Today’s matinee loomed large for the Cavs’ fleeting playoff hopes, entering three games behind Atlanta and trailing New York by 1.5, with none of the teams having more than ten games left to play. Normally, playing the Pacers, sans Kyrie, would look like another nail in the coffin of this season. In a brutal March that features 18 games though, Indiana has won only 8 of 16. Their offense is completely dysfunctional and their defense declined from “historic” to “very good”. Playing at the Q, it seemed the Cavs had a chance.
Cleveland traveled to Brooklyn, tonight, nursing a three game win streak, with a chance to make up ground on Atlanta and New York. Unfortunately, Mike Brown and the Cavs contracted amnesia and completely forget about the last time that the Cavs played the Nets or the fact that the previous game gave the entire NBA a blueprint for beating Cleveland: make Tristan Thompson guard outside shooters. Instead, Brown decided that playing Tristan Thompson at power forward against Paul Pierce could somehow be effective, even though Pierce and Teletovic destroyed TT last time they played. Thompson, bless his heart, cannot guard 3-point shooters, and could not resist the urge to consistently drift toward the key. This didn’t stop coach Brown from trying to beat a square a dead horse into a round hole in the ground as Brooklyn gleefully launched wide open 3s throughout the game, making 14 of them at a clip of 48.3%. The flawed game plan ultimately doomed them, as Brown tried to find ways to guard the Nets stretch lineups and still score points. He failed at both those tasks.
“It’s fitting in my mind that LeBron James finished in second on #CavsRank. He’s the most talented and decorated player to ever play for the Cavaliers. Whether you like it or not, at some point in the future the Cavaliers will retire his number for all that he accomplished on this team. But he was never able to get to that top spot in his time here; in his surrender and retreat he not only left an incomplete legacy, but a trail of destruction that the franchise is still trying to recover from to this day.”
What a win — the most exciting of the year: gritty, exciting, dynamic. There was so much on the line: a win streak, a playoff race, the Drummond/Dion rivalry, Mike Brown’s emerging facial hair… Would Kyrie wear another goofy shirt? Could the Cavs keep winning without him? Could Cleveland execute a late game inbounds play? Dion Waiters answered those last two questions and more.
It’s the moment of truth. Tomorrow, FearTheSword will unveil the 2nd most highly-ranked Cavalier of all time, as voted by a group of passionate Cavs fans and writers. On Friday, we will pay tribute to the people’s champ, the winner of #CavsRank2014. It will appear on Cavs:The Blog. Buckle your seatbelts. Predictions?
Get yourself up to speed on #CavsRank and start complaining about all the blown rankings and youth bias on twitter or in the comment sections.
#20: Mo Williams & Nate Thurmond by Carter Rodriguez, Real Cavs Fans.
#19: Craig Ehlo by David Zavac, Fear the Sword.
#18: Lenny Wilkens by Jacob Rosen, WFNY.
#17: Bingo Smith by Scott Raab.
#16: Ron Harper by Ben Cox, WFNY.
#15: Andre Miller by Kirk Lammers, WFNY.
#14: Jim Chones by Ryan Mourton, Fear the Sword.
#13: Campy Russell by Ryan Mourton, Fear the Sword.
#12: Shawn Kemp by Robert Attenweiler, Cavs: The Blog.
#11: Hot Rod Williams by Kevin Hetrick, Cavs: The Blog.
#10: World B. Free by Scott Sargent, WFNY.
#9: Anderson Varejao by Andrew Schnitkey, WFNY.
#8: Kyrie Irving by Mallory Factor, Cavs: The Blog.
#7: Terrell Brandon by Ben Cox, WFNY.
#6: Austin Carr by Cleveland Jackson, Stepien Rules.
#5: Zydrunas Ilgauskas by Kirk Lammers, WFNY. Nate Smith, Cavs: The Blog. Tom Pestak, Cavs: The Bog.
#4: Larry Nance by Robert Attenweiler, Cavs:The Blog.
#3: Brad Daugherty by Robert Attenweiler, Cavs: The Blog.
#2: LeBron James by Justin Rowan, FearTheSword.
#1: Mark Price by Tom Pestak, Cavs: The Blog.
The Cavs built a 21 point lead only to watch it slip away. They didn’t so much win the last six and a half minutes as lose less. All five starters finished in double figures and took turns making an impact. The Jonas Vs Tristan debate could go on for years, but tonight, TT won the bout in a TKO.
I used the above video as header for the last piece I wrote that mentioned Brad Daugherty. Likely, I will use it somewhere in every piece I write about Daugherty.
More than his five All-Star trips in eight seasons wearing the only pro uniform he ever would — the orange “Cavs” or “Cleveland” as short a distance over his number 43 as the basketball rim was over Daugherty’s own head — more than his 10,389 career points (a club best when he retired and still good for third best now), more than his distinctive drawl and a hairline that, at times, was practically Boozerian in its encroachment (Carlos Boozer’s, of course, attacked from below, from his upper chest, while Daugherty’s threatened to cover his lower brow as thoroughly as Batman’s cowl), more than all of that, memories of Daugherty — for me, anyway — endure because he had his own card and sandwich.
Beyond Brad’s Bacon-Cheddar Special, my own relationship with Daugherty the player (not the pitch man), involved decidedly less salivation. I came to the Cavs at a time when those Lenny Wilkens-coached teams were still in their prime. But it was a post-”The Shot” world and our eventual narrative — that it was a time when a fine collection of Cleveland players just never could get over the number 23-shaped hump that was Michael Jordan — was already sketched out, if not yet fully inked in. So, the baby steps of my first rabid sports team attachment were not made in awe of how good this team was (and just how difficult it is to find players that good and make a team work that well) but, rather, in abject dissatisfaction that my chosen team was made of the stuff that breaks hearts. My dissatisfaction centered, unfairly so, on my team’s center, on Daugherty and the “soft” label that clung to him like an early-90s mock turtleneck.
The Cavs played dead for a half and waited until the Knicks had amassed a 15 point half-time lead before putting on a shooting clinic in the 2nd half, converting 23 of 30 shots (!!) and putting a hurting on the Knicks playoff hopes. Jarrett Jack sliced and diced his way over, under, around, and through the Knicks en route to 31 points and 10 assists on 13 of 19 shooting, including the dagger in the final 30 seconds.