Basketball is a funny game sometimes. A double-digit lead isn’t always safe, even heading into the final quarter of play. The Cleveland Cavaliers (4-7) proved that this theory is in fact true multiple times last season, surrendering 10, and sometimes even 20, point leads over 12 minutes of play or less. For the Washington Wizards (4-8) on Wednesday night, they were almost on the 2012-13 Cavaliers end of a cataclysmic collapse. For the Wine & Gold, permeable post play and a lacking backcourt presence doomed the Cavs over the course of three quarters, leading to a 98-91 loss.
Despite being down by 21 points to start the fourth quarter, a resilient backcourt duo of Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova staged a comeback with just less than five minutes to go in the game. Down 86-63, a lineup of Kyrie, Dion Waiters, Dellavedova, Earl Clark and Anderson Varejao took the court. This small-ball lineup has not logged any minutes yet this season, but it could be very interesting moving forward, but for the most part I think Tristan Thompson’s struggles kept him out of the game at this point.
Co-editor Chris Manning and I recently discussed Dellavedova’s insertion into the lineup late in games. We both agreed that we didn’t like it, as it is killing the team chemistry that the Cavaliers need to build. But, after looking at the impact that Delly had when in the game (a +/- of +21), he’s a player that Mike Brown is going to go to because of his defensive chops. It’s strange because at St. Mary’s Dellavedova wasn’t known for stellar defensive play because of his rather small wingspan (6-3). But what makes him a good fit for Cleveland is his efficiency in the pick and roll on the giving end.
But Miles going down was a major downfall for Cleveland tonight, especially since it happened in the first three minutes of the game. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, who has now scored 79 points over his last three games, tore apart the Cavaliers’ defense from the outside once again, hitting six of seven from beyond the arc. He tallied 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds on the night, and provided a great compliment to John Wall, who finished with 15 points, nine assists, four rebounds and four steals.
The fluidity of the backcourt play for Washington had the Cleveland defense dumbfounded. Constantly pushing the pace and beating up Cleveland inside, the Wizards totaled 18 fast break points, an area that they ranked second in going into Wednesday night’s game.
There isn’t much to take away from the Cavaliers this game because it was frustrating as hell to watch them play good. They showed that they have the tenacity to go toe-to-toe with NBA teams night in and night out for one quarter; and they’ve shown these flashes of brilliance multiple times this season, just in small increments. It’s going to be tough, but this is what it looks like when chemistry is bubbling. Frustrating, yes, but the play of the Cavaliers down the stretch actually has me finishing off a recap with a hint of optimism.
And with a day of rest in between, the Cavaliers will try to continue with the momentum they picked up in the fourth quarter in Friday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans (5-6). Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. at New Orleans Arena.
PG Kyrie Irving – 28 points and six assists, while shooting 64.3 percent from the field, 75 percent from three and 100 percent from the free throw line. Kyrie had another spectacular shooting performance late in the game, but his 29 points against the Wizards in the fourth quarter and overtime over the past two games was just not enough to earn his team two victories. Irving wasn’t shooting the ball early, and I think that’s partly why the Cavaliers got down so early to the Wizards.
SG C.J. Miles – Three minutes. Not much to say here. Strained his calf while making a move on offense in the first quarter. Didn’t return. Will update on his status accordingly.
SF Earl Clark – Three points, three assists and eight rebounds, while shooting 16.7 percent from the field. As I mentioned in my Instant Reaction, Clark was involved in a play that pretty much ended Cleveland’s 13-2 run at the end of the game. Getting just a tad too physical going for a rebound, he got called for the loose ball foul on Washington center Marcin Gortat, leading to Cleveland facing a six-point deficit. Not to mention the inconsistent shooting, this position has been a disaster thus far.
PF Tristan Thompson – Two points and four rebounds, while going 0-of-5 from the field. Tristan played the worst out of any starter tonight, and this has been something that has occurred almost every other night: Tristan just goes missing. It’s absurd to think that he can be everywhere one night, and go invisible the next. He posted a +/- of -28 in his 24 minutes of play, causing Brown to switch things up later on in the contest.
C Andrew Bynum – Two points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. The only strange thing about this move is that the Cavaliers were set to go with Anderson Varejao, but I like the move to throw in a different lineup against a team you just faced. That at least makes sense.
C Anderson Varejao – 14 points and 11 rebounds, while shooting 70 percent from the field.
PG Jarrett Jack – 11 points and six assists, while shooting 60 percent from the field.
Both of these players deserve applause for their performances off the bench. Especially Jack, who was the only player getting anything going from the field early on. Being the only source of offense, it was nice to see someone take charge with trying to keep pace with Washington in the first three quarters. As for Andy, it was nice to see him work the perimeter on offense like he had been the first few games.
I was pretty content with Coach Brown’s decision-making Wednesday night. He’s upset with his team for obvious reasons. If players don’t have the current focus to work on building chemistry with the core of the team, then Brown has all the right to rest a starter when he’s frustrated with his play. Coach Brown’s approach is much more different than Byron Scott’s, who would have most likely ran the same lineup for five games until inserting a Luke Walton or Shaun Livingston here and there. Delly isn’t going to be one of those players for the Cavaliers. He’s one of the players that is getting that playing time is awarded to those who work hard.