In the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first game without Kyrie Irving, they got off to a slow start against the lowly Washington Wizards. In the first quarter, the Cavaliers gave up 33 points while only putting up 20 of their own. It looked as if the Cavaliers were on their way to another loss in what is quickly becoming a lost season on the shores of Lake Erie.
But after that woeful period, the Cavaliers impressively turned the entire game around. In the second and third quarters, Cleveland outscored Washington by double digits and used that suddenly large lead to win the game by a score of 95-90.
Dion Waiters led the Cavaliers with 20 points, while Alonzo Gee added 17. John Wall led the Wizards with 27.
Tonight’s game was really impressive for a number of reasons. First off, they mounted their comeback without Irving. As we’ve seen, he’s usually the player who has to lead the charge for the Wine and Gold. His shot-making ability, along with his growing clutch gene, make him nearly irreplaceable when it comes to the Cavaliers offense. But tonight showed that the Cavaliers have the ability to produce points without Irving. This is made even more impressive considering Waiters was the only player to score in the 20s. As a whole, six Cavaliers scored in double figures. Tyler Zeller was the lone starter to not score in double figures.
This game also really solidified to me that Shaun Livingston is a keeper. In 31 minutes, he was 6-of-9 from the field and had a 2-to-1-turnover ratio against one of the league’s top young guards in Wall. With Irving entrenched as the starter for the long haul, Livingston is not going to start – but you don’t even need him to. He’ll give you 12-plus minutes a night (sometimes alongside Irving) and can give the Cavaliers some intriguing lineup options. In my mind, it’s a no-brainer that he should be a Cavalier next season.
Lastly. Tonight really showed how deep this team has become. Marresse Speights, the unofficial sixth man since being acquired from Memphis, scored zero points tonight, but the bench still scored 29 points. Comparatively, the Wizards bench only scored 11. On any given night (with or without Irving) there are 10 or 11 Cavalier players who could see significant minutes. Granted players like Luke Walton and Daniel Gibson are not likely to be around next season, but for now they are playing meaningful minutes. Assuming they can work out a deal to keep Speights on the roster, the bench next season is likely to include Speights, Zeller, C.J. Miles, Wayne Ellington and Livingston. That also does not include the possible move of Gee to the bench if the Cavaliers draft a small forward come June. Consider how pathetic the bench was a few months ago. This is very positive sign moving forward.
Here are some key stats from tonight’s game.
- Tristan Thompson played a team-high 36 minutes tonight. This could be a trend moving forward.
- Zeller only played 20 minutes. It appears that he is going to have to earn his minutes – even if he is the one legitimate center on the roster.
- The Cavaliers were outscored 16-6 in the fast break by the worst offensively efficient team in the NBA.
- Zeller was outrebounded 11 to three by Emeka Okafor.
- Waiters was able to make 10-of-14 free throws to overcome a 5-of-13 shooting night. That’s a good sign moving forward if he is to become the Cavaliers main offensive weapon with Irving out.
- With the win, the Cavaliers swept the season series with the Wizards 3-0.
The Cavaliers will next travel to Texas on Friday to take on the Dallas Mavericks. Tip-off is at 8:30 PM.