There is a distinct difference between criticisms and critiques as far as NBA related commentary is concerned. Or I suppose any commentary. If a team doesn't show up, doesn't play hard, goes in the tank, gives up, quits, or whatever type of cliche' you feel like using to express that said team played with zero pride, then criticisms are fair. Byron Scott had his Cavaliers team ready to play last night. They didn't stagger into Miami the same way they limped off the floor in their previous two games, they were collectively ready to put forth a max effort in Miami last night, they did hold LeBron James (18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) ten points below his season average, and they kept a Heat team who usually hangs 100-plus on the board at a striking distance number of 92. So heading into Tuesday's game, I think Byron Scott did his part to stop the proverbial bleeding as it related to the Cavs previous three losses.
While he was somewhat forced too because Tristan Thompson was unable to go, he did also kinda give Samardo Samuels a chance that he hadn't given him over the last handful of games as well. He could've played Semih over Samardo, but B-Scott recognized that Erden was nowhere near athletic enough to be on the floor with Miami last night, and he didn't put him there. Good move. Samardo responded in 22 minutes with a game high plus / minus of +10 as a result, scored 15 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 2 assists, blocked 1 shot and added a steal as well. He should've played in the 4th quarter over Antawn Jamison though. Jamison posted a team worst plus / minus of -13 in 30+ minutes of work, scored only 5 points, grabbed only 4 rebounds, and allowed Chris Bosh to go off in the 4th quarter by scoring 17 of his game high 35 points in the decisive period. 17 points, and the Cavaliers lost by 7. That sound you hear is Jamison's trade value falling off the face of the NBA universe. Byron should have also most definitely not forgotten that Kyrie Irving was sitting on his bench too, until he remembered with only about 5 minutes left in the game, and he should've pulled Gee (who did play well on both ends) way sooner than the 1:57 mark also.
Those are all critiques there though. If Byron doesn't steady the ship, if it's another Coach leading this team, the Cavs could've very easily had their doors blown off from the open jump last night, lost by 20+ again, and that feeling of progress you couldn't help turn the game off noticing would be non-existent. That game was a step forward though, no way around that, and hopefully some of what the Cavs did well last night will carry over into tonight's game with the Knicks. So I'm not criticizing Byron Scott at all, those are just the breaks sometimes. I am really wondering though, what the hesitation is behind giving Kyrie Irving 30+ minutes per game. Is it Kyrie's stamina at this point, a decision to manage minutes based on the compressed schedule? I suppose those would be good reasons, but I don't really know. I do know that Kyrie looked spectacular at times last night however, bouncing that ball off the backboard from all angles on his way to a team high 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting with 4 assists and 4 rebounds, and I did want to see him play more than the 25 minutes that he did. Maybe I'm just being greedy though.
Antawn and Andy did play that much, with each guy going for 31 minutes apiece, so even if Kyrie would've come in at the 9 minute mark in the 4th quarter he still would've only played about as long as they did. Brandon Knight is averaging 32 minutes per game right now for the Pistons, as a rookie comparison, and Kyrie is averaging 27.7 and has only played over 30 minutes in 4 of the 16 games so far this year. So I wonder if at one point that'll change, he's clearly the team's best player, but who knows. I'd also wondering if this benching Samardo Samuels because he forgot his passport once thing will change too. Samardo brings a toughness, aggressiveness, and a non-friendliness with opponents factor out on the floor with him everytime he's out there. He has a knack for being around the basket, finding the basketball in a good spot, and making plays off the bench when you need him too also, and I don't see how any of that hurts your team. I'm not at practice, not sure what he does there that bothers Byron Scott so much, but Byron's search for that big to back-up Andy was staring him directly in the face last night. Samardo was more productive in one game against arguably the League's best team than Semih Erden and Ryan Hollins have combined to be all season. Hashtag just saying, for what it's worth.
There is no way you can't be happy about last night's game overall from the Cavaliers perspective though I don't think. It was kinda like a win even though they lost in my opinion. It demonstrated that they still are alive, and still have both the desire and ability to compete moving forward. They showed that this team is, and I believe will continue to be, a product worth paying attention on a nightly basis. A product worth watching, worth talking about, worth picking apart to say that this guy should've played more than that guy, or anything else similar to what I felt like critiquing in the previous couple paragraphs above or whatever. And sure, the Heat didn't have D-Wade last night, but Cleveland didn't have Tristan Thompson last night either. Even. In the end too, the Cavaliers lost by the number I said twice over the last few days that I'd be happy to see them at least lose by (seven). So I'll take it. In the end they did keep it close, they did play hard, and they lost by single digits. Progress for sure. Now it's time to blow Mike D'Antoni's collection of underachievers (sans Iman Shumpert who is my boy) out of the gym tonight in Cleveland.
Snap the streak time begins at 7pm tonight in Cleveland as the Cavaliers play host to the New York Knicks. More later.