Cavaliers vs. Lakers Behind The Boxscore: Deng, Dion, and Delly, but not much D

denglakersI blocked it out of my memory, but I was reminded that the Cavaliers lost to the Kings on Sunday night by 44 points. After that effort, a sight for sore eyes in the depleted Los Angeles Lakers showed up next on the schedule in this 5-game West Coast swing. But, it was anybody’s guess if the Cavaliers would have enough focus or defensive effort to captialize. Well, it was a split decision in that regard, because the offense was pretty spectacular for long stretches, but the defense was atrocious as the Lakers scored out of control in the second and fourth quarters. It was Luol Deng’s impact at both ends as well as a little #DWaitersZone cameo that pulled the Cavaliers through as they eeked out a 120-118 win in Staples Center to improve to 2-1 on the trip. Let’s hit some of the high points.

Offense: not the problem: The wine and gold hit their shots in this game, shooting 47% for the game and a scintillating 13-of-17 (77%!) from the three point arc. They handed out 27 assists (17 of those were in the first half), and they got at least 11 points from six different players. They got to the line 32 times, which is surprising on the road, and they made 25 of them. Five different guys had at least four trips to the charity stripe, and their lowest point total for a quarter came in the first with 28 points. Cleveland hit the offensive boards hard against a mostly-small Laker lineup with 16 of them (11 of those were from Andy and Tristan).

Dion, Delly, and Deng: Luol Deng really led the charge for the Cavaliers tonight right from the tip. Deng had 9 points in the first six minutes, and he added three treys to start the second half. In all, Deng made each of the five three-pointers that he took on his way to 9-of-15 shooting overall for a Cavalier-high 27 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and just 2 turnovers in 38 minutes (minutes restriction be damned!). Deng was equally important on the defensive end, switching onto the red-hot Nick Young and forcing some key fourth quarter looks. The most important thing for me was seeing Deng’s body language throughout his scoring surge. He didn’t celebrate, and all he could focus on following the game was the team’s poor defensive effort. That’s my (and more importantly, Mike Brown’s) kind of guy.

As for Dion, he played a pretty quiet first three quarters. In that fourth quarter, however, he got going by attacking the basket. Waiters was 3-for-7 from the field in the quarter, but he made 5-of-6 at the line and handed out 3 assists. The final line? 17 points (13 in the 4th), 4 assists, 2 steals, and 0 turnovers. It was Waiters that took charge of the offense when Kyrie had to sit with his 5th personal foul with 9:21 in the fourth. The Cavs trailed by one at that moment, and when Kyrie re-entered five minutes later, they had a five point advantage.

Then, there’s Delly, who just continues to warrant additional playing time. In just under 20 minutes, Delly hit a trifecta of threes and scored 11 points. When Irving and Jack left the floor, it was the Delly-Dion-Deng perimeter crew that facilitated more ball movement and allowed the Cavs to go on a bit of a run. On offense, Delly’s crisp passing, proper spacing, and direction keeps the offense moving. On the other end, he helped slow down the Laker perimeter players.

Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack each had off games. Irving was just 5-of-12 with 13 points and 4 assists. Jack shot 1-of-5 for 4 points and 5 assists, and his defense was atrocious at times in the small ball lineup. In his last five games, Jack is averaging just 6.8 points and shooting 32%. The most positive thing from this game was probably to show that this team with Deng can win a game where Kyrie has an off night. Irving played just 30 minutes, while C.J. Miles played just 14. That gave Delly more minutes than Jack and Miles in this one.

Defense: the problem: Let’s not delay this any further: the Cavaliers’ defense sucked tonight. The Lakers shot 52% for the game, and they matched the Cavaliers with 13 three pointers (thought it took them twice as many attempts at 34). The Laker backcourt of Nick Young and Jodie Meeks lit up the Cavs from the perimeter. Young had 28 points on 7-of-16 shooting that included four threes and a perfect 10-for-10 at the line. Meeks shot 9-of-14 with six threes and 26 points. These two certainly made some hero shots, but the Cavs did a terrible job of contesting the three point looks, instead overhelping in the post on Pau Gasol as well as sagging on dribble penetration.

Thankfully, Kendall Marshall couldn’t hit his open jumpers (4-for-11 and 2-for-6 from deep), but he did dish out 16 dimes as the Lakers had 35 assists on their 44 field goals. The Lakers scored 40 points in the second quarter and shot 77%, and they turned it on in the fourth again to score 33 points and 52%. In the first and third quarters, the Cavs allowed just 45 points.

For whatever reason, the Cavaliers defense doesn’t travel well. While they’re the third best defense at home, they’re dead last on the road. That’s good for the second greatest home/road differential in the league (h/t goes to our own Jacob). It’s a problem that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

End game: The wine and gold truly did try to give this one away. They split three pairs of free throws in the final 34 seconds between Irving and Tristan Thompson. Luol Deng fouled Nick Young on a three-point attempt that allowed him to cash in from the line. Then, with 16 seconds remaining, Nick Young got a three-point attempt off to tie the game, but he misfired as Deng and Varejao did a good job of chasing him high off the ball screen and forcing him to lean to his right on the run to shoot it. Tristan Thompson secured the defensive rebound, splitting the free throws to pretty much book it for the Cavs.

(Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    A typical Cleveland game; one part of the winning picture shows up, and the other doesnt. This time we got lucky.

  • JNeids

    Didn’t stay up for this one – why did Miles only get 14 minutes?

  • mgbode

    a fair amount of luck involved, but it doesn’t change the final line.
    w/ Deng on the road = 2-1
    w/o Deng on the road = 2-15

    It took a week to get as many wins on the road as we had all season without him.

  • CB Everett

    In LA, finally got to see another look at the Cavs locally. Misc thoughts:
    1. Zeller is terrible. He is not even backup quality. He’s 3rd string material which is disappointing for a 1st rounder (although on the Bennett scale….).
    2. Della is rock solid. Effort and D was up to snuff. Despite being born with an awkward as all hell release, was knocking down the open 3s. Really like this guy.

    3. Tristan has no offense–a junkballer with 8 ft half hook/half jumper ala Antwan Jamison.
    4. Andy is back to form. He’s hitting the boards and contributing offensively. 18/18. This can signal only one thing–a pending season ending injury in 3, 2….
    5. Kyrie’s D is horrendous. The effort is just not there.
    6. CJ Miles is intriguing. He’s got serious potential, but he’s a mystery wrapped in an engima…and I’d like to see more of him this season.
    7. Deng is the real deal–the legitimate guy not named Irving who can score off the dribble, hit an open shot, create some offense consistently.

    Lastly, frustration. This team has potential to make runs and kill it in spurts. We’ve got the talent. But the lapses….oh the horror. The lapses where the offense is bone dry and the D is porous–all too often to make this team a consistent winner. Watching them more than a handful of times a year would be very frustrating.

  • typo

    I completely disagree on Zeller. He still seems raw at times but he is a much improved player since last year. I think he has a chance to develop in to a very decent player.

  • BenRM

    I dunno. Am I the only one who expected Zeller to be exactly what he is? A stiff, serviceable white guy.

    I know he was a “first round pick” but he was outside of the lottery, which is basically a crap shoot.

  • boomhauertjs

    The discovery of Delly has been one of the few bright spots this season. I think the phrase “the Jarrett Jack contract” is going to haunt Cavs fans for generations…

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Because Mike Brown is the head coach.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Zeller had put together a few nice games but his playing time is hit or miss. When Bynum was here Zeller never played. Again I believe part of his problem is his head coach.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Zeller isn’t that bad he actually has shown some things when he’s been able to play. That’s Mike Brown just look at Bennett and Karasev. Reminds me of rookies past Daniel Gibson initially, Shannon Brown and Danny Green to be precise.

    Antwan Jamison on line 2. Jamison had more of an offensive arsenal back in his NC days then Thompson will ever have in his lifetime. I’ve been saying for weeks Thompson just needs to do what he was doing the second half of the season last year. Forget scoring, forget which hand to use stay in close, rebound and play defense.

    Irving is bad defensively but so is Waiters, so is Jack, so is Clark, so is Miles and on and on. The only guys who play defense are Varejao and Delladova. Gee used to but he can’t get off the bench anymore. He’s Mike Browns new whipping boy.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Nah Jack will be fine lets remember it is his first season and I’m pretty sure it’s been awhile since he’s seen such dysfunction. Mike Dysfunction Brown whether it’s rotations, substitutions, minutes or offense he’s the man. But hey the defense is better, sort of!

  • CB Everett

    Totally agree on Thompson. He presses entirely too much when he tries to create his shot–and it’s awkward as all hell. I appreciate he had been working on his game (and it shows a bit), but he should just follow Andy’s script like you said–clean up on the boards, put backs, making cuts and spotting up for an occasional open 12 footer. That would be good enough for 12-16 pts a game.

  • Wow

    This guy gets it.

  • CB Everett

    Yeah you’re not alone, I feared great white stiff too when they drafted him–but what gets me is that for his size, he plays really small (wayyy below the rim) and seems to lack some strength against the bigs down below. Would be nice if he a better shooting touch to pop out and knock down a shot from time to time. Who knows though–maybe dude ends up being serviceable.

  • Achilles

    More Delly, less Jack = recipe for success.


    He was playing really bad. He was a nonfactor on both ends of the court. Don’t let the +11 Plus/Minus fool you.

  • The_Real_Shamrock


  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Agreed Thompson is thinking way to much I mean you can see it practically. Varejao is a beast I’ve been advocating trading him but man that would be tough. The guy does all the little things and never stops trying. Probably why so many people like Delladova. Maybe between these two and a very basketball intelligent Luol Deng they can make up for the rest including Mike Brown who if you ask me is completely overrated.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    We’re up 10 spots from last year…which is a huge jump for such a young team that has 6 new players on the roster.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Sigh, I suppose.

  • CLE23

    with deng on the road against sacremento, the cavs lost by 44 points to one of the worst teams in the nba. WFNY should have devoted at least one article to that game. CLE23 is disappointed.

  • Kildawg

    Need the defense and the A+++ game in Portland; and hope that Lillard and Aldridge have off games and foul trouble. Portland is legitimate this year, the fact that the Cavs almost beat them in the Q is something else.