into this game 5th in scoring and 7th in offensive efficiency, to just 36.2% shooting from the field and 92 points. Through 3 quarters the Wolves were shooting 30% from the field and had 61 points. In the 4th, the Cavaliers had 7 turnovers, gave up 15 fast break points, and let the Wolves shoot 54.2% from the field. That’s why this was a 1 point outcome. The 4th quarter defense was a disaster. But you can’t overlook the first 3 quarters, either. Everyone on this team has bought into the defense. Some players are better natural defenders than others, but from Kyrie Irving on down, everyone has stepped up their game on defense and it’s so refreshing to see. This will be a learning experience and when the Cavaliers start putting together full 4 quarter defensive efforts, this team is going to be very good.

– 19 – CJ Miles led the Cavaliers in scoring with 19 points off the bench. He also had 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. We heard that CJ put in a lot of work this offseason, and he’s starting to really reap the benefits. Miles looks like a completely different player. He is giving great effort all over the court and for as bad as his defense was last year, he is perhaps most impressive in showing his renewed interest in defending. CJ is scoring from the outside and inside, and just really doing all the little intangibles you need from an impact player off the bench. It’s just been a lot of fun seeing this version of CJ Miles, and I’m really hoping this isn’t just a mirage. He’s a streaky player and he won’t always play this well, but so far this year, he’s been overwhelmingly more positive than negative.

– 18:34 – Andrew Bynum played almost 19 minutes in this game, and for the first time this season he played in both halves. And while he’s still pretty rusty and doesn’t always show the best mobility, he’s still having an impact on the game when he’s on the floor and it’s nothing but encouraging to see his minutes starting to climb this soon in the season. Bynum had 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. After the game Bynum showed a little frustration that he’s not able to play more. That’s the best sign yet for the Cavaliers. Bynum developed a  bit of a reputation for not being a hard worker in Philly and some people questioned how badly he really wanted to play. The fact that he is visibly anxious to get out there and play and trying so hard to make his presence felt when he does get in is a testament to his work ethic. The same work ethic that allowed him to even be in position to play 18 minutes in a game this early in the season. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. Except for Andrew Bynum and the coaches.

The Cavaliers are now 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road this season. Unfortunately 7 of the next 10 games are on the road before the Cavaliers host the Miami Heat. As frustrating as it was watching the Cavaliers fall apart and melt down in the 4th quarter, there were so many positives in this game. The defensive effort was great and on offense there was a lot more movement off the ball. This was the most crisp the offense has run all year. Turnovers are something you can correct, and if you remove some of the 23 turnovers they had, the score would have bee even better. The Cavaliers will look to build on this game and continue to get better on Wednesday when they travel to Milwaukee to play the Bucks.

  • thenoclist

    First time I’ve ever left a win feeling disappointed. Kyrie looks bad, Dion looks bad, Bennett looks atrocious. That was a lucky one to come away with, and they were up 23 in the 3rd.

  • stryker1121

    Right now Kyrie is really having to work for his shots. He’s skittering around like a waterbug out there, trying to get around those doubles.

  • scripty

    Rubio 0-7

  • FearTheRoo

    Just don’t understand why Brown’s teams have so much trouble finishing games. We really should have lost, even after a significant lead. I know it’s early, but this doesn’t look like a playoff team. Even mediocre teams shouldn’t lose to the Bobcats…

  • Steve

    I put a lot of that on Irving, not Brown. Irving seemed intent on going out and winning the game by himself.

  • DK45

    I’m far more concerned about Dion than Bennett at this point. What happened to all that offseason optimism about his newly balanced jumper and the great shape he was in? His defense has improved, but I’m seeing the same old possession-murdering shot selection and the same old inability to finish at the rim. It’s no surprise that Miles and Jack are getting his minutes during crunch time. It’s Year 2 and I’m still not sure what Waiters’ exceptional NBA skill is.

  • Kildawg

    Bynum with 3 blocked shots; think he’s somewhere in the Top 5 in that category. I still think he will be starting by Thanksgiving (25-28 min/gm) and allowing Varejao to be the energy guy off the bench, a role he has thrived in under Coach Brown. Should have stayed cynical during the game though Andrew; superstition cannot be overrated.

  • FearTheRoo

    He has been one of the best finishers in the NBA. But it’s hard to make something happen when the other 4 guys on the floor just stand still. Need to run a play for Kyrie, not make him do it himself. Lot of people to blame…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    His exceptional skill is getting to the rim, which he can do at just about any time… finishing at the rim though? Not so much.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    The Heat lost to the Sixers… it’s the NBA, bad teams are going to get up for certain games, particularly their home opener. The Bobcats are a better team than they were last year as well… not a playoff team, but not exactly a joke either.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    You have to believe that in most games Jarrett Jack is not going to miss his bread-and-butter mid-range and pull-up jumpers like he was last night. I also find it hard to believe that Kyrie Irving won’t start scoring big points on a regular basis here soon. It seems like the team is still figuring out where everyone else likes to shoot from and how to get easy buckets.

    I keep seeing some curious things from Mike Brown… things that make me remember how bad he was at matching up players in the past. Brown brings in Tyler Zeller to defend on one play at the end of the half, and puts him on Pekovic? Varejao was also in the game, but for some reason he was the one defending Kevin Love on the perimeter. I also found it odd that in the back-to-back games against the Bobcats and Pacers, Brown chose to use Bynum in the game against the Bobcats and rest him against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers… wouldn’t you want that reversed?

  • Backwoods

    Suddenly, people remember what was so frustrating about Mike Brown coached teams. The offense is just ugly. He is a winning coach and his defense is incredible, but players always look lost on the offensive end.

    Bennet was a high risk/high reward top 15 pick. You can live with those expectations at 8, but you cannot blow a #1 pick. You have to get production out of that spot. Oladipo is going to be an ugly word for years around Cleveland.

  • Harv 21

    gonna assume that talented young guys who haven’t been forced to play with consistency and defensive discipline – Kyrie, Dion, Bennett – will take longer to recalibrate their games to Mike Brown. And while it’s doubtful CJ Miles has suddenly elevated his whole game after so many years, he is schooled in Jerry Sloan’s hard-nosed system so Mike Brown’s demands won’t freak him out.

    You would think it’s time for Igor Kokoskov would draw up some special scoring plays for Anthony Bennett just to get him some buckets and ease the stress. Like you, Andrew, I’m not writing him off but have trouble remember seeing a first overall less ready to play, physically and mentally, since maybe Kwame Brown or Michael Olowokandi. Overall firsts usually have some swag from college success to fake it until they get their feet under them. See zero self-confidence in this one.

  • Backwoods

    Hmm, I’ve often though Brown was great at player matchups. Just because people are the same size/build, doesn’t make them a good matchup. Most players are taken out of their rhythm with different matchups, such as having to deal with length, or the quickness of the other player. If the other team is moving their SF into the post in most of their sets, but a big on him and that takes that option entirely away. If they are parking a big on the perimeter, placing someone with length or quickness (like Andy) disrupts that player while also having a big on the floor who is quick enough to slide back to the lane when needed.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I get what you are saying, but if the Wolves had been smart enough to go inside to Pek, then Pek either scores or Zeller fouls him. In the case of Bynum, he did do well against the Bobcats on both ends, which was great, but the Cavs don’t have another center on their roster who can guard Hibbert in the post.

  • Backwoods

    I think in that scenario, it was more protecting Bynum. I don’t think they want to put him in a physical matchup like that yet.

  • mgbode

    I’ll post more later when I have more time, but I will say that I don’t fault the defense in the 4th quarter. It was the offense giving way to transition and secondary transition Twolve offense that was the issue and setting up those defensive numbers.

    As it stands, a great teaching game for Mike Brown. We win, but when we don’t take care of the ball and play smart like we did for 2.5 quarters, we allow a team back into it. Alot of good points to be had there.

    Also, let’s hope that Kyrie playing full effort defense for this first time in his life is just going through an adjustment period and he’ll be fine in a few weeks. He’s used to taking 1/2 the game off even when he’s on the floor afterall and that is gone now.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    People also overrate how “bad” Mike Brown is at offense. His teams haven’t been that bad on offense. Here’s where the Cavs ranked in offensive efficiency under Brown in his first term: 9th, 18th, 20th, 4th, and 6th. So they were in the top 10 in the NBA in 3 of his 5 seasons. And as much as everyone loves to credit John Kuester for the turnaround those last 2 seasons, well, Kuester hasn’t had offensive success anywhere else and the Cavs’ offense hardly fell apart when he left. What really made a difference was the Cavaliers added Mo Williams.

    Which gets to my point. Teams offensively are generally only as good as their players. Coaches made a huge difference on defense. Their offensive impact is a little more minimal. Some systems are capable of creatings lots of points, but they have to sacrifice defense to do it. Very few teams are good on both ends of the court. The ones who do find a way to do it, though, are typically possession teams who generate offense through simple, basic offensive sets.

    Lets give Mike Brown and this team a little time to get things settled on offense before we already start declaring him a bad offensive coach again.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Yeah, I agree about the confidence factor. Bennett looks scared, like he doesn’t believe he belongs here. And that’s been my fear since the moment they picked him. He has always seemed overwhelmed by being the #1 overall pick. Most guys project confidence, and seem to be eager to prove their worth it. Bennett has expressed how shocked he was to picked first and he looks scared to fail more so than eager to prove. There are red flags galore, but he’s got plenty of time to figure it out.

  • Harv 21

    agree with all of this. There are certainly excellent offensive coaches, but even their success – whether running, pick and roll, triangle – depends to a huge degree on having the right pieces parts to run their pet systems. Maybe this is what you’re saying already.

  • http://www.twitter.com/dconeil Hamsterdam

    Getting absolutely nothing from the first and fourth overall picks in the NBA draft in back-to-back years will continue to haunt this franchise. We could have had Harrison Barnes and ANYONE ELSE IN THE DRAFT this past season. Yikes.

  • Harv 21

    and what’s additionally weird to me is that Chris Grant seems to favor mental toughness in his high picks. He loved Tristan’s work ethic and character, he said “there was something about Dion Waiters” in his clutch scoring binges that he couldn’t get out of his mind. This one seems more like exceptionally well-rounded basketball skills in a kind of doughy body and unknown competitiveness. But, again and again and again, we’re 4 games in and he’s 20. Exactly 2 seasons ago Tristan was spasmodically stumbling around like a slimy colt testing his new legs after dropping into the barn hay.

  • typo

    I understand your point. But after seeing TT develop, well past his expected ceiling, and the fact that it took some time, gives me confidence in the front office that Bennet and Waiters can figure it out.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Harrison Barnes: 9.2 ppg, 1.2 apg, 4.1 rpg, 11.08 PER.
    Dion Waiters: 14.7 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.4 rpg, 13.77 PER.

  • Backwoods

    Lest we forget Mike Brown had the best player in the league during those times. Also, Kuester went into a talent black hole in Detroit. That has to be considered on ranking his success.

    Now, remember also, I said ugly. And, yes, his offensive sets have always been ugly. Even those last two years, there wasn’t anything pretty about nothing but high pick & rolls with 3 other players sitting in the corners. Was it efficient? Sure. Doesn’t mean it is pleasant.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    That’s the great unknown. I love Kyrie’s effort on defense this season. It’s been great. But is it affecting his offense? Or did teams learn a couple things on how to defend Kyrie and now we’re waiting for Kyrie to make his next adjustment to his game?

  • Harv 21

    exactly what I am wondering with Kyrie: he can beat any scheme to score, but his dribble-fests and passes while falling down might be a guy unable to explode in the 4th quarter due to unaccustomed fatigue. This kid’s remarkable talent plus injuries mean he’s never been forced to play both ends and never had to push himself through a whole season. This season may be a half-step back in order to jump into the truly elite level.

  • mgbode

    he’s not using his cross-up move as much, he’s not just walking up and sticking the 3pter. i’ve got to think it’s mostly his focus on defense at this point, but i’m also obviously biased into thinking that way as a Cavs fan.

  • mgbode

    that is what I am hoping. if it’s a necessary step, then let’s watch him take it. I do think that he, the coaches, and the fans could all use a Kyrie-hot-offense game just to calm the nerves, but it’s impossible to not love his overall commitment to Brown’s defense thus far.

  • mgbode

    this may come off as being a Buckeye-homer, but I’d
    really look into what Philly might want for Evan Turner this year. He
    has a style that can be played at SF for stretches and I love his
    feistiness on both ends.

    I wonder how Philly values him going
    forward and what we might be able to offer them to make it worth their
    while. Sure would have helped to have Bennett start better as a
    potential asset, but we have other assets.

  • http://www.twitter.com/dconeil Hamsterdam

    Andrew, I understand those stats but the two players are asked to do two entirely different things. Right now, on Nov. 5, 2013, Golden State offers Barnes straight up for Waiters, do you turn it down?

  • mgbode

    honestly, I would love for us to just send him down to the Canton Charge with a tenacious drill instructor fitness guy. Just use 4-6 weeks to get him in real NBA shape while letting him regain his confidence on the court against D-Leaguers. By the time he got through there he could really contribute.

    Right now, letting him “play into shape” while getting reduced minutes and few days of practice time is just not going to help him or us.

  • Backwoods

    TT was a special case because he, in essence, took a year off of basketball because of the strike. A learning curve was expected for that draft class because of the unique situation.

  • Jason Hurley

    The tone of this post seems off to me. Sure, it was an ugly win, but how many times last year did we lose that game? We’re 4 games in – 78 to go(!), so let’s not hit the panic button yet on Bennett – he’s only 20, and has played 4 regular season games as a pro. Not everyone can come into the league as a ball of fire.
    It stands to reason that this team is a little laggy on offense given that they are, in fact, putting in effort on defense. I’d rather win games 93-92 than lose them 108-120 because we can’t defend.

  • mgbode

    yes.

    I like both players in a tertiary role, but Barnes is too passive for me. I prefer the Jack style confidence boosts and Waiters has it. Also, if you don’t have an elite skill on 3pters, then I want it at getting to the rim, which Waiters can do (he needs to work on finishing there of course).

  • BIKI024

    Bennett has plenty of time to get in the groove, no need for extra scrutiny yet. the dude hadn’t picked up a basketball in quite some time, but ya it sure hasn’t been pretty, but hasn’t been a complete disaster on defense. his length has come in handy on a few occassions including a block of a jumpshot last night.

    hopefully the vet big men, especially Bynum and Andy stay on him and the rest of the of the guys, including Coach Brown keep staying positive with him and we see some progressions. only been 4 games but it seems Michael Carter Williams only rookie makin waves thus far, and we def weren’t drafting another PG.

  • mgbode

    while we are speaking of the 2012 draft, I have watched OKC and, man, Jeremy Lamb is being everything I thought he could be thus far. obviously, he benefited from a year of training to strengthen himself, but he sees the floor so well off the ball and is able to create space when covered. he’s reminding me why I liked him so much as a draft prospect.

    the only thing he isn’t doing is hitting 3pters. it’s going to have to be a big part of his game (and he’s taking them), so that part is worth watching.

    love that the NBA is back.

  • Harv 21

    I fully agree about how that might help his game start rolling. But can you imagine the national media scrutiny on this quiet kid if that happened? The “BUST!” tweets and stories? On the balance, probably better he gets that first bucket and gets going here.

  • Backwoods

    MCW hasn’t just made waves, he set a couple records. Oladipo has looked great imo also. Bennett, well…..I’m already wanting to avoid that conversation…

  • Backwoods

    It’s only a matter of time before that happens anyways.

  • Steve

    It’s hard for the other four guys to run a play when Kyrie waves them all off to call his own number.

  • mgbode

    have to prepare him for it ahead of time and don’t cow-tow to the media. i’m just weird like that though and maybe it would hurt his psyche more than help his game? i think it’s the right call though.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Mgbode kinda stole my thunder here, but I agree with him. Barnes is what he is. He’s a fine player but I don’t see any upside. I still think Waiters can develop into a very, very good SG in the NBA. He just needs to better understand his own strengths and limitations.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    “It’s still too early to completely panic about Anthony Bennett”

    I think you read the tone entirely wrong. I made all the same points you did. Plenty of time to go, too soon to panic, a win is a win, winning the game is the only thing that matters, etc, etc, etc.

  • Backwoods

    I actually feel the opposite. Barnes, at the very least will become a good defender with his length and athleticism. He is already ~35% 3 pt shooter and I feel he will become a 40% career guy. This is the kind of guy that at the very least will be wanted by contenders.

    We’ve seen Waiters type players come and go in this league over and over. It is not uncommon to find a sg out of college who has a skill set limited to driving to the hoop and mediocre passing. The worst is, he is not a good shooter who can’t finish at the rim and doesn’t draw a high enough foul rate to make up for it.

    So, outside of tenacity, what are his positives that have everyone so hopeful?

  • Ben Frambaugh

    SGs typically have the roughest time developing in the NBA. It’s even worse for those who aren’t elite 3 point shooters. Once Waiters figures out he doesn’t have to attack super deep on his drives to the basket (or learns to initiate contact more) he’ll be fine.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    (To tie in with what you are saying V_P)
    2-2, we’ve beat the Nets (an expected ECF contender) and the Wolves (a team expected to make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference). We lost to the Bobcats (an improving team that just beat the Knicks) and to the Pacers (one of the toughest defensive teams in the league…and as close to a complete team in the league as exists…as they have very few major holes.)

    I have no complaints with a 2-2 record to start the season. Coming into the season, I would not have expected wins vs the Nets, Pacers or Wolves this early. So we’re already 1 game better than initial thoughts.

  • frankelee

    Another question is, how many GMs if they were running the Warriors would turn down that trade? All of them-ish? If they ran the Cavs? Few of them-ish?

    Cleveland fans are consistent in their loyalty to their picks, but they get amazingly blind to the reality of who a guy is and who he compares to in the league.

  • mgbode

    please explain why you think that about their trade value. otherwise, it comes off as “because I said so”

  • frankelee

    Well, even my talent evaluation is mostly just me saying so, no argument you could make with numbers or eye tests right now is definitive. But overall Barnes’ game looks like he’s maturing well and he has the potential to be a possible low-level all-star type. With Waiters, he’s talented but his game seems confused, his defense isn’t really there, his development seems in doubt, as does his ability to turn into a big enough of a scoring threat to be more than a near-replaceable everyday guy in two or three years, given that may be all he really brings at an NBA level.