CLEVELAND — Yes, the Cavaliers were fell flat Saturday night. And, overall, they didn’t look particularly good doing it.
But anyone who pays attention knows their 102-79 loss to the visiting Indiana Pacers was largely the result of coach Mike Brown deciding to give the bench some run when it counted.
Meanwhile, the Cavs’ starters mostly did their part in making it a back-and-forth game against a team that came within one win of the NBA Finals last season.
Not surprisingly, Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving was a major reason why.
Irving reached his preseason average of 15 points, and also grabbed five rebounds and passed for five assists in 24 minutes.
In his eyes, the Cavs (3-2 in the preseason) are making strides.
“We’ve been coming together for a little bit now,” Irving said. “We have a rhythm — especially me, (Anderson Varejao) and Tristan (Thompson).”
Irving didn’t stop there, also mentioning shooting guard Dion Waiters and forward Earl Clark by name.
“We’re starting to figure out our spots,” Irving said. “We’re gelling well.”
Brown has spent the preseason placing considerably more emphasis on when the Cavs face each other in practice than he does on exhibition games in which they face another team. So that’s why the coach is so willing to play the second (and third and fourth) units when the score is close in the second half — as was the case again Saturday.
“(Brown) told the starters to be ready to play in the fourth quarter, but we just wanted the second unit to learn,” Irving said.
As for those practices?
“Our practices are harder than our games,” said the 6-foot-3 point guard and returning All-Star. “That’s the way it should be. We can only get better from this point on.”
The Cavs have three preseason games remaining (vs. Philadelphia in Columbus, vs. Washington in Cincinnati and at Charlotte) before the real thing begins Oct. 30 vs. Brooklyn at The Q.
“If the season started today, I think we’d be ready,” Irving said. “But extra preparation can only help us at this point. We’re still learning.”