Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 12/28/12
Last week, I brought you a well-timed snapshot of Tristan Thompson’s offense at the beginning of four straight double-doubles for the second-year power forward. This week, we’ll take a look at just how the wine and gold strung a pair of wins together (against the Bucks and Wizards, both on the road) for the first time since March last season when they rattled off three against Denver, Oklahoma City, and Houston. They snagged these pair of wins without Anderson Varejao thanks to more effort on the defensive end and some clutch plays down the stretch. Let’s dive in, shall we? Let’s start with the Milwaukee game, where it really wasn’t even that close at the end of the game. The Bucks shot just 39%, and other than Monta Ellis’s 37 point effort, the Cavaliers willed Milwaukee to take mostly tough jumpers. Here’s one third quarter possession that showed some of the good the Cavaliers were doing on defense. We begin with a Brandon Jennings-Larry Sanders pick and roll. Sanders picks Kyrie and Zeller is the man between Jennings and a lane to the bucket. Jennings drives to the foul line, where he pulls up for the shot. Zeller doesn’t hang back too far as to allow Jennings a cushion to drive by, but he doesn’t make the shot an easy one either. He closes out and gets extension as Jennings releases. Jennings misfires, and Tristan Thompson grabs the rebound. From this freeze frame, notice Irving and Waiters both ready to take the outlet pass and fastbreak. This is the benefit of having two guys who are confident in directing the offense and pushing the tempo. Waiters get the ball this time, and races up the court with only Ellis to beat, who is also accounting for Zeller as well. The Bucks just did not get back quick enough on this play. Here, we see Waiters with two options as the other three Bucks retreat and close in on this 2-on-1 break: take it up himself or dump it down to Zeller. Dion makes the right call, tossing in a slight hesitation to give the illusion of passing and instead taking it strong to the basket himself against the smaller Ellis. Dion scores it, and the Cavaliers show how they can excel at being opportunistic in running off of missed shots and turnovers. The other play we’ll take a look at is in the closing moments of the Washington game. I think you know where I’m going with this one. With the score tied at 82 and under 30 seconds left, Kyrie Irving has the ball in his hands in a 1-4 set against 6’6″ recent D-Leaguer Garrett Temple. Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters are to his right, and Alonzo Gee and Tyler Zeller are to his left. Spacing is everything here, because Kyrie gets his 1-on-1, or someone is left wide open. Temple tries to force Kyrie to his left, and Okafor leaves Zeller to double Kyrie. We’ve seen this strategy become commonplace at the end of games 1 Temple doesn’t overplay him enough, however, and Kyrie makes a tremendous All-Star caliber move. Kyrie gets physical with Temple and creates space going to his right down the edge of the key. Notice the eyes and where they are drawn. Everyone is concerned with where Kyrie is going with the basketball. In particular, watch Nene and how he gets drawn into Irving’s path. You can see the lane for Tristan opening up. It’s no secret that the Cavaliers run a number of plays like this where Tristan starts behind the basket and out of sight and creeps in to a wide open dunk. The difference is the Cavaliers a) having Tristan on the floor in crunch time thanks to Varejao’s injury and b) running said play with the game on the line. Kyrie draws and kicks it to Tristan who has daylight to the basket. Watch how Thompson brings himself from the catch to a good position to score the basketball by squaring up with one big stride with his left leg. Now, Tristan is completely squared up, two hands on the basketball, in a jump stop position, both feet planted on the ground, ready to surge up and put the ball in the hole. Sure, it’s only the smaller Temple, but he’s definitely trying to pull his arms down and prevent the bucket. How many times have we sat there verbally ridiculing Tristan for not converting those and-one opportunities? He doesn’t dunk it, but he lays it up, and it bounces, rolls around, and falls in the hoop. Best of all, Tristan converts the free throw to give the wine and gold a three-point lead. One more thing, sometimes…. 2 …you just get lucky… 3 .. and the ball… 4 …bounces your way. 5 Until next week, folks, the film room is closed! 6   ___________________________________ For instance, at the Garden during Kyrie’s “Dark Knight” 41-point effort when the Knicks met Kyrie way beyond the three-point arc and forced him to pass the ball to Varejao, sending him to the line where he split the pair to lose the game. Jordan Crawford uses a Nene screen to get by Gee, but Thompson picks him up and contests the release. Offensive rebound three point attempt by Temple, which always seem to go against us. Crawford again who goes into hero mode instead of taking another dribble or looking to pass the ball with nearly three seconds left. Zeller gets out on him with a hand up, which is more than enough on a 30-plus-foot three point heave. And sometimes it doesn’t. Isn’t that right, Brandon Jennings? And Ray Allen? Have an idea for something you want to see dissected in Cavaliers Film Room? Drop me a line at kirk@waitingfornextyear.com
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