The Cavs needed a victory tonight. Coming off a horrific 0-3 week with no competitive efforts of note, the team needed to rebound with the 2-6 Wizards on the card for the night. Even after a slow start, they did just that; the offense looked crisp for the first time since the Nets game, the defense held up when needed, and Kyrie had 41 points in a 103-94 OT win over the Wizards.
The first quarter was rough to watch. The Cavs opened with Andrew Bynum at center and Earl Clark back at small forward, and focused their offensive gameplan on posting up Bynum against Marcin Gortat. This did not go well. The Cavs did get to the line well early, getting 9 free throw attempts in the first 5 minutes, but Bynum went just 1-5 from the field in the quarter. Meanwhile, John Wall picked the Cavs’ defense apart with precision passing, as he had 6 first quarter assists, and the Wizards led 25-18 at the quarter break.
In the 2nd quarter, the Cavs started with an interesting lineup of Jarrett Jack, C.J. Miles, Earl Clark, Sergey Karasev, and Anderson Varejao. These five played decently together, particularly Karasev, who hit one of two shots and played pretty solid defense on Bradley Beal. However, the Wizards continued to pull away, mainly because no one could finish at the rim for Cleveland, and that led to a long drought for the Cavs. It eventually got to 40-25, but then the Wizards’ big problem reared it’s head: Depth. Playing down Otto Porter and Trevor Ariza, Garrett Temple and Jan Vesely got extended minutes in the late second, and the Cavs battled back. This mainly happened, of course, because of Kyrie Irving. Irving had 17 first-half points, and 15 of them came in the 2nd frame. In fact, Kyrie ended the half with three consecutive threes, including one with three seconds left off a devilish pump fake of Wall. I loved what I saw from Kyrie at the end of the half. It’s like he sensed the Wizards starting to slip, and found another gear. It was amazing, and the Cavaliers went into the break down 49-44 because of it.
The third quarter featured a decent effort from the Cavs. They kept things close, although they couldn’t chip into the lead at all. That mainly was a result of Martell Webster and Nene going off in the third. The Cavs battled back to take the lead, 54-53, thanks to Tristan Thompson’s early flurry of midrange jumpers. However, the Wizards immediately took over again, this time getting 5 points from Martell Webster at the end of the quarter, then a strange and somewhat majestic Jan Vesely steal and slam to make it 69-60 after three.
The fourth quarter was the product of one Kyrie Irving. It was a back and forth affair in the fourth, with both teams grabbing leads throughout the frame, but Kyrie was awesome, getting 9 points and attacking the Wizards with a variety of solid fakes and moves. However, the game stayed close thanks to Bradley Beal and Nene consistently attacking the Cavs defense. However, with three minutes left and the Wizards up five, the Washington offense went cold, while Cleveland got a Matthew Dellavedova floater, an Irving jumper, and a Thompson dunk, and got an 88-87 lead with 1:18 left. John Wall got the line afterwards and retook the lead, 89-88, then Kyrie fired right back with two free throws. Nene got fouled at the other end to tie the game, and the rest was a bit of a mess: a Nene bricked free throw, two Irving turnovers sandwiching a Bradley Beal turnover, and a Nene missed three to send it to overtime.
Overtime was all Kyrie. Kyrie finished with 41 points for the game, and got a big chunk of that in the extra frame, hitting all his free throws, and nailing a jumper to make it 99-94, which the Wizards couldn’t come back from. The Wizards’ offense was a bit of a mess in overtime, thanks to Bradley Beal going cold, and the Wizards not crashing the boards resulting in one-and-done possessions. In all, the Cavs won, 103-94, and got their first road win of the season.
3 Final Notes:
-The offense looked pretty good today, even outside of Kyrie, how looked like himself again with a 41 point, 3 rebound, 5 assist effort. Earl Clark really looked active tonight offensively, grabbing a lot of minutes at the four, and Tristan Thompson was solid as well. Jarrett Jack was a headache, but that’ll happen. The Cavs had solid spacing and hit 47% on their threes, so I was pleased with the effort on that end, especially after the rest of this week.
-Bradley Beal had a disastrous game, even if he did have 28 points. He killed the Wizards down the stretch with missed jumpers, looked incredibly passive, and that was with MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA guarding him for much of the second half. He also got chippy with Jarrett Jack at the end of the game, which is funny because both of them combined for 41 points on 38 shots. Beal was really low-efficiency tonight, and it really did hurt the Wizards offense down the stretch.
-I really liked the Cavs’ effort tonight, overall. The team didn’t give up, even when the Wizards got hot in the second and took a 15-point lead. Much of that was led by Irving, who needed to step up with several key players struggling early, and did so in a fantastic way. I really think this was Kyrie’s best game of the season, and he still didn’t look 100% out there. He turned the ball over a little too much for my taste, and he really wasn’t into the game in the first quarter, but his outside shooting was back tonight, and I hope he stays that way.
The Cavs get a rematch with the Wizards Wednesday night.