After some technical difficulties last week, we return to the Wine And Gold Weekly. A 1-3 week for the Cavaliers was not what was anticipated. Given that coach Ty Lue is still trying to find places for his new pieces, some growing pains are to be expected, but even still, you wish that last week had gone better. Let’s take a look at some things and have a shoot around, yeah?
Thoughts From Last Week
- Dropping games is one thing. Dropping games because of a lack of focus and effort is another thing all together. The Cavs spent large stretches of games, including in the win over Orlando, with little effort on the glass or on the defensive end guarding the three. Guys have to learn each other on defense, too, and sometimes we forget that. However, basic defensive principles are run league wide, and there’s no excuse for simply not being where you need to be.
- The Cavs were smacked around on the glass pretty good last week, culminating in being flat out outworked by Houston in their building. It is really difficult to win games when you can’t gain possession through any means other than when the other team gets a bucket. Tyron Lue, normally great at putting lineups out there that make sense, went away from Tristan Thompson for an inexplicably long stretch on Sunday, allowing Houston to batter slight Cavalier bigs underneath. Rebounding is about position, position is about working and effort. You can do the math here as to why the Cavs were beaten so badly on that end.
- The good news is that the ball movement was pretty good for most of the games last week. The ball is popping into pockets, skipping around, and appears to have regained some of its energy from earlier in the year. Deron Williams and LeBron James appear to be getting along nicely, and their prowess as a duo in the pick and roll is rounding into form, and looks tremendous.
- The first Miami tilt is almost excusable. The Cavs punted, resting guys and trying some new things on both ends with new guys in new dynamics. The second game, however, is a tough one to swallow. Yes, Miami made everything from deep, and yes, Dion Waiters (former Cavalier legend) was great. The problem is that, yes, of course they made everything from deep since the Cavaliers appeared completely disinterested in defending the three point line. We all expected more here, especially after the dust-up at the end of the first contest.
This Week’s Opponents (Combined Record: 134-130)
- For some reason, the Cavaliers have a tough time with this Pistons team. They don’t do anything special, but do match up well on paper, at least in terms of pure size. It seems like Stan Van Gundy’s group gets up to play the Cavaliers ever since the playoffs last season where, though in a sweep, Detroit gave LeBron & Co. everything they could handle. Reggie Jackson is playing better, and is a fourth quarter virtuoso, rivaling what we’ve seen from our own Kyrie Irving during the final period.
- Going into the week, the Salt Lakers are one game up on the Clippers for the fourth spot, and only four and a half back of the Rockets for the three spot. They’re unique and slower style of play is predicated on using the free throw line as a fulcrum around which the entire offense pivots. They utilize the elbow better than any other team in the league, and Gordon Hayward is, of course, a menace offensively. Gobert poses a menagerie of issues for teams defensively, but is also improving offensively. This is worrisome, as the Cavs continue to struggle with clubs that have great size underneath.
- As I mentioned, the Clippers are right in the thick of things for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Chris Paul is a magician, and Blake Griffin is becoming a tremendous problem as a play maker. As with Utah and Gobert, the Cavs have their hands full with All-Star big DeAndre Jordan. He alters so many shots defensively, that even if he’s not blocking shots, guys are afraid of going in at him. Focus should be on letting him beat the Cavs as they close out on JJ Redick and other guards to run them off of the three point line. More on this later.
- The record of this week’s opponents is, of course, skewed by facing the Lakers who come in at 20-46 after a promising start to the season. DeAngelo Russell is rounding into a really nice all around player, making threes at a better clip and more confidently than we’ve seen most of the season. Young big man Ivica Zubac has been a nice surprise, and serves as a very solid complementary big to Julius Randle. The coolest thing about the Lakers remains the way that they use Randle. Initiating offense, flying all over the floor, becoming a great passer, and even starting to try to stretch his range out. Randle is quickly turning into Draymond Green offensively, though I do think he has the potential to far exceed what Green brings on that end of the floor.
- So much of the Cavaliers’ defensive woes stem from what I mentioned about closing out on shooters. In instances where Cavalier defenders actually do close, they do so out of control. The result is dribble penetration by the offensive player, causing the Cavs’ bigs to scramble to confront the ball handler in the mid range. Frankly, the Cavs don’t have enough bigs with great lateral movement to make up for this action, and it leaves things exposed in the middle for dunks, layups, back cuts, and all sorts of offensive frivolity for the opponent. This is an enormous problem, and one that needs cleaned up. Oddly, I think that Kyle Korver will help with this. He does a nice job closing out under control, and still being able to recover to play passing lanes. Defensively, his best attribute for Cleveland may be his underrated size. He’s a legitimate six-foot-eight, and simply taking up that kind of space can alleviate all sorts of issues.
- No great analysis here, but how nice is it to have JR Smith back?
- The Larry Sanders addition is really nice. I don’t anticipate much from him this regular season. It appears that he’ll spend time in Canton with the Charge to get his legs under him and simply get into game shape. A luxury he wouldn’t have sitting on the bench in Cleveland every night. The most important thing with Sanders’ contract is the club option on next season. This will hopefully eliminate something from the list of tasks for GM David Griffin. Anything the Cavaliers get between now and December of 2017 is a bonus, but a nice luxury to have.
That’ll do it for this week. As always, follow me on Twitter @GoodBallHunting for in game analysis, general thoughts, and your occasional hot take about various foods.