August 17, 2014

Cavs vs Magic Behind the Box Score: Signs of a fun April?

AP Photo/John Raoux

AP Photo/John Raoux

Talk about a boring game. But boring in the best way ever.

The Cavaliers were ready to play from the start in this one, and they never let up as they absolutely crushed the Magic by a 119-98 score. This one had a little bit of everything and everyone. Kyrie Irving came back and played well, Dion Waiters just kept doing what he’s been doing, Spencer Hawes had his best game in a while, and Tristan Thompson had a double-double. So yeah, it was a good game.

With every win the Cavaliers continue to keep the playoff hunt interesting. The Knicks and Hawks are virtually tied for the 8 seed, with the Cavs lingering just two games back. The Cavs’ chances would be a lot better if they were only chasing one team instead of two of them, but still, with six games left to play, this thing isn’t over yet.

Now lets look at a few numbers…

  • 17/8/6 – Welcome back Kyrie Irving! With some of the more ridiculous talk recently focusing on Kyrie and whether the Cavaliers were somehow better without him, it was nice to see Kyrie return and fit right in with how the team has been playing lately. Kyrie was pushing the ball whenever he could, was attacking the glass for rebounds, and most importantly, was setting up his teammates and rewarding them for cutting to open space. Kyrie finished with 17 points on 7-8 shooting with 8 assists and 6 rebounds. The only down side was his 4 turnovers, but hey, no need to be picky on his first game back
  • 20-10 – Tristan Thompson has been much maligned this season. Inconsistency, a lack of development, frustrating possessions on both ends of the court. So it’s always nice to see Tristan have a big game. Thompson was extremely active off the ball, cutting to the basket and getting fed the ball in a couple alley-oop situations. He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds for yet another double-double.
  • 26 points – Dion Waiters led everyone with 26 points. Five Cavaliers had double digits, but nobody had more than Dion. Dion was 3-for-3 from three point range, showing confidence in his shot. But most importantly of all, Dion started. And in doing so, he played a lot of minutes on the floor with Kyrie. And the two young guards looked comfortable together. It seems like a small thing, but it’s not.
  • 64 to 32 – Look, the Cavaliers outplayed the Magic in literally every aspect of this game. They shot better, had more rebounds, more assists, fewer turnovers, more fastbreak points, etc, etc, etc. These are the games where it can be hard to write about because, well, there was no conflict. The Cavaliers looked like the better team, they played like the better team, and they pretty much dominated every stat in the box score. But perhaps the most lopsided stat is the 64 to 32 edge the Cavaliers had on points in the paint. The Magic interior defense was an absolute joke in this game, and there was no help rotation for them as the Cavs kept cutting to the rim and pushing the pace all night.
  • 25 to 6 – Similarly, the Cavaliers also held a huge 25 to 6 edge on fastbreak points. The Cavaliers, led by Kyrie Irving, were really trying to push off every turnover and every missed shot. The Magic just didn’t look like a team that cared too much about winning as the Cavs fastbreak ran circles around them.

So now the Cavaliers come to their biggest game of the season this Friday. The team heads to Atlanta to play the Hawks. A win there will put them just one game behind the Hawks with five to play.

I remember how the Indians rallied together and won their last 10 games of the season to get in the playoffs. Can the Cavaliers summon a similar common bond to create a magical finish to the season? The games are all winnable for the Cavaliers. The odds are long, but for the first time in what feels like forever, we might experience fun games in April. Buckle up, fans. This Friday’s game will tell story.

  • Harv 21

    Two things from a guy who didn’t see the game (yeah, this will be incisive):

    - At this stage of the Cavs development I don’t care if the Magic played like a team which has already made its spring plans. A “simulated” game like this may be exactly what Kyrie needs to recalibrate his on-court relationship with Dion, physically and mentally, for the sake of the team.

    - After years of futility the Knicks fight to keep a last playoff spot – really? With Carmelo in his prime and in one of the easiest places to attract the best free agents. A franchise which David Stern freely admits the NBA wants/needs to be successful. Just shows to go ya: when you have a hard salary cap, it’s not about tanking for draft picks, closing your and clicking your heels three times. Success and failure start at the top. We should keep this is mind the next few years with the Cavs and Browns.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    ESPN ran a poll last night. “Who is going to get the last playoff spot in the East?” The choices were Atlanta and New York. That was it. I realize it’s a long shot, but that’s a lot of disrespect.

  • eldaveablo

    I don’t know how this will all turn out, but I love what is happening right now. The team is showing a lot of heart and maturity. They really want the playoffs, and this is so refreshing compared to hearing about all the tanking. Over the years the Cavs have had high draft picks and improved their talent level, but this is the first time in a long time where I get the feeling that they are learning how to win. I think that’s way more important than getting extra ping pong balls.

    I just have one more request for the season. No matter when the season ends, I want the young Cavs to have a sour taste in their mouths. I want them to be proud of how they finished the year, but disappointed and wanting to improve and redeem themselves for some of those bad losses that made this road harder than it needed to be.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    “Who will get the 8 seed in the East?”

    A) New York Knicks
    B) Atlanta Hawks
    C) LeBron’s former team

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    While I completely agree with your 2nd paragraph, it probably is worth noting that the Knicks don’t have their first round pick this year, it belongs to Denver/Orlando (depending on how things play out). So the Knicks have no motivation to tank at all.

    But I do agree with your general theory. There’s no illustrated model of tanking = success. I think it’s way more valuable for the Cavaliers to play out the season on a high note. If they get in the playoffs and get some experience seeing what real playoff basketball is all about, that’s great. If they just miss, it will give them motivation to work in the offseason and be better next year. Play like this all season long.

  • JNeids

    I’m more surprised the question didn’t read: “Will the Knicks make the playoffs?” And the answer choices “Yes” and “Maybe”

  • BenRM

    17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and 8 assists!? Yeah, let’s move Kyrie now. No one wants an All-Star MVP PG who plays like this….

    Those people who were clamouring to dump Kyrie and make this a Jack-Waiters team drove me insane.

  • mgbode

    i’ve always wondered how St.Vincent-St.Mary would do in the NBA playoffs. or are we talking his ex-AAU team?

  • Sagat
  • boomhauertjs

    “I remember how the Indians rallied together and won their last 10 games of the season to get in the playoffs. Can the Cavaliers summon a similar common bond to create a magical finish to the season? ”

    Mike Brown in the role of Terry Francona? Jarrett Jack as Jason Giambi? Uh…probably not…

  • Harv 21

    actually I wasn’t writing clearly – didn’t mean to imply the Knicks have tried to tank. Went from a specific team to general practice without needed explanation. The Knicks prob may be the opposite: tossing together bigger name veterans with little rhyme or reason other than making a publicity splash.

  • Jason Hurley

    Is there any statistical validity to the idea that TT plays better without Varejao?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Then find a real GM, real head coach as well as replacements for Deng and Hawes. That’s not asking much in Cleveland is it?

  • Steve

    So when he shoots 5/17 with 4 TOs again, and the man he is “guarding” goes for 20 and 14 can we advocate a trade again?

    If Irving frequently played like this against non-tanking teams, we wouldn’t be a low 30s win team, and we’d all be on board to watch the team grow into a contender.

  • BenRM

    No. No one should ever advocate for a trade because it’s dumb. :)

  • Lunch

    Try telling that to the “Trade Anderson Varejao” groupies. Ugh!

  • Steve

    Don’t get me wrong, I see Irving play like he did last night, and I’m pretty sure he’s showing more effort on the defensive end, and I see the upside too. But, after three years, I don’t think he’s made the necessary steps to becoming the best player on a championship contender. If you can trade him to someone who goes “All-Star MVP!” and gives up value as if Irving is a top 10 or even 20 player in the league, I think you pull the trigger.

  • mgbode

    no, no you do not pull the trigger.

    Chris Paul trade netted NO: Gordon, Kaman, Aminu, 1x1st round pick that ended up being Austin Rivers. Also, destroying their team that helped them land the #1 overall pick in Anthony Davis (aka tanking).

    “Lakers” Paul trade could have netted NO: Scola, Dragic, K.Martin, 1x1st rounder.

    James Harden trade netted OKC: J.Lamb, PJIII, 1x1st rounder (Steven Adams @12), K.Martin

    As much as I like Jeremy Lamb, you just do not trade star players in the NBA unless you are forced to do it. And yes, Kyrie is a star player. He is young, he still has a ways to go, but he will get there.

  • mgbode

    no, no you do not pull the trigger.

    Chris Paul trade netted NO: Gordon, Kaman, Aminu, 1x1st round pick that ended up being Austin Rivers. Also, destroying their team that helped them land the #1 overall pick in Anthony Davis (aka tanking).

    “Lakers” Paul trade could have netted NO: Scola, Dragic, K.Martin, 1x1st rounder.

    James Harden trade netted OKC: J.Lamb, PJIII, 1x1st rounder (Steven Adams @12), K.Martin

    As much as I like Jeremy Lamb, you just do not trade star players in the NBA unless you are forced to do it. And yes, Kyrie is a star player. He is young, he still has a ways to go, but he will get there.

  • Steve

    Irving is no Paul or Harden. And I think I would take either of those Paul trades again, and hope I do a bit better in the draft.

  • BenRM

    “He is young, he still has a ways to go, but he will get there.”

    This a million times over. Kyrie essentially went from high school to the pros. It was going to take a little time for Kyrie to figure out the NBA game, especially as a PG.

    I think as Cavs fans, we were spoiled by seeing LeBron dominate the league almost immediately. This is b/c LBJ is first or second best player in NBA history. Not because Kyrie is somehow lacking.

    Do I think Kyrie will ever be the best player in the NBA? Probably not. But he’ll be among the best. Heck, he already IS among the best.

    You don’t trade that guy, unless like you said, you have a Denver-’Melo sort of situation.

  • Steve

    Irving in his third year is a .127 WS/48 guy. Carmelo in his third year, .158, Paul in his third year .284, Harden .230, Rose .208, Griffin .196, Bosh .170, Rondo .179, Westbrook .159.

    He’s behind all these guys in terms of development. He’s not already “among the best”. He may certainly get it together, but great players generally have taken the leap by their third year.

  • BenRM

    The fact that you ignore he is already among the best players in the NBA shows your incredible bias.

    ROY, 2 All-Star appearances, 1 All-Star MVP (for what little that’s actually worth.)

    Do you know who doesn’t have those types of credentials? The vast majority of the players in the NBA.

  • Steve

    There’s no bias here. The best players in the NBA in my mind rack up wins for their team, not just accolades on their trophy shelf.

  • mgbode

    yet. he is no Paul or Harden YET!

    do you know who else wasn’t as good as those guys in their prime? 21yo versions of Paul and Harden.

    Look, I get the Irving angst. I wrote as much many times this year that Kyrie has been part of the problem for this year’s Cavalier team. However, that does NOT mean that he is a player that you trade. The talent is obvious and if you take those crud picks and middling players back for him then you are setting back the franchise further.
    No, what you do is that you help him continue to get better and do what you can to sign him long-term (he’s not leaving after next year, but he could 3 years after that).

  • mgbode

    metrics have shown you have to use age, not years in NBA.
    also, Irving’s progression has undoubtedly suffered in part due to his injuries. there is no escaping that he has missed big chunks of each of the past 4 years he has played and, yes, that is a reason for concern.

  • Steve

    Paul’s age 21 season .179 WS/48, Harden – .156. Irving doesn’t touch the 21 year old versions of those guys either.

    Like I said, if you gave me the equivalent of that NO-Paul trade, I’d take it, and hope I get luckier with Gordon’s health and in the draft.

  • Steve

    I think you need both as studies have shown guys develop much quicker in the NBA than college. Even so, while the age 21 leaderboard is much brighter for Irving, he’s still behind the majority of those guys, and not exactly standing out for his performance.

  • mgbode

    Yes, he is behind as you would expect someone to be who has missed a big chunk of each of the last 4 seasons of development (and, again, yes that is a concern). that doesn’t invalidate his eventual path though. pretty obvious he is a special talent and many, many see it (number of players you have mentioned to have 2 allstar nods by their 21yo season = zero).

    Now, I agree with you that he isn’t a top player yet. On offense, he needs to have more games where he looks to get everyone involved so that he can set himself up better too (defense won’t just focus on him). On defense, well, he needs a ton of work.

    There is just no way you give him up for all those mediocre players on short contracts (better luck on Gordon’s health still has him leave for Phoenix) and lower draft picks in bad drafts.

    We would be re-booting our tanking process. No thanks to that idea. Sorry.

  • mgbode

    not always true. the top5 players, yes. but outside of that (and maybe slightly more in some years), players need to be on the right overall team

    Carmelo would be a devastating player in the right environment and is an obvious top20 player. But, he isn’t the type of player that will rack up the wins either.

    Pau Gasol (in his prime) was another such player. Same goes for guys like Dwight, Westbrook, Griffin, et cetera. Heck, we are seeing that Derrick Rose wasn’t the reason the Bulls were winning (he just added the extra juice to make them contenders).

  • Steve

    He’s not behind just because of his injuries. Even when he’s healthy, he’s just not good enough. The injuries are an added negative on top of the not-good-enough play.

    And yes, you’re still taking risks that a guy like Gordon may not be healthy, or may want to leave, or you may draft poorly. I’ll take all those risks over what I think is a team that will peak at 40-45 wins and not truly contend. Boom or bust.

  • Steve

    Carmelo’s first three years, they won 43, 49, 44 games. By Gasol’s third year, even the previously inept Grizzlies won 50 games. All these names you’re listing, they’ve all done better than 30-35 wins in year three.

  • mgbode

    Eric Gordon has never had a WS/48 season as good as Kyrie’s this year, he would have had 3 less years of team-control (at least), cost more, and had bigger injury concerns.

    Also, you have been talking development of these players this entire time, but refuse to acknowledge that time lost to injuries would affect development? I do not get that at all.

    We can figure out how to combine age with games player (or minutes) and do something, but there should be no doubt that if you are missing a bunch of time due to injuries that it is going to affect how fast you develop.

  • Steve

    I get that Gordon was a risk. I think I’d still take that risk. And, to be clear, I’m talking more about a hypothetical equivalent trade. Obviously if I we’re talking about a scenario where we know the guy will play out exactly like Gordon did, I wouldn’t want that.

    I’m not refusing to acknowledge that time lost to injuries would affect development. I think that is a significant part, and I think it’s a red flag for Irving’s future. But I think there’s more to his lack of development than injuries. He took over two full seasons to even show a modicum of effort on the defensive end. That goes beyond lost time due to injuries.

  • mgbode

    I was speaking to “Gordon at the time of the trade” and ignoring everything that came after (except to mention he bolted once his contract ended because his contract was ending, which is prudent IMO).

    I’m not going to defend Kyrie’s defense. His skills are good enough that he should be better, no doubt.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I laughed out loud when I read that. Well done, sir.

  • Dave

    Count me among those who doesn’t think Mike Brown should have been fired in the first place. Brown is in fact getting this team to clamp down defensively more than it once did, and is also showing signs of making them run an offense. That counts for something, and it’s actually more than Byron Scott ever did.