All season the Cavaliers bench has been an issue. Coming into their game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Cavs had only been averaging 9.7 points off the bench, a measly 9.9 percent of their overall scoring. Tonight, they managed to score lower than their season average, putting up only six points off the bench. Their bench scoring, coupled with their poor fast break defense, led the Cavaliers to a 114-101 loss to the Nets in the Barclays Center. Anderson Varejao had 35 points and 18 rebounds for Cleveland, while Kyrie Irving had his career high with 34 points and eight assists. Deron Williams led the Nets with 26 points, and Joe Johnson added 25. Brook Lopez also scored 23 for Brooklyn.
The first quarter was the high moment for Cleveland. Varejao scored 17 of his 35 in the first period, and behind his play, the Cavaliers led 30-29. But, although they had the lead, the Cavaliers began this game dependent on one player for the majority of the offensive output.
That tendency began to affect them in the second quarter. Brooklyn outscored the Cavs 35-12 in the quarter, and by the end of the half, the Nets led 64-42. In fact, the Nets scored 42 points in the paint in the first half, equaling the Cavaliers total first half output. At one point, when Joe Johnson missed a shot, Andre Blatche snuck in and put the ball back in the bucket. His score put the Nets up 14, and prompted a Cavaliers time out. It seemed like sequences like this happened over and over again in this game, whether it was Blatche or Kris Humphries cleaning up the boards for Brooklyn.
The beginning of the third quarter was much of the same. The Nets would force a bad shot, grab the rebound and score easily on the fast break. The one positive for Cleveland was that Kyrie Irving began playing like his normal self, scoring 15 points in the period. His big period, which drew several ‘oos’ and ‘ahhs’ from the Brooklyn crowd, brought the Cavaliers within striking distance.
The fourth quarter saw the Cavaliers rest Irving and Varejao at the beginning of the period. With Dion Waiters and Daniel “Boobie” Gibson running the point, the Cavaliers stayed within 12 points of Brooklyn. When Irving and Varejao came back in the game, they pulled even closer, but could never quite steal the momentum from the Nets.
Combined, Varejao and Irving combined for 69 of the Cavaliers 101 points, meaning they were a whopping 68.3 percent of the Cavaliers total offense. The only other Cavalier in double figures against Brooklyn was Tristan Thompson, who scored 14 points. This is the type of team performance that the Cavaliers need to avoid. There are going to be games like tonight where Waiters is going to struggle, and on those nights it’s entirely possible that Varejao and Irving are going to have to carry the offensive load. That is going to happen from time to time, but this cannot become a consistent event. Whether it be Gee, Gibson, Thompson and/or someone else, the Cavaliers need threats to alleviate the pressure of their best two players. If you thought tonight was bad, imagine a game where Irving, Waiters and Varejao are all having off nights offensively. If that happens, whom do the Cavs turn to create offense?
The Cavaliers are now off until Saturday, when they play the Dallas Mavericks at Quicken Loans Arena. Their record currently stands at 2-5.