Fri, 16 Oct, 2015, 10:02
Typically as the NBA preseason nears its close, coaches begin tightening up their rotations and treating the contest as close to a regular-season game as possible.
Well, it's the exact opposite for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thursday, it led to a blowout at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, 107-85, at Quicken Loans Arena.
Due to a rigorous preseason schedule and a multitude of injuries, Cleveland (0-5) is going to tone down the usage rate even more on main players and ramp things up once the real season kicks off on Oct. 27.
"The most important thing for us now is to get healthy," Cavaliers head coach David Blatt said. "To do the work that we can do in the games, but not at the risk of players being ready to go when the curtain comes up."
Blatt hinted that LeBron James, who was held out of his second consecutive game, could be inactive the final two preseason games. If that holds true, James would have only participated in two of the seven exhibitions.
"I know there's a fine line between the preparation aspect and the health aspect for the start of the season, but we've got a plan and we're following it," Blatt said. "We're staying true to it and we're going to continue to do so throughout the rest of the preparation period."
As for the game, the Cavaliers played carelessly and lackadaisically, committing 23 turnovers. They often looked disoriented. A few times, guys were at the wrong spot only to watch the ball sail into the stands.
It was a product of players not having experience with certain teammates because of guys being in and out of street clothes.
J.R. Smith returned to the starting lineup after missing three games with a sore left hamstring. He said he felt fine and produced 10 points and five assists. One thing that has stood out in his limited time on the court is his improved play-making ability. He's looking to make the extra pass opposed to his own shot.
But one shot he made that generated some buzz in the arena was a step-back crossover that caused his defender to stumble back onto the floor. Smith then drained the uncontested mid-range jumper.
"I'm just still trying to become a better all-around player," he said.
Timofey Mozgov supplied 16 points and six boards. Richard Jefferson has been the most consistent Cav and that trend went interrupted as he registered 14 points on 6-of-9 from the floor in 24 minutes. Jared Cunningham had eight points and eight assists off the bench.
Indiana (4-1) is going through an identity transformation. Roy Hibbert and David West, two defensive-minded, grind-it-out, slow-footed big men, are gone. They're incorporating speedster Monta Ellis and long-striding Jordan Hill into the fold.
The Pacers are using four wings and a big in their lineup in hopes of creating more transition opportunities. They outscored the Cavaliers in fastbreak points, 16-1.
"More of a speed team and we're going to rely on our bigs that are better runners and more versatile," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. "Maybe not as big and strong inside as we've been in the past, but hopefully more agile."
Two-time All-Star Paul George continues to impress after suffering a catastrophic leg injury in the summer of 2014. He coasted for 17 points and eight rebounds.
"He looks great," Vogel said. "I think he's in position to have the best year of his career."
Matthew Dellavedova joined the sidelined Cavaliers, dealing with a sore ankle.
Losing these meaningless games shouldn't be alarming. Consider that San Antonio is also winless thus far.
Cleveland will wrap up the preseason at Toronto on Sunday followed by Dallas at The Q on Monday. The team hopes Kevin Love returns for the Toronto game for his first game action since dislocating his left shoulder in April.