In one night, Cavs fans saw both a glimpse of the future and the reality of today. For one half of basketball, the Cavaliers played excellent. Tough defense and smart offense. Everyone was contributing, including Kyrie Irving. Things were looking great as the Cavs were right there at halftime with the probable playoff bound Indiana Pacers.
Then the wheels fell off in the third quarter. The team appeared to be completely sleepwalking. Poor defense and horrid offensive execution. All of the good play completely vanished as the Pacers outscored the Cavs 25-14 in the third quarter. But the Cavs rallied back and refused to quit. This is when Kyrie Irving really stepped up. He finished the game with 20 points, four assists, and five rebounds. Unfortunately, Irving had a layup roll out on him at the end of regulation that would have one the Cavs the game. The Pacers took control in overtime and won 98-91.
The third quarter really stood out. I found myself wondering how a team that played so well in the first half, could come out and play so poorly. Several things stood out. First, the Cavs stopped playing the aggressive style of defense they had been playing. The Cavs must play aggressive defense. As the Piston game a few nights ago proved, if you play strong defense, you can overpower an opponent. But the Cavs once again stopped for some reason. Perhaps they felt in control. Whatever the reason, they cannot stop the defensive effort. The other problem was shot selection and turnovers. The Cavs were careless with the basketball and once again committed dumb turnovers. I understand the Cavs are a young team and that these turnovers will decrease as the season progresses. But at times, it seemed as if the Cavs were handing the ball to the Pacers. And shot selection was terrible. Most times they simply settled for jump shots. When they did attack the basket, they didn’t attack with authority or force. That allowed the Pacers to block the line and keep them from scoring.
But to me, the worst thing about tonight was Antawan Jamison. He has been simply been atrocious. He is taking almost 20 shots a game and only making about a handful. Tonight he finished with 12 points. But he made four shots out of the 14 he attempted. And his defensive effort has been subpar at best. He really seems to be killing this team with his terrible play. The Cavs should move the ball away from him and give the ball to players who are scoring like Irving and Anthony Parker, who finished with 12 points and hit several key shots.
The Cavs are very much a work in progress. But you can see the potential. The Cavs simply must play defense throughout the entire game. If they do that, they can play with anyone. They have proved they can score points and have a bench that can provide energy. All they need to do is pull it all together for four quarters, and the Cavs would be back to title contention sooner rather than later.