The Cleveland Cavaliers jumped out to an early, 17-9 lead, over the East Conference leading Indiana Pacers. It looked as if they might be able to hang with the Goliath of the East today. And for most of the game, they did. They ran out of gas with about 9:00 left in the game. They trailed only by one, 71-70, after an Anthony Bennett jumper. But that is when the Pacers started looking like the 25-5 team that they are. They slowly pulled away and ended up beating the Cavs, 91-76. The Wine and Gold dropped to 10-21, and three full games out of the final playoff spot in the East.
KEY PLAY TO THE GAME
As Kyrie drove into the lane near the four-minute mark in the third, the Cavs led the Pacers by one, 59-58. But Kyrie began to lose control of the ball near the free throw line and continued to bobble it as he got to the rim. He was left with no choice but to throw up a shot as he was almost parallel to the hardwood. The first part of his body to hit the floor was his left knee. Right away, Kyrie grabbed his knee. It was clear that something was not right. He could not get back on defense and the Cavs called timeout as soon as they gained possession. He was attended to at mid court and was grimacing noticeably. After being helped to the locker room, it was unclear the extend of Kyrie’s injury. He would return but it was a scary moment for the Wine and Gold.
WINE AND GOLD MVP
Anderson Varejao, without a doubt. He led the team in scoring, with 14 points, on 4 of 6 shooting. He also corralled 11 rebounds, six of which were on the offensive glass. But it was his performance beyond the box score why I granted him Wine and Gold MVP. He was everywhere tonight. He was assigned the duty of guarding Roy Hibert, who is much bigger than him, but with his activity, he was able to contain him in the first quarter. This was his third game starting in place of the suspended Bynum and he again performed well.
Anthony Bennett dunked!
— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) December 31, 2013
Cavs get job done in first Qt, now must hang strong this Qt
— Austin Carr (@MrCavalier34) December 31, 2013
Kyrie Irving needs bigger kneepads.
— WayneEmbrysKids (@WayneEmbrysKids) December 31, 2013
I get off work, turn on my car, turn on the Cavs game and seconds later Kyrie Irving injures his knee. It’s been that kind of year.
— Demetri I. (@demeatloaf) December 31, 2013
Cavs finish the 2013 calendar year at 27-55
— Brendan Bowers (@BowersCLE) December 31, 2013
Unfortunate that the Cavs play so well for 3 quarters and then get totally dominated in the fourth quarter.
— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) December 31, 2013
COACH BROWN BREAKDOWN
I just finished writing a piece about how I liked what Brown had done thus far. But today he made some questionable moves, mainly when it comes to lineups. I was really confused as to why with eight minutes left in the game Bennett was on the floor along with Jarrett Jack, Kyrie, Andy, and Tristan. The last three I understood but I could not wrap my head around why Bennett was actually on the court during crunch time. The Pacers began to pull away with this lineup too. Also, Dellavedova didn’t leave the bench tonight. I get why Brown is trying knew lineups, figuring out what will work and what won’t, but major inconsistency is not good for team chemistry.
The Cavs first game of the new year will be on January 2nd, against the Orlando Magic. The game will be played at Quicken Loans Arena. The Magic are 10-20. The teams have played once before this season, on December 13th, in Orlando. The Wine and Gold won 109-100. The Cavs, who are three games out of the final playoff spot in the East, will look to start of the new year right with a victory over the Magic.
PG Kyrie Irving- 10 points, on 3 of 9 shooting, five assists, two steals, and five rebounds.
As mentioned above, Kyrie got hurt today around the 4:00 mark of the third quarter. So his numbers might have been a little skewed due to his absence. But nevertheless he was not great today. The team in general struggled on offense, but Kyrie especially. I really did not see a very aggressive player, even before his injury. There was a lot of passive play to say the least. I have no problem with him being unselfish but there is a difference between looking to get other players involved and not looking to attack at all. Kyrie looked a little more like the second one today. But the Cavs had some other contributors today who helped mask Kyrie’s below-average game.
SG C.J. Miles- 5 points, on 2 of 5 shooting, one steal and two turnovers.
It was a pretty poor performance by C.J. this afternoon. After a really good game against the Warriors, a different player showed up today. At the start of the first quarter, I thought C.J. looked aggressive. But there were little results from it. After playing 23 minutes against Golden State, Miles was on the floor for only fifteen today. There is not much I can really say about C.J.’s performance today other than it was pretty poor.
SF Earl Clark- 7 points, on 2 of 11 shooting, 1-5 from downtown, 4 rebounds, and 1 block.
Clark was on the floor for a lot of the game, logging 34 minutes, but frankly he was pretty bad today. Like the numbers show, his shooting performance was dismal. His best play of the night was block on David West. He showed great anticipation on that play but other than that, he did not do a lot well. He shot way too much tonight and a lot of the shots were out of rhythm too. I am not going to complain if he is shooting open shots but too often tonight it looked like he was forcing up jumpers and try doing too much. Not a really good game from Earl to end the year on.
PF Tristan Thompson- 7 points, on 3 of 11 shooting, 13 rebounds and 1 of 4 from the free throw line.
Tristan shot poorly tonight but he did a lot of other things well. As the stats show, he rebounded well. His plus minus today was +2, the best out of all the Cavalier starters. Tristan was given a lot of good looks in the post today, but unfortunately could not convert most of them. My favorite play of Tristan’s today was a charge he took in the middle of the third quarter. As Hibert rolled to the rim, Tristan slid over from the other side of the key and positioned himself nicely. As Hibert was fed the ball, he ended up barreling over Thompson. The refs called the charge and the Cavs took over position. Plays like this won’t show up in the box score but are important if the Wine and Gold are going to turn the corner in the new year.
C Anderson Varejeo- 14 points, on 5 of 13 shooting, 11 rebounds and two assists.
As I awarded him earlier, I thought Andy was the team’s MVP tonight. Not only for the things that show up in the stat sheet but just all around. His energy was impressive tonight and it was nice to see him in the starting lineup again. The things that Bynum has struggled with all year long, Andy does well. He is a lot quicker and fits better into the Cavs offense. My favorite play from the Wild Thing during the game was a give-and-go near the three minute mark of the second quarter. Kyrie dished it to Andy, who was at the free throw line extended. Andy squared his shoulders to the rim, but quickly dished it back to Kyrie has he drifted towards the free throw line. This great display of passing from the big man and something Bynum did not do very well.
PF Anthony Bennett- 6 points, on 2 of 4 shooting, 2 of 2 from the free throw line, 3 rebounds and 1 steal.
There were other players who performed well of the bench (Dion and Jack), but I decided to go with Bennett as the bench star because I thought he made two big plays today. The first, was great steal at the start of the second quarter. He jumped into the passing lane and picked of a Luis Scola pass. He took the ball all the way down and finished with a two-handed dunk. In the grand scheme of things, the play was irrelevant but it was nice to see him show anticipation then an ability to finish in transition. And then secondly, Bennett hit a 20 ft. jumper with 9:18 left in the fourth. The make cut the Pacers lead to one, 71-70. This play showed the shooting range that we saw at UNLV. Maybe these two plays are foreshadowing for the player we will see in 2014.