The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Detroit Pistons 96-84 to pick up their third preseason win. Kyrie Irving and Jermaine Taylor led the way for the Cavaliers with 15 points a piece. Kyrie had a slow first half, but his buzzer beating corner three seemed to be the momentum he needed to come out hot in the third quarter, where he scored the last 12 of his 15 points.
There were a lot of good things coming out of this game, even in the midst of all the injuries sustained by Cavaliers players of recent.
Kyrie Irving is playing very quality defense, and its only preseason. On the ball, and against the pick-and-roll, you can really tell Kyrie has improved his defense. Whether this is the cause of the Mike Brown hire, or maturity, its a sign that Irving will be a very special point guard in this league.
Also playing good defense against the pick-and-roll last night was Anthony Bennett. With about two minutes left in the first quarter, Bennett hedged a screen that allowed him an easy take away, in which he finished with a monstrous slam; one minute later, Bennett got his hand in the passing lane for another fast break opportunity. Bennett has NBA quickness, and his length makes him a dangerous defender. The only issue is his conditioning, which is lacking; reports have been that Anthony Bennett has asthma and sleep apnea, but the coaching staff is assured that the current state of Bennett’s conditioning is not a final product.
Overall, the Cavaliers have been playing great team defense. The only weak defender I have seen is Matthew Dellavedova, who at one point last night committed a clear path foul due to his man beating him down the court on the break. Dellavedova is a true point, though, and could provide quality leadership in times Kyrie or Jarrett Jack may not be available.
On the offensive end, there were a lot of good things. The front court play of Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, and Henry Sims were phenomenal last night. Tristan’s switch of shooting hand is looking like it will pay off; though he only shot 5-13 last night, his mid-range game looks very improved. Anderson Varejao has had 28 boards in 69 preseason minutes, which is expected, but the other aspects of his game have seemed to improve. His 15-18 footer has been falling, and his passing game is very underrated. He and Thompson had great chemistry going last night, summed up best by a play where Varejao’s catch and no-look, behind-the-back pass was on the money for Tristan to finish with a thunderous dunk on a few Pistons. Also in the front court, Henry Sims year again put up another great performance, especially on the boards, finishing with eight and 10 on 4-5 shooting; he also added 4 steals and a block. Sims, at 23, will be a great asset to the already budding front court of young Cavaliers big men, especially when unexpected injuries set in, of which I could name numerous examples from just last season and the beginning of this season.
Another bright spot was Earl Clark’s midrange game. There was a span in the second quarter where he hit a catch-and-shoot 17-footer, and followed with a running 12-footer.
Jermaine Taylor’s overall play was also very solid. He is a high flyer with a decent jumper who plays bigger than his 6’5 frame.
The biggest anticipation was Sergey Karasev’s play. He came out hitting from downtown without hesitation, but would miss his next three shots. With less than five left in the contest, Karasev would heat back up hitting back-to-back jumpers, a three and a long two, as well as feeding a Jermaine Taylor dunk the very next play.
The Cleveland Cavaliers preseason play has been very hopeful, especially with all the big injuries. I’m looking forward to consistent play from the bench, especially with players on the fringe. The Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be deeper than I ever expected, and hopefully this holds true through the season.