After starting the season 6-0, the Cavaliers dropped their first game of the season on Tuesday night, falling to the Atlanta Hawks 110-106. The game truly was a game of runs. The Cavaliers trailed by as many as 18 points in the game, but came raging back in the second half. The Cavaliers only shot 37% from the field and made only 11 out of 42 three-pointers.
Here are a few game notes following the Cavaliers’ loss:
- Both teams started out slowly on offense. For much of the first half, the Hawks dictated the tempo of the game. The Cavaliers, who want to push the tempo and use their multitude of finishers and shooters in transition opportunities, were forced to play more of a half-court game on offense. Much of this was due to a lack of focus on defense. Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap, and Dennis Schroder had their way with the interior of the Cavaliers’ defense early, which forced the Cavaliers into more of a half-court offense.
- LeBron James had a sloppy start to the game. This is not atypical for The King. James, somewhat quietly, has an occasional game where it looks like his ball isn’t round and this game certainly started like one of those games.
- The game was tied at 29 when Iman Shumpert went on a personal 5-0 run by hitting a 3 and followed it up with a steal and a nifty transition layup to make the score 34-29.
- Things went down from there for the Cavs, though. The Cavaliers lost the remainder of the first half 24-8 and went into halftime down 53-42. The Cavaliers were head scoreless for the final 2:07 of the first half. The most concerning aspect of the Cavs’ poor finish to the first half was the stagnant offense. The Cavs did quite a bit of standing and watching while guys went one-on-one offensively.
- At one point in the game, the Cavaliers missed 10 straight three-point attempts. The Cavaliers rely heavily on the three-point shot (perhaps too much, at times)
- The game’s momentum changed a bit at the 7:50 mark of the 3rd The Cavs, down 66-50 at the time, got a deflection and steal by Kevin Love, who flipped the ball ahead to Kyrie Irving, who dropped the ball between his legs to James who converted the transition opportunity while drawing a foul. On the next possession, the Cavaliers got another steal, ran in transition, and found James for a wide-open three, which made the score 66-56. The Cavaliers changed the game on the defensive end by creating easy opportunities on offense.
- It looked like the Cavaliers were completely dead in the water, down 106-97 with less than two minutes to play, but the Cavs would not go away. The Cavs cut the lead to 3 after a LeBron James three-pointer with 47 seconds left and then again to 2 after Kevin Love converted an and-one opportunity with 25 seconds left. Ultimately, the Cavaliers’ rally fell short when Kent Bazemore drilled a wide open jumper with 6 seconds left to round out the scoring.
The game really affirmed a couple things we already know about the Cavaliers: The Cavaliers are a better basketball team when they use their defense to fuel their offense. They got in trouble with stagnant offense but got back in the game with transition opportunities, which gave way to a more rhythmic offense. That rhythmic offense allowed a couple perimeter shots to fall and LeBron James and company were able to chip away at the Hawks’ lead. Ultimately, the intensity was not what it needed to be from start to finish.
The Cavaliers have a date with President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday afternoon before taking on the Wizards Friday Night at the Verizon Center.