As anyone who has read this blog the past few days knows, I have not exactly been complementary of the Cavs performances on the court. It would seem kind of silly for me to change positive after that spanking the Cavs endured against the TWolves. Understandably then, I will not be making that positive attitude adjustment in this commentary. I have watched closely each of the past 4 straight losses to the Bobcats. Two of those were in the preseason but the games were all similar in my eyes.
The Bobcats were more athletic, had a vastly superior will to win, Walker broke down Irving at will and created havoc for our defense, and almost every single player played harder and faster than their Cavalier counterpart. This resulted in 4 Bobcat wins despite the fact that the Cavs are a more skilled team by far and have superior basketball talent. In Friday’s game, the Cavs will face the best Charlotte roster by far than any they have faced before. The reason is one player, Al Jefferson. In his limited time (he did not play vs the Cavs), he is leading the team in points per game and rebounds per game. He also has 2.3 assists per game vs only .33 turnovers per game. He is a force to be reckoned with in any game and will be a very steadying influence on this young team. I was one of the few that wanted Jefferson for the Cavs and admittedly the argument that he is somewhat overpaid seems reasonable. That being said, the Cavs would be a far better team in my opinion having Jefferson on the court for 14 million vs Bynum for 12 million. But that ship has sailed and I am in the minute minority on this point anyway.
The interesting thing about this improved Bobcat team is that it might work in the Cavs favor in Friday’s game. Jefferson, although in my opinion a very good player, somewhat slows the offense and defense down. Given that the Cavs have been out quicked by the Cats in each loss, slowing them down even a touch helps our defense. The flip side of that is the skill advantage we enjoyed in each of those losses has been narrowed. So time will tell which factor affects the game more.
None of this matters, however, if the Cavs continue to play lethargic uninspired basketball and Irving does not come to play on both ends of the floor. If Irving is broken down at will, then the results will seem similar. If you haven’t noticed by now, each and every point guard that plays the Cavs is out to put an Irving notch on their belt. They come at him full force and expose his weaknesses (which is generally subpar defensive foot speed and poor intensity). This causes a variety of defensive challenges for the Cavs and makes it harder for Kyrie to play offense. It is a well known fact that one of the best ways to slow down an elite offensive player is to make him play defense. Since Irving struggles so much with that at times, it makes him an easy target for that strategy. And I have news for Kyrie, the only one that can stop that from happening is Kyrie. No defensive scheme can adequately protect the point guard.
So, if you want to know what will happen in the Charlotte game, it all will depend on the Cavaliers in my mind. I am 100% certain that Charlotte will come to play. They smell blood in the Cavs ocean and will dive for every loose ball, go full speed and all out on every possession, and try to embarrass the Cavs in front of their home fans. Walker will again use that monster chip on his shoulder to try and outplay and outhustle Irving. The only counter for this, and I mean the ONLY counter, is to play hard and never back down. To come at them as fast as they come at us. To beat them down the floor in transition and attack with maximum intensity. To lay back and run the offense in slow motion as they have been will result in run out after run out just like against the TWolves.
If the Cavs do not play with high intensity for 48 minutes, the lowly Bobcats will win on our home floor by 15 plus points. Instead of being evidence that the TWolves game was a wake up call, it will be evidence that the TWolves game is a sign of things to come.
It is impossible for me to fathom that the Cavs will not come out and fight with 100% effort. Last year I kept saying that and the poor results kept coming while the effort stayed flat. So this year I am taking a different path, I unhappily believe the Cavs will get spanked by 15 plus points at the Q. I keep waiting for evidence they are going to stand up and fight for every possession. Until I see it, I will continue to look on the dark side of the possibilities. As always, I will be looking for any signs of life.