The Cavaliers couldn’t muster up any late game heroics against the Suns on Friday night, but there should have never been reason for Kyrie Irving to have the ball in his hands for a final buzzer beater. The Wine and Gold were up 26 points at one point in the game, but the Suns outscored the Cavs by 23 points over the final three quarters. The Cavaliers only had two bench scorers, and they combined for 26 points. The Suns bench had a much better game, scoring 47 points, including an outpouring from former Cavalier draft pick Shannon Brown.
It all started with Cleveland going up 18-2 to start the game. Phoenix looked like they were about to call the game, but it was just a matter of time until the Cavaliers imploded due to the lack of depth on the bench. Daniel Gibson, who finished with 19 points on 5-of-7 from three, provided the perfect defense to any Phoenix comeback. C.J. Miles has had the worst +/- of any player on the team so far this season. He shot the ball seven times from the field and scored zero points off the bench. Miles, who the Cavaliers acquired during the summer, needs to be able to step up in these situations because of missing pieces such as Tyler Zeller. The bench is going to be a huge problem all year if they can’t hold a simple 20+ lead for their starters who need their rest. Head coach Byron Scott is even considering taking Miles out of the bench rotation.
The problem was defense and turning over the ball. You could tell from the first quarter that the Cavaliers were going to be struggling in the turnover department. The second quarter came, and the Cavaliers allowed turnovers on three straight possessions. They finished with 20 on the night, something that was a problem last season and continues to be one still. Irving, who had a quiet 17 points, coughed up the ball seven times on Friday. The struggles followed Irving all game long, as he had a painstakingly close three-point winner rim out in the final seconds.
The player across the court from Irving, Goran Dragic, had an excellent game, exposing Kyrie’s weak defensive paly. He finished with 26 points, shooting 9-of-16 from the field. Scott should have his players be doing suicides for every turnover (they currently rank 26th in the league with 17.8 turnovers per game) they accumulate every night.
What most Cavs fans are looking past when they see how a player like Dion Waiters is performing, is the defense he is playing. This can’t be observed on the stat sheet. Waiters let the Phoenix bench run all over him, as he finished with a +/- of -4. Waiters finished with 23 points on the night, bringing his point average to 16.7 points. The only rookie that is averaging more than Waiters is Damian Lillard, but Waiters needs to prove his defensive skills if he wants to please Scott and his teammates.
There were a lot of good things to be examined by Friday night’s game against the Suns. They shot pretty efficiently from the field (48/43/82) and had very hot scoring streaks throughout. Defense was a main issue going into the preseason, and it still looks to be. Scott will have to push the team to run suicides until their defense improves.
They will have a chance to redeem their road trip, in which they sit at 1-3 at the moment, against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday at 7 p.m. The Cavaliers beat the Thunder last season, but they will have a much tougher match next season if the Cavs don’t bring some pressure.