Cleveland Cavaliers (42-19) – 92
Miami Heat (29-34) – 120
It was Saturday evening. I didn’t have any immediate plans (damn you, social life!). I had sort of forgotten the Cleveland Cavaliers were even playing the tail half of a road-road back-to-back in Miami against the Heat. I turned on the game, and like Ron Burgundy jumping into the Kodiak bear cage in Anchorman, I immediately regretted my decision to do so.
If, like me, you DVR most Cavs games and watch them in semi-present time, you may not have watched this game yet. If you meandered to this page to make an informed decision on whether to watch this game, let me impart this word of advice: Do not watch this basketball game. Talk to your family, girlfriend, boyfriend, or goldfish. Read a book. Hell, rewatch Friday night’s enormously entertaining win over the Atlanta Hawks. Or, maybe even better yet, stare blankly at a wall for 90 to 120 minutes. I, on behalf of the Cavaliers organization and whatever deity you ask for favors, assure you your Cavs fandom will remain fully intact and unblemished for not watching this game. But you can read this! So let’s get this over with.
43 & 9 – Kyrie Irving scored 43 points and dished out nine assists in — actually, no he didn’t. Neither Kyrie Irving nor LeBron James played on Saturday night, which explains much of the ensuing horror I relay to you. But I needed an excuse to share this stupefying layup from Kyrie last night.
21 – Let’s ease into this with something positive. Channing Frye scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting after putting up a donut in the first half. Granted, most of those points were totally inconsequential, but after shooting 36.9 and 33.3 percent on three-pointers in January and February after shooting well over 40 percent from October to December, it was nice to see him rediscover his shooting stroke. Heat center Hassan Whiteside spent much of the game treating Frye like a punching bag, so I’m not sure this totally redeems him but oh well. Other non-depressing sectors included Kyle Korver (15 points, 5-of-9 from three) and Richard Jefferson (11 points, 5-of-8 shooting).
120 – The Cavaliers surrendered 120 points to the Heat after permitting 130 to the Hawks. That’s a bonanza of points. The Cavaliers are currently 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing 107.3 points per 100 possessions, a pretty dismal figure. That’s five whole points worse than their rating from last season. Even though the Cavs’ defensive rating was numerically worse last season in the playoffs (103.5) than the regular season (102.3) — easily explained away by better opponents — qualitatively they played solid defense in the playoffs that was great for stretches. This season, they’ve been plagued by mediocre-to-terrible defense, which is primarily attribute to poor individual defense which leads to over-helping from other defenders which leads to open looks for opponent teammates. The Cavs have shored up their depth, but can they flip a switch and get their defensive efficiency down three-to-five points? We’ll see.
18 – After the Cavs torched the Hawks with 25 three-pointers on Friday, the Heat provided a light scorching of their own with 18 long-range strikes. The Heat only average 9.6 made three-pointers at a rate of 36.3 percent, both pedestrian numbers. So, 18 made threes on 34 attempts (52.3 percent) is fairly anomalous. A lot of the Heat shots were open, and Goran Dragic (4-of-5) and Luke Babbitt (3-of-4) are capable of stroking it, but Tyler Johnson (3-of-6) and former Cavalier Wayne Ellington (4-of-7) are unexpected three-point assassins. But such is life in the modern NBA.
48 to 33 – The Heat out-rebounded the Cavaliers 48 to 33. Turns out that Kevin Love guy (11.1 rebounds per game) might be fairly valuable.
0 – The number of times I vow to take LeBron James and Kyrie Irving for granted. This was not a fun basketball game to watch. Cavs fans have been spoiled with some spectacular basketball on a regular basis over the last three seasons. Even though we should have learned our lesson during LeBron’s uhhh hiatus from the Cavaliers, it’s still hard to not fall into complacency. LeBron James is like hot sauce … he makes everything better: basketball, Trainwreck, The Road Trippin’ podcast, and, I presume, cheeseburgers and chicken wings. But, games like Saturday night’s, like rainy days in San Diego, serve as a reminder of how good we have it as Cavalier fans.
2 – The Cavaliers play the Heat again in two days on Monday night in what is sure to be a tense affair. In the fourth quarter, Heat rookie Rodney McGruder had a putback slam and unnecessarily and sort-of indignantly slapped Channing Frye in the back upon landing. It was a downright weird thing to do. J.R. Smith took exception to the slap from the bench, and started a dialogue that ended in a Heat-ed exchange at the end of the game that included coaches and security restraining J.R. Smith. Former Cavalier Scrappy-Doo/Dion Waiters had some words for the Cavs, as did Kyrie Irving for the Heat. Plus, on top of the Cavs’ bruised egos and the postgame chatter, I’m told these teams and cities have some history. So instead of a humdrum home-and-home conclusion on Monday between, expect some fireworks between the Cavs and Heat in a fired up Quicken Loans Arena.