O.K., so we know the Jazz are the second worst team in the league, and we know they were missing their best player, but they did beat the Thunder the other night. Earlier this season, the Cavs would have played down to Utah’s level, but not tonight. Riding C.J. Miles’ coattails, the Cavs kind of coasted in the first half, and ended up three points behind the Jazz at the intermission. Then Cleveland exploded in the third, outscoring the Jazz 39-21. They put their foot on Utah’s throat the fourth, by pushing out to a 20 point lead with three minutes left.
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As if a bitter cold spell that had been ominously hanging over Cleveland was dramatically lifted, The Cavs seemed renewed tonight, in spirit and play. The Cavs ran the Sixers out of the Q, bursting out to a 16 point lead after the first quarter, and they kept pouring it on till garbage time, leading by as much 28 in the third. This was Cleveland’s first blowout win of the season. It was a fun one.
The story of this game changed quite a bit in the final eight minutes. Through much of the affair, I lamented how Tristan Thompson, and even more so, Dion Waiters, were not establishing themselves in Kyrie’s absence. The two previous games were golden opportunities, against Orlando’s front line of Jason Maxiell, Glen Davis, and Andrew Nicholson, and the Nets’ fearsome injury riddled front line of Reggie Evans, Paul Pierce, Mirza Teletovic and Shaun Livingston, for both Tristan and Dion to attack and flash some dominance. For the most part, they had not. Tristan had flashes, and Dion’s jumper was at least on against the Nets, but neither had anything remotely approaching a signature performance during those games. It was a big bummer. Of course, then tonight Dion scored nine points and dished two assists in about four minutes and the Cavs almost knocked off the 26-win, 6-loss Indiana Pacers. Now, the overall performance of those two moves to “note” status.
The Cavaliers and the Nets looked to take the chill out of the frigid air outside the Barclay Center with the kind of heat only a clash between two 11 win teams both riding one game winning streaks could create.
Before the game, Nets head coach Jason Kidd broke the news that Kevin Garnett would be held out of tonight’s game (just a rest) which lined things up for such classic match-ups as Reggie Evans vs. Anderson Varejao and Paul Pierce against Tristan Thompson at the four spot. You could feel the heat all the way back in Cleveland.
On a New Year’s Eve afternoon that saw rumors surface that Chris Grant has been in discussions with the Lakers about flipping Andrew Bynum’s expendable contract and pieces for former all-star forward/center, Pau Gasol, the roster as it is currently comprised tipped off for a holiday matinee against the best team in the Eastern Conference.
After a string of frustrating near-misses, all of which showed flashes of good, bad, then some more good, and then the ugly for the Cavaliers, the boys of wine and goldens tried to put a complete one together against a team that has beaten them seven straight times.
Overall, the Pacers came into the game winners of four straight by an average of over than 20 points.
Makes you really feel that New Year’s optimism, huh?
Another close game, another disappointing loss for the young Cavaliers. After two straight games of near-victories, the Cavs came into this one firing on all cylinders, shooting a fantastic 52.2% at the half, while holding the hot-shooting Warriors to 44.4%. The difference in shooting in the first was clear – the Cavs moved the ball as well as they have all season, never settling but instead looking for the open shot. On the defensive end, the played moved well, forcing the Warrior’s heralded offense into forced shots, turnovers, and charges.
Fresh off a morale eroding last second loss to the Hawks on Thursday — well, in terms of my morale, anyway — the Cavs looked to show me that my morale was made of weaker stuff by showing up strong and confident in this early-afternoon contest against a beatable Celtics team that hadn’t played organized NBA ball in nearly a week.
But, in order to really start the day on the right foot, they first had to suspend their starting center.
Yes, Cavs, it’s my morale that’s the problem. Clearly.
The Eastern Conference playoff picture is a mess. Three teams are above five-hundred. Cleveland, at 10 and 16, resides one-half game from the eighth seed. The Cavs look much stronger lately, winning six of ten, with two narrow losses against Miami and Portland. While Cleveland builds toward a better record than their current 31 win pace, several other Eastern Conference foes look poised to improve also. Many of the assumed contenders remain on the outside looking in; Chicago, New York and Brooklyn all face varied messes. Can the Gotham City teams stay this bad for 82 games? Can a Bulls squad paced by Noah, Deng and Boozer really miss the playoffs in the East? Other challengers for the final seeds in the East are hitting their stride. Toronto won 5 of 7 since trading Rudy Gay, including two straight road victories against Dallas and Oklahoma City. Washington emerged with three wins in a row, and sits amidst a 10 wins and 6 losses stretch.
And tonight’s opponent, Central Division rival Detroit, has won half their games since a dreadful 2 and 5 start. Many of these teams will move towards the middle over the course of 82 games. Tonight, at home, it would be delightful for the Cavs to build on recent successes, and forget the relatively awful outcomes of this past weekend. Piling up victories in games like tonight will go a long ways in determining if the Wine & Gold head to the second season, or back to the lottery.
That said, hopefully you weren’t gearing up for an extensive recap tonight. It’s a busy time of year. So, here is a quick and dirty look at tonight’s action.
UGH. The Cavs made sure to get to the post office today, to mail this one in for Christmas. The Cavs brought their lowest energy level since playing Atlanta two weeks ago, and got their butts kicked in Chicago by a severely depleted Bulls team. I’m filling this recap with Christmas references to try to keep my spirits up, because that was the crap-crap-crappiest holiday basketball game since Bing Crosby played Danny effin’ Kay. I’m pretty sure that Tom Thibideau put on his Grinch costume, and stapled a reindeer antler to D.J. Augustin’s head. D.J. played 46 minutes, dragging that sled up the mountain, and he picked up 18 points and 10 dimes for his trouble. Thibs took all the presents, and little Delly Lou Who caught him stealing the tree. Matt was helpless to stop him. Cleveland clearly wanted to get home and get their Christmas shopping done on Sunday.