Let’s forget the Knicks for a second. Caught the Trey Burke buzzer beater, missed Denver’s 2nd quarter from hell and one of our classic “almost-not-quite” comebacks against the Bucks in Milwaukee. To keep myself from getting completely depressed I decided to watch ESPN’s double header instead of our struggle in Minnesota. I did flip quickly to our boys during halftime of Spurs/Cavs only to immediately see Dalembert throwing an entry pass directly to Shabazz Muhammad and then lightly push him to turn his Ridiculous Dunk into an And-1. Joy.
Spurs vs. Cavs
Yeah it turned out there was actually some good basketball going on last night. At one point a Mic’ed up Gregg Poppovich said “These People think this is a playoff game” which went nicely with the announcer before the game answering “How much do the Spurs care about this game in November?” with “Not at all”. Lolz. Still, the Spurs on any given night played neck-and-neck with a fired up Cleveland team in what could easily be a Finals Preview.
I still don’t know what to make of this Cavs team. Obviously they’re under a huge media spotlight and I’m not one of those people who call out their .500 start as some kind of failure. Only 1/3 of their roster wore the wine and gold last year so they’re definitely still learning to play with one another. And last night I was genuinely impressed by their defense. Kyrie fought over screens and COMPLETELY took Tony Parker out of the game. Varejao did his best to contain Tim Duncan, while putting up his best offensive game of the season and the whole team did a good job of keeping the Spurs away from the line and the 3 pointer. I’d describe their defense as a little more hectic than disciplined, but it was easy to tell these guys were really trying and putting in effort on the less glamorous side of the court. In fact, were it not for the unheralded brilliance of Boris Diaw (WHERE HAS THIS GUY COME FROM??), the Cavs would have dominated the first half.
Watching them play, though, I had to text my friend to point out that the Cavs didn’t seem to run a single set play. Dion Waiters got open for a couple open jumpers by curling around a screener (missed ’em both) but for the most part the Cavs start every possession with a high screen, which turns into a pick-and-pop if Love is setting the pick or a drive-and-kick opportunity for Lebron or Kyrie. I know that Lebron and Kyrie are world-class slashers and the Cavs have the shooting to punish any defender for helping, but I was kind of amazed at Cleveland’s simplicity. Where is the Princeton offense? If they remain this one-dimensional they are going to get buried by a good defensive team in a playoff series.
More worrisome is what another friend pointed out: these guys don’t look like they’re having any fun out there. Even after a ridiculous Love outlet pass, where’s the high fives? Where’s the smiles? All these guys have admitted in interviews how difficult and frustrating this building period has been. This is a team that needs to hit its groove pretty soon.
Kyrie Irving is a freakin’ baller. There was a moment in the 2nd quarter where he hit a STUPID stepback on a broken play and then went into total heatcheck mode, nailing these ridiculous 3 pointers where it looks like he’s diving forward with his whole body. Completely off-balance. And then when the Spurs tried to double him, he showed off his handle and skirted right through two defenders to set up an open shooter. Some kind of offensive talent. I’d love to watch him play some 1v1 with Lillard.
The Spurs won this game last night despite getting a combined 15 points from Parker and Ginobili and without Bonner, Bellineli, or Tiago Splitter. Yikes.
I was totally ready for a coast-to-coast jam when Lebron got the ball down 2 with 9 seconds left. Or at least a dramatic situation where he would calmly know down two FTs and force overtime. Instead, Manu pressured him a little bit and he lost the ball, losing the game. I don’t really mind this during the regular season, but I was not crazy about how he nonchalantly pointed to himself, telling the crowd “My bad”. I’d like to see him get more fired up. Between that and how he hugged all the Spurs players (and Poppovich) before the game, I’m wondering if he’s developing a little bit of an inferiority complex around these guys. Whatever, too soon to say.
Lakers v. Rockets
Boooo, no Dwight Howard no fun. While I did think it was hilarious that Dwight was scratched from this contest at the very last minute (an absolute coincidence! nothing to do with him playing Kobe again!) I was watching this game mostly for their interactions.
True, the Rockets may have been a little more fun to watch pre-Howard. More run-and-gun, even more three point shooting. But that was when the team had Parsons and Lin. Now without Howard, we’re watching Kostas Papanikolau (actually had a pretty good game) and Tarik Black, who Inexplicably was given a post-up opportunity with about a minute left and the game on the line. A little less fun. Also Harden had an uncharacteristically slow start to the game and really tried to set up his teammates instead of flailing his way to the basket. Dude hit his first FG halfway through the second quarter (ON HIS SECOND ATTEMPT!) Boooo. We wanna watch selfish Harden, not altruistic James.
Still, even the Harden-less Rockets were almost too much for the Lakers, until Kobe made it his personal mission to bury them in the 4th. Dude hit some huge contested shots and grabbed his team the W. And, as an announcer noted, the Lakers are now 2-0 with Swaggy P back in the lineup. Watch out Western Conference, you’ve been warned.