At the beginning of every week, Right Down Euclid will be taking a look back at the week that was for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cleveland Cavaliers Week in Review will focus on breaking down the past week’s games, looking at the starting lineup(s) by the numbers, finding the biggest takeaway from how the team played, analyzing Coach Mike Brown’s decisions, looking at the RDE feature stories from the past week and peeping the coming week’s opponents. Each review will come with an overall rating (out of 10.0) for the Cavaliers that week.
After the Cleveland Cavaliers’ (7-13) performance against two competitive Western Conference squads in the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers, it seems as if the Cavaliers’ problems may lie within the maturing youth. At home this team plays with a purpose, but as soon as the Wine & Gold hit the road, all things go south. That’s exactly what happened in Cleveland’s second matchup of the week, when the team traveled to Atlanta and got spanked by the Hawks. Kyrie Irving tallied zero—count ‘em—zero points and shot 0 of 9 from the field, his worst performance as a pro yet. After outmuscling the Nuggets on the board prior to letting Atlanta run hog wild on them, only one player came out with a purpose to play Friday night: Dion Waiters. He expressed his frustrations with the inconsistency, and with no time to think about Friday’s loss before Saturday’s tilt with the Clippers, the Cavaliers played with a purpose as soon as time for tipoff came around. The bigs are starting to become a presence for this team, and that bodes well for everyone. Let’s take a look at what week 6—probably the best week for the Wine & Gold thus far this season—had in store for us.
Week 6 Games in Review
Cleveland Cavaliers 98, Denver Nuggets 88 – Wed., Dec. 4 at Quicken Loans Arena
- Record: 6-12, 5-3 home – Tristan Thompson recorded a career high 21 rebounds and picked up his ninth double-double of the season against one of the more physical, and best rebounding, teams in the Western Conference. Although the Cavaliers have been playing pretty miserable basketball against the lowly Eastern Conference, Cleveland seems to turn it up whenever an opponent from the other end of the country comes to play at the Q. Although Cleveland has lost their two Western Conference road matchups, they have now beaten Minnesota (9-11), Denver (12-8) and Los Angeles (13-8) at home. These are all teams worth noting, and if Cleveland can learn how to play as a cohesive unit at home, the veterans should start to lift this team up when playing away from the shores of Lake Erie.
Atlanta Hawks 108, Cleveland Cavaliers 89 – Fri., Dec. 6 at Philips Arena
- Record: 6-13, 1-10 away – Dion Waiters scored 30 points, and that’s about the only positive you could take away from this game if you’re a Wine & Gold fan. Waiters brought up a good point after the game, and that’s the lack of urgency that Cleveland has been displaying early on in games. Although Cleveland inched back in the fourth quarter somewhat, the blowout still stood. The Cavaliers dropped to 1-10 on the road, but with a 5-3 record at home going into their next contest, a trend looks like it’s starting to set in.
Cleveland Cavaliers 88, Los Angeles Clippers 82 – Sat., Dec. 7 at Quicken Loans Arena
- Record: 7-13, 6-3 home – After a lethargic performance the night before, the Wine & Gold came out with the sense of urgency that Dion called for after the game Friday. The Cavaliers fought neck and neck with the Clippers for most of the game, and after both teams started to collapse in on defense and force bad shots, the game turned into a physical blood bath. The Cleveland bigs stood up to the challenge of protecting the basket from aggressive rim attackers DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, and this plan frustrated the Clippers as the game went on. Forcing Los Angeles into shooting 32 percent from the field for the game, the Cavaliers had the Clipper superstars on the fringe. Chris Paul had an uncharacteristic unproductive night, and although the long-range game helped the Clippers sneak back into the game at the end of the first half and near the end of the fourth quarter, the team still shot 20 percent from beyond the arc. Holding a team like Los Angeles that averages 104.6 points per game (good for fourth in the NBA) is a very impressive task, and it shows that head coach Mike Brown is definitely having some sort of impact on this youthful squad. You go, Coach Brown.
Starters by the Numbers
Kyrie Irving – three games: 34.1 FG%, 30.0 3P%, 71.4 FT%, 14.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.0 RPG
C.J. Miles – three games: 10.5 FG%, 20.0 3P%, 2.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 15.7 MPG
Alonzo Gee – three games: 14.3 FG%, 2.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 16.3 MPG
Tristan Thompson – three games: 45.9 FG%, 63.2 FT%, 15.3 PPG, 15 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG
Andrew Bynum – three games: 54.8 FG%, 54.5 FT%, 17.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Biggest Takeaway – The Bigs, Of Course
Yeah, I know. It’s a lame pun. But it’s true! Brown is finally getting the production he wants out of his bigs and the defense overall. And the best part about the performances from guys like Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao is that they all consistently contributed to holding both the Clippers and Nuggets under 90 points. The Nuggets currently rank sixth in the NBA in points per game (104.0), and the Clippers are just two spots above them, so Cleveland was able to shut down two of the most effective offenses in the Western Conference (!!!) in week 6. Andy grabbed a team-high 17 rebounds and got on Blake Griffin’s nerves on Saturday, Bynum played aggressive on the offensive end, especially against the Nuggets, and TT almost collected three double-doubles (was one point shy on Friday) in the same week. With Kyrie Irving having a somewhat off week, the frontcourt rose to the occasion. Nicely done.
Coach Brown’s RDE Press Conference
In this section, RDE will be picking out the flaws and successes in head coach Mike Brown’s decisions over the past week and predicting what the Cavaliers’ head coach will key in on during practice and games in order to fix Cleveland’s current woes.
What Worked: It looks like his experimentation with Dion is a work in progress, but what I found most interesting—and successful—about his roster plan this week was his managing of Tristan Thompson. There are few things certain in life, and it looks like TT getting 35 minutes every game is becoming one of those every game occurrences. But on Saturday, Brown decided to play Tristan at center for a handful of minutes, which allowed his usage to reach a 2013-14 peak of 40 (excluding overtime contests). This method worked extremely well, especially on offense, when going up against DeAndre Jordan. Jordan may look like a monster in the paint, but his defense is pretty questionable, especially around the rim. Brown took advantage of this by matching up the versatile Thompson and the energetic Varejao down low in frequent sets. I’d like to see this trend continue in the future.
What Didn’t Work: Anything and everything at the 2 and 3. If you take a peep at the starters, you’ll see why this offense didn’t break the 100-point barrier once this week. After his hot start, Miles has cooled off to a point that he may deserve to lose his starting job to Matthew Dellavedova. Many were optimistic of Miles’ play earlier in the season, but the consistency issues that were prevalent last season are still definitely there. I expect Brown to make a switch next week against the Knicks at shooting guard, despite him wanting Dion coming off the bench. Miles isn’t seeing many minutes, but that’s because he’s taking himself out of the game with his poor shooting. On the other hand, small forward continues to be a worsening problem as the weeks go by. Brown seems to send a lot of praise toward Gee (yes, his hustle has been there), but, like Dion said, the sense of offensive urgency isn’t there on the road, and it’s guys like Miles and Gee who are burying this team in the early portions of games. This problem gets magnified times 10 when Kyrie is having an off night, or an off week.
Right Down Euclid Features
At the end of every week we will take a look back at what unique content went up on Right Down Euclid. If you haven’t checked these features out already, you’re missing out. Now’s your chance to get caught up.
Earl Clark is Making the Cavs Offense Better and You Had No Idea – Trevor Magnotti
Even though it isn’t showing in offensive efficiency yet, Clark lineups have an eFG% of 48.9%, three full percentage points higher than team average. In fact, Clark’s NINE most common lineups are scoring at a better efficiency and posting a better eFG% than team average.
However, this will never be a truly effective offense unless the black hole at small forward is fixed. We can wax poetic about how hard Alonzo Gee plays and his basketball I.Q., but small forward is a scoring position, and Gee’s lack of offense puts the Cavs in a huge hole.
Andrew Bynum’s resurgence is one of few positives for Wine & Gold – Kevin Stankiewicz
At the start of the year, many believed that if the team could remain healthy, they might be playoff bound. Well, as of right now, they are healthy, and as a result, I think they are poised to turn the corner and get some wins on the near future.
Look Ahead to Week 7
–Wed., Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. – Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks, Quicken Loans Arena
–Fri., Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. – Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic, Amway Center
–Sat., Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. – Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat, American Airlines Arena
Week 6 Rating
6.5/10.0 – Despite the lack of aggression in the Atlanta game on Friday, Cleveland looked like one of the best defensive teams all week at home. This is a very positive stride for the Cavaliers, but the blowout losses need to be axed on the road if this team wants to compete for a playoff spot. The Wine & Gold currently sit at 10th in the Eastern Conference. I’ll use the phrase baby steps until the death of me (or until everyone on Cleveland can make the step into the soles of men), but this was a week where I saw vast improvements in the defense that were encouraging. Haven’t used that word in a while on here.