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Find out the scoop on the CAVS from award-winning sports writer Bob Finnan.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Game 74: Cavs at Nets

BROOKLYN NETS (31-40) 106, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (47-27) 98
Barclays Center
Friday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers had been playing their best basketball of the season. They came up woefully short against the Nets tonight. They were outplayed by Brooklyn, which got separation by outscoring the Cavaliers in the fourth quarter, 27-19. The Cavaliers seemed to have a major letdown after their impressive win in Memphis on Wednesday. 

2. The Nets snapped a four-game losing streak to the Cavaliers. They had lost the first three games in the season series to Cleveland. 

3. The Cavaliers played "small" in the fourth quarter, leaving the 6-10 Tristan Thompson to defend the 7-0, 275-pound Brook Lopez. Cavaliers coach David Blatt said after the game he didn't think Lopez hurt them. He ended with 20 points and nine rebounds. However, he had just four points and one rebound in the fourth. Maybe Blatt was right, but that puts a lot of strain on the Cavs' defense. They gave up two first-round picks in order to acquire Timofey Mozgov. I just don't get why they don't play him, especially when the other team goes "big."

4. They are now 21-18 on the road this season. They are 5-2 in their last seven road games. They are assured of at least a .500 record away from The Q. They've only finished above .500 four times in their 45-year history: 27-14 in 2008-09, 26-15 in 2009-10, 22-19 in 1991-92 and 21-20 in 1995-96. I'm guessing they'll finish with the third-best road record in franchise history.

5. I loved the way Jarrett Jack ran the Nets offense. He played with such efficiency. His plus-minus was +10. Jack finished with 16 points, seven in the fourth quarter. The former Cavs guard added four rebounds, five assists and two steals.


6. The Cavs had their four-game winning streak snapped. It can be traced to them not sharing the basketball. They had just 17 assists, nine by LeBron James. They spent most of the game playing one-on-one. That's not going to work.

7The Nets were desperate for a victory. They need wins, and plenty of them. They are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are fighting with Boston, Charlotte and Indiana for that No. 8 spot. I'm conceding the seventh seed to Miami.

8. Brooklyn were missing three rotational players in forward Thaddeus Young (left knee strain), swingman Sergey Karasev (right knee surgery) and forward Mirza Teletovic (blood clot). Young had been starting at the "4" spot. They shifted Mason Plumlee into the starting lineup.


9. LeBron James (24,794) is 22 points shy of passing former Knicks center Patrick Ewing (24,815) for No. 20 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.


10. J.R. Smith's eight points pushed him past 10,000 for his career. He became the fourth player on the Cavs’ roster to reach that mark (James, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller are already there).

UP NEXT: vs. Philadelphia, Quicken Loans Arena, 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Joe Johnson (6-7, 240)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Mason Plumlee (6-11, 235)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Brook Lopez (7-0, 275)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Markel Brown (6-3, 190)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Deron Williams (6-3, 200)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Nets - G/F Sergey Karasev, F Mirza Teletovic
OFFICIALS
Joe Crawford, Pat Fraher, Marat Kogut

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Game 73: Cavs at Grizzlies

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (47-26) 111, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (50-22) 89
FedExForum
Wednesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers just dismantled one of the best teams in the league. They had lost their last five games in Memphis. On this night, however, it wasn't even close. They took the lead for good with 5:41 left in the first quarter, 13-11, on center Timofey Mozgov's layup.

2. In two games against the Grizzlies this year, the Cavs averaged 108 points and shot 55.6 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from behind the arc. Memphis, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, just has no answer for the Cavaliers defensively. How impressive was the victory? Memphis is a team some are picking to advance to the NBA Finals.

3. Cavs power forward Kevin Love had one of his best games of the year. He's had games with more points or more rebounds. He was just outstanding with 22 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. It was his team leading 36th double-double. He ran the floor. He hit the boards. He helped the Cavs to a 49-32 advantage on the boards. It was a solid butt-kickin'.

4. The Cavaliers are 13-1 this season when they've had at least two days off in between games. The only loss came in the season opener vs. New York. 

5. More good numbers: They've won 14 of their last 15 games against West foes. Why the dominance against the West? It's hard to answer that. But when the Cavs are on top of their game, they can beat anyone, even the "upper echelon" Western teams. Most NBA experts say the balance of power has shifted to the West. The Cavs showed tonight they are as good as any team in the league. The Cavs have won eight of their last nine games, as well as 28 of their last 34.

6. The Grizzlies could never solve the Cavs' swarming defensive effort. The Cavs not only dominated the boards, they also held Memphis to 43.5 percent shooting from the field and 23.5 percent from behind the arc. They stopped power forward Zach Randolph in his tracks with five points and three rebounds.

7. The trade that added Jeff Green to their lineup completed the Grizzlies. They are 24-11 since making that deal on Jan. 12. Green, formerly in Boston, has had some big games against the Cavs over the years. He finished with 11 points and five rebounds for Memphis. He's now coming off the bench for the Grizzlies.

8. Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen normally defends LeBron James as well as any player in the league. He didn't make much of an impact tonight, as James ended with 20 points and eight rebounds. 

9Since Jan. 23, the Cavs are averaging an NBA-high 12.3 3-pointers per game. They are averaging 9.9 per game on the season. They will likely set a team record in this category. Their starting backcourt of J.R. Smith and Kyrie Irving have been too much to handle for the opposition. Smith is shooting 52.5 percent from behind the arc in his last eight games (31 of 59), while Irving is at 51.3 percent (20 of 39). By the way, Smith is four points away from 10,000 in his career.

10. Two bench players came up huge for the Cavs. Forward/center Tristan Thompson was once again a terror on the boards with a game-high 11 rebounds. The Grizzlies couldn't get a body on him in the paint, as he pulled down eight defensive rebounds. Guard Matthew Dellavedova drained 3 of 4 from behind the arc en route to nine points and four assists.

UP NEXT: at Brooklyn, Barclays Center, 7:30 p.m. Friday.

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Tony Allen (6-4, 213)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Zach Randolph (6-9, 260)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Marc Gasol (7-1, 255)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Courtney Lee (6-5, 200)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Mike Conley (6-1, 175)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Grizzlies - F/C Jarnell Stokes, G Russ Smith
OFFICIALS
Derrick Stafford, David Guthrie, Michael Smith

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Game 72: Cavs at Bucks

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (46-26) 108, MILWAUKEE BUCKS (34-36) 90
BMO Harris Bradley Center
Sunday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers flipped that switch late in the third quarter and blew the Bucks off their home floor. Up until that point, they were in serious danger of losing this game. They trailed by seven points, 69-62, with 3:27 left in the third. They closed the third quarter on a 13-4 run. Guard Iman Shumpert scored on a layup at the buzzer for a 75-73 lead. The Cavaliers never trailed again. They outscored the Bucks in the fourth quarter, 33-17.

2. Their defense during their run was suffocating. Still, the Bucks shot 54 percent from the field in the game. That's normally not a recipe for success.

3. LeBron James sparked the late rally. He had a game-high 28 points. He had 13 in the fourth quarter, 21 in the second half.  James also had 10 rebounds, six assists and five steals.

4. Sidekick J.R. Smith was equally as impressive, but in a different way. His long-range shooting stopped the Bucks in their tracks. He made 7 of 9 3-pointers, 3 of 3 in the fourth quarter. In his last seven games, he's shooting 53.8 percent from the 3-point line (28 of 52). If he continues that kind of torrid shooting, the Cavaliers will be celebrating their first NBA championship in June.

5. Every time I see Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, he gets better. He's so long. Now, he's making shots from the perimeter. He's already one of the top defenders in the league. If he continues to improve, he's going to be a major star. He ended with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

6. Bucks coach Jason Kidd is not going to be Coach of the Year. However, he should get some votes for the prestigious award. He's turned the Bucks from an afterthought to a playoff team in one year.

7. The sixth-seeded Bucks had several players sidelined via injury, including Jared Dudley (back), O.J. Mayo (hamstring) and, of course, Jabari Parker (knee). They are going to be solid playoff team next year. If they keep dropping - they've lost six in a row - they could tumble to the No. 7 seed in the East. Miami is just 1 1 /2 games behind the Bucks. That would pit Milwaukee vs. Cleveland in the first round.

8. The Cavs have now won three in a row, as well as 27 of their last 33 games.

UP NEXT: at Memphis, FedExForum, 8 p.m. Wednesday.

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo (6-11, 217)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Ersan Ilyasova (6-10, 235)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Zaza Pachulia (6-11, 270)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Khris Middleton (6-7, 225)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Michael Carter-Williams (6-6, 190)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Bucks - F Jabari Parker, F Damien Inglis
OFFICIALS
Mike Callahan, David Jones, Steven Anderson



Friday, March 20, 2015

Game 71: Pacers at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (45-26) 95, INDIANA PACERS (30-38) 92
Quicken Loans Arena
Friday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers kept their impressive winning streak alive at The Q intact. They've now won 15 in a row at home, dating back to the Houston game on Jan. 7. They are becoming invincible at home. The Wine & Gold have averaged 107.1 points per game in that streak. They are shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from the 3-point line.
They are holding opponents to 91.7 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting.

2. The Pacers are a tough matchup for the Cavs, as evidenced by the season series being tied, 2-2. They play playoff-style basketball. That's why the Cavs might not want to match up with them in the first round. They'd probably win, but they might not have much left for the second round.

3. Cavs guard Kyrie Irving had an off night with 13 points. Coach David Blatt said Irving is human, after all, and is capable of having an off night from time to time. He had two points, no rebounds and no assists in the second half.

4. It was thought that All-Star swingman Paul George would be back by now, but that looks like it was wishful thinking. He broke his leg last summer and had been making steady progress. He's returned to the practice court, but he's not yet 100 percent. There's a chance he could return next week.

5. Guard Rodney Stuckey, formerly of the Pistons, has become the Pacers' super sub. He has scored in double figures in 12 of his last 13 games coming into tonight. He had back-to-back 30-point games against Philadelphia on Feb. 20 and Golden State on Feb. 22. Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert, their resident defensive stopper, stopped him in his tracks. Stuckey made 2 of 11 shots from the field for six points. Shump is making his impact on this team.

6. The Pacers are one of the top defensive teams in the league. They are third in points allowed, third in opponents' field-goal percentage and eighth in opponents' 3-point shooting. Indiana held seven consecutive opponents under 40 percent shooting from Feb. 27 to March 12 - an NBA record. Now you know why points were so hard to come by on this night. The Cavs shot just 42.7 percent from the field.

7. Cavs guard J.R. Smith is shooting 49 percent from the 3-point arc (21 of 43) in his last six games. His backcourt mate, Kyrie Irving, is shooting 63 percent from deep in that span (17 of 27). Now, you see what kind of problems opposing teams are facing when they play the Cavs.

8. Guard Matthew Dellavedova was huge tonight. He made three big 3-pointers before asking to come out of the game. That doesn't happen much. He said afterward he was hit in a very sensitive area. "I got hit in the ##8$%*@," he said. "Thanks for asking."

UP NEXT: at Milwaukee, BMO Harris Bradley Center, 3 p.m. Sunday.

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Solomon Hill (6-7, 225)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. David West (6-9, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Roy Hibbert (7-2, 275)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. C.J. Miles (6-6, 225)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. George Hill (6-3, 192)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Pacers - G/F Paul George, F/C Shayne Whittington
OFFICIALS
Marc Davis, JT Orr, Gary Zielinski



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Game 70: Nets at Cavs

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (44-26) 117, BROOKLYN NETS (27-39) 92
Quicken Loans Arena
Wednesday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio

1. The Cavaliers moved to 3-0 on the season against the Nets. They've also won four in a row over Brooklyn, which they play twice in nine days. They are now 11-3 vs. the Atlantic Division this season. 

2. Power forward Kevin Love returned after a two-game absence. He said the layoff had nothing to do with his back. However, when he's out of the lineup, the Cavaliers' rebounding suffers. After being pushed around on the boards in the two games he missed, they outrebounded Brooklyn, 43-32. Love had a game-high 11 rebounds - and once again didn't play in the fourth quarter.

3. The Cavs have won 14 in a row at home. They've won by an average of 15.8 points per game during this streak. It's their longest home winning streak since 2009. They haven't lost at home since the Phoenix game on March 7 - a span of 11 days. They are 19-0 on the season, 12-0 at home, when they shoot 50 percent or better. They shot a blistering 54.9 percent from the field and 51.7 percent from the 3-point line.

4. Tonight was the fourth time in the last five games they've scored at least 117 points. They have now made 686 3-pointers this season, a franchise record. They made 10 or more 3-pointers in 31 games this season. They made 15 of 29 from behind the arc tonight. In their last 27 games, they are averaging an NBA-best 12.3 3-point goals per game.

5. They are now an NBA-best 25-6 since Jan. 15. Since that period, they've been the best team in the league. Their are winning by an average of 10.5 points per game during this streak.

6. They have held 13 of their last 14 opponents at home under 100 points.

7. It's nice they were able to win without LeBron James having a huge night. He had 16 points and seven assists (all in the second quarter). James admitted after the game he had heavy legs.

8. The Nets are 6-8 since trading Kevin Garnett to Minnesota for forward Thaddeus Young on Feb. 19.

UP NEXT: vs. Indiana, Quicken Loans Arena, 7:30 p.m. Friday.

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Joe Johnson (6-7, 240)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Thaddeus Young (6-8, 220)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Brook Lopez (7-0, 275)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Markel Brown (6-3, 190)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Deron Williams (6-3, 200)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, G Joe Harris
Nets - G/F Sergey Karasev, F Mirza Teletovic
OFFICIALS
Monty McCutchen, Ken Cutler, David Guthrie

Monday, March 16, 2015

Game 69: Cavs at Heat

MIAMI HEAT (30-36) 106, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (43-26) 92
AmericanAirlines Arena
Monday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, ESPN

1. There was much uncertainty surrounding Cavs forward LeBron James before the game. There were questions whether he'd play after the knee injury from the night before in Orlando. After the way he played, maybe he should have taken the night off. He finished with 26 points, 16 in he fourth quarter. He spent the first three quarters pounding the ball at the top of the key for most of the shot clock and then launching a terrible shot at the basket. No one could figure out what the heck he was doing for most of the night.

2. Cavs power forward Kevin Love missed his second game in a row to "rest." If his back is bothering him, be honest about it. There's been no announcement regarding Wednesday's game against Brooklyn. His replacement, Tristan Thompson, didn't play well in either game he started in place of Love. 

3. The Cavs got waxed on both occasions at AmericanAirlines Arena this season. The Cavs lost by 10 points on Christmas Day, 101-91. Tonight, the final score wasn't indicative of just how badly they were outplayed. The Heat shot 55 percent from the field and were terribly outrebounded, 45-32. In the last two games without Love, they've been outrebounded, 89-64.

4. The Heat is just 5-5 in their last 10 games. They climbed into the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are going to be in a battle the rest of the way with Charlotte for that last spot. When forward/center Chris Bosh was ruled out for the season with a blood clot, that dampened their spirits.

5. Forward Shawn Marion played tonight for the first time in 11 games. He had a strained left hip. Coach David Blatt is going to have trouble playing both Marion and James Jones in his rotation. It's kind of an either/or proposition. Marion might be a bit stronger defensively, but he will never shoot like "Champ."

6. The Cavs have lost nine in a row at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Cavs haven't won in Miami since Jan. 25, 2010. They are 13-36 on the road in the all-time series.

7. The Cavs finished 3-1 on their road trip. They are 24-6 in their last 30 games since Jan. 15. They had a four-game winning streak snapped tonight by Miami.

8. Cavs guard Kyrie Irving earned Player of the Week honors earlier on Monday. It was the second time this season he's won the award.

UP NEXT: vs. Brooklyn, Quicken Loans Arena, 7 p.m. Wednesday.

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Luol Deng (6-9, 220)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-10, 238) vs. Udonis Haslem (6-8, 235)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Hassan Whiteside (7-0, 265)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Dwyane Wade (6-4, 220)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Goran Dragic (6-3, 190)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, F Kevin Love
Heat - F Josh McRoberts, F/C Chris Bosh
OFFICIALS
Joe Crawford, Leroy Richardson, Ben Taylor


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Game 68: Cavs at Magic

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (43-25) 123, ORLANDO MAGIC (21-47) 108
Amway Center
Sunday
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA TV

1. There are only 14 games remaining in the regular season. Bring on the playoffs. I believe it's going to be a magic ride in the postseason. I think the season will end in the NBA Finals. I think they are the team to beat, especially in the Eastern Conference.

2. Point guard Kyrie Irving, who had a game-high 33 points on Sunday, now has 90 points in his last two games. Irving is the only NBA point guard with averages of at least 20 points, 5.0 assists and less than 2.5 turnovers per game in 2014-15. The only other NBA player with those numbers this season is Clippers power forward Blake Griffin. Irving is averaging a career-low 2.4 turnovers. He's also the highest scoring point guard in the Eastern Conference and ranks third among all NBA point guards at 22.1 points per game (ninth in NBA). He has scored at least 20 points on 38 occasions, including 10 30-point outings and two 50-point nights.

3. The Cavs played tonight without power forward Kevin Love, who was rested. Tristan Thompson started at power forward and had one of his worst games (four points, three rebounds, two blocks). Love needed a break. Some say his back has been bothering him. He's expected to come back for Miami tomorrow. They'll need his ability to spread the floor against the Heat.

4. Forward LeBron James flirted with a triple-double, but fell just short. He ended with 21 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists. He looked like he came close to hyperextending his right knee after a fall under the basket. It could have ended his season. He stayed in the game, so apparently, it's OK.

5. Veteran Shawn Marion was available for tonight's game. He'd missed the previous 10 games with a strained left hip. Coach David Blatt is going to have trouble playing him and James Jones. Marion might be a bit stronger defensively, but the former will never shoot like "Champ." Jones made 4 of 8 from behind the arc against Orlando for 12 points.

6. The Cavs have won their last 10 games against the Magic, their longest streak against an NBA team. They've also won their last five outings at Amway Center. Orlando hasn't beaten the Cavs since Nov. 23, 2012.

7. The Cavs are 3-0 on their current road trip. They are 24-5 in their last 29 games since Jan. 15. They've also won four in a row. They want to keep that torrid streak alive.

8. Magic scout Anthony Parker played three seasons for the Cavs. He also played for Blatt's Maccabi Tel Aviv team in Israel. 

UP NEXT: at Miami, AmericanAirlines Arena, 8 p.m. Monday

STARTERS
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Tobias Harris (6-9, 235)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-10, 238) vs. Dewayne Dedmon (7-0, 245)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Nikola Vucevic (7-0, 260)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Victor Oladipo (6-4, 210)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Elfrid Payton (6-4, 185)
INACTIVE LIST
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao, F Kevin Love
Magic - G/F Evan Fournier, F Devyn Marble
OFFICIALS
Ed Malloy, Lauren Holtkamp, Mark Lindsay