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The Cleveland Cavaliers up ended the Brooklyn Nets yesterday in both teams’ season openers. The Cavs started off slowly but made a run in the second and third quarters before the Nets came back to tie the game. The Nets, without Deron Williams, in the fourth used methodical offense and lane clogging defense to control the temp of the game. A huge Anderson Varejao jumper gave the Cavs the lead late in the game and Kyrie Irving iced the game at the free throw line.
- Irving was in a good defensive stance more in 1 game then probably all of last year. He was communicating on defense, hustling after loose balls and chasing his man around screens aggressively. While he is still a work in progress, his commitment on that end was great to see from the team’s leader.
- Tristan Thompson was 8-13 shooting in his first game as a right hander. Thompson’s shot looked relaxed and he allowed the game to come to him on both ends of the floor. Thompson tied for the most minutes played for either team, with front court mate Varejao, but was his normal energetic self. His length and energy helped hold Kevin Garnett to only 8 points.
- New starting SF Earl Clark’s length on defense seemed to bother Paul Pierce. While Pierce still ended up with 17 points on 5-8 shots, Clark’s defense forced him to pass a number of times. Clark also added 8 rebounds to go with 9 points.
- Andrew Bynum played for the first time since his days in L.A. Bynum looked energetic and strong on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Bynum was strong in the post against Brook Lopez and had 2 blocks. The most important piece for Bynum, after his 8 minutes on the floor, is how his knees respond today and tomorrow.
- Jarrett Jack played an up and down game scoring 12 points with 3 assists. Jack energized the second unit and allowed Irving to play off the ball for stretches of the game. Jack only had 1 turnover but found himself in the air, with no discernible pass/shoot option, a number of times.
- Attention to detail, adjustments coming out of half and overall defense marked the return of Mike Brown as the head coach of the Cavaliers. All three of those issues were concerns over the last few years and were good to see again. On offense the Cavs did well when they moved the ball, set screens and moved without the ball. The offense stagnated when Irving, Jack or Waiters dribbled out the shot clock attempting to make an individual play. Compared to the Lebron and 4 offense from Brown’s first stint with Cleveland this was much improved.
- Anthony Bennett looked like a rookie. He attempted 5 shots, 3 of which were three pointers, making none. He was at his best driving his man to the hole. While he could have range from deep and has a wide body in the post, those two things will take time to develop offensively. His quick dribble drive on the other hand is NBA ready today and should be his primary weapon early in the season.
It is one game. While the team looks much improved from last year, and the excitement of Bynum increasing fan hopes, its important to stay in perspective. The Nets have a whole new group of players coming together, which takes time. They were without star PG Deron Williams for much of the second half. Their new head coach, Jason Kidd, was suspended for the game. That doesn’t mean the game can’t be celebrated. The Cavs had a better field goal percentage, more rebounds and less turnovers then the veteran laden squad.
Next up for the Cavs are the Bobcats Friday night in Charlotte.