Four points I’m thinking about the Cleveland Cavaliers…
1.) You can see where LeBron James is coming from.
For the player who continually pleaded for contact to be called on his own drives to the hoop during Sunday’s 109-108 Cavs win over the Golden State Warriors, the league’s “Last Two Minute Report” stating that James should have been called for hanging on the rim following a monster dunk with 1:43 remaining — and that Richard Jefferson should have been called for a foul against Kevin Durant on what became the final play of the game — is understandably irksome.
On Wednesday, James addressed the problems of releasing a report focused just on the last two minutes of a game (per cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon).
“It’s not fair to the referees that you only talk about the final two minutes of the game and not the first 46,” James said. “There’s plays that’s missed, there’s plays that called throughout 48 minutes that don’t get talked about. I don’t think it’s fair for the referees that people get to have their opinions or scrutinize referees for the last two minutes because it discredits what the rest of the game is about. The rest of the game is played, you have to play the first two minutes like the last two minutes.”
What James is saying is true. No one is complaining if the refs miss a Jefferson touch foul against Durant with five minutes to go in the first half. Okay, sure, there would still be complaints, but none of them would be so loud or come from such high places as to call into question the validity of the Cavs win. From LeBron’s point of view, if the fouls he pleaded for had been called all game, perhaps the game wouldn’t have been so close as to risk being decided by a pair of free throws with three seconds left.
Of course, that theory holds more weight had James not shot 43% from the free throw line for the game.
To Durant’s credit, he took the high road. “The refs didn’t lose us that game,” Durant said, following the release of the report. “We lost that game.”
If you’re a Warriors fan, you’re pissed. If you’re a Cavs fan, you’re ecstatic. The cookie could just as easily have crumbled in the Cavs lap — especially with the Warriors as the opponent — so let’s just savor the delicious cookie, so soft and free of crumbs, and have our napkins ready when the Cavs travel to Oakland in January.
2.) On Wednesday, the Cavs announced that point guard Kay Felder was being sent down to get some run with the Canton Charge. While the nominal demotion might have been frustrating for the rookie, the chance to get some extended minutes against somewhat-less-than-NBA competition must have been a breath of fresh air.
In the NBA, Felder is a project. He has a scorer’s instincts, but is also an above average playmaker, a fact not indicated by the 1.9 assists he is averaging so far this season. As head coach Tyronn Lue has moved more toward using Felder in a strictly garbage time role, the 5-9 Detroit native seems to use his limited court time to prove what most players who are given limited court time try to prove: that he can score. But Felder still hasn’t figured out how to finish over and around bigger, longer NBA bodies, so it was only a matter of time before the Cavs sent Felder to shake off some of the bench burn in Canton.
Last night, Felder responded by dropping 33 points against the Greensboro Swarm in his D-League debut.
3.) He blistered the Swarm, using his speed to get into the paint. While he’s shown the ability to do that for Cleveland, his repertoire of shots when he got to the hoop — shots that had largely been finding the fleshy part of a defender’s outstretched hand in the NBA — were finding their way into the hoop against D-League competition. Felder also was hitting his favorite shot, the one he’s most consistently been able to get as a member of the Cavs: the long jumper from the extended elbow.
Felder also tallied seven rebounds and seven assists in the game.
Felder has struggled with the Cavs this season. Appearing in 14 games, the 5-9 guard is averaging just under five points in 10 minutes per contest. The Cavs recalled him to the parent club earlier today.
4.) Tonight, the Cavs get a do-over litmus test game against the Boston Celtics at The Q. It might not be much of a test for the Cavs, having just passed their own with their Christmas Day win over the Warriors. For the Celtics, it’s another story.
The first meeting between these two teams, a Nov. 3 Cavaliers win in Cleveland was notable mostly because who wasn’t playing. The Celtics played without prized free-agent acquisition Al Horford and Jae Crowder, their wing defender best suited to attempt to slow down James. Tonight, though, the Celtics come to town healthy and looking to prove that they have the goods to be considered among the Eastern Conference’s best teams.
The Celtics have to start beating the elite teams before they can be considered elite themselves. The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach writes:
The Celtics have won six of their last seven games, including impressive road wins against the Grizzlies, Pacers, and Knicks. Of course, the Cavaliers are on a different plane.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has consistently insisted that no single game is more important than any other. And it is true that the standings will not discriminate at season’s end. But it is also true that a defining road win against the defending NBA champions would be good for confidence, and to show this young Boston team that it belongs amid the league’s elite.
As the season nears the halfway point, the Celtics are 0-8 against teams that currently have a winning percentage of .600 or better.
The Cavs will be looking to make that 0-9 tonight in what should be a good palate cleansing game after Monday’s clunker in Detroit.