Two third of the big three sat out the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks, as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving left Kevin Love to be on his own in the preseason game. As someone quite used to leading a team without a lot of help, Love felt completely comfortable with the situation.
The Cavs walked away with a 106-100 win as Love produced one of the more efficient performances we’ve seen from anyone in this preseason. He scored 25 points on 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, all while playing only 21 minutes. Dion Waiters, the second player to extremely enjoy the absence of two players who are going to take away from his touches, added 23 points on 8-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Despite the win and the impressive performance from two of his starters, head coach David Blatt wasn’t happy with everyone. The Cavaliers took 34 3-pointers and made just 13; eight of them were made by Love and Waiters. He didn’t feel like the shots were forced and also said that Kevin Love can shoot as much as he likes. But launching 3-pointers, which is a growing trend in the NBA, isn’t something that’s a big part of Blatt’s philosophy.
The Bucks actually played their starters later in the game, which didn’t help them win the quarter or close the gap from the simply better Cavaliers. Jabari Parker had a solid performance with 18 points to lead the Bucks, starting Giannis Antetkounmpo as their point guard, which didn’t work out so well. Antetkounmpo scored just four points without making a field goal or having a single assist. Jason Kidd is in an experimenting mood, but for now it isn’t really working out for him and probably won’t in the regular season.
Back to Blatt, who finds himself in a very different situation than the one he imagined when he first signed for the Cavaliers. No longer a rebuilding job or a team just waiting for the right coach to embed his philosophy and style on the team. Sure, Blatt will be able to get some things to work his way from the sidelines, but this is first and foremost a team of three superstars, and their own individual styles and strengths will determine how the Cavaliers play.
Where does Blatt fall into all of this? By making sure the rest of the bolts and screws around them are used in the right way. Shawn Marion, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Mike Miller and others with even smaller roles. Obviously, he’s lucky and fortunate to suddenly be working on a team gunning for the championship, something Blatt is used to from his time in European basketball. But that comes with a different set of expectations and pressure as well.