The Cleveland Cavaliers are undefeated! Yes, we’re only one game into the season, and the Cavs remain far from a contender, but some positives emerged from the Wine & Gold’s 94-84 win over the Washington Wizards, minus John Wall and Nene, Tuesday evening at Quicken Loans Arena.
Energy, energy, energy
From the opening tip, Byron Scott’s team just wanted it more. Ignore the 54-39 rebounding advantage — but if you don’t want to, remember the Wizards were without Nene’s rebounding prowess. The energy on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the first quarter from Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson, was palpable. The Cavs only forced 13 turnovers, to their own 21 (a continuing problem from last season), but a few of those, including a beautifully executed trap from Kyrie Irving and Thompson in the frontcourt, as well a clean swipe from rookie Dion Waiters, led to easy dunks at the other end.
Then, of course, there’s Anderson Varejao. The “Wild Thing” nearly logged a triple double, with 9 points, 9 assists and 23 rebounds. Yes, 23 boards, including 12 on the offensive end. Dear basketball Gods: Please let this guy stay healthy this year…
The Pros: The Cavaliers’ young guns
Kyrie Irving was nothing short of sensational, and if anyone ever doubted the former Dukie, it’s quickly becoming clear this is a guy you can build a championship team around. Kyrie finished with 29 points on 11-20 shooting, as well as 6 rebounds and just 3 assists. But Irving staved off the Wizards’ rally with two crucial buckets in the final minutes — a driving layup and a jumper just inside the three-point line. And his +23 was tops among all players.
Tristan Thompson complemented Andy nicely in his level of energy, finishing with 12 points, 10 boards and 5 assists. The Cavs were +20 while the former Longhorn was on the floor. And Dion Waiters, looking much, much thinner than this summer, finished with a solid 17 points on 6-14 shooting, far outdoing the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, drafted one slot ahead of Waiters out of Florida in June, who tallied 8 points on 2-8 from the field.
The Cons: This bench is not good … at all
Daniel “Boobie” Gibson gave Scott a nice lift off the pine, with 10 points in 16 minutes. But C.J. Miles was far from impressive, recording 2 points on 1-5 shooting and 3 turnovers in 18 minutes. Donald Sloan (-13) and Luke Walton (-11) also hurt the team more than helped while on the floor. With Tyler Zeller rounding out Scott’s second five, it’s clear scoring is going to have to come from Gibson and Miles. But Gibson, a streak shooter, and Miles, just not a shooter, are just not enough. (And Luke Walton is scary bad — I’m thinking we’ll see more Omri Casspi, a DNP coach’s decision tonight, moving forward, at least over Walton … hopefully.)
Bottom line: The Cavs can’t play Irving 48 minutes a night, and so the W-L record will suffer.
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