Cavs discover a little more as preseason nears its end
CINCINNATI, Ohio -- NBA preseason basketball is a time to experiment, and for teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, there’s still plenty of finding out to do.
Both are built around youth, but both hope to prove themselves as true up-and-comers in the Eastern Conference right away.
The Wizards ended their preseason with a 101-82 victory over the Cavs on Wednesday at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. The Cavs have one more left before the real thing begins -- Thursday at the Charlotte Bobcats (7 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).
Like most of these glorified scrimmages, the score is hardly an indication of where these teams stand. Neither used any of its major players in the fourth quarter, both experimented with lineups and used more than a few folks who are still trying to make the team.
Cavs coach Mike Brown even started All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving at shooting guard, with Jarrett Jack running the point. Jack hadn’t played in more than a week, and only spent 10 minutes on the floor Wednesday.
But the Jack-Irving combination worked well, pushing the Cavs to a 53-41 lead at halftime, when the game was still in the hands of players you'll likely see again.
“They looked pretty good offensively,” Brown said of Jack and Irving.
The coach speaks the truth, as Jack finished with five assists in those 10 minutes, and Irving tallied 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting (including 4-of-7 on 3-pointers) in 24 minutes.
On top of that, the Cavs just seemed more composed with Jack on the floor.
That’s not a surprise. That’s why they signed him this summer.
“We have a tendency to get rattled because we’re a young team.” Brown said. “(Jack) can calm everyone down.”
Perhaps the most glowing performance, however, again belonged to power forward Tristan Thompson -- who has put together the type of preseason post play that could bring a smile to the face of ex-Boston Celtics great Kevin McHale.
Thompson has been confident and smooth, displaying an array of pump fakes and power moves, chasing every rebound as if it's made of gold. He has, simply put, never been better.
On Wednesday, he finished with 17 points and 14 impressive boards, and even passed for three assists. This follows a 15-point, 16-rebound performance vs. Philadelphia two nights earlier.
“I’m telling you guys, when he gets double-doubles or rebounds like that, it doesn’t surprise me,” Brown said, citing Thompson’s “long, athletic” frame.
Second-year guard Bradley Beal lead the Wizards with a game-high 21 points, and small forward Trevor Ariza added 19.
Much like the Cavs, the Wizards think they possess the type of depth and balance to make a quick rise from the basketball ashes. Much like the Cavs, they’re ready to break from the preseason, get back to practice and prepare for next week’s real deal.
“(The week off before the regular season) gives you a chance to really clean up and rest,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “It gives us a chance to recharge the batteries a little bit. In the preseason you’re everywhere. We’re in Cincinnati. We’ve been to Lexington (Ky.). We’ve been to Brazil. So this gives you a chance to step back, to catch your breath.”
For teams like the Cavs and Wizards, it couldn't come at a better time. Because with a little more practice, they are hoping, their time is now.
• Cavs shooting guards Dion Waiters (ankle), C.J. Miles (leg) and rookie Sergey Karasev (ankle) all sat, prompting the Jack-Irving starting backcourt. None of the injuries are considered serious, as Waiters and Miles practiced Wednesday. Backup center Tyler Zeller (appendectomy) is also nearing a return to game action.
• Irving on playing shooting guard: “We have a pretty good two-guard on our team already (in Waiters). There will be times where Jarrett will be in and I’ll be the two-guard, but that position, I’ll leave to Dion. I’m sticking to one-guard.”
• Earlier in the day the Cavs announced they picked up the fourth-year options on Irving and Thompson, and third-year options on Waiters and Zeller. Irving and Thompson can sign contract extensions following the season.
• No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett struggled against the Wizards’ physical frontline of Nene, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and others. Bennett finished with five points on just 1-of-6 shooting and was whistled for four fouls. He did have a sweet assist on a bounce pass to center Henry Sims, though.
• Meanwhile, Wizards small forward Otto Porter, the No. 3 overall pick, has been out with a hip flexor since the second week of September. There’s no timetable for his return, the Washington Post reported.