Cavaliers not great, but hang with Heat
Thoughts from the Cavaliers 107-91 loss to Miami on Tuesday:
• For probably the first time this season, I felt frustrated with the Cavs. They missed too many shots near the rim, were less-than-stellar from the free-throw line (20-for-30) and just basically didn’t seem to value possessions. At least, not like you need to do against perhaps the league’s best team.
• That said, I need to get over it. Because truth is, despite all the flaws, the Cavs managed to stay in this until about three minutes remained. Heck, they even led for a while in the second half and trailed just 78-72 entering the fourth quarter.
• Bottom line: Despite my irritability, the Cavs played with mostly guts and mostly competed. They did it without anyone who had played shooting guard for them this season — with Anthony Parker (back) and Daniel Gibson (neck) out of action, and Mychel Thompson waived.
• And, oh yeah, valuable rookie forward Tristan Thompson (ankle) also didn’t play.
• Antawn Jamison needed a strong game, scoring-wise, just to make opponents (and maybe himself) believe he could still do it. He did just that, erupting for 20 in the first half and finishing with 25.
• Jamison made half of his 22 shots and grabbed nine rebounds. You could argue this was his best game of the season. He was certainly the biggest reason the Cavs even had hope for long stretches.
• I don’t think anyone affiliated with the Cavs likes what they saw from backups Ryan Hollins and Luke Harangody. Both played hard, but at this level against an elite team, that’s not enough. Hollins grabbed just one rebound and committed four fouls in 10 minutes, while Harangody was a miserable 1-for-9 shooting. And at least two of those misses were within a foot of the basket.
• Starting small forward Omri Casspi still looks overwhelmed to me. He had a hard time making simple plays and there is little reason for opponents to fear him when he tries to finish at the basket. If Casspi ever pulls it together and plays with some real confidence at the offensive end, the Cavs are going to win a few games they shouldn’t. But until then, they’re not likely to beat teams like the Heat on the road.
• Cavs fans should be thrilled with backup forward Alonzo Gee (17 points, 6-for-11 shooting). He did a nice job stepping in the passing lanes and defending Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on separate occasions, while playing out of position at guard on offense. Gee is the most athletic regular on the roster — and while he may not be the starting small forward of the future, he certainly has found and fits a role with this team.
• I was also impressed, yet again, with Kyrie Irving. The rookie point guard was far from great, but still finished with 16 points, six assists and six determined rebounds. No matter how he plays through the first three quarters, Irving always tries to save the day in the fourth. He wants to carry his team and really seems to believe the Cavs are never out of it. He’s usually right.
• The Cavs now must turn around and play another toughie — but at least they get the LA Clippers at The Q on Wednesday. Obviously, everyone is talking about the matchup between Irving and Chris Paul, and it should indeed be interesting. Paul was Irving’s favorite player while growing up and their games do have some similarities. “But I’m not exactly like Chris Paul,” Irving said.
• Wednesday’s game marks the return of former Cavs guard Mo Williams, who is playing very well as a backup with the Clippers. This is Williams’ first visit to Cleveland since the Cavs traded him last February. No word on whether he’ll replace Chauncey Billups in the starting lineup — although it’s believed the Clippers would like to keep bringing Williams off the bench. Billups is out for the season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon Monday in Orlando.