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Cavs Beat Celtics, Start 2010-11 NBA Season with a Splash

With all of the hype and speculation that has fed into the opening week of the 2010 NBA season, it is great to finally see the Cavaliers back out on the court. With a win in the first game of the post-LeBron era, the Cleveland Cavaliers are off to nice start. Here is a quick look at my takeaways from game one.

1. The 2010 Cavaliers play team basketball: For the first time in some seven years the Cavaliers are able to play true team basketball and that was the key to their success on Wednesday night. The scoring was incredibly balanced with six players in double figures and with points from all nine Cavaliers that saw the floor. What’s even nicer to see is that the Cavs mustered 24 assists on their 36 field goals. Byron Scott’s new Princeton offense is a breath of fresh air for this team and really allows them the flexibility to find the best scoring option each time down the floor.

2. J.J. Hickson has all the makings to be all-star in league: Just a couple of days removed from coach Byron Scott’s comments about his lack of focus, Hickson poured in 21 points on 8-11 from the floor with six rebounds in just 30 minutes on the floor. Not to mention he did a great job keeping Kevin Garnett in check. If Hickson can stay hungry and focused the sky is the limit with him especially if he can continue to improve on the glass and defensive aspects of his game. Offensively he showed that he has the ability to score in a variety of ways. His jump shot appears much improved, he was aggressive and elusive headed to the bucket, and he even showed signs of an in between game that could really bring him to another level.

3. Although it is just one game it was also very nice to see this team continue their success at the free throw line from the pre-season. Last year, free throw shooting killed the Cavaliers who finished dead last in the league at just 72%. In this year’s pre-season, however, the team managed to shoot 81% at the line and were 17-21 against the Celtics on opening night. With a scrappy team that projects to spend a lot of time at the line this will be a key area for the Cavaliers this season.

4. Defense can still be Cleveland’s calling card: Although the Celtics were able to get lots of easy shots, especially in the first half, Cleveland put together a solid defensive effort. They defended the three point line effectively and limited good outside looks for the Celtics. The cohesion as far as team defense is still lacking at times seen in poor rotations that lead to easy buckets as well as three defensive three second calls. The biggest positive defensively was that they were able to keep the big three completely in check holding them to a total of 34 points on 12-33 shooting.

5. The Cavaliers’ front line is in incredible shape: Hickson, Hollins, and Varejao ran the floor quite well on Wednesday and also did a pretty good job being active on the boards. Even beyond their combined 20 rebounds they were able to make things happen with tipouts and other hustle plays. I was especially impressed with the hustle and emotion from center Ryan Hollins. Headed into this game I did not necessarily have high expectations of Hollins, but he certainly has the passion and finesse to be effective for the Cavs this year. He showed he has some range on his jumpshot and he appears to be solid defensively in the post. However, he, like J.J. Hickson, needs to produce more on the glass.

6. The only main issue with the Cavs’ game one performance came from the point guard position. Both Daniel Gibson and especially Ramon Sessions, appeared very hot and cold when it came to running the offense. They were either super aggressive to the point of recklessness or removed to the point of apathy on a large portion of the team’s play. This will be a critical area of development during the season to see Sessions and Gibson settle in to their role as the lead guard on the floor in Byron Scott’s Princeton offense.

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