Cavs gut it out, but guts ain't enough
NOV 08, 2012 2:41a ET
• Cavs coach Byron Scott won’t see it this way, but I’m OK with this one. Let’s start with the ready-made excuses -- as both Anderson Varejao and rookie Tyler Zeller missed the game. That’s the starting center and his backup, and both played essential roles the other night in the surprising win over the Clippers.
• Along with those two, Kyrie Irving and reserve swingman C.J. Miles came down with food poisoning on Wednesday morning. Irving appeared to be dragging a little at first. Then he scored a game-high 28 points and passed for five assists in 36 minutes. “Toughest thing I’ve ever done,” he said of playing while sick.
• Varejao, by the way, was a late scratch because of soreness in his knee. He bumped it early in the Clippers game, and it likely flared up right before tipoff Wednesday. The Cavs didn’t want to risk making it worse. His status for Friday’s game in Phoenix should be updated later today.
• Zeller has a fractured cheek bone and was delivered back to Cleveland for further evaluation. Although this isn’t official, he’s probably done for the road trip, which still has three games to go.
• That medical report was brought to you by the good folks at FOX Sports Ohio … oh wait. There’s more: Dion Waiters was spotted hobbling after the game with what was reportedly a bruised thigh. It isn’t expected to be serious.
• OK, now we can go back to the actual game. For the most part, I liked what I saw. Well, except for the first quarter, when the Cavs looked pretty lifeless without the forever-wild Varejao crashing the boards and hawking the ball on defense.
• The Warriors shot 57 percent in that quarter behind perimeter specialists Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as big man David Lee, who had an outstanding night (Varejao anyone?). They led 37-21 after the first and it appeared to be game, set, match, and how soon can the Cavs leave for Phoenix?
• As I hinted above, Scott was not happy. “The first quarter was a prime example of coming out and almost feeling sorry for ourselves because we don’t have Andy, we don’t have Tyler,” he said.
• But after trailing by as many as 17 points, the Cavs slowly battled back. They started to get in the face of all those Warriors sharpshooters -- and got a little tougher inside behind Tristan Thompson (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Samardo Samuels (11 and seven), who started in place of Varejao.
• Eventually, the Cavs turned that energy into a 69-67 lead on a fadeway jumper from Waiters. But they looked spent immediately after, as the Warriors closed the third on an 18-5 run. And that, folks, was pretty much it.
• Still, the Cavs showed fight in this game when they had every reason to shrug and say, “Ah, so what? We’re young, we're not feeling well, and we just won a biggie the other night in L.A. It’s just not gonna happen for us tonight.” And it didn’t. But the Cavs did display guts for at least a little bit -- and that’s what you’re hoping for from a young team battling the odds.
• No, Waiters (12 points, 5-for-15 shooting) didn’t have a banner night. It’s clear he’s still finding his way, figuring when to pull up, when drive to the basket, when to distribute the ball. I’m good with all of it, and my confidence in the kid increases by the game. There have been moments every night where he has me thinking he’s gonna be a star. After one week, I’m beginning to understand why the Cavs drafted Waiters at No. 4 overall.
• I’m also sort of wondering why the Wizards didn’t take him third.
• As for Harrison Barnes, I thought he did just fine, too. Nothing flashy, but very polished and steady. He finished with 14 points (a career high) and hit a backbreaking three-pointer from the baseline toward the end. A Warriors writer told me it was Barnes’ best game, and the numbers support that statement.
• Barnes is just 3-for-10 on threes this season, and at first I was surprised to learn he’s only averaging two of them per game. Then I remembered he’s on the same team as Curry and Thompson.
• Anyway, back to the Cavs. I thought Jon Leuer was just OK in his first meaningful minutes off the bench. I thought Omri Casspi was bad. I thought Miles did enough to keep faith alive. He’s certainly hustling. And I’d definitely be alright with seeing more of Leuer and Samuels.
• Also, I've really liked the production of Boobie Gibson in the past two games. He’s playing like the leader the team craves off the bench, holding his own defensively and hitting some threes. It’s pretty clear he’s feeling more comfortable following foot surgery late last season. That’s good, because the Cavs need him.
• Bottom line: Not a big deal if you’re the Cavs. You win some, you lose some. I expect that to be the case with these guys all season. But I liked the fight and I especially liked the fun. All most fans want is for the Cavs to be competitive and exciting this season. On Wednesday, they were, even without some integral pieces.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO