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The Point Four-ward: Live Life and Let Griffin

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

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Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) One thing I keep coming back to when looking at the Cavs roster with their bevy of free agents, both restricted and non, and a couple of preferable, if not glaring, holes to be filled before the team tips off their new season around Halloween 2015: if I can predict it, that probably means it’s not going to happen.

I’m not talking about the obvious moves here. I’m not talking about whatever deal the team gives to Kevin Love… or Tristan Thompson… or LeBron James. Those are all likely to happen and they’re likely to happen in one of only a few different ways.

James will (most likely) sign another two-year deal featuring a player option for the second year that will allow his Highness, The King, to continue to maximize his maximum contract status as the salary cap grows over the next several years.

Of course, he could sign elsewhere. But not really.

Or he could sign a multi-year contract. But, again, not really.

James will, as expected, remain a Cavalier… a fact that, admittedly, would have been quite unexpected to imagine writing at this time last year.

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The Point Four-ward: Drafting Days Are Here Again

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

 

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Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers in advance of the 2015 NBA Draft this Thursday, June 25.

1.) It’s been a while since I’ve thought this little about the NBA Draft. I can track my draft fascination all the way back to the mid-90s when I’d anxiously wait for my primer — Chris Monter’s Draft News — to arrive as a cheaply Xeroxed-and-stapled hard copy in the actual, physical mail before deciding on a relative pecking order based on the virtues of players like Todd Fuller, Samaki Walker and John Wallace… only to watch as the Cavs drafted Ukrainian train-like big Vitaly Potapenko who — and I want to be perfectly clear about this — I had ranked below not only the previously mentioned troika of below-average big men but also a fiesty lead guard from Santa Clara named Steve Nash…

… who, of course, I’d never seen play. But, hey, Monter seemed pretty high on him, so why not?

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The Point Four-ward: Can He Build It?

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

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Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers following their NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors in six games…

1.) As a sports fan, I always dread the morning after a loss. The loss, when it is happening and immediately after, is usually a familiar cloud of disappointment and pizza and nostalgia and beer. Therefore, any real pulse-checking on how truly bad a particular loss is going to feel long term often has to wait until the page has turned and I’m faced with a bright new day.

Waking up on (an unfortunately bright) Wednesday, though, my feeling was the feeling of most Cavs fans — if Twitter is to be believed, anyway (and why should it not?): I just don’t feel too bad after this loss.

This Cavs team has been so much fun to watch — well, since the end of January, anyway — and, really, the Warriors were just too good and too deep to expect a team smarting from missing two of their top three scorers to pull off the seemingly impossible. Sometimes, after all, the seemingly impossible seems impossible because it’s pretty damn near impossible. But, man, how the Cavs fought to make us believe otherwise — that it was possible…. that it was going to happen this year… that it was the Cavs turn at destiny.

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NBA Finals Game 5 Quick Hit: Warriors 104, Cavs 91

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

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LeBron James notched another triple double with 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, but it wasn’t enough to get the Cavaliers a win in Oakland. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 37 points on 7-13 shooting from three and the Warriors pulled away from the Cavaliers late on their way to a 104-91 win and a 3-2 lead in this best-of-seven series.

The Cavs followed the Warriors lead by going small for much of the game. One game after scoring a career high 28 points, Timofey Mozgov played just over nine minutes of Game 5, posting goose eggs on all positive stats. James attacked the basket relentlessly and was much more efficient than in Game 4 where he went 7-22 for 20 points. He finished his second triple double of this Finals series going 15-35 from the field and 7-9 from the line. James even dropped in three triples (in eight attempts).

J.R. Smith had a strong first half, but disappeared in the second finishing with 14 points on 5-15 from the field. Tristan Thompson finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but posted a team-worst +/- of -22 as the Cavs couldn’t hit their big shots late.

Golden State did. Curry was helped by 14 points from Andre Iguodala and a surprising 13 points off the bench by reserve guard Leandro Barbosa.

The Cavs will look to stave off elimination in Game 6 Tuesday night back in Cleveland.

Check back soon for Nate’s full recap.

Game 5 Preview: Running on Empty…

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

It’s almost time for the Cavs first Game 5 of the NBA Finals in franchise history!

But don’t expect LeBron James, David Blatt and the rest of Team Intravenous Fluids to be content resting at this cozy mountain base camp when there’s still the rest of the mountain to climb. Here’s some things to look for going into this critical game against the Warriors safely back in their Golden State:

1.) Much of the narrative following the Warriors 103-82 Game 4 victory over the Cavaliers was that the Warriors had finally “figured out” the Cavs defense. How much that lopsided win had to do with the Warriors cracking the schemes that had been frustrating them through the first three games and how much it was the Cavs exhaustion that prevented the Cleveland players from being as effective against Golden State remains to be seen. The Warriors made some adjustments — particularly the insertion of Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup, relegating Andrew Bogut to just a foul-plagued cameo — that gave the Cavs problems, and the team was still only down by one point with under a minute to go in the third… despite their collective legs joining Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in street clothes. Eventually, the Warriors hit some shots, while the Cavs couldn’t get anything outside the paint to drop — and that’s a narrative that could describe a million different basketball losses more than it sounds like one about a clearly superior team jumpstarting a Midas touch that had mysteriously gone missing for the previous two games. We’ll see.

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The Point Four-ward: Let’s Get It Started, Already!

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

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Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers as they are about to tip-off their NBA Finals match-up against the Golden State Warriors…

1.) A lot of talk leading up to the Finals has been about each team’s likely inability to shut down the opposing team’s star player: LeBron James for the Cavaliers and Stephen Curry for the Warriors.

Just ask James how to stop Curry and he gives you the same answer as when you ask him how the Warriors might slow him down: “You can’t.”

The Finals will come down to more than just James vs. Curry, but it’s still tough predicting how these teams will attack each other — and how more or less likely one team is to shut down the other — come down to two things: 1.) the small sample size of head-to-head match-ups between these two teams and 2.) the fact that this is now the third (at least) iteration of the Cleveland Cavaliers that we’ve seen this season, so who knows what the Cavs will bring?

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The Point Four-ward: Then and Now

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

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Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) Okay, confession time. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers. Still. To this day.

In particular, as these playoffs have continued, I’ve found myself increasingly suspicious of the narrative that LeBron James is pulling along his current crop of overmatched Cavalier teammates kicking and screaming on his one-man mission to return to the Finals. Clearly, James has been huge for the Cavaliers. No one is arguing against that. It just seemed like there was a difference between this year’s team and James’s previous Cavaliers squads, particularly the one that made the 2007 Finals — that even if the Cavs were leaning on James more in these playoffs (and your can’t argue that James’s 2015’s playoff usage rate of 36.4% is a substantial uptick from the 29.7% usage he posted in the 2007 playoffs) that his teammates this year were performing better in support of James.

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5-on-5: Your Eastern Conference Champs! — Updated

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

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Still buzzing after the Cavs 118-88 Game 4 Win over the Atlanta Hawks that moved the Cavaliers four wins away from the city’s first major professional sports championship in 51 years, Cory, Tom, Nate, Mallory and I had a little chat about your Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) At what point in the season did you start to believe that this team could return to the NBA Finals?

Nate: It happened twice. The first time was when the Cavs dismantled Memphis on March 25th to win by 22 points. The Grizz were the second best team in the West at the time, and the Cavs gave them one of their signature third quarter floggings. Kevin Love scored 22 on 13 shots; Irving, 24; LeBron, 20; Moz, 14… After Kelly’s killer armbar, we all had our doubts, but David Wood’s revelations about the Cavs super D lineups (featuring TT, Delly, Bron, and Shump) gave me faith. I was fully aboard the Finals bandwagon again after Game two versus the Bulls. I knew if the Cavs could get a split at home without J.R., they’d be OK. Cleveland jumped all over the Bulls, racing out to a 20 point lead in the first quarter, and LeBron rediscovered his post game. Cleveland turned into a team that’s impossible to beat with a lead in the fourth, and I knew the Bulls were hosed.

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The Point Four-ward: Letting It Fly

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

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Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…

1.) It’s darned near impossible to overstate the importance of the three point shot in the playoffs. In the Cavs most recent six game series against the Chicago Bulls, there were several instances where a player getting hot from deep helped to swing the game. There was Mike Dunleavy’s first quarter outburst in Game 1, J.R. Smith’s three big triples in the fourth quarter of a crucial Game 4 that set up the game winning shot by LeBron James, while Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova took turns keeping Game 6 en fuego.

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Five on Five: Conference Finals Edition

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

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1. If you’re the Cavs, what worries you the most going into a series against the Atlanta Hawks?

Tom: I worry about the Cavs being able to match up with the front line of the Hawks.  They got away with playing James Jones because Joakim Noah with so useless offensively. But that’s not going to work against Paul Millsap or Al Horford. they’ve had slow start with Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson playing together. The key to the series may be LeBron James guarding Paul Millsap.

Cory: Kyle Korver shot a sizzling .492 3P% on 449 attempts during the regular season, but has struggled from downtown against the Wizards. Bradley Beal blanketed Korver through their series and it was effective as Korver shot just 12 for 42 from beyond the arc. He’s due to breakout of his shooting funk.

Ben: Dennis Schröder. That kid is insanely slippery. He walks around the court like he owns the place and it rubs some people the wrong way. There are also the Rondo comparisons that lead many to assume he is a headcase. And hey, his German status has confused people into thinking he dominated a chair in his youth. However, he is a very fine player who is only getting better. He is incredibly long on the perimeter. (I was just chatting with a German buddy of man who got yanked from his youth game after Dennis picked his pocket on four consecutive trips). He and Teague should be able to give Kyrie some trouble even if Uncle Drew feels fresh like Nephew Drew. Schröder is a much better shooter than Rondo every dreamed of being and has already mastered the change of pace drive going either way. He has a knack for getting his shoulder by the defender as if it were buttered. The Cavs have had some trouble against lightening quick PGs. It will probably be up to Shump to shut him down.

David: I’m worried about the Hawks offense starting to look like it did in the middle of the season. When the Hawks destroyed the Cavs by 29 points in December, it was because their guards would cut into the paint and then whip the the ball to the open shooter. If Kyrie is still running around like he has a stick taped to his leg, there would be even more pressure on Mozgov to mean mug away possible penetration. Delly might have to play 48 minutes then too. Relying on those two guys full-time scares me.

Robert: The Cavs need to be very cautious about starting games as slowly as they did against Chicago. I don’t think you can expect this Hawks team to take a quarter off from scoring like the Bulls often did to let the Cavs claw their way back into the game.

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