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Anthony Bennett’s three-pointer cut Charlotte’s lead to just four with 4:25 to play, but the Bobcats closed the game on an 11-2 run to hand Cleveland the 105-92 loss in the preseason finale on Tobacco Road.
Kyrie Irving led four Cavaliers in double-figures with 20 points in 27 minutes of action. The All-Star guard was 6-of-13 from the floor, adding five boards, three assists and a steal. Earl Clark had his strongest showing of the preseason, following up with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Tristan Thompson closed out a strong preseason with 11 points and eight boards and Jermaine Taylor came off the bench to go 5-for-9 from the floor for 11 points. Henry Sims equaled Thompson with eight rebounds.
The Cavaliers out-rebounded the Bobcats by 11, but Charlotte took 14 more free throw attempts on Thursday.
Coupled with Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards in Cincinnati, the Wine and Gold finished the preseason at 4-4. And with that, here are a few notes with the home opener less than a week away …
Class Acts …The Cavaliers young nucleus can be essentially broken down into the previous three Draft classes.
The Class of 2011 – Kryie Irving and Tristan Thompson – were rock-solid throughout the exhibition campaign. They were the only Cavaliers to start all eight games and were 1-2 in scoring. But more importantly, it became evident that the third-year pros had cemented their status as the team’s young leaders.
Kyrie averaged 16.5 points and 5.1 assists per contest and, at least statistically speaking, confirmed his commitment to the defensive end – also leading the squad in steals and blocked shots. The ultra-consistent Thompson averaged 12.5 points and 9.1 boards per game and illustrated that his switch to shooting right-handed is working out just fine. He shot 52 percent from the floor and 67 percent from the stripe.
The Class of 2012 – Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller – had an up-and-down preseason, mostly due to injury.
Zeller injured his hip in the Wine and Gold Scrimmage and then underwent an emergency appendectomy. He could be ready when the regular season starts, but there’s no concrete timetable for his return.
Waiters, an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection last spring, played in five of Cleveland’s eight contests, averaging 10.4 points on 40 percent shooting. He missed action with a right hip contusion and sore ankle, but bounced back to start Thursday night’s contest.
This year’s Draft class – Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix – experienced some of the successes and setbacks that come with any rookie’s first NBA exposure.
Bennett, the top pick in this past June’s Draft, had a monster fourth quarter in a win over Orlando and saw action in all eight contests, averaging 9.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He got into sporadic foul trouble and attempted the second-most three-pointers on the team (28), trailing only Kyrie Irving. With Cleveland’s improved depth, Bennett won’t get thrown into the fire too early this season.
Karasev closed out the preseason nursing an injured left ankle, but showed flashes of what made him the 19th overall pick in June. He saw action in five games and got one start, going 4-for-7 from the floor to notch 10 points in a win over Detroit.
Felix, the Cavs’ sole second-round pick, was impressive in Summer League but saw very limited action in the preseason, making two early appearances before being sidelined with a sports hernia.
New Arrivals …The trio of free agents inked by the Cavaliers this offseason – Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and Andrew Bynum – worked their way into the picture, to varying degrees.
Jack was sidelined for four games with left knee chondromalacia, but was solid in his lone start against Washington on Wednesday – finishing with five points and five assists in just under 10 minutes of action. More importantly, he showed how effective the backcourt that he and Kryie Irving (at the 2) could form at certain points this season. (There's no reason to think Jack won't be just as efficent across from Dion Waiters, and vice-versa.)
Earl Clark appeared in seven games, got five starts, and was solid-but-not-spectacular. He averaged 6.7 ppg and shot 39 percent from the floor. Whether he or incumbent Alonzo Gee start at small forward when the regular season tips off doesn’t matter much. The addition of Clark strengthens the position greatly either way.
Andrew Bynum continues to work his way back from knee surgery, but he’s looked good at Cleveland Clinic Courts in 3-on-3 games and is moving well during pregame warm-ups. The Cavs won’t rush him, but it seems as if he could be back sooner than many expected.
Roster Wars …In the next couple days, the Cavaliers will have to make some tough decisions on who makes the final 15-man roster. And odds are the final spots could come down to a trio of Camp invitees – Matthew Dellavedova, Jermaine Taylor and Henry Sims.
Sims made a very strong case for himself this preseason. In eight games, he shot 58 percent from the floor and averaged 5.1 boards per contest. The polished big man from Georgetown played within himself and impressed coaches throughout Camp.
Dellavedova ran the team effectively and appeared in all eight games. He didn’t shoot the ball well (26 percent) and had a rough outing in Cincinnati, but he’s a tough competitor who runs the team well. He’ll be vying for the third point guard spot as roster cuts loom.
Jermaine Taylor might be the second-best pure athlete on the team behind Alonzo Gee. He’s a tough defender who can score in bursts. Coaches love his toughness and versatility. He dropped 15 points on Detroit and netted 5.7 ppg while averaging just under 16 minutes of action.
Bring on Brooklyn … The Wine and Gold will work through the weekend and early next week, tuning up for the Eastern Conference’s most intriguing squad, the Brooklyn Nets, who open (and close) Cleveland’s 2013-14 campaign.
Mike Brown has been implementing his system throughout the preseason and should have a close-to-complete compliment of his roster when the regular campaign tips off on Wednesday night. He’ll have the deepest team Cleveland has had since the last team he coached in 2009-10. And it’s about to get even deeper when Andrew Bynum is cleared to play.
The 2013-14 Cavaliers should be strong amalgam of talented youngsters and accomplished veterans. The preseason is over and that mixture is ready to mix it up in five days.
Let the games begin …