With just over two minutes left to go in the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-15) game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (8-9), Anderson Varejao was one rebound away from tallying 15 or more rebounds in 11 straight games. Due to a poor defensive effort, foul trouble and little to show for on offense, coach Byron Scott decided to rest Andy in the waning moments of Cleveland’s 73-91 loss to the T-Wolves on Friday night.
The reason I’m choosing to start with Varejao’s impressive streak coming to an end is due to the lack of scoring and poor shooting that the Wine and Gold displayed in Minnesota. Varejao, who has been playing great offense this season (averaging 15.0 points, shooting 50.2 percent from the field), uncharacteristically shot 2-of-10 from the field and finished with just four points in an effort that showcased the true potential that the bench can reach. Minnesota power forward Kevin Love, Varejao’s counterpart, was too much to handle for Wild Thing, as he finished with 36 points, 18 made free throws and 13 rebounds. Every one was excited for the matchup between Love and Varejao, two of the best rebounders in the game, but the former UCLA player’s outside presence was too much for a player who has done almost everything for the Cavs this season.
The Cavaliers sputtered in the first quarter, trailing by nine points after the first 12 minutes. That was due to the weak backcourt performance from Jeremy Pargo and Daniel Gibson, who combined for 1-of-4 shooting from the field in the early beginnings. The two finished 4-of-16 from the field, each scoring five points. It was the backup play of Donald Sloan and C.J. Miles, however that kept the Cavaliers competitive. The two backup guards, who haven’t played to their full potential so far this season, combined for 23 points. That’s the kind of production that the Cavs need out of their bench each and every game, as the reserves totaled 37 points.
With the bench stepping up, you would think that Cleveland would come away with their first victory in four tries. Things were competitive for a while, but that was due to an above average defensive performance through the first three quarters. The reserves held Minnesota to 19 points in the second quarter, playing very scrappy basketball. The bench accounted for nine of the team’s 15 steals.
Although the heavy defense was a surprise, the offense didn’t do nearly enough on their end, often sputtering. The team shot a collective 34.5 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from the free throw line. The starters, who have lately been a reliable bunch, faltered and only scored 36 of the team’s 73 points. Alonzo Gee has been the most consistent player on offense as of late, averaging 13.0 points and 32.2 minutes and shooting 42.6 percent from the field. The Cavs have gone 1-4 in those games, but he did manage to score the game-winning basket against the Atlanta Hawks. Despite my low expectations for him going into the season, I have liked what I’ve seen from Gee. Despite the thinness at the three, Gee has stepped up and has been a formidable starter for the Cavaliers. Let’s just say it all together; “We miss you, Kyrie!”
Dion Waiters should be back soon, and that will solve some problems. Gibson, along with Tristan Thompson, have not player good basketball lately, so they could use teammates like Irving and Waiters back on the court. They control the flow of the game very well.
The Cavaliers will not have any rest, as they will head home for a Saturday matchup against the Detroit Pistons. The game will tipoff at 7:30 p.m., as the Cavaliers are currently riding their third losing streak of four games or more.