The warm and fuzzy feeling associated with the Cavaliers’ recent six-game win streak seems like a distant memory. After dropping a Friday night matchup in Toronto, the Cavaliers began a new losing streak tonight at the Q, dropping one to the Wizards 96-83. There were some good moments in the first half, including a sick throwdown by Anthony Bennett. However, the absences of Anderson Varejao, C.J. Miles, and above all, Dion Waiters are starting to take its toll.
2-for-18 – The Cavaliers were ice cold from outside the arc. Missing two of their best outside threats in Miles and Waiters, the wine and gold missed plenty of open looks, including a 0-for-7 combined for the small backcourt running mates of Kyrie (Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova). Delly is just 4-for-28 from three point range in the month of February after showing the capability to knockdown the open shot in the first half of the season. Jack meanwhile is shooting just 31% in the last 16 games, and while his insertion into the starting lineup has helped free up offensive movement a bit and increased his assist totals, his defense and shooting is just killing them.
21-of-26 – While they weren’t hitting from the field, especially in the second half, the Cavaliers did get to the free throw line with regularity. Luol Deng was a perfect 9-for-9 as he showed the slash ability that has been relatively dormant in his 20 games as a Cavalier. Newcomer Spencer Hawes was 5-for-6 from the line, but Kyrie Irving only made one trip to the foul line on the evening, making both shots. That has to change if the Cavaliers are to remain a team fighting for the playoffs. Hitting 81% of the foul shots is well above their 74% clip, which ranks 23rd in the association.
16 and 12 – Spencer Hawes did a nice job of hustling in the first half, and he posted a double-double to go with 4 assists. Hawes flew around for 50-50 rebounds and made several passes falling to the floor to teammates. The highlight may have been a circus shot he made underneath the hoop and over the corner of the basket as it kissed the top of the glass and fell in. Brown obviously likes the way the offense moves with Hawes as an outside threat, while screening, slipping, and passing due to his big minutes already (more on that later).
31 and 26% – Those are the second half offensive numbers for the Cavaliers. Besides Luol Deng’s 13 points, it was a lot of inefficient isolation and contested shots. There were only four assists in that second half and nine field goals. The Cavs missed their fair share of shots that they normally cash in on, but there were less post looks and post-to-post passing. The sequence that irritated me near the end of the third quarter’s final minute included two missed free throws by Alonzo Gee, a blown defensive assignment that gave Al Harrington a wide-open left wing three, and then a terrible contested shot after 1-on-5 action from Jarrett Jack. Despite being down just six points to start the fourth and allowing 18 fourth quarter points, the Cavs came up with just 11 of their own and five in the final 6:47 of the game.
14 – That’s the number of minutes that Tyler Zeller played in tonight’s game, playing just under five minutes in the second half. The newcomer Spencer Hawes logged 32 minutes and nearly 19 minutes in the second half. With Anthony Bennett playing just under 17 minutes, the frontcourt minutes crunch is already happening, and that’s with Anderson Varejao still out of action. The Cavs now have five big men deserving of minutes and only four spots in a regular rotation. Tyler Zeller had some trouble with Marcin Gortat on the boards, but he did score six quick points early in the game. With the Cavaliers five games out of the playoff picture, missing out on the playoffs while bumping Zeller or Bennett out of the rotation would be a major lost opportunity.
38 – Washington’s backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal scored 38 points on 16-of-33 shooting. The duo also combined for 12 assists and just one turnover. The Wizards don’t have much of a bench, but their starting five is pretty solid. Wall got some transition finishes from Cavalier turnovers, and his two late second quarter threes (including an on-the-move, high-arcing bank shot at the halftime buzzer) were killers for the Cavs. Beal got space against Jack and Delly to get off his outside and mid-range shots with relative ease. That Washington backcourt is going to complement each other on a good team for a long time. The Wizards turned it over just five times in all.
33.2 – That’s the points per game the Cavaliers were missing for a second straight game with Waiters, Miles, and Varejao all out of uniform. The bench is lacking that outside threat and attacking element with Delly and Gee being forced into the backcourt bench minutes. The Cavs are competing without key pieces, but they’ll need more people to step up in a big way or get healthy to turn things back around.