As a guest of Joe Lull’s yesterday, on 92.3 FM in Cleveland, I predicted a triumphant Cavaliers' victory over the Heat in Miami on Sunday.
Despite getting blown out to close the 2nd quarter, and trailing by as many as 20 in the second half, I ended up being a lot closer than I thought I’d be as I reviewed that prediction at halftime.
While I wouldn’t agree that Kyrie Irving was specifically shut down to close out that game yesterday, I would admit that he didn’t have the mega star-quality performance we’ve started to see from him on a regular basis here lately.
Highlighted by dizzying displays of dribbling, that left him laying shots up off the glass it never appeared he'd have room to release, Irving wasn't without his moments of typical brilliance.
By game’s end, however, Irving’s 17 points on 6-16 shooting from the field along with 33 percent from three-point territory are all below his averages on the season. Regardless of that, however, the Cavaliers eventually gave the Eastern Conference's best team all they could handle for 48 minutes at their place.
That much is at least encouraging, despite how much more encouraging it would’ve been to cash that thing in and actually win the game. So while I’m getting a little tired of tallying moral victories here, at the same time I was also left with three takeaways from yesterday's game that are inescapably encouraging to me.
No. 1: How the Cavs starters took the court to begin the first quarter
I was excited by the attitude and aggressiveness that each of the five starters took the court and played with to open that game yesterday.
They did so under the belief that they could actually beat LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and the Miami Heat, and played that way before giving up the huge second quarter lead when the bench came in.
There is no statistical data to support the idea that Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller and Alonzo Gee should collectively believe that, either, but they did. Which is critical for a group of young players working to build towards winning ways in the future.
Highlighted in the opening minutes by Thompson’s footwork on both ends of the court, I was really pumped for that group. It wasn’t until Thompson sat and Luke Walton came in did Miami go on that monster run to close the quarter.