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.
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.