Dallas Mavericks – 104
Cleveland Cavaliers – 97
It’s really really hard as a Cavaliers fan to watch your team lose 104-97 to the 18-30 Dallas Mavericks and say it doesn’t matter. It’s really hard to watch them do that after losing to the Sacramento Kings last week. And the New Orleans Pelicans (without Anthony Davis) before that. It’s hard to watch the defending champs go 7-7 in the month of January. It’s especially hard to watch as you see their rival, the Golden State Warriors, start firing on all cylinders. To be honest, I wrote an entire lede to this very post about how mad I was. But then I erased it.
This Cavaliers team is in an exceptionally unique place. Not only can they sleep walk through the regular season (they have a 2.5 game lead in the Eastern Conference) they can use the first two rounds of a playoff run as their opportunity to ramp things up. There just isn’t a team in the East that is a major threat, at least not early in the playoffs. And so the Cavaliers have very little motivation to try. It’s fun to blame it on the backup point guard, but the Cavs were 25-7 without a backup point guard before January. It’s fun to blame it on J.R. Smith’s injury, but we saw them flex those championship muscles against Golden State on Christmas and against Oklahoma City on Sunday. And that’s why it’s hard to worry.
As long as we see them lock in and get engaged, even if it is sporadically, we know there is still a championship caliber team in there. It’s just very unlikely we’ll see that happen in a road game on the tail-end of a back-to-back against a bad Mavericks team and much more likely we’ll see it in a first-round playoff match-up against a Charlotte or Chicago team.
As for the game, the Cavaliers continued their habit of turning an otherwise unknown player into a star, letting Yogi Ferrell go for 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, and four steals. Seth Curry and Dwight Powell joined the party, combining for 30 points on the night. The Mavericks were able to slice up the Cavalier defense without much effort, and these youngsters capitalized. Missing Kevin Love (back) and J.R. Smith (thumb), the Cavaliers’ offense just didn’t have much firepower. Richard Jefferson stated in place of Love and finally hit some threes, but the Cavs’ overall offense wasn’t flowing or finding a ton of great looks. Outside of a barrage of Channing Frye threes late in the game, there were very few instances of the Cavaliers having the momentum.
Let’s look behind the box score:
Minus 22 – Tristan Thompson was a minus-22 in 25 minutes and didn’t attempt a single shot. This after his breakout 19 point, 12 rebound, four steals, four blocks performance against the Thunder on Sunday.
37 – Minutes for LeBron James. When asked when the minute cut down would come, Cavs coach Ty Lue responded, “Well, he played 37 tonight, there’s your cut down.”
29.6 – The percentage of baskets Kyrie Irving assists when on the court. This is up from 26.6 percent last season and 25 percent the season before. All while matching a career high true-shooting percentage and increasing his usage significantly. He’s incredible.
40.5 – The percentage of baskets LeBron James assists when on the court. His assist percentage as a member of the Miami Heat was 34.2 percent, while that number is 38 percent since his return to Cleveland.
56 – The percentage of baskets that were assisted for the Cavaliers as a whole. Somehow, both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James have increased their assist percentage, while the team’s has decreased overall. The past two seasons the team’s assist rate was over 58 percent.
3.5 – Percent of shots blocked by Tristan Thompson when he’s on the court. This is nearly double his rate from last year. He’s really developed into a nice rim protector.
The Cavs welcome Andrew Wiggins a bunch of bad trade takes to the Q on Wednesday night.