With preseason over, clock ticks on Cavs

October 23, 2012

CLEVELAND -- You can call it change for the sake of change, and you may not be too terribly far off.

But mostly, Cavs coach Byron Scott is just trying to find something that works. He'd probably also like to find a reliable second scoring option, but hey, this is just the preseason, man. No need to get all panicky.

Actually, following a 100-82 loss to the visiting Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, the preseason is officially over. The Cavs finished with a 3-4 record, joining a league-wide trend in which everyone seems to think batting .500 when games don't count is just fine, thank you very much. (Seriously. Check the preseason standings.)

Still, the Cavs now have a week to get it figured out.

Order of Business No. 1: Find a starting lineup.

Order No. 2: Develop a regular rotation.

And Order No. 3: Get everyone to understand what Scott expects defensively -- then get them to go out and do it.

The Cavs have six days of practice to work on all this business, and gentlemen, you're officially on the clock.

"There would be times (Tuesday) where we had four guys do exactly what they're supposed to do, and then one guy breaks down, which costs us a basket," Scott explained. "All five guys have to be in sync. We'll continue to work on that."

On this night, the Cavs learned from the best. If not the best, then a team that's suddenly considered the frontrunner for the Central Division title.

The Pacers are a deep, physical and offensively gifted unit, led by the likes of Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert. They pestered eventual-champion Miami endlessly in the second round last season, and even held a 2-1 series advantage.

The Cavs, on the other hand, are painfully young.

Scott's starting lineup Tuesday included first-year guard Dion Waiters, first-year center Tyler Zeller, second-year guard Kyrie Irving and (barely) third-year small forward Alonzo Gee. And second-year big man Tristan Thompson was among the first reserves.

This mismatch on paper showed in the box score, as the Pacers shot 71 percent in the first quarter. So you probably have a decent idea of what Scott means when he grumbles about defense.

"A defensive field-goal percentage of 47 or 48 percent at half is not acceptable," Scott said. "Our guys have to understand that."

This was actually a tight game for a half. But as the Cavs had a tendency to do last season, they went through a six- or seven-minute stretch where it got away from them. The reason? You guessed it, defensive breakdowns.

Things were a little better offensively, with Irving tallying a game-high 20 points. Gee added 18, and Zeller 13 on 5-for-8 shooting. He also tied Anderson Varejao with a team-high seven rebounds.

"I thought (Zeller) played well," Scott said. "The one thing he did was battled. You know, he went against a guy who's an All-Star."

Waiters wasn't half-bad himself, although he still looks like a rookie. He's struggling to find the range on his jump shot, finishing 4-for-14 for 12 points. But he's getting better, and remains an underrated creator. And quite honestly, it never hurts to have two guys who can find the open man, particularly in Scott's system.

Where Waiters needs work is playing without the ball. On the bright side, he knows it.

"In college, I pretty much had the ball in my hands all the time," he said. "(Now), I'm playing off the ball, coming off the ball and trying to create my shot. I've just got to continue to keep working."

But Waiters doesn't need to feel bad. Even Irving admitted he's not a finished product, either.

"I'm still finding a balance," Irving said. "I took a few shots that felt good at the release, but just didn't go down. I'm just glad this is the last preseason game."

That it is. And the Cavs have six more days to get it right, or at least closer to right, before the real thing begins.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO